Stricter Rules Lead to Marriage Morass
Rwandan student Efraim completed his MSc and PhD in Wageningen. He met Marianne Janssen here (WAU graduate in Biology 1993). The couple were married in September 1993. When Efraim's study visa expired in May 1994, they went to the aliens registration bureau to update his passport. Efraim was told that he would not be given a permanent residence permit because Marianne did not have a full time employment contract. In September 1993 there was a change in the law which made it impossible for the foreign partner to obtain a permanent residence permit unless the Dutch partner had a 4 year contract for full time employment. Although the couple were married before the rule changed, the expiration of his study visa occurred afterwards. His passport status thus became subject to the new rule. We were not told that we should have changed the stamp in his passport. It feels like you cannot be with the person you choose, at least not if they are not Dutch and if you're unemployed",
lamented Marianne. According to the Legal Advisor for Arnhem Legal Aid Branch, Mrs. De Kok, it is not uncommon for rules to change dramatically and those most affected not to be aware of it. Despite the fact that Efraim's PhD thesis won a prestigious prize and he speaks fluent Dutch, the struggle for resident status has exhausted the couple. They are taking up an offer of employment in Tanzania.
When Rodrigo came from Central America to study at the Enschede International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC) he met Dorinne (a university employee), and after a year together they decided to marry. In September 1994, just days after their marriage, the couple tried to change the stamp in his passport from a student visa to a permanent residence permit, but were told that he would first need to return to Mexico to request a Permit for Temporary Residence (MVV) form. This form costs 500 guilders. Dorinne explains exasperatedly, They told us that once his study visa expired, he would be sent home at our expense just to request a MVV. We met all the other requirements. I had a full time job, so he would only be going back to wait for the signal that he could return. Luckily, after intense argument, we got a reprieve. If I hadn't had helpful contacts via the university, it would have been hopeless."
The MVV rule came into effect in April 1994 as another amendment to the law regarding the residence status of foreigners. As Mr. Kortman, from the Information Desk of the Ministry of Justice, explains, it only applies to people from countries, where refugees are likely to come from, - developing countries, not the USA or Canada or Australia etc." He continued to explain that, since April 1994, in order to be able to apply for permanent residence, an applicant must first be in possession of an MVV. It is not possible to request an MVV from within the Netherlands. A non-Dutch person can apply for an MVV through the Dutch Embassy in their own country or they can have someone apply for them in the Netherlands, but they must remain outside the Netherlands until receiving the permit. Mrs. Van Den Beukel, lawyer for the Christian Democratic party (CDA) dealing with marriage and the law, says the MVV rule was designed to act as a buffer zone between the time of the temporary p
ermit and an eventual request for permanent status. It gives more time for checking."
Since November 1994, a mixed nationality couple wishing to marry must first obtain a letter from the aliens registration bureau guaranteeing that all the necessary documents are valid and authentic. The couple are questioned to ascertain whether their marriage is genuine or of convenience so that the foreigner can remain in the Netherlands.
Once they have received the letter, the couple can hand it in at the town hall where they will be married. Dutchman, Franz Tergens, is finishing his degree in Deventer and he wants to marry Xu Li, Chinese student at the Institute of Social Studies. We tried in October 1994 to get an extension for Xu's residence permit because we were going to marry. The man said that we were not allowed to marry and Xu began to cry. Slowly but surely they are taking away all our freedom. I don't believe that the Netherlands deserves the reputation it has for being an open and tolerant country."
A counter measure has come into effect since January 1st this year. It will be possible for foreign students to change their visa status without going back to the country of origin to request an MVV. Given the number of changes in the rules to date, marriage to a foreign national has become an increasingly risky and complicated affair. Although the policies aim to reduce the number of fake marriages and to impede easy immigration to the Netherlands, it would seem that many Dutch people wishing to begin a life with a partner of foreign nationality, are forced to follow a separate set of rules than those citizens who marry compatriots. As the Netherlands welcomes more international students, there is likely be an increase in the number of frustrated people who try to plan their futures together.
(The names of the students mentioned have been changed to protect their privacy.)