Dare wonder beyond the Dutch borders as you will be on your own

Oost West, Thuis Best

Dare wonder beyond the Dutch borders as you will be on your own

What do you do when you live in a foreign country where you know you will stay for many more years to come? If it is a reasonable option, you will try to become a citizen of that country. You will have equal rights to the people around you. You can travel to your country of origin and back without having the fear of being deported. You are eligible for jobs or in science, for funding that otherwise would out of your reach.
The notion of citizenship in a modern globalized society is not the same as it was in the 19th century when nationalism entered the world stage. It means that you will do what you can to make your own surrounding as livable as you can. It simply solidifies your civic duties as a human being living in a society, but adding unrepealable basic rights.

So I did become a US citizen a few weeks before my daughter was born. In addition, as a claus under Dutch law allowed it, I retained my Dutch citizenship. Useless in the US, I understood that I would be able to give my daughter dual-citizenship. She would have options in life, as she would be both a US citizen, but also an EU citizen. As a parent all you can provide for your kids are options.

So I went to the Dutch consulate in San Francisco to apply for her Dutch passport, as Dutch citizenship is normally obtained jus sanguinis. Little did I know that proving I was still Dutch would this difficult. After all I obtained my US citizenship jure matrimonii (and my daughter is a US citizen jus soli).

I filled out all the paperwork and the three of us (my wife, my daughter and I) went to the consulate. Of course I had forgotten to get an apostille for our wedding certificate or for my daughters birth certificate, which were both printed on official US paper with watermarks. We were also reminded that both documents had to be younger than 5 years from the date of obtaining them. As if either a marriage or birth certificate would become otherwise obsolete  I entered the University of Leiden with the same old birth certificate used to get my very first Dutch passport at the age of 6.

To proof that I was still Dutch I had to get my naturalization document certified by the USCIS, the same institution that gave me the document and subsequently I had to send it to the State Department in Washington, DC. In addition, I had to proof that my wife is a born US citizen by showing her birth certificate that is less than 5 years old. The problem is that the original US birth certificate of a UC citizen born abroad is only given once at birth. To make matters more complicated, this original document was with her parents in Colombia. Nevertheless, the people at the consulate in San Francisco were very helpful and suggested my parents-in-law to contact the embassy in Colombia to show them the original document and make a copy of it to be send to San Francisco. Let is be that the people at the Dutch embassy in Bogotá are not as helpful or friendly as the people at the consulate in San Francisco. It did not matter if my parent-in-law called, or my wife or myself. They would refuse to talk about it as it did not involve a Dutch citizen, except it did. My daughter after all is a born Dutch citizen as I still am one. This argument fell to deaf ears and the people at the Dutch embassy told us to not bother them anymore (for all intends and purposes they used more stern words).

Luck was on our side. I had already registered our marriage in The Hague and we had plans to travel to both the Netherlands and Colombia during this period. This allowed us to 1) get the original birth certificate of my wife to proof I am still Dutch and 2) get a Dutch copy of our wedding certificate, which in this case did not need an apostille.

With all the documents in hand we go to the consulate for a third time and yes, this time all was fine. At that point I reminded myself of all the parents I had seen at that consulate that tried the same thing: obtain a Dutch passport for their kids who were Dutch in sanguinis.

Does this mean that her Dutch citizenship problems are over? No! She will only remain a conditional Dutch citizen for as long as I am a Dutch when she is younger than 18 years of age. If I would lose my Dutch citizenship or I would die before she turns 18, she will automatically lose her Dutch citizenship. Also, I am a profissional Dutch citizen. If I do not renew my Dutch passport every 10 years, I will automatically lose my Dutch citizenship, as will my daughter if she is younger than 18. Once she is 18 that very same rule applies to her.

My proof of my Dutch citizenship is now sealed in a print-out that says how I obtained a second citizenship. Add a signature and a stamp and I remain a Dutch citizen … for the next 10 years.

At least from a geographical point of view I am lucky to live fairly close to a Dutch consulate. If you would be living in Uruguay, Ecuador, Camerun, or Eritrea or the major European city of Barcelona you would have to travel a bit further than usual as these countries don’t have a Dutch embassy let alone a consulate. This is not where the Dutch government wants to stop. It also want to make the lives of its citizens in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Zambia and Burkina Faso more difficult by closing down their embassies and there is even talk to close down more.

Dare wonder beyond the Dutch borders as you will be on your ownIt is hard to imagine that a government would make it this hard for its own people to obtain the legal documents they need to be able do their regular business or remain the right to do so. Getting apostilles on original documents seem like a sensible way to take care of forgeries. But that would only be a reasonable step if forgeries were a serious problem. To my best knowledge this is not the case. It is hard to not consider the social tentions that arrose foling the assassination of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh have nothing to do with this. Actually, it is hard to imagine that the national animosity that exist against the Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch (read dual-citizens) are not at the root of these draconic regulations. Reading Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma strengthen my suspicions. It is not just me who sees a boiling hattred between different sub-groups within the Netherlands. One who considers themselves natives or “autochtoon” and the outsiders or “allochtoon” people or simply recent immigrants.
At the time when I tried to get my daughters Dutch passport there was a heated discussion going on in the Netherlands to ban any form of dual citizenship. The argument made by those in favour was that you can only be loyal to the one country for which you hold a passport.
It is a shame that the estimated 2 million Dutch citizens who live abroad are essentially victims of their government making policy based on trying to target a particular group of people within its own boarders. As if you are being punished for having the guts to leave your country of birth.
Do you start to act any different when you have another passport? Does a German act like a German because of his passport or because he grew up in Germany in a German family? And would that very same German act very different if he lived in the Netherlands, naturalized Dutch or not? I sincerely doubt this. I don’t think I act much different because I live in the US. Sure I have to passports, but no matter where I lived I have tried and I am still trying to make best of out any situation I live in. No passport will chance that. It not that I look at my US passport and think: “let’s get a fully automatic assault rifle, because that is what you do as an American”. No, I don’t think any person should carry a weapon of any sort. Yet, during the World Cup I still cheer for the Netherlands. I still enjoy watching speed skating. My heart still beat a bit quicker if the chance of an “elfstedentocht” is forecasted. And I still will do my civil duties when I am called for jury duty. If an earthquake hits the Bay Area, I will still do what it takes to help out. That what you do because you are human, not because you are Dutch or American or Togolese.

A ‘funny’ side-thought also made me aware that these regulations regarding proofing that I am still Dutch, is that you can fake being Dutch for quite some time. As my Dutch passport is not proof of me being Dutch, it is proof that I am Dutch if I go through immigration anywhere in the world. They will not ask for my actual proof of Dutch citizenship, the piece of paper that most Dutch citizens don’t have. An immigration officer will simply assume that I am Dutch if I hand them my Dutch passport.
For those people who did naturalize but kept their Dutch passport can now enter any country pretending to be Dutch. They can do this for up to 5 years (Dutch passport are only valid for 5 years). From October 1st, 2013 a Dutch passport will be valid for 10 years. This means that a recently naturalized person can pretend to be Dutch for up to 10 years without foreign authorities knowing that you are not a Dutch citizen. Not that being Dutch is helpful abroad in case you do get into trouble as they enforce a strict policy of respecting the sovereignty of foreign governments and their legal systems, as well as an absolute no-negotiation with any group deemed a terrorist group in case of a kidnapping.

Once a Dutch citizen leaves the ‘save’ confinements of the Dutch territories  you are on your own. At least that is what the Dutch passport regulations and diplomatic personal help policy will tell you.

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