Apr 14, 2008

Foreign frustration

"Office hours Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 9 am to 1 pm."

"Phone hours Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 pm to 2 pm."

They aren't making it easy for me to find out when I need to show up to get my "settlement permit" renewed. When I renewed my passport in 2006, I had to go get the usual rubber stamp in it, showing I'm a permanent resident of Norway. That usually just required showing up at what used to be called the alien office on any weekday during regular office hours and some worn bureaucrat would look at the passport and stamp it.

But they had changed the rules and their methods in the ten years since my last renewal. I had to bring a photograph and what I got back a week later was a slick, laminated holograph of my smiling face. The worst part was waiting in line for on average two hours twice for what took me no more than seven minutes all total for the two visits (handing in and picking up). Granted, you pull a queue number, but it's pretty frustrating to show up at 9:30 one morning and not get in until after 11, and a week later be in line by 9 am but not get in until almost noon.

And to do that every two years? Taking a day off work for hanging around for paperwork?

I had every intention of settling down tomorrow with office door closed and phone on speaker and spending the full two hours trying to get through to ask my question. To make sure I had the times and days right, I opened up the web page for the Hordaland police's immigration office today.

I have a friend who is impressed by my Googling skills, how I am able to hunt up information (so her brother can mail order King Oscar sardines, for example). Today I thought of her as I impressed myself. Frustrated with the lack of information on the county police webpage - in a fit of traditional Norwegian service, they list the office hours you can call, but do not post the phone number with that information, which makes me prefer new-fangled Norwegian service - I clicked on some links to the Norwegian equivalent of the INS, the UDI (heh). And while trying to find out if I could somehow do this all by mail or something, I tripped over a notice that the Hordaland county police department as of Feb. 1 2008 had transferred its immigration office to local police stations in the interest of increasing service.

That sounded great. That sounded like every last foreigner in Bergen didn't all have to show up at one office at once and make long lines for each other.

I got on the horn to the local police station. No "Phone hours Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12 pm to 2 pm" there, just a casual "Yeah, police" answering. The person to speak to was at lunch (I should have realized; it was 11:40 when I called). I called back later. I explained that I needed to renew my permit, and wanted to know when and how. The lady asked me for my name and my birthdate, found me in her system - "permit expires June 1... you live at..." - yeah, that's right, that's me. She told me to show up any time with a photo and passport during the office hours of 9 am to 1 pm, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Same hours but now they feel wonderful. The line won't be as long, no matter what, and it's near home. Funny how that last makes it better, too.

3 comments:

Nicole said...

Sounds almost like the German embassy over here - and when you finally reach them, they are useless ;)

Good Luck to you though!

Sparkling Red said...

I'm glad I don't have to get permission every two years to stay here. :-)

Keera Ann Fox said...

Nicole, I once misplaced my passport. I was supposed to travel on a Thursday. The US embassy was, of course, closed on Wednesdays. I didn't travel. (I did eventually find the passport.)

Spark, it annoys me a bit but I guess I'll adjust. If I'm lucky, it'll be a beautiful day when I go visit the police, and I'll bring my camera and get some pictures.