Mild irritation. That was my main feeling when I walked out of Rathaus Schoeneberg on Monday afternoon with my German citizenship certificate in hand. The morning had consisted of “a series of unfortunate events” that made crossing the finish line a rather unceremonious affair.
First, I discovered the reason why I had not received a letter telling me that I could pick up my citizenship document. We recently moved to a new apartment and we neglected to register our new address with the authorities. Yes, we should have known that this is a legal requirement in Germany, but since we only moved a short distance within our district we didn’t think about it. Frau Mittag at Rathaus Schoeneberg had our new address, but she still sent the letter to our old address where we were registered. When I asked her why she had not informed me that the letter was being sent to the old address, she said that she was unable to let me know since I was not registered at my new address. Living in the modern digital age is no guarantee that a German bureaucrat is willing to use the phone or email! The letter sat for over a month at our old address where our landlord had more important things to do than let me know about it (though I had asked him to do this).
But another unfortunate event looms much larger in this story. My husband also applied for his German citizenship and we had decided to put our three children on his application. On August 26th, Brian learned that his citizenship would be approved along with the applications for two of our three children. Apparently there was an issue with our adopted son’s application and we would be informed at the local level about it. But when Brian also received his citizenship approval letter on Monday, it made no mention of our son Sam. I stared at the letter for a long time searching in vain for some mention of our third child.
When I met with Frau Mittag expecting that she would clear up the mystery about Sam, she proceeded to tell me in rapid-fire German what we would need to do next to have his application approved. As she read in detail from the file, I sat before her, somewhat uncomprehending, waiting for her to hand me a letter or form or something with instructions about what must be done. But she had nothing to give me and refused to copy any of the pertinent correspondence from the file for me. She then wanted to know if the other two children would be coming in personally to pick up their certificates! My very cold response made it clear that we would not bring in the two children unless their little brother was getting his certificate too.
So four out of five of us have crossed the finish line and are German citizens. Sam is our legally adopted son and we hope that all we need to do is show his notarized or apostilled adoption papers to take care of this final piece of red tape. We did not bring his adoption papers to Germany because he has a U.S. passport and birth certificate. The only assistance Frau Mittag gave me was to write down the name of the office where I need to go next: Amtsgericht Schoeneberg.
I’d like to post a picture of our smiling family on the steps of Rathaus Schoeneberg holding our citizenship papers, but that picture will have to wait. After a 16 month struggle to obtain my German citizenship, I hope the next wait is not that long.