Exactly at the stroke of 9:30 I showed up once more at the Leiden gemeente, this time with my well-earned scheduled appointment. I had brought with me all the papers I needed to file for my naturalization, as per the official IND website. The requirements to become a Dutch citizen consisted of 7 items:
1) You must be 18 or over – No problem there, I was already pushing 50.
2) You must have legally lived in the Netherlands for an uninterrupted period of 5 years – I had moved here over 5 years previously, and apart from escaping to warmer, drier climates for a few weeks of holiday, I had been here continuously. In fact, I had been here long enough to actually be able to pronounce “Scheveningen.”
3) You must have a valid permanent residence permit or a permit for a non-temporary purpose – As far as I could tell, my permit was for a non-temporary purpose. I was not here due to a temporary job contract and had come to live here with a Dutch citizen (which was ultimately to be the fly in the ointment, but more on that later).
4) You must be able to read, write, speak and understand Dutch at an A2 level – Although I grumbled vociferously about it at the time, the inburgeringscursus I had been required to complete for my residency enabled me to do all of the above, at least to a level where I could order with confidence in a Dutch restaurant, even if the waiters all insisted on responding in English.
5) In the previous 4 years you must not have been in prison or have incurred a large fine – I’m not sure anyone would have had a problem with the prison aspect of this one. Aren’t Dutch prisons notoriously empty? The worst I have fallen afoul of the law was about a year after I arrived (when I still had a car) and incurred a €50 fine for driving 56 kilometers an hour in a 50 kilometer per hour zone—speed demon that I am!
6) You must be prepared to renounce your current nationality – No problem whatsoever on that front. I hope never to be made to return to my country of origin again. Those people are nuts over there.
7) You must attend a citizenship ceremony where you declare your allegiance to the Netherlands – Again, no problem. I’ll gladly stand up for the country of stroopwafels and bicycles. Not to mention the birthplace of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Bosch. Besides, it’s a great opportunity to wear something hideously orange.
Proving I had been born
After getting my number from the machine, I joined the ranks of others in the waiting area, all hoping for a better life here; within just a few minutes my number was called. The woman at balie 7 greeted me with a smile and I explained to her (in halting but understandable Dutch) that I wanted to apply for citizenship.
After entering my BSN in the computer she mentions that they don’t seem to have my birth certificate registered in their system. Do I have one I can provide? I proudly produce a copy of my birth certificate, with the all-important apostille on it. I had needed it 5 years previously when I was applying for residency, and it had been something of a nightmare to get. Luckily, this time they did not need a recent copy.
I have never understood the need for an apostille. All it consists of is an official seal and signature. Apparently my original birth certificate with an official seal and signature is not good enough. In addition, for many procedures the government requires a recent (less than 6 months old) birth certificate because… maybe the date and place of my birth has changed in the last few years??? It’s obviously yet another conspiracy by government administrations to wring money from the citizenry. It had cost something like $200 to get mine, not including the astronomical postage fees.
Anyway, after presenting the medewerker with the prized document she proceeded to politely tell me it would take about 2 weeks for it to be registered in the system. I should make (yet another) appointment by phone to return in 2 weeks’ time to file for naturalizatie.
I was disappointed of course. Why should it take 2 weeks to be registered in the computer when she had already entered all the relevant information? But I figured this was how the game was played. A form here, another document there, and eventually I would be Dutch. At least I had at this point become familiar with the system for making an afspraak by telephone. Two weeks was not so long in the scheme of things, right? If I had only known…