Au Pair in Germany – the Hosting How to Guide

Like Sarah did several years ago, I mentioned our foray in having an au pair. We had had one from South Korea last summer, a relationship which ended pretty miserably. Despite our efforts to have fair and adjusted expectations of a young woman, age 20, from a culture with no nanny or babysitting culture, we were disappointed, frustrated, and fertig. Translation: stick a fork in us, DONE.

We naively made the initial compromises because we wanted a native Korean speaker who could teach our children Korean by building a loving relationship through regular contact with them. Unfortunately, unwittingly, we over-compromised as the young woman in question didn’t seem to have any real childcare experience, despite what we were lead (or wanted) to believe. It got to a point where the only expected responsibility she was able to fulfill was tidying the kitchen. Looking after more than one of my three children quickly put her out of her depth and some real safety issues came to surface (e.g., kids playing with her medication and her not telling us immediately about it). And although she was brave enough to become an au pair, she didn’t have enough courage to ride the local bus (which is a loop) to her language class alone. On top of that, even though she was a German major and we had interviewed and corresponded in German, she could only manage if I spoke (my rusty) Korean with her. Believe me, after that exhausting initial first month of Korean only, I switched us to German! No matter what language I spoke with her though, I always had a sinking feeling that we were not on the same page. Continue reading

Bureaucracy and the formalities of moving to Germany

From the outset, I am going to give you a disclaimer. I don’t profess to know everything about German immigration. But for the past few months, I have been working as a relocation consultant for expats moving to Germany for large multinationals. I accompanied them to the Ausländeramt and filled out any number of forms for them. So here is what I know.

The two situations I have dealt with in recent times are expats moving from countries that do not require a visa for entry into Germany. This applies to Americans, for example, and also to South Koreans (and many more, I am sure). Those people can enter Germany without a visit to the consulate in their home country and without filling out any paperwork. However, in order to work, they need an elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel (eAT). This also applies to people who enter with a visa. I have had transferees from Russia, for example, who required a visa. At home, they have to fill out paperwork to apply for a  temporary visa. When they arrive, they have to apply for the eAT as well, and if they are allowed to work, they receive a Fiktionsbescheinigung, which they can hand in at work. Remember, I have only been working with people who are here to work. I can’t vouch for the way this works for others. Continue reading

Adventures in the Ämter

Last week I achieved a milestone in my life as an expat. I finally received a permanent residence permit. You might think that after 10.5 years in Germany, I would have done this long ago. Alas, it seems I’m not very good with this kind of bureaucracy. There were a few difficulties, longer stays abroad, forgetfulness, and thus I kept renewing for the standard 3 year time period. But now… now I can stay forever, in case I want that. Continue reading

German Residence Permit Day – A true story

Or how not to get your Aufenthaltstitel

The big day started at 6:30 a.m. when I suddenly woke up and realized that today, November 27, was the date of my appointment at the Berlin Ausländerbehörde (Aliens Authority) to apply for my long-term residence visa (Aufenthaltstitel, not to be confused with an entry visa). I had made a reservation online and then received a confirmation email for an 8:00 a.m. appointment. That part of this experience had gone smoothly.

Unbelievably, the night before I had gone to bed without even setting my alarm clock! After a recent trip to France to visit my son and his fiancée, it had just plain slipped my mind. Totally weird how I just woke up and – bang! – realized it was visa day. Continue reading