Friday, July 11, 2008

According to the Dutch government - we're not married

Today Brett and I both registered with the town hall. Everyone has to register with town hall, regardless of if they're a foreigner or not, and you're supposed to do it within 3 days of moving. Registering here is kind of like going to the DMV in the US. You walk in, get a number and wait for the bell to ring. It reminded me of playing bingo. Each time a bell rang and the monitor flashed a new number, everyone in the room would look at the screen, then down at their ticket and then either sigh or jump up and run into one of the closed rooms with numbers on them.

After waiting about 5 minutes, our number was called and we went to the office with our passports and lease agreement (the only 2 documents our Dutch lawyer told us to bring). Within 2 minutes we realized we had a few small problems.

1) The lease agreement showed one apartment owner while the city's database showed another. A call to the landlord cleared that up, but it was still a bit strange thinking that our landlords didn't have the right to rent the house to us.

2) Then they asked us for our birth certificates and marriage license. We had them back at the apartment but even so - the Dutch government wouldn't accept them. They have to have an Apostilles seal on them to be valid here. Apparently Apostilles seals are used to leglize documents for international use.

They let us register, but we now have to go back to our home states to get this seal added to our certificates. In the meantime we are registered as unmarried and living together. Even after we get the proper seals though, the Dutch government supposedly won't recognize marriages that are under 10 years old.

I asked the woman how many Americans got it right the first time they went in to register. She said that those who had companies assist them with relocation got it right frequently but that everyone else just looked at her with blank stares when told about the Apostille's requirement. I had read about the Apostille seals online so I at least knew what they were - but I got to look at her blankly for a much simpler request: My phone number :-)

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