Friday, September 23, 2011

Visa Success!

I have finally gotten my visa! My appointment wasn't until October 4th, so I decided to brave the Ausländerbehörde before that because my job needed me to start working sooner (and money is always nice). I woke up at 4:30am on September 12th and made the trek over there. By 5:45am I was waiting outside the doors, an hour and 15 minutes to go before they opened. There were already 6 or so people in front of me and 30 minutes later the line was curving down the pathway. For those not in the know, the Ausländerbehörde is the immigration office in Germany. Berlin apparently has the biggest one in the country, which isn't surprising. In Berlin, all of the language schools (except one that I know of) hire people on a freelance basis. This means you can apply for a freelance visa and are then responsible for buying your own health insurance, paying your taxes, etc. and don't ever work for just one school. On the bright side, you don't owe any taxes until you've earned 8000 EUR and can then deduct all your expenses (i.e. health insurance, transportation, books, etc.) from that. Doing my German taxes sounds terrifying, but luckily I don't have to think about it just yet!

In any case, the Ausländerbehörde is definitely a humbling experience. I am really happy my German is okay because you would be lost there without it. First you have to go stand by the right door, which is decided by which country you're from. When the doors open, everyone RUNS inside to try and grab a number to be seen for a visa. I have heard from terrible storing about people on crutches getting shoved over, etc. but my experience thankfully wasn't so bad. I ran to the second floor, which is where it said I should go as an American on the sign and found the area for my section of the alphabet. Luckily, I got the third number. Then begins the waiting. About an hour and a half later I'm called in and give the woman my documents. These include my application forms, proof of my health insurance, my Anmeldung (proof that you have registered your living place) bank account statements to prove I can support myself,  letters from 2+ schools saying they're interested in hiring me, a monthly budget I created to show I can afford to live there, a letter from one school saying I'd make a certain amount each month, copies of my TEFL certificate, diploma, etc. plus probably 5000 other things. I had researched and obsessed about it all year, so felt pretty prepared when I got there. When the person behind the counter looked through my documents and said, "Na, super!" I let out a sigh of relief. Maybe I will be able to stay in Berlin after all!

Another hour and a half of waiting and they call me back in, give me a card and tell me to go downstairs and pay 50 euros to a machine. When I come up, they hand me back my passport with a shiny visa inside! In less than 5 hours! Success!

Since then I've been teaching a couple Nachhilfe classes, which is basically homework help for kids having problems in English. They're pretty laid back and chill, so I really like them. On Sunday, I'm moving to Rostock in eastern Germany by the Ostsee for 6 weeks to teach an intensive English course. I am pretty nervous about this, as I'll be teaching 8 or so hours a day, from Monday to Friday, which I've never done before. Also, I still haven't found a place to live during this time, so I may just end up in a hostel for six whole weeks. Luckily, my job is paying me a little stipend for living expenses since they really needed a native speaker for this course. I should be a pro by the end of it and will get a lot more practice speaking German, as I don't think there are as many English speakers there. I just have to think of it as facing my fears. I'll be teaching some employees from Deutsche Bahn English for dealing with customers and their jobs. Even the textbook I'm using is written by Deutsche Bahn, which is kind of funny.

I've recently been reunited with all my TEFL Worldwide books and notes, which is perfect timing. When I moved away from Prague, I left them with a friend because I didn't have space. Last January when I was visiting Germany from America, I transported them from Prague to Berlin and just picked them up again here last week. After 2ish years off teaching (except for my volunteer position as a teaching assistant), I feel a little rusty. I forgot how much I did during the TEFL course in Prague! Pretty sure all my notes are going to come in very useful for finding ways to add to my lessons in Germany and refreshing my brain!

Perhaps a post about my job interviews next. Or maybe about how I ordered "vegan almond shits" instead of "vegan almond cookie".  Awkward!

1 comment:

  1. Five hours to get a Visa? I hate you! The Argentine visa process is insane....