Thursday, March 13, 2014

My €228 Piece of Plastic

When you move to the Netherlands--assuming that you're not a "knowledge worker" or anything special like that--you might, if you're from the "right" country and have almost-€1000 euros saved up, start out with a 1-year verblijfsdocument, which allows you to stay in the country for 1 year.  If you manage to stay out of trouble with the law, then you graduate to a 5-year verblijfsdocument, which provides hassle-free identification for a long time.

But five years is not forever, and eventually the clock runs out and you get a letter from the Immigratie en Naturalisatiedienst with a form you have to fill out in order to get a new verblijfsdocument.  Complete with an order to go in and get photographed and fingerprinted, because the €5 photobooth in the train station isn't good enough anymore.

As you might have guessed from the title, the total cost of this was €228, not including the train fare.  And in the end, the process did go smoothly, no major snafus or delays.  This was especially fortuitous since my US passport, required for identification at the IND office, is due to expire in 3 months.

But it was the minor snafu that made this little bit of immigration-tedium worth mentioning:  apparently I have no fingerprints.

I showed up at the IND loket with my papers and identification documents--being an old hand at dealing with Dutch bureaucracy, I also bought a book and availed myself of the sh*tty coffee.  The initial process went smoothly enough--my number came up, I went to the right balie, handed over the forms, made some small talk while they made sure all of the x's were crossed, the i's dotted.  The woman then waved me over to the biometrie room, where my photograph was taken.  And then she booted up the fingerprinting program, and told me to put my index finger on the scanner.

Cue music of doom.

The fingerprinting device allows for prints of all 10 fingers, although only the index finger prints are required.  They tried all ten fingers.  Then both index fingers.  And again with both index fingers.  And finally, after a dab of moisturizer, they were able to get acceptable prints.

Three weeks later, I got another letter from the IND telling me that my verblijfsdocument was ready, please come and get it.  So I went--again, with my identification and a book and the sh*tty coffee.  They looked at my passport, looked at me, got the card, looked at me, looked at the card--and just when I was sure that they were satisfied that I matched the picture and the information on the card, they said, "OK, we just need you to put your finger on the scanner to confirm the fingerprint."

They never got my fingerprints to match the ones on file.  In the end, they let me have the card, since everything else matched, but I'm not sure whether I feel peeved that I paid all that money for an ID card that doesn't even work, or triumphant in being able to keep my fingerprints to myself.  Suffice it to say that I am now in possession of a shiny new be renewed in 5 years.


  1. So now you know you can commit the perfect crime and they won't be able to find you through your fingerprints. Handy! Actually, I read something just the other day about a woman who really did have no fingerprints. They then investigated her family and discovered it was hereditary.

  2. Congratulations for being the only person in the Netherlands without their fingerprints on file. :P

    1. Oh, they have fingerprints on file. Whether they can convince a computer to match them to me is a different story.