How NOT to get kicked out of the Netherlands - Part 2
LESSON #2: This one is obvious. If you are going to spend more than three months in continental Europe and you are an American, do not rely on the advice of friend or family and do not trust travel websites.
Call a local consulate before you get on a plane and get the facts from someone who knows the rules inside and out.
Most Americans planning to spend more than three months in Europe are students studying at local universities or workers employed at local companies.
My own situation was more complicated. I came to the Netherlands to spend time with M and work on a research project that would fill the final credits I needed for a second degree from Portland State University back in the United States.
I had looked into getting a VAR/WUO entrepreneur’s permit, which would have allegedly enabled me to stay longer and receive pay for a series of freelance articles I wrote for an Amsterdam-based magazine, but I was thwarted by a dense series of forms in Dutch and some less than helpful officials.
My original plan was to stay four months and return to the states on May 4.
I can hear you thinking, "God, what an idiot." You are right. I am an idiot. My confidence and obliviousness had directly led to me making one of the biggest mistakes of my entire life.
Being detained like this is an experience I would not wish on my worst enemy or even Charlie Sheen. Like Tom Petty once sang, "the waiting is the hardest part." Time slows to a crawl while you are trapped in a situation like this. You cannot focus on a book or a magazine.
All you can do is stare into space, worry like mad and slowly come to terms with the fact that awful things are about to happen. Those plans to get together with friends on Queens Day? Forget about them.
One minute you are talking with your girlfriend about whether or not to get Thai takeout or cook at home tonight, the next you are wondering if you will be spending the next few days in a filthy holding cell somewhere cold, terrible and filled with wannabe terrorists who would love nothing more than to spend a few hours alone with a scrawny American.
Near the three hour mark, Buddy Holly casually returned from his dinner break and updated us on the situation. He had contacted an official at the IND who told him no exception could be made.
That line I had been fed by the official prior to our departure? "He was mistaken," Buddy told us. He gave me the number of the American Embassy.
I spoke with an agent who glumly told me that his hands were tied. "We actually hold little sway in situations like these," he said. "We’re in a foreign country and we have to obey their rules." He wished me luck before hanging up.. and presumably going back to his game of Mine Sweeper.
LESSON #3: See above. If you find yourself in violation of visa regulations in the Netherlands, you can call your nation’s embassy but it is unlikely that they will be able to help you out.
It was now past 7pm on a Tuesday night. Neither M or I possessed an extensive knowledge of Dutch customs regulations or any loopholes that might work in my favour. Despair was setting in and Buddy apathetically told me that I would be deported back to the United States in the morning. "I have a plane ticket for May I could use," I told him, wanting to be helpful. "No, we will pay for you to leave," he said with a sneer. "You’ll get your passport back in the morning."
I took this opportunity to point out the fact that I was in the Netherlands on day 90. It was 4,5 hours to midnight. According to the rules, couldn't I at least be allowed to enter the country long enough to fetch my belongings from my apartment?