Some days it feels like Andrew and I are mummified in red tape; and I mean really sticky tape of the Duct Tape variety.
It seems that no matter how many hoops we jump through to please the Belgian government officials, there is always one more hoop on the horizon.
According to the Belgian government, Andrew and I are not legally married!
This came as quite a shock, as I distinctly remember walking down an isle, wearing a white dress, signing papers in front of friends and family and kissing my (I thought) new husband about five years ago.
Indeed, not only was I not married in the eyes of the Belgian government, I wasn’t even technically born … and I’m sure my mother would have a few words to say about the carrying-me-for-nine-months and then going-through-labor thing …
We learned these important little facts several weeks ago, when we went to register at the Kortenberg commune. We left the commune feeling like we had been beaten repeatedly with a large, blunt object.
We are apparently not legally married because the Belgian government does not recognize our marriage certificate without it being notarized in Canada and having an ‘Apostille’.
“What is an Apostille?” you ask
Good question — because the Apostille is shrouded in mystery and we are still unsure of how we go about getting it.
Some people say we do it in Canada and others say we have to get it here in Brussels. Maybe both are true. One of the difficult things for us has been the lack of information and abundance of misinformation.
But the biggest problem with not being married to my husband is that he is the only one with a visa and work permit. Without these items I can only legally stay in Belgium for three months. This leads me to the second problem…
When we flew in to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, the customs officer didn’t stamp our passports. This is no big deal for Andrew, as he has a visa, but it causes a problem for me because the Belgian authorities don’t know when to start my three months.
The only thing we had to show for when we arrived in Belgium was our rental contract. The person we dealt with at the commune at the time didn’t know if the government would accept that in lieu of the passport stamp.
Well, it seems that they didn’t accept it because I received a letter in the mail the other day asking me to go to the commune to show them my passport …
I have also learned that the Canadian government can not legalise any document that is more than six months old. I learned this the hard way, of course, only after asking my mother to dig out my birth certificate and send it along with our marriage certificate to Montreal.
So I made another pleading phone call to my ever patient mother and had her go to the New Brunswick government to have them issue a new copy. The new copies are currently en route to Montreal to be legalized.
So at this point I am attempting to apply for a visa based on the fact that I am Andrew’s wife and getting the marriage certificate and our birth certificates legalized, with the Apostille.
Problems: A. not knowing exactly how to go about getting the Apostille; B. possibility of having to leave and re-enter the country to get my passport stamped; C. having the visa application rejected and D. thinking very bad thoughts about all Belgian government officials who seem to enjoy generating mounds of useless paperwork to create jobs for the makers of useless and/or redundant policies and regulations.
My dad joked the other day that by the time we get everything sorted out, it will be time to move back home. I didn’t find this funny. As punishment I will sendhim to deal with the Belgian authorities.