Monday, November 10, 2008

Migrant Worker & Amerikaans Burger

I'm officially a migrant worker -- a legal one, too!

I got my residence permit today, one month to the day after touching down in the Netherlands. Not bad, eh? It says VERBLIJFSDOCUMENT, a convenient Dutch single-word for "residence permit." It also says I'm here as a kennismigrant, or knowledge migrant (sometimes translated as highly skilled migrant).

Which reminds me of one of my first days in the Netherlands. Perhaps still bleary-eyed with jetlag, I misread this sign:

Seeing instead "Dead Migrant," I was a little concerned for my future. On second glance, I was much relieved.

As I understand the knowledge migrant designation, most large companies can sponsor kennismigrants. However, certain professions are explicitly not allowed: soccer players, spiritual leaders, and prostitutes. Lucky for me, my skills don't align with any of these! My nationality (nationaliteit) is listed as "Amerikaans Burger." So I'm a burger, too. And yes, burger means citizen.

Dutch immigration policy, like that of most countries, is interesting and inconsistent. From the rest of the EU, of course, things are fairly simple, but for everyone else, it depends both on skill set and on country of citizenship. Coming from USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, immigrants and migrant workers get a big break: they don't need an MVV, or Machtiging tot Voorlopig Verblijf, which is an entrance visa and temporary work permit, before they arrive; and, more importantly, they don't need to pass the Dutch language and culture test once they're here. This test is arguably to help people learn about and assimilate into Dutch culture, although the exception made for a few lucky nations is viewed by some as discriminatory against the many applicants from African and Middle-Eastern countries.

Coming from the United States, a nation of great diversity, where strict political correctness makes taboo anything even remotely discriminatory, I have been keeping my eye out for such things here. Despite the Netherlands' well-known spirit of openness and tolerance, I have several times heard a murmur of prejudice here toward immigrant minorities from Morocco and Turkey. Interestingly, I think the attitude is something like disappointment that these immigrants don't behave more Dutchly: that they are simply not adopting enough Dutch culture to fit in. Toward myself, I have observed nothing like this -- perhaps because I come from a culture that is, relative to the entire world, quite similar, and perhaps also because I have consistently expressed my interest in Dutch language and culture. Whatever the reason, I have felt quite welcome here, and now my shiny new residence permit makes me feel, well, right at home.


Steve said...

So here at the IS&T Conference in Portland I met a guy who works for Philips in Eindhoven... of course, I've forgotten his name right now. But small imaging world nonetheless.

Congrats on being all official over there now too, btw.

Ronald K. said...

Congratulations with your permit! Nice blog you have here, interesting to read about your Dutch experiences.

Scott said...

Interesting stuff. I'm somewhat surprised that the nationalism stuff is just a murmur, given the political parties that made a bigger deal of the Theo Van Gogh thing.

The fact that you can explain the Dutch system in a blog entry makes me think it can't be too bad. Canada, as a point of reference, it a total mess: one province (guess which one?) has its own immigration policy. If you intend to immigrate there, you apply first to the province and then, if approved, to the federal government. Of course, there's nothing that forces you to stay in the province to which you initially immigrate, so people who want to move there can pick the office to which they apply.

There's a similar culture/language assessment, as well, but it's possible to place out of it entirely if your immigration score (a combination of age, work experience, education, etc.) is above a certain threshold. If it's in a lower band of scores, you can choose the language in which the interview takes place. If not, you get to do it in French.

Fun stuff.