Friday, March 2, 2012
Innvandring og deg!
So it's been a week since I've last checked in. What has changed? Well... I have health insurance.
How did this happen?
Well, I had the great fortune of dealing with the Immigration services in Norway. Due to being from America, I am allowed in to Schengen countries for three months without explicit documentation (i.e. visa, citizenship, etc.). However, after those three months, I have to go back to my proud, healthy nation, unless I obtained a special waiver.
How hard could that be?
After several hours of phone conversations (at one point, I was on hold for an hour... this is after being on hold, in previous conversations, for 20 and 30 minute periods) and misleading internet rhetoric (please pay the Government $500 for the right to be considered for a permit), an email response directed me to appear in person, which lead to the following three days.
After an hour of re-routing through a zigzag of lines and different deterrents, an agent informed us that I had to report to a different facility altogether. Good thing the original trip didn't mean that we had to take a long, bus ride to the other side of town and miss work and school... oh wait, all of that did happen.
Day 2: After more hours of waiting in an "organized" line system. There were 30 kiosks with various representatives all assigned to assist with various tasks from an immigrant changing their address to issuing work permits and tax IDs (in order to get a job, each immigrant is assigned a tax ID number which, immediately, deducts taxes from their pay. Thus, even if an immigrant can finagle a way to stay illegally, their contribution to the state is still accounted... seems a lot easier than building a fence). However, extension-seekers, information seekers, and jerks who didn't want to schedule an appointment online or on the phone, were siphoned off and were able to go to one kiosks only.
Oh, it gets better.
While the other kiosks could either call up people (based on their appointment) or DMV-style with a ticket machine, the separate kiosk resorted to a mid-twentieth century clusterfuck. When I got there, it was an assortment of immigrants standing and sitting (yes, you could be in-line and not actually "in line") around and not everyone spoke English or Norwegian (I don't really speak Norwegian, but I can ask simple questions like: "er du i faen linje!?!?"). Finally, I found the end of the line which, slowly, became the front of the line. When my turn came up, I was informed that I had all the requisite paperwork (Resume/CV, passport, and, in order to gain the extension, I had to prove I was a "skilled" worker which required a copy of my college diploma because, you know, every American carries that around with them on job interviews or other important tasks to prove their scholarly merits), except for my documentation of health insurance.
Norway requires everyone to have health insurance. If you're a citizen or employed, they provide it to you. If you're not, you have to provide it for yourself.
My inner Mitch McConnell almost came out!
(Let's stop right here and let me assure you that I, wholeheartedly, agree and support Norway's healthcare statute... I'd just prefer that it didn't directly, negatively, impact me)
This news caused me to race out of the facility and print out my proper documentation (thanks, nearby internet cafe... don't try the coffee!). However, when I returned to the center to complete the process, the kiosk closed before I could make it back to the front. You see, while the center was open from 8:45 to 4, the lone kiosk that could help me had operating hours of 9 - 12.
As I shivered infront of the facility with the other immigrants, I realized that I was losing patience with everything. I had already missed a day and a half of class and I was not interested in expanding that tally by much more. A quick visual survey allowed me to confirm that many of the people waiting to get in had the same destination that I had. I began scheming out how I would weave in and around the elderly and women pushing strollers (yes, the monstrous, barnevogn from my previous post) to get to the forefront of the line. A large gate held us out and, at 8:50 (Norwegians have a very tenuous grasp on time in many commercial and civic ventures. The previous day, the kiosk had shut down at 11:50), two diminutive security guards (another odd quirk, everyone working at this center was female... security, cleaners, servicemen... everyone) slid the gate up and a mad rush was on.
It wasn't a mad rush, per se. Though, it was very intense. Small children were brushed by, pamphlets and forms were slightly rustled in the wake.
I got through and am now free to be here through Mid-June. By free, I mean I am able to stay here and pay a lot of money for goods and services in the hopes of finding a job and longer sponsorship.
Alt for Norge!