La paperasserie… Red tape… Switzerland is full of it. I heard that was the case before we moved here, but I rather stubbornly believed it was an exaggeration. How bad could it really be? Well, friends, let me describe that joy in agonizing detail:
So, to live and work here, my employer applied for a work permit for me back in June. This was a process that they said would take 8-12 weeks, which explains our long sojourn in Ottawa over the summer. Ok, fine. I contacted the embassy in Ottawa and was told that we could simply go there during the summer and get our initial visas, which would get us into the country and then be converted to the more permanent stay permits.
Summer arrives, and we visit the embassy. Oh no, sorry, we’re told, you have to wait until the authorities in Switzerland notify you that your visas are ready and then go to Montreal to pick them up… Ok, fine.
We wait and wait, missing school registration, missing the first day of school… Finally everything is ready! We buy our plane tickets with a stop in Montreal, go to the embassy and find out that actually only MY visa is ready. Apparently no one thought to submit any forms for the rest of the family nor tell us that we should. The visa lady pulls some strings and sends us onto the plane anyway with relatively inadequate stamps in the other three passports and a rainbow unicorn wish of “you’re Canadian, you should probably be ok…” Ok, fine.
So we jump on the plane and make it to Switzerland (3 of us as tourists). But it turns out we have nowhere to stay. Apparently we are forbidden to stay anywhere but in this very specific Canton of Vaud because our non-existent visas and work permits are only for Vaud. Too bad everything in Vaud is booked up. Sorry. We scramble to rent a car, find a shitty motel, and hope to get the kids registered in school. Because they’re losing it. We’re losing it. But we can’t register them until we have a permanent address… Ok, fine.
We look at apartments on our first day in town. We’re desperate, jet lagged, fighting. We just pick one because good god it’s not worth waiting. But first we have to apply for the apartment and earn the right to rent it. And to apply for the apartment, we have to get a bank account, because the bank runs a deal where they hold 3 months of rent in trust for the landlord as part of the rental laws here… Ok, fine.
So we go to the bank. We manage to open an account, but the bank really would like to have a copy of our work permits, please. So we go to the population bureau and fill out some residency forms, take some awkward photo booth photos, pay some money and are told we can go get our work permits in the next city over in about a week. So we go there, to get our visas converted into work permits, and it turns out that only MY work permit is allowed, since no one sent in any forms for the rest of the family. They will have to come back another time. They take my fingerprints and tell me my permit will be ready in a couple of weeks… Ok, fine.
But to finalize our rental, we have to get household insurance. And to register the kids for school, we have to get medical insurance. So we meet with an insurance broker, go through a very complicated set of decision making about our deductibles (while meeting at McDonalds, because we are homeless immigrants), and sign a bunch of papers. But it turns out that to get insurance, we first have to prove our residency… Ok, fine.
So we go back to the population bureau and get them to sign a form saying that we live here, and manage to get insurance. We finalize the apartment. So we take the kids to the school, fill out some forms, and wait… and finally we move into our apartment! Meanwhile, B can go register for his work permit, but not the kids. Apparently Ontario birth certificates are not specific enough for the Swiss, so I have to order special long form certificates from Canada… Ok, fine.
The kids get into school. But our stuff hasn’t arrived. The shipping company needs our work permits to fill out the customs forms. And the shipment is delayed. So I send them ALL the forms we have and work out a deal to give the work permit later. Stuff still hasn’t arrived… Next week, apparently… Ok, fine.
But our rental car time runs out. So we buy a car from a dude on Facebook, but we don’t have work permits for registering it. And we need more insurance. But to get insurance, we need to prove our driving history, so I call our old insurers in Canada and have them send over some details. We get insurance and borrow a neighbor’s car to visit the car registration bureau. But because we don’t have work permits, she can only give us temporary plates, which means we need a different kind of insurance. So I call the insurance company from the parking lot and get them to send a new insurance form to the office. We get plates! Christmas miracle!
But we have to change over our licenses, which we can only do once we have our work permits, accreditation from the population bureau, and an optometrist test. Plus special forms from Canada explaining our entire licensing history because Ontario licenses are not detailed enough to pass Swiss muster. And, you guessed it, we also need our work permits. Sigh.
Some other things we need work permits for? A cell phone plan instead of pay as you go. The discount fare passes on the train. Other little things like, oh, leaving the country.
Aaannnddd… We still don’t have our work permits.