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Published: October 7th 2011
Alright everybody! “What’s going on with your Working Holiday Visa?” you’re all asking, well there are a couple of issues to be honest. When I contacted the German Consulate in Vancouver (the issuing authority responsible for issuing residents of BC the visas) I was told that it was not possible to get the WHA in Germany, it can only be issued outside of the country, specifically in Canada. When I asked if it would be issued outside of Germany, say at a German Consulate in Switzerland, I was told that this should be possible, though they would probably have to liaise with the Vancouver consulate to do so.
Before booking my train ticket to Bern (I bet you didn’t know that was the capital of Switzerland did you? Probably thought it was Zurich) however, I went to the Foreign Office (German word) who gives the power to all the consulates and embassies outside of the country. The problem with the Munich branch of this particular government authority on this particular day was that the woman who dealt with me did not speak much English. This by itself is odd as the vast majority of people have at least a modicum of (if not proficiency in) English. Whatever the case, I believe I conveyed my intention to apply for a Working Holiday Visa and I was given forms to fill out. I left with the forms before fully looking everything over (as I knew that I needed passport sized photos, 1 year of health and liability insurance, proof of supporting funds, as well as a registered address).
On the underground train I read the blank form to see the information I would have to input, and to my horror, the form was an “application for extension of residency” (though in German, English, and French) which was not the form I needed at all! I called the Munich Foreign Office immediately (where I waited on hold listening to some decidedly boring elevator music, and some recorded female voice who I assumed was telling me that “your call is important to us, please stay on the line or log on to the website to e-mail my question” ) only to speak to another woman who was uncomfortable with English!
Gah! What is a guy to do? Well I went back to the Foreign Office first thing next morning and queried about being given the incorrect form. This time I spoke to a woman who had no issue with English so I felt that I got much more information out of the exchange. It turns out that the form I was given was indeed the correct one for application of a Working Holiday Visa (the one issue was a registered address because of the fact that most backpackers don’t have those!). I though about asking my cousins living in the north of Germany if I could use their address, but unfortunately the address had to be one in Munich as this was the Munch Foreign Authority! I was informed that the system requires a registered address simply by design so without one I was SOL.
I got on the handy again and contacted the Berlin Foreign Office where after explaining my problem to someone who actually knew what a Working Holiday Visa was, I was transferred to one of the people who actually dealt with the issuing of visas (both working and non) to Canadians! After she heard my issue, she thought that the requirements in Munich were “ridiculous, what backpacker has an address to register?” I instantly liked this woman, she said that she would call the person in charge of dealing with the visas in Munich and inform me of what she worked out. This was unfortunately at the end of the Friday on the weekend where the Monday was a national holiday, so I would have to wait several days for a reply.
Now this seems like a pretty big pain just to get a visa right? Well like the Consular in Vancouver said, they usually aren’t issued to a person after they get into Germany. Probably something to do with the fact that they don’t want a bunch of smelly, unemployed backpackers (some of which undoubtedly would not qualify) already in the country attempting to get a Working Holiday Visa.
So after the weekend, I received a call from the woman (I wish I could remember her name) from the Berlin Foreign Office who told me that it would not be possible to get the Working Holiday Visa in Munich. The problem of the registered address apparently wasn’t as big an issue as it was made out to be, apparently I could just register an address from any old hotel I felt like using. The real problem however was that all the bloody bureaucracy and red tape (especially in Munich) meant that I could not get the visa there. There was a possibility that I could get it done in Berlin if I were there, but again this was a “possibly” sort of thing. An alternative was applying for residency (which is completely possible for Canadians, though the process takes around 3 months ) but that was no better.
At this point, I had taken a long hard look at my plans for work here in Germany, as I had thought that the visa would be the easy fast part, followed by who knows how long for the tax number (up to 2 weeks), and then the work itself (which I admit I believe could be difficult for me to find because of both the time of year and my language proficiency). Do I have the funds to wait for work? Sort answer: No. Long answer: Very no. Europe is an expensive place, and the only reason I have been here as long as I have been is because I have some very generous friends. I feel bad that I have put upon Kerstin as long as I have, she invited me into her home and gave me a place to sleep free of charge, and I feel I took advantage of that. I really want to find a way to repay her for her kindness.
“So what is the next step then? Where can you get a visa and speak the language? What about the UK? You planned to go there anyway right Eric?” you all ask. To which I respond, one question at a time! I did look at the UK as a possibility and I had always thought it would be a good backup should Germany not pan out, but there is a snag (Snag: noun. Definition: An unforeseen problem or obstacle to progress). The UK has recently done a complete revamp to their entire visa system, where the Working Holiday Visa was once issued as a completely separate visa, much in the same way it us issued in New Zealand, and Australia, it is now issued much along the same parameters of a working visa, though the requirements are still the same, the processing time is now up to 6 weeks! I will admit I had foolishly assumed (that one is going to go on the list, never assume) that the UK’s visa would be granted much like the other 2 Commonwealth countries I had been to before, quick, cheap, and quick (I am aware I said quick twice, but NZ took 4 days over a weekend, and OZ took 1 hour!).
To use an English expression: Bloody hell! 6 weeks? And then there is an additional 2 weeks required for the tax number! That would be 2 months, hypothetically longer than it would take to get the visa in Germany (if it were possible at all).
So what now? My options were really dwindling, and after sitting and thinking it out, and talking to a couple people to get their opinions, I boiled it down to my only 2 options: Pack it up and go home, or return to Australia where I still had until mid February to legally work in the country.
I know it seems foolish that I might even return to Australia at all, I very nearly dismissed it as soon as the thought popped into my head, but I can’t help but have the feeling that returning to Canada really means the end of this grand adventure. I’ll be realistic here, I want to do something like this again, but to be honest I don’t see myself really ever getting more that a month off for travel after I return. I will get a job when I get back home to pay for school, then go to school, then hopefully, I will join the RCMP. To me, it doesn’t seem feasible to have the funds to travel again at any point in that chain where I have to freedom just to take off and do it.
So I rationalized the reasons, weighed the pros and cons, and I mean I really did, I wracked my brain over these two options for over 24 hours. I wrote it down, spread it out over 5 pages just to get it out of my head and try to get some semblance of order to it. There are a good number of reasons to go back to Australia, just like there are a good number of reasons not to. I speak the language, I have a visa to work, I could legally go looking for work the moment I step foot off the plane, summer is coming (in the southern hemisphere) and there will be much more outdoor work going on, there are many things in Australia that I missed, so this is a chance to see some of those things, this is also my chance to earn money while working on the visa application process (German Consulates in Australia can issue Working Holiday Visas).
But like I said there are also reasons not to go, I would have to leave Europe, the cost of the plane ticket to go back, work may be tough to find as it was my first time through Sydney, my one-way ticket from Perth to Frankfurt was a waste, I may not be able to get my insurance money back (I applied over the weekend at it cam to the tune of 700 Euro ), it would mean that my time in Germany was essentially wasted.
There are other reasons as well, but honestly to get down to the nitty gritty I have decided this: I still want to travel.
I have sought to be truthful in everything I write here, as little embellishment or omission as possible, and I will continue to do so. Looking back on my decision to leave Australia and go to Germany, I can say it is clearly an error. Not simply because I could not get a visa here, but I was not ready to travel to Germany. I was so focused on getting here to see the Oktoberfest that I think I really lost sight of the bigger picture, either that or I just didn’t want to focus on it. I didn’t have the required funds, I did not do diligence in regards to getting the information about the visas nor the time required to wait for them.
I can’t say that the experience in Germany was a complete waste, I did have a lot of fun at Oktoberfest, I enjoyed catching up with some of my German friends from New Zealand, and I learned a lot about myself (quite a lot for such a short time) and about what will be required for my eventual return.
I say eventual return because as I said, I still want to travel. I want to see Europe, and I believe that I can achieve that goal by working in Australia. So I did it, I bought a return ticket from Frankfurt to Sydney, and I will be flying out on the 11th of October.
What is my plan when I get there? Work. I chose Sydney for a multitude of reasons, not least of which is because it is the largest (and less expensive than anywhere in Western Australia) city and there will be work on in the area. I will focus on getting a job in construction, or road works if possible, for the good wages during the week, and with my newfound bar experience I plan to work the bars during the weekend. It may sound like a little bit counter productive to seeing any Australia at all, but with luck I will be able to have a couple weeks before I return to Europe to travel around parts of the east coast I have not seen.
To realistically make this worth it, I will have to be able to pay off the plane ticket, pay for my accommodation and food, and have enough saved up to survive until I find work in Europe. Possible in 4 months? I believe so, now that I know some of the tricks of the backpacker trade, working for accommodation in the backpackers while looking for work, learning to love rice and pasta (and the hundreds of forms you can consume it in with minimal money put into it), and one of the most important parts, enjoy what you are doing have fun with the people around you.
Pretty heavy I suppose, and maybe slightly (ok maybe not slightly) pompous, but it is a bit of a big thing for me. I have made mistakes before, who doesn’t? But I’m doing what I can (I won’t say “try” that’s a bad word for it, though I suppose “doing what I can” is about the same thing) to own up to them, see how I made them, and learn from them. Could this be another mistake waiting to happen? Possibly (another bad word, too much indecision in it), but I won’t know until I give it a go now will I?
Thanks for sticking with this as long as you have, I still have a few days here in Frankfurt, I’ll update again before I go and this one will have some pictures!
Take care everyone!
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