‘If you miss a letter, change your study or move to a new address, there is a big risk that things will go wrong at the IND. In my experience, if one tiny step goes wrong, everything goes wrong. Normally there is no chance to fix it, unless you go to court’, says Yuelong Yang from China. His story is a classic example of the bureaucratic ways that rule the immigration office.
The IND said that the best solution was to apply again. Which Yang did in March 2006, because he could not get an appointment any sooner. After six months and another change of address he called the IND. Again a letter with crucial news had been sent to an old address. Yang: ‘They told me I was not allowed to stay here anymore and that my ID had already expired. My second application was denied because they could not understand why I applied so late, while they had cancelled my first application themselves.’
Bertus Welzen, a teacher at Van Hall Larenstein in Velp, lodged an objection to the decision with the IND on behalf of Yang, but that was rejected as well and they had to go to court. Welzen, who studied law, represented Yang and filed a temporary injunction in February 2007. ‘The judge who tried the case had a much more human approach than the immigration office,’ Welzen remarks.
Yang won the case and finally got a permit. Since September he has been studying Urban Environmental Management at Wageningen University. Thinking back he says: ‘The insecurity, when you are waiting for the judgement, is hard. It is difficult to concentrate on studying. I did well, but some students really suffer in these kinds of situation.’ He could not visit his family for three years either, because he would not have been able to re-enter Holland if he left the country.
Of course this kind of treatment by the immigration office does not make the students feel welcome. ‘We are not treated as guests, who are paying to study here, but more like beggars,’ states Yang. ‘It is some kind of politics, a problem that no one can solve. I tell my friends in China that Holland is great, except for the government.’
Last summer the immigration office made some improvements to the procedure. Now it takes three months to get a new residence permit, and at most four weeks to extend one. But still the bureaucratic conduct of the IND gets students into trouble. Another Chinese student, whose story is very similar to Yang’s, is waiting for her appeal to be heard in court. Welzen thinks she will win as well. ‘The IND usually blames all the mistakes that are made by their bureau on the students. So these students have a very strong case.’
According to Welzen, not all students who have problems obtaining a residence permit speak out. ‘Some students don’t want to talk about it because they consider it a personal private matter. But if you hide your weakness, it will become bigger.’ Yang knows of one Chinese student who had to leave. ‘But,’ he adds, ‘He made no attempt to appeal.’