(the building where I had to go for my appointment on Monday)
A couple of weeks ago, I got a folder in the mail from the Gemeente Utrecht (city offices sort of thing). That’s rarely a good thing anywhere, so I was apprehensive opening it. Sure enough, there was a letter telling me I was invited to begin the inburgering program (Dutch integration program) with an appointment at 10:15 on 5 January.
At first glance, you might not think that’s such a big deal. In fact, it might seem like a good thing — but it’s not. It’s an intensive, expensive program culminating in six 1-hour exams or more, with questions covering more than just history and politics. I’ve heard of questions involving discussion of how to build a shed, along with topics about childbirth, as well. Not to mention various other requirements involving reports or role-playing that are too convoluted to go into here.
Needless to say, I didn’t want to do this program. I also was under the impression that I did not have to do it, because of G being an EU citizen and the fact that I was admitted into the country as his partner. Of course, tracking down official information is not so easy. Ultimately, though, I read enough to make me pretty positive that under EU law, as a partner of an EU citizen, I was covered under the freedom of movement law, making me exempt from the inburgering program.
Despite being fairly positive, I was still a bit nervous this morning when it came time to head off for my interview. All the worrying was in vain, as it has always been when it comes to anything regarding immigration here. Everyone is always very friendly, kind and helpful, and the woman I met with didn’t seem to have any issue when I said that I didn’t think I was required to do the program. She looked at my residence card — which says essentially that I have the same rights as an EU citizen — and that was that. She made a copy of my card and passport, just for the records, and explained that they generally send the letter out to everyone who isn’t an EU citizen themselves, but that I wasn’t their target. As long as G and I don’t break up, I don’t have to do the program.
Ultimately, if I wanted to become a Dutch citizen, I’d have to at least pass some sort of exam, although the program isn’t actually mandatory. As it stands, after five years, I will have almost all of the benefits of being a Dutch citizen, without actually having to become one, per the IND (immigration) officer I met with when we first moved.
So, I didn’t have to use any of my examples to show that I’m trying to assimilate and integrate already. I didn’t have to explain how we came in fourth — out of eight teams — at the Christmas Eve Quiz, beating at least eight other actual Dutch people. I didn’t have to explain how we’d taken part in Sinterklaas this year and even written poems (even if they were in English). I didn’t have to give my scores at sjoelen. I didn’t even have to pull out my ace and sing along to Utrecht Mijn Stad!
Utereg het mooist van allemaal!