Butterscotch & Chocolate


l2When it came time for the annual renewal of my Belgian residence card, I took the opportunity of being at the liaison office to inquire about the status of Merv’s cohabitation visa application. With his orange card (interim residence card) due to expire in just a matter of days, I hoped that they may by now be able to provide some indication of the outcome.

We’d previously been told that the foreign office has six months from the date of receipt of our application to take a decision. If no decision is made in that time, the application would automatically be considered successful – Merv would simply need to present himself at the foreign office with his orange card which would then be exchanged for an official Belgian residence card. We were also told that it was usually the case that no news is good news – if we heard from the foreign office within the six month period it would likely be due to an issue with the application.

It had been 5 months and 26 days with no news, but I wasn’t even close to being confident of the outcome. I waited nervously for the lady at the liaison office to bring up the details of Merv’s application. Since there were still a few days until a decision was due, there was nothing she could tell me. I asked about Merv coming in on the date of expiry of his orange card, but was told that would be too early since the foreign office had until midnight on the due date to take a decision. He would therefore need to wait until the following day to call in at the foreign office.

Since we’d managed so far to avoid a visit to the commune and the hours of queuing it would inevitably entail, I thought I’d try my luck once again for an appointment at the liaison office. I felt a sense of relief when I saw the appointment book come out, a little less so when the appointment time proposed was two weeks after the expiry of Merv’s card. I asked if there was anything earlier, and my audacity was rewarded. Despite there being no available slots that day, Merv’s name was literally squeezed into the schedule of appointments the day immediately following the expiry of the orange card.

m1The day had arrived. It was now nine months since I’d arrived in Brussels, and six months since I’d completed the last stage of the visa application process. Six months of waiting. Of checking the mailbox every day for a possible rejection letter. Of not being able to travel beyond the borders of Belgium. Of hoping. Six months of just not knowing.

We’d made plans for dinner tonight, two alternate plans depending on the outcome of my visit to the liaison office today – a fancy venue booked for a celebratory dinner, and a low-key back-up option in mind for a commiseratory meal. The events of today would define my Belgian fate.

They called my name. Since we hadn’t heard from the foreign office at all in the last six months, I was quietly confident that everything would be okay. And, thankfully, it was! And although this confirmation that my visa was now in order brought excitement and relief, it was all a bit of an anti-climax. Having been in a kind of limbo for most of the past year, I guess I had expected the whole thing to feel like more of a victory, but the process was very straightforward and transactional. And while I did feel a sense of victory, it was pretty short-lived as I realised I was still not quite at the end of the line: I would not be getting my residence card today, it would still take another two weeks to process!

I handed over my orange card in exchange for a new bunch of papers with instructions on what I’d need to do once I received notice that my residence card was ready for collection. It was with mixed emotions I made my way home – happy that my visa had been approved, but disappointed that I had nothing to show for it yet. It would be at least another two weeks of waiting, of checking the mailbox everyday for news from the  commune, of not being able to travel outside of Belgium. Already feeling the weight of having yet another process to contend with, I wasn’t quite sure which I was more in the mood for – a celebratory dinner or a commiseratory one…

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