I have known that this day was coming for three years. The day the Ausländerbehörde (“aliens department” as the online dictionary so ominously translates it) issued my last visa, I left the office thinking vaguely of the day when I would have to come back with a new stack of papers, take a number, and stand in another 6 levels of lines and waiting rooms. But the image was hazy. Three years sounds like such a long time.
Well, it isn’t. With three years and two visas worth of harrowing experience to prepare me, you’re probably thinking, “Well I bet she was ready this time. Got everything done in advance. All planned out, no stress.” Well. If you aren’t just a bad judge of character, then I am a very good actor. And pretending I have my shit together when it comes to deadlines and paperwork is one of my specialties, a skill to which I probably owe every job I’ve ever had.
But those were skills birthed and fine-tuned in America, a country where you can talk your way into and out of just about anything. Here you can’t even work a crappy retail job without a certificate.
So I was terrified. Though terror might have prodded others into making appointments and getting paperwork together months in advance, I waited until exactly one week before my visa was set to expire–September 15–freaked out, and called the Ausländerbehörde to make an appointment.
“Nicolette Stewart?” said the man’s voice on the phone. “Well my computer tells me your visa expires on September 25, so why don’t you come in on the 17th?” I hung up and ran to look at my passport. Well look at that. My visa really didn’t expire on the 15th. Fool’s luck and another week to get my shit together.