Mittwoch, 19. August 2009

Visit to the Office of Marriage

Yesterday, after work, I took advantage of the extended hours on tuesday of the Standesamt, Heiratsbüro (Civil Office, Marriage Section) and paid them a visit. Our friends, who are from South Africa and Columbia and got married in Germany recently told us that I could go just there, without the boy, without an appointment, and find out what documents I would need.

Indeed, after locating the office (sandwiched between the offices for Registration of Newborns and the Death Office (for lack of a better translation, it sounds awful, I know,
but it is referring to registration of deaths) (the irony does not escape me), I discovered a button called "walk-in appointment for first information session for necessary documents". Pushing this button prompted the machine to spit out a number here's my number:!

see at the top "heiratsbüro"? that means "marriage buro".

...which I took with me to my seat in the clean but oh-so-depressingly-sterile waiting room. The only other people there were a couple, the woman obviously from a South American country (Peru, I would later overhear) and the man from Germany. The electronic number board flipped and they were called into a room, so I was left alone to read my Harlan Coben mystery and become, mysteriously, quite nervous.

Now those of you who have followed some of my other blog or who also are living abroad as an expat will understand the fear that such waiting rooms can spear into our hearts. We've done this before. We've waited hours, only to be told we are missing a form. We've been looked at in a suspicious way, been asked to provide documentation for this and that, been poked and prodded and generally doubted. We've done this before. What if they think I'm just marrying to get a better visa? What if I look nervous? Maybe there is a special office for foreigners? All of these questions shot through my head when suddenly the old fashioned number flaps whirred on the semi digital panel displaying mine, number 74, and the room number where I was supposed to enter. I rose, heart pounding.

The rest was actually rather uneventful. I was asked a series of questions like "your name", "husband's name" (I kept saying "future husband" but the bureaucrat used the present tense, which I thought was interesting, if not a bit odd..) (PS: you know how in the US this would be a good place to make a joke, like "haha, well, we haven't quite made it yet" right. In Germany, they just wouldn't find that funny, In fact, the guy behind the desk would most certainly look at you with a combination of confusion and disdain...)..."place of birth" "husband's place of birth". The questions went on like this and then I was abruptly handed a sheet of paper to take to the cashier and pay 10 euros for. This was, I think, my fee for being advised. Ok.. I forgot to include that one in my wedding budget, but I think I can swing it. I paid the fee and came back to be presented with a checklist of documents the boy and I will need in order to apply to be married:

For me:
Birth Certificate less than six months old
Certification of authenticity of said birth certificate, internationally recognized
Copy of passport
Copy of residence permit
Copy of registration of residence in Munich

For him:
Copy of attainment of German Citizenship (he was born in Poland)
Birth Certificate, doesn't matter how old
Certification of authenticity for parent's marriage in Poland
Copy of passport
Copy of registration of residence in Munich

It's a lot, but it's not too bad. I already got on the phone with Virginia to order my birth certificate. I did have a good laugh, though, as it seems that all US or State agencies are shocked to have a citizen calling them from abroad. It always goes something like this:

"Yes, I have a question because I am a resident of Germany"
"Germany? Like in Europe"
"Are you calling from there, right now?"

I am thinking: wow, yes, we do have electricity!!

"yes. I need to know if this authentication form has the word "apostille" on the top, because that's what they require in Germany"
"so ma'am, you're saying, you need to request your Birth Certificate, sent to Germany?"
"Yes, with an "apostille" authentication."
"ok, please send us a self-addressed stamped envelope and a check for $22"

Right. Because I am supposed to get US Postage HOW? And since every other civilized country on the face of the planet phased out the usage of personal checks years ago in favor of a sleeker, faster, better online transfer system, how should I obtain said check? Right. Not internationally minded, State of Virginia.

At any rate, that's what parents are for. I will be sending them the documents which they will in turn stamp and write a check for a send off. Oh dear.

All in all, this was a very successful venture, and I have to say, having learned the importance of forms and documents and bureaucracy in Germany, it kinda sent chills up my spine to see the boy and my names side by side on a crisp blue German form. Lovely. Romantic, even.

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