If I were to set this post to music, you would certainly now be listening to the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. The reason? I have recently officially completed one of the 43 things I'd like to do before I die, namely #22, becoming family reunified (in Danish, familiesammenføring). For those not in the know, this is a big deal. Nowhere in the European Union makes it easy for non-EU citizens (like, for example, me) to settle, but I've never had such visa annoyances as I've had here, despite having lived legally for 8 and a half years elsewhere in the Union before arrival.
For those who don't know me personally, and who haven't followed the whole saga, here's a summary of the process.
May-June, 2003: Did the Camino de Santiago. Met Danish man on the way. Started to make regular weekend visits to Copenhagen and use up phone cards.
Dec. 2003: Moved to Denmark, on a tourist visa, figuring it would be easier for me to find a job in Denmark than for Thor to find a job in London (I'm an English teacher, and can theoretically find work anywhere; Thor's job deals with Denmark-specific employment regulations, and is very local.)
End January-Start February, 2004: Offered a job, and applied for work visa.
February-August 2004: Waited, called immigration every week, and watched a lot of bad television. During this time, I couldn't work, even voluntary work, couldn't take Danish lessons, couldn't open a bank account, could check out library books, but only because I used Thor's card. The application process supposedly lasts 8-10 weeks, by the way. The phone calls to immigration always followed the same pattern, and became increasingly surreal...
(Me) I'd like to check the status of my case.
(Immigration) There's been no change, but the process does take 8-10 weeks.
(Me) Yes, I know, but it's been 19 weeks!
(Immigration, sounding confused) Oh, well...I'm sure you'll get an answer soon!
This went on for months. To give a point of reference, my work permit application in England took about 2 weeks.
August, 2004: The first hallelujah moment, as I got a 1-year work permit.
March, 2005: Our first application for familiesammenføring. There are lots of rules for this. Both parties must be over 24, and must show greater ties to Denmark than to any other country (this part is waived if the Dane has had Danish citizenship or permanent residency for over 28 years). The Danish resident must earn enough to support the immigrating partner, live in a house of over a minimum size, and present a 50,000 Danish Kroner (about $8,000) bank guarantee (as the immigrating partner is not entitled to state support for several years after approval). We met these requirements. For 'samlever' applications (where the couple is cohabitating, rather than married), the couple should normally have lived together for a minumum of a year and a half. We figured that by the time the paperwork was started, we would have met the time requirement.
April, 2005: We figured wrong. It took just under a month for us to get a rejection, on the (perfectly valid) grounds that we hadn't lived together for long enough. The rejection letter nicely stated that I had no deadline to leave the country in light of my work permit. Otherwise, I believe I would have had 2 weeks to pack my bags - and I would have had to pack my bags, as appeals can only be done from the country of origin, not from within Denmark.
June, 2005: Familiesammenføring application, take two. This had some extra steps, but progressed as it should have.
September, 2005: Hooray, I am now officially reunified!
And, this is only because our application was 'fast-tracked', meaning that we could supply proof that we met all the demands. I both know, and know of, people who have waited, or who have been waiting, for up to a year for approval. These are people who have made the comittment and gotten married, too...unlike Thor and me, who faffed about for so long not getting married, that in the end we didn't need to.
The silver lining? Well, have you ever lived with someone too dispirited to do anything, and unable to get a job? I haven't, but Thor did for several months. I was not happy, neither was he, and the relationship was strained, to say the least. And we're still together. Had we known what the process would have been like, we quite likely wouldn't have gone through it. So, it's good that we didn't know, and 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' goes for relationships too. And we've had at least two occasions (first the work permit, and now family reunification) to drink a lot of champagne.