Aug. 26 - Prior to yesterday's interruption, I'd been blogging the wedding and reception (here, here, here, and here). I was going to resume blogging about the reception this week, but will have to postpone that again today. Because today I'm talking about the Danish immigration system.
In July 2002, Denmark began enforcing a tough new set of immigration and asylum laws.
Here's the prime minister on those laws: "The essence of our immigration policy is that immigrants who are willing to work in Denmark and are able to contribute to Danish society are most welcome. We are trying to stop immigrants who are going to take advantage of the very generous welfare system."
Here's the Danish Immigration Minister: "The vast majority of immigrant marriages are arranged marriages. If you are 18 years old and everyone says that you have to marry your cousin—and it usually is cousins in Pakistan—how can you resist?… We are fed up with forced marriages and the systematic use of the right of family reunification to get families to Denmark at the expense of the young. For a Nordic mind this is a huge offence to freedom, human dignity and self-determination and something we Danes simply cannot accept."
The Nordic mind isn't usually quick to take offence—being superior, it's more inclined to pity—and there aren't many things that Danes consider unacceptable (besides root beer and canned soup).
First thing Monday morning, Trine and I made our way to the immigration office to submit my application for a residency permit. Without such a permit, I'd have to return to the states by the end of September and wouldn't be allowed back into Denmark for another six months.
We learned a few new details about the residency application on Monday. We learned, for example, than Trine needs to complete a half-inch thick application of her own to accompany it now that we're married. We learned that we need to attach copies of our lease and our marriage license—and my actual passport.
"I don't think I'm supposed to surrender my passport to foreign governments," I said.
"It's quite normal," the woman on the other side of the counter assured me. "Of course we return it to you as soon as the decision is made."
"Oh," I said.
Trine was a step ahead of me. "How long does it take to process the application and make a decision?" she asked.
"Currently, about seven months."
Trine looked at me significantly, waiting for me to catch up. For once she didn't have to wait long.
"How do I travel without my passport?" I asked.
* * *
I spoke to a couple of people at the American embassy—or the consulate, or both—to get some advice. I figured they'd have the system down cold. I figured they'd know exactly what I should do.
They were bewildered themselves. In diplomatic language, I was told that the Danish immigration law was a mess and that no one really knew what it all meant yet. "There are appeals, lawsuits, amendments being discussed"—the Danes seem to realize their new law is broken, but they haven't fixed it yet. It remains the (ambiguous) law of the land.
I asked if there was a U.S. policy on passports. "Am I allowed to surrender my passport to a foreign country?" The answer was basically no, I'm not allowed to, but yes, I'm allowed to here, because the Danish government allows you to come in and pick up your passport any time you want during the application review process.
This was a revelation. "So a month after I submit the application, I can waltz on down to the immigration office, pick up my passport, get on a plane, take off to Thailand, come back, return my passport to immigration, and there's no problem?"
Of course there was a problem. "They say they stop work on your case while the passport is out of your folder," she explained.
"But still... say I'm gone for a week. That would just add a week to the process, right?"
"Maybe. But we think they may start over from scratch."
"But you don't actually know?"
(My tax dollars at work.)
"I think that's an important distinction," I said.
"Yes, it's a big difference."
"But there's no way around it—either I submit that application, or I move back to the states for six months?"
"So it sort of doesn't matter."
"No, not really."
"Well. I guess I'll just clarify the question when I go back to submit my application."
"That's a good idea. And afterwards, could you do me a favor? Could you call me and let me know what they said?"
* * *
Trine and I are going to make a quick daytrip to Sweden on Saturday, since I haven't been there yet, as a hedge against the worst case scenario.
The worst case scenario is that I'm stuck in Denmark for seven months.
As worst case scenarios go, I suppose that's not too bad. It's not hard to imagine how I would have felt if someone had come up to me in the past and asked how I'd feel about being marooned in Denmark with a beautiful blonde for seven months.
* * *
On August 26, 1883, Krakatoa erupted, between Java and Sumatra. The two-day eruption and related tidal waves killed 36,000 people and destroyed two thirds of the island. On a lighter note, "Krakatoa" sounds like "cracked a toe, huh?" and can be used in many humorous puns.
On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted women suffrage. Most women opposed the amendment, on the grounds that they had suffered enough already, but it passed anyway since only men could vote.
On August 26, 1982, the Argentine government ended its ban on political parties. This resulted in more festive politicians, and the great National Hangover of 1983.
On August 26, 1743, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was born. Dr. Lavoisier discovered oxygen. The discovery was a great boon to science, as it enabled Breathing, without which many subsequent scientific advances would have been impossible.
© 2003, The Moron's Almanac