One year ago today, I arrived in Switzerland to embark on this new adventure. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve lived here forever. At other times, it seems like I just arrived. When I reflect on the past year, I am amazed at all that has happened…18 countries visited, dozens of new friends made, loads of visitors, countless postcards sent, and more “firsts” than I ever thought one year could contain (most of which you’ve read about along the way).
I guess I should have realized that my one year anniversary here would also mark the point in time when I had to renew my work permit, but as usual, the Swiss caught me by surprise. HR sent an email requesting a copy of my new work permit to which I responded, “How am I supposed to get a new permit?” Apparently, the Swiss usually send some “grey forms” by mail several weeks (or even months?) in advance of your permit expiring. HR sent me to the commune to request the forms assuming something had been lost in the mail. (For those of you who are long time readers, you may recall multiple visits to the commune upon my arrival in Switzerland, including an unexpected visit the day I tried to secure my Swiss Drivers License.)
When I arrived at the commune, they told me I would receive the forms by mail and sent me away. Sure enough, the forms arrived a couple of days later. However, it was less than two weeks before my permit was due to expire. Seemed to be very un-Swiss to me!
On Tuesday afternoon, I headed back to the commune to finish the process. This time, easy breezy. I mean, I had to pay 97 CHF, but after a year of outrageous costs and fees, I’m nearly immune to this. I asked the man if I had everything I needed to go get my Return Visa in Lausanne, and he told me I could go pick it up on Wednesday or Thursday. Whoa, whoa, whoa! I planned to tackle all of this the same day. I didn’t have time to leave work again on Wednesday or Thursday to go to Lausanne! I asked him if there was any way it could be done the same day. (After all, he had just wished me a “Happy Birthday.” Shouldn’t he try to help my cause?) He said he would try to fax the forms, but he wasn’t sure it would work. ?!?!? I told him to please try, because I was getting in my car and driving to Lausanne.
Why did I have to go to Lausanne for a Return Visa? Well, apparently, it takes up to three months to receive my new Work Permit card. Without it, I cannot leave Switzerland and get back in. We all know how often I travel, so this doesn’t work for me. The fix is to go to an office in Lausanne where they will issue a three-month visa that allows me to come and go freely.
I found my way to the location easily and was relieved when they reviewed my documents and let me enter the building. I took a number and sat down. And there I sat for 1.5 HOURS! It was SO SLOW, and of course, I didn’t have my Kindle or my People magazine from the US to read! Of all the days to remove those items from my bag! The whole time I was thinking, “if they don’t give me this visa after all this waiting, I am going to scream!”
When my number was finally called, I went to the window to find one of the nicest Swiss people I’ve met! The guy was so helpful and so nice. Within five minutes, I was leaving with a Return Visa in my passport! I left Lausanne happy to know that I can stay in Switzerland without risking deportation. And with Return Visa in hand, I am ready for more adventures in the coming year!