After 24 years of sitting on the fence, I’ve decided to go Dutch. It all began when the RNW secretary pointed out that my IND card (residence permit) had expired. I laughed, impossible, I have permanent status, it can’t run out. I took the card out of my wallet and threw it on the desk in front of me. It read 2006, for six years I had been carrying around an invalid IND card.
No one ever asks after the card – I’ve never needed it except to put a copy in a file at work. So I set about asking for a new one. I phoned the Immigration and Naturalisation Service and found out I needed to fill in a form, get proof of good behaviour from the local council, proof of registration from the Chamber of Commerce because I am a freelancer. I phoned the IND again, “Do I really need all this, I’ve been married with a Dutchman for 17 years and have lived here for 24 years?” Yes I did was the answer, so I dutifully went about organising the paperwork. It cost me half a day and around 25 euros. Once I filled in the form I looked forward to receiving a new pink card from the IND. Instead I got a letter saying EU citizens no longer needed to request a card proving their residence here, but I did need to register. Another form – but this time with less paperwork.
Unable to find my so-called V-number (V= vreedeling ie alien) I phoned the IND once again, only to hear that I didn’t even really need to register. But as I had heard it was possible to take the Dutch nationality without sitting a ridiculous “inburgerings exam” in which foreigners have to prove their competence in the Dutch langaugae as well as display their knowledge of all things Dutch and, more importantly, without losing my British nationality.
Perhaps I should mention at this point I studied Dutch, have a 2.1 degree in Dutch language and literature and regularly write articles on Dutch news and current affairs. Hence my aversion to sitting an exam with questions about their culture which would baffle many Dutch people.
At this time Rutte’s minority VVD-Christian Democrat government supported by the Freedom Party was still in power. And the Freedom Party was insisting that dual passports should be scrapped altogether even for Dutch nationals who have taken on other nationalities. It seemed a good idea to get dual nationality before it was too late.
Little did I know that only a few weeks later Rutte I (which kind of implies there might be a Rutte II in the future) would fall. Tripping over the unreliability of Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party. Becoming Dutch suddenly became a priority. With an election due in September I might even get to vote. After all, I’d paid taxes all these years, why not help decide how they are spent.
So I nipped down to city hall with my birth certificate, passport and invalid IND card. Of course I phoned beforehand to make sure I had all the documents I needed. Confident I could be Dutch within three months I clutched my number and waited my turn. However, bureaucracy won the day. I needed a stamp authenticising my birth certicate. I was about to mumble – but this certificate was fine to get married with, but thought better of it.
So now I am waiting for a new birth certificate from Milton Keynes with an “apostille” proving I am who I am. Then I’ll head back to the city hall. It’ll be a race against time – and there will probably be some stupid rule saying people can’t vote unless they have been citizens for longer than six months. But who knows I may even be able to vote in the next Dutch election – and I’ll no longer be sitting on the fence.