Saturday, June 19, 2010

At Last!

In November 2007, after spending an idyllic 10 days in Switzerland, accepting the Big G's proposal of marriage and realizing that I was going to up and move The Max, the 3 kittehs and myself to live in this mountainous little jewel of a country, I submitted my first visa application to the Swiss consulate in Vancouver. Yesterday, almost three years and an unbelievable amount of nonsense later, I received copies of our 'permis de sejour' . What a long strange trip it's been.

March 1, 2008, Max, the kittehs and I arrived in Geneva, with no visa other than the standard 90 day tourist visa (implicit) that all Canadians get. And we were a little be legal, the Big G and I would have to get married within that 90 days...of course, he would also have to get divorced first.*Ahem* Needless to say, that didn't happen for another 18 months, a bitter and sore point that I have yet to find forgiveness in my heart for. But no matter, we bought a new (ancien) house in summer 2008, went back to Canada for a visit, returned to Switzerland with not so much as twitch out of the immigration service at the Geneva airport.

In January 2009, I paid slight attention to the fact that Switzerland had become a nation member of the Schengen Agreement and we made plans to go to Canada for an extended vacation, possibly with a wedding, for July 2009. Knowing that we had long overstayed our 90 days in Switzerland, we had a little story brewed if we were asked about how long we had been in Switzerland; we hadn't really been here that long, we'd been traveling in France, Italy, etc, never overstaying our 90 days...should have worked, except...Schengen...we'd been in schengen the whole time and that, according to the officious, Swiss German Immigration official at the Zurich airport on our way out, was very, very bad. As the minutes before our flight was due to leave ticked away, The Max and I sat in one of those little rooms where they take the bad people, filled out forms and were told, by a slightly nicer but still officious Swiss German Immigration officer, that we would most certainly be fined and could be banned from entering Switzerland for up to two years, but that any decision or judgment could be appealed.With a strong sense of foreboding, we went to Canada, (where there was no wedding *sigh*), and visited, swam, folk fested, all the while wondering how The Max and I were going to get home.

A plan, of sorts, was hatched where we would travel to the UK (not a full member of schengen) and try to *ahem* sneak into schengen via France, thinking that immigration control at the Dover/Calais port would be more relaxed than an airport.Looking for all the world like two day tourists, with two HUGE suitcases, we bought our ferry tickets, boarded the bus and were whisked to French Immigration.After a quick scan of my passport, the nice and polite French officer asked with some concern,"What did you DO in Switzerland???!" Apparently, my passport now had a serious interdiction on it, with no explanation as to why...I could have been a serial killer, a drug lord or even an investment banker, and there was no way a suspected criminal was to be allowed into Schengen.The Max, however, could go if he wanted to (he gathered up his bag and ran to the bus, quick like a bunny). The British police were called to escort me back into the UK (and very kindly drove me to a nice pub where I could down some 'courage' and call Big G who was waiting in Calais) and thus began the exile.

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while now, you know that The Big G came to Blackheath every weekend and we spent many many hours having 'the visa conversation'. We had heard no word from the Swiss authorities on the outcome of the forms that were filled out at the airport, other than a bill for 600 francs, which was paid, and waited and wondered and worried how to begin to solve the mystery of my schengen interdiction.When The Big G finally got his divorce decree in November, and after some furious letter writing to the Canton, we received a letter stating that as we were soon to be married, I could come to Switzerland for ... you guessed it ... 90 days. I got on a plane on Christmas Eve and on arriving at Geneva airport, no one even scanned my passport so we were still left in the dark as to wtf was going on with schengen.

In January 2010, The Big G and I flew to Canada to get married and when we returned to Switz, there was a lot of confusion for the Immigration Police at Geneva. Fortunately, we had a copy of our 'acte de mariage' and despite whatever the schengen computer was telling them, they said I now had the 'constitutional right' to be here and was effectively, a resident, but we should contact the ODM and get this straightened out if I didn't want a hassle everytime I traveled. More letters were written to the canton, showing that we were now married and btw, could you please look into this schengen thing for us? In the meantime, since my original visa application had been mysteriously cancelled in September, The Max and had to start that whole process anew, filling out new, complicated schengen visa applications which required we get new passports, as ours were about to expire in less than 12 months.Ah yes, and the consulate in Vancouver??? They made it clear there was no way I could be applying for 'regroupment familiale' while living in Switzerland, to which my response was, 'Yeah, whatever.'

In March, The Big G and I had to go back to the UK to close up the exile flat. Armed with my new passport, the schengen scanner didn't detect that it was actually me, the dangerous criminal, and we left and re-entered with no problems. We returned home to find a somewhat schizophrenic letter from the Canton, stating that the Schengen Authorities (or ODM) considered me 'a threat to the safety and security of the nation' and I was banned from entering until August 2011 and we should really look into clearing that up...oh and by the way, please go and register at the local commune so that we can issue your permis de sejour. Uh huh..ummmm...gotta love interdepartmental bureaucracy. It was time to get a lawyer...

Herr Kenny (This is actually his first name, something I find endlessly amusing for some reason) spoke with the officials at the Canton, who assured him that YES, I was allowed to be in Switzerland, and as stated before, now had the right to be here because of my marriage. The ODM/schengen guys told him that the Canton had it all wrong, had mishandled the dossier and that, NO I was NOT allowed to be here.So, Herr Kenny took the ODM to court (actually it's called a tribunal here) asking to appeal the interdiction and be allowed to remain in Switz until the appeal was completed. The tribunal looked at the case, pointed out over and over that I was married, but declined to tell the ODM what to do and gave them 30 days to present their case. The ODM's response was basically, "Oh yeah, right, we don't think you're a criminal anymore because now you're married so we're taking that nasty little flag off your passport now." Herr Kenny scores one for the little guys!!! In less than 2 weeks after the ODM backed down, the Canton issued our permis de sejour! Phew!

And that, my faithful bloggy readers, will be the last time I write about, think about or care about 'the visa conversation'.


idleprimate said...

that was a gripping read, I felt like i was watching an action movie. . .tension, intrigue, peril, crisis and then victory!

Very well said, and congrats on you escape from Kafkaville

Danica-Dragonfly said...

I am so very very happy for you!!

*un-corks champagne bottle - passes around*

Now - for the love of BOB - don't go changing countries for a bit, eh?

Xtreme said...

Dayum! Now that's a story! Good on ya, glad it'(finally) history.

Amethyst Anne said...

Yeah I can finally comment today! (blogger is being nasty to me)
While you may not ever want to speak of this again, your children's children will know this story of love conquering all!! *sniff*
I am so happy for you and Big G that this has finally worked out.