Marc van Steekelenburg and Karin Vlietstra, immigration advisers, Staff Immigration Office
'Everyone has his or her own story, which keeps our job interesting.'
Karin: Here at the SIO we help staff coming to the UvA from outside of Europe with the immigration process. This group usually needs a visa or a residence permit. We make sure those processes run smoothly so they can get to work as soon as possible.
Marc: We deal with a very varied group of people, ranging from young academics at the start of their careers to professors and guest lecturers. Everyone has his or her own story, which helps keep our job interesting.
Karin: Some researchers are young and have little experience of travelling outside their home country, while others have huge academic careers behind them and have been travelling around the globe for forty years. We have made a habit of asking everyone about their research project during the intake. People really light up when they talk about their research and we get to hear about what’s happening in a whole variety of fields.
Before this department existed, it wasn’t always clear where guests coming to the UvA could turn to for support. So that’s why the SIO was created seven years ago, to meet this need. Add to this a change in the law that requires the UvA to act more as a unified party in its dealings with the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) That is something we coordinate as well. This new law, the Modern Migration Policy Act brings added responsibility with it for the University, which we try to safeguard as much as possible.
Marc: that change in the law forced us to concentrate our activities in one central department. That is a real challenge in an organisation like the UvA, with all its different faculties and institutes. I already had experience in this area and I took the opportunity to fulfil this need at the UvA. the University of Amsterdam is a large and rather complex institution. But once you start to know your way around and get to know the people things become much easier, with plenty of room for personal initiative.
Karin: I had a similar role before, in Maastricht in the 90s. I also worked in the personnel division of the Executive Staff for five years, but I missed the international dimension. I have always travelled a lot in my spare time, and I like being able to use this experience in my work.
Marc: the main party we deal with is the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), but we also work with the City of Amsterdam and above all the Expatcenter. Over the years, the immigration process has become simpler: you used to have to go to different places to organise your residence permit and to register with the local authority, but now there is a one-stop shop where you can do all that in one visit. The IND, the City and the Expatcenter work together on this, which makes things easier for us and for the international staff who come here.