Monday, July 9, 2012

Preparation - Part I: Austrian Residency Permit Application

I have been meaning to write this post for a long time, but it's been so overwhelming, that I haven't had the chance.

In order to prepare for my trip to Austria, I had to apply for an Austrian Residency Permit. The AAEC provides all the information one will need to apply for this, but it can be a lot more complicated than it looks, as it can be dictated by the whims of whoever is working at a particular office.

For this permit, I needed the following:

  • Birth certificate with an apostille
  • Police clearance letter with an apostille
  • Letters/documentation (Bestätigung) from the AAEC
  • Passport photo
  • Passport
  • Application - filled out and signed

I had a passport and the letter from the AAEC, so that was the easy part. Passport photos were easy as well. I had mine taken at Sears photo studio, because they have much better lighting than a place like Walgreen's. I'm not a vain person, but I like to look semi-decent in a passport photo. The application was also very easy to fill out, especially with the instructions the AAEC provided.

The hardest parts were getting the police clearance letter and the birth certificate and the attached apostilles. I already have a birth certificate, but it's over 20 years old. In my research on obtaining an apostille, I realized I needed an apostille from Texas for my birth certificate and one from Minnesota for the clearance letter. By the way, I don't fully understand what an apostille is, but it's documentation that other countries will accept as proof that your document is a legal, actual document and the document with the apostille does not need to be translated.

Texas required that I have recently certified birth certificate, so I had to order a birth certificate from Texas, as my copy is very old. When I ordered it, the website said it could take up to three weeks to arrive, plus I needed to obtain an apostille which could take another few weeks. I panicked and emailed the office in Texas and they sent it out the same day! It really does not hurt to ask and I was so glad I did, because I received it so quickly. Then I had to send it back to Texas for the apostille. I'm lucky, because an aunt lives close to Austin, the capital, and was able to take it to the office for me and get it in less than a week. If I had sent it there, it could have taken two weeks or more.

Obtaining the police clearance report was much easier, because I live in Minnesota. I had heard from former TAs that sometimes the local police don't understand this request, but when I called my local police office, they seemed to understand what I needed. However, I ended up going to the Sheriff's office, because it would cover the whole county, rather than just the suburb I live in, plus they already had information about it on their website. I had to take the morning off and go to the Sheriff's office, but once I was inside (I was the first person there!) it just took a few moments and they were able to notarize it for me. I've found that when a document needs an apostille, it needs to be notarized or certified. Because that had taken no time at all, I went to the Minnesota Secretary of State, which is the office that deals with apostille. Again, because I was the first there, this took no time at all.

So I had all my documents together and the next step was taking them to the honorary consulate in Minnesota, or so I thought. When I emailed the Minnesota consulate, they informed me that they could process my application in Minnesota, but I needed permission from Chicago. I emailed Chicago and after several very rude emails, I was told I was not able to go to the consulate in Minnesota, and had to go to Chicago to process my application. I did email the AAEC, but after much back and forth, they told me I should just go to Chicago, which was frustrating, as I had to take off time from work and find a hotel room.

I was very nervous about Chicago, as they were so rude in email. According to the AAEC, no documents need to be translated, but I had heard from others that documents needed to be translated, so I had my police clearance letter translated just in case. I was worried that the consulate in Chicago would be difficult and/or decline my application. My family drove almost all night to get to Chicago and after navigating the public transportation system in Chicago, we arrived at the consulate. The woman manning the desk was very nice and it took all of five minutes to process my application. I did not even need the translation! All that stress for something that only took five minutes. My advice to anyone else applying for an Austrian residency permit is to not stress out, because I stressed out so much and it wasn't worth it.

I think I was one of the first to apply for the permit, because I heard in June that my application was approved and now all I need to do is pick it up in Austria, well, after giving them my address and signing a few things, then I will have it. My next post will be about contacting the schools and finding housing.