Science - June 15, 2006

Long wait for residence permits

Six Indonesian and one Mozambican student have been waiting more than ten months for their residence permits. Without them, they cannot leave the Netherlands and be sure that they will be allowed to return. Some of them have already had to delay courses abroad.

It seems as if history is repeating itself: long delays before foreign students finally get their long-awaited residence permits from the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). For most students the IND procedure has dramatically improved and is now swift and easy. Where problems do arise, the IND is willing to help smooth out any wrinkles. However, for a small group of foreign students the situation has not changed. These students have a residence permit, but moving to a different university within the Netherlands means they have to apply for a new permit. The downside of this bureaucratic situation is another 430 euros of application costs and months of waiting.

Ardi Andono and Nurul Hidayah, both from Indonesia, arrived in Wageningen in August 2005. Before that they had done a five-month pre-master’s course at Maastricht University, in the south of the Netherlands. In Wageningen, the Central Student Administration (CSA) explained to them that they had to apply for a new residence permit at the Wageningen town council offices. And so they did. But apart from a confirmation of receipt of their request, they have heard nothing from the IND. Now, ten months later, they are still waiting for their permits and have no clue about the progress of their application. Andono: ‘It feels like a jail. My friends go to Germany and Belgium, but I have to stay here, because I don’t have the right permit yet. I even had to postpone a course this period, which I was supposed to do in Prague. Hopefully I can still do this course next year.’ Hidayah’s experience is similar. ‘I have applied for a summer course in Italy next month. I already booked my plane ticket but I am not sure whether I can go,’ she says.

Jeroen Ouburg, international student team-leader for Wageningen University: ‘We are aware of the problems and are still trying very hard to help these students. However, it is difficult for us to get through to the IND and persuade them to speed up the procedure.’ According to Ouburg, both Wageningen University and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) have notified the Ministry of Justice of the problems.

Ouburg stresses that students can apply for a re-entry visa (terugkeervisum) and use that if they go abroad. ‘For study related matters, we can help students to speed up the procedure. But I can understand that, after a lot of frustration, many students are reluctant to do this.’ The students have filed official complaints with the IND and are considering other steps as well. But when it comes to obtaining their residence permits, there is nothing they can do but wait. / JH

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