My first month or so in Austria went by in a blur; there was so much to do and we were against a time deadline. You see, in order to live in Austria, as with any country, you must register with the authorities. When moving to New York, this was relatively simple; get a visa, fill out a residence form with the State Department, book ticket. Not so with my European adventure.
Six months before we left New York, I contacted the Austrian Consulate in New York and researched their official website for all that might be required. The first time my husband and I went to the Consulate, we were given a form to fill out and asked to provide specific documentation; namely, birth certificate, marriage certificate, proof of insurance, education degrees, financial statements, etc. Although the form was in German and there were no English versions (despite serving in an English-speaking country), I thought ‘Oh, great, how efficient and simple; this is going to be easy! Hubby can help me fill this out, this isn’t so bad.’
We gathered all the required items and returned to begin the process of registering and here’s where it gets exciting! The new representative we spoke with indicated that we had the wrong form and that the documents needed to be translated into German (insert frozen smile/grimace pasted on face). ‘Okay, no problem; may we have the correct form and is there a list of preferred translation companies?’, we asked. Her brusque response was that we should visit the official website. At this point, hysterical laughter begins to bubble inside but I keep it in check with the sobering reminder that I am entering their country, not the other way around. So I ask my husband to kindly explain to her (being sure to keep a smile on my face) that there are many forms on the site (which is also in German, once you get past the homepage) and would she happen to have the correct copy available or print one for us please. No mercy was granted us that day, despite many laughs and head nods (you know the kind that indicates, yeah, you’re right but still).
Now, my husband, with his many talents does not possess the patience required to deal with application forms, customer service agents, or proper filing systems; so this has always been my domain. Thankfully, I had resources, my lovely SIL (sister-in-law) who lives in Austria and speaks/reads/writes very good English. She and I spent 3 hours on Skpe, scouring the Consulate site together. We found four different foreign registration forms, hidden three-levels deep in an obscure page, which all asked the same questions and requested the same information; the only difference between them was the title of the form. Of course, the titles were in civil-speak (my term for ambiguous words with obscure meanings); even my SIL became frustrated and she speaks German – yes, you guessed it, there were no English-language forms! Long story short, we filled out all the forms.
Upon return to the Consulate with the various forms, original copies of the requested documents and certified translations (I found a company in Canada that translates for the United Nations and it was quite costly); we were told that the original documents required an Apostille (yeah, I’d never heard that word before either). Apparantly, country seals are insufficient, now governments have to ratify that the sealed, original documents were infact…valid! This is where I almost lost my composure; where was the efficient, proficient Austria I had visited previously? Why was everything in German, why didn’t anyone know what they were doing, and why the hell weren’t we informed that they needed to be validated months ago?! Of course, I said none of this and spent 6 weeks getting Apostilles from both my home country and my country of residence at the time, which of course had to be translated in German, and returned to the Consulate; where upon, they said I needed documentation of criminal record as well, with all the accoutrements! At this point, hubby decided we would deal with all of this when we got here.
In retrospect, it is a bit funny and should we move to another foreign country, we will have the experience on how to request and find the right information and the questions to ask to find any hidden requirements. I am pretty proud of how we kept our composure, our sense of humor, and as a couple, managed the stress of it all. Keep in mind, we were also seeking international movers (another fun story for later :)), down-sizing our belongings, selling our SUV, closing out lease agreements, and working (my job required me to travel consistently).
If you’re determined to move to Austria, click here to visit the updated Consulate site which states a few of the requirements and click here for the various required forms. This may not be a definitive list, and as I learned after 3 months in Austria, laws and regulations change all the time which might account for why neither the Consulate office nor their official website could provide all the required information at once. One change I am personally aware of (just occurred July 1, 2011) is that all persons, even spouses of EU nationals must file BEFORE arrival to Austria (even though the official site indicates that it isn’t necessary) and must have completed the A1 level of German language (which isn’t mentioned at all); had we been delayed by just a few weeks, I would’ve had to have left the country. Still, all’s well that ends well.
Final note, remember that deadline I mentioned at the beginning of this dissertation; turns out, that upon arrival, we only had 3 months within which to file and receive an approved residence visa. Fun fact (pasted smiles have become my standard MO by now): the person who approved new applications was on vacation for 2 months (insert more hysterical laughter)! However, as my mom always says, ‘God makes a way’ and He did – my husband’s grandmother schmoozed the lady who processed my application so well that we received approval the day after the responsible party returned from vacation! But that’s a story for another post… 🙂