Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Grappling with Belgian Bureaucracy - Tues 19 Jan

Today I decided to get things done. Two things that I really need to sort out which will make my life in Belgian easier: try and find out how much longer I need to wait for my Belgian id card, and register as an 'indepedent/freelancer.'

I'd started with the latter by ringing up Securex (a large company who deal with exactly this) yesterday and (once I'd negotiated the recorded message repeated in 4 languages) chatting to various people in attempt to set up a meeting with someone at their Mons branch. Not easy when none of them spoke a word of English, and this is really the kind of thing I just can't do with my level of French.

Amazingly, I managed to do just this and went to see someone this morning. Even better, someone working there did actually speak a bit of English and acted as my very own translator as I tried to explain to the other member of staff my tax situation in Belgium. The conclusion? Come back later with the right documents. I hadn't thought of bringing along my GCSE, A-Level, and degree certificates.

In between my second Securex meeting I popped into the local commune who I'd seen right at the very beginning of my time here. Again, not the kind of thing that can be done using my level of French, but I did work out that until I had fully registered with Securex as an 'independent' I wouldn't be getting my id card. That chat was short and sweet.

So, back to Securex for my second meeting of the day with them. They didn't seem to be particularly interested in any of my school or university certificates, and only wanted to see my certificates for passing English and Maths, HR, Business, and other 'life skills' during my time at uni. When I explained that we only study for our degree and don't do these other things at uni they seemed shocked. I even felt a little shocked such was their amazement. Maybe we should start to. After all, endless business groups are always telling us how they're having to 're-educate' the graduates they employ as many of them lack decent levels of literacy and numeracy. Along with oodles of common sense, but that's just a society thing!

They did however quite like the look of my PGCE certificate and its detailing of all the various components I had passed, making me suitable enough for teaching. Basically, before anything is issued here, the authorities need to see that I'm mentally fit and able to work and that I have the right kind of qualifications.

Well, they took copies of everything and said they'd be in touch after they'd sent all my paperwork to some government department who would then either allow me to start working here legally (the fact that I've already been working here for over 2 months seems irrelevant) or consign me to Belgian's black market. The two people I delt with were however extremely helpful and very friendly.

3 meetings: some (slow) progress made.

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