Student - January 17, 2008

VHL and University offer different IND support

Many international students encounter problems in obtaining or extending a residence permit from the Dutch immigration service IND. At Van Hall Larenstein there are a few people working at the Education Office whose task is to help students who are having problems. The Central Student Administration (CSA) is responsible for supporting university students in Wageningen, but students sometimes still feel as if they are struggling alone. What kind of support can they expect?

Letters from the IND are always written in Dutch, but international students at VHL can go to Sigrid Wevers in the Education Office for translation. She also advises them on the action they need to take. Wevers: ‘Usually you have to respond to a letter from the IND within two weeks. If for example a change of address does not reach the IND in time and they send a letter to your old address, your reply is bound to be late. In that case I help students write a letter to the IND with an explanation. Sometimes that’s enough, but sometimes people have to apply for a new permit or even leave the country. Last year five students from Thailand had to go back home, so we could apply for a residence permit all over again. It all worked out, but of course it cost the students extra money.’

When international students get into problems with the IND, Wevers refers them to an experienced lawyer. She believes that VHL offers the international students sufficient help and support. ‘I never get any complaints. And some students who have graduated here and started a study at Wageningen University still come to me for help. I tell them to go to the international office of the University. But they are told that they have to do these things by themselves, so I help them anyway.’ Bertus Welzen, a teacher at VHL in Velp, is also still assisting one of his old students who is now doing a master’s at Wageningen University. The student did not receive a lot of help there. ‘Of course it is also a matter of confidence,’ says Welzen.

Silvia Erimasita, a student at the University, confirms that it is not always clear who you should go to for help. She experienced this when she had problems extending her residence permit. ‘It caused a lot of stress. The letters from the IND are in Dutch and it’s not always clear to international students that they are urgent. Friends of mine have had to leave the country because of this.’

Some of the international students’ complaints have reached the Wageningen Student Organisation (WSO). The biggest problems, according to board member Sijing Liu, are the impersonal nature of the procedures and the lack of practical support, such as help with writing a letter to lodge an objection.

Jos van Kroonenburg works at the Student Support Service, under which the deans, student physician and psychologist fall. Jeroen Ouburg is responsible for assisting international students at the Central Student Administration (CSA). Their reaction to the complaints: ‘We understand that these problems can cause students an awful lot of stress. However, we must consider the problem from a number of perspectives. On the one hand, there is a formal problem that requires a formal solution. We are responsible for this as the Central Student Administration. Another aspect is the social and emotion problems a student may have. If we notice these we always refer a student to a dean, who can offer support. It is true that we deal with students in a less personal way than VHL does. The reason is the bigger scale of the University. But this doesn’t mean that we help the students less well. We have a team of people who deal with the residence permit procedures. Each week we discuss specific cases, so the whole team is aware of problems that certain students have at any time.’

The complaint that little practical help is offered with letter writing receives a response of indignation. Ouburg: ‘It is true that we don’t write letters to the IND for the students. They must do this themselves. But we do give advice on how to write these letters and students are always welcome to ask us to check their letters.’

Jos van Kroonenburg: ‘If a student can’t manage, they can always come to the CSA desk in Forum. They will either be helped immediately or referred to someone in the CSA who can help them. But the later a student reacts to a letter, the more difficult it is to resolve the problem.’

In response to the complaints from the WSO, the CSA student support office will discuss matters with the student organisation. / Amrish Baidjoe and Alexandra Branderhorst

Complaints concerning the CSA and Student Support Service can be sent to: email('Tellus.csa','wur.nl');

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