The merry-go-round of expat paperwork

8th June 2005, Comments 0 comments

As EU expats no longer need a residence permit, it should be plain sailing to establish one's legal status in the Netherlands. Not so, Expatica discovers.

In 2004, the newly-created GBA (Gemeentelijke basisadministratie persoonsgegevens), based in every municipality, took over responsibility for the acceptance and issuing of important documents.

It takes 3 months to assess a 4-5 page application form

As is explained on the GBA section of Amsterdam municipality's website: "The government cannot function well without accurate and up-to-date information about its citizens. Without your data the municipality can't issue you with passports, identity cards or driving licences ..."

Applications for these and other documents are lodged with the GBA, which in turn forwards the applications on to the appropriate assessment body.

For expats, this usually means the GBA is their intermediary with the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). Other government agencies are also supposed to get the details they need about you from the GBA.

 EU nationals

As an EU national, I no longer require a residence permit (cost for EU citizens is EUR 28), but have to have valid identification to show who I am and that I am a legal resident in the Netherlands.

My previous residence permit was due to run out in May, so I discovered I needed an "application for verification against EU Community Law (proof of lawful residence)", which costs EUR 30 (from 1 July 2004).

One might think the all-knowing GBA — given that it has access to my name, nationality, tax file number (sofi-nummer) and address — would only take seconds to provide proof I am living and working in Amsterdam legally.

Not so. I had to fill out an application, complete with passport photographs and a signed declaration from my employer.

The form, printed off the IND website, said I should lodge the document at the (im)migration desk or the Population Affairs department of the municipal council.

Blood on the steps

So one morning in mid-April before work, I went to my local town hall office in Bijlmer in the south-east of Amsterdam.

I found it slightly off-putting that the steps of the concrete stairs leading up from the street to the office were spotted with blood. I was reassured by the fact I'd not heard of any murders on the news.

My mood was quickly shattered though when I discovered the 'population desk' at the town hall in Bijlmer could accept applications for information from the population register —   administered by the GBA — but not applications for proof of legal residence.

A week later I arrived in the early morning at a fortress on the Johan Huizingalaan where Amsterdam's Dienst Persoonsgegevens (DPG) shares an office with the Foreign Police, or Vreemdelingenpolitie.

The latter was the organisation that handled my initial application for a residence permit in a friendly and efficient manner five years ago.

But why are we told we are dealing with the GBA when in fact the application goes through the DPG?

The envelope

At the counter I proffered my completed form to an officer of the Foreign Police — an organisation that has effectively been replaced by the IND.

Keen to show the Foreign Police still has some importance, the woman officer refused to accept the document and told me to place it in an internal mailbox at the front door of the building.

I had downloaded the form from the internet and asked her for an envelope. "No. That is your responsibility to organise an envelop".

I pointed out the appropriate envelope was an official IND one, something I could hardly be expected to produce myself. The independence of the Foreign Police at stake, the officer refused to accept this logic.

Luckily, she then ran off for a cigarette break by the front door and her place was taken at the counter by a very friendly official employed by Amsterdam. 

Even before I had finished my explanation, she reached behind her to shelves packed with application forms and retrieved an envelope for me. (The shelf contained hundreds.)

A month later though and I am still waiting for word on whether the GBA has received my application.

The form claimed I would receive a sticker in my passport on lodging the application; this didn't happen.

I raised my lack of valid ID with a spokesperson for the DPG and his advice was: "You should apply for one".

More helpfully, he said I should write to him to outline my bizarre encounter with the Foreign Police officer to see if a repeat of this type of behaviour could be avoided.

He explained it takes three months to process an application for proof of legal residence.

Why does it take the GBA/DPG so long? Well, the IND — the organisation I no longer have to seek a residence permit from — does the assessment of the proof of legal residence.

Waiting game

Over a month after lodging the application I cannot prove to the police or to government organisations that I am not an illegal alien.

Perhaps the GBA/DPG and IND have been overwhelmed by a flood of applications for a proof of residence document. I asked my contact at the DPG how many applications had been lodged in Amsterdam.

"A lot of people have applied, but I don't know how many. You could ask the IND…"

Clearly, the GBA is a font of information.

Click here to tell us about positive or negative experiences you have had when obtaining your official paperwork.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Expat paperwork + the Netherlands, proof of residence

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