Thursday, September 16, 2010

The return of the red tape

It's mid-September, and that means it's time for my residency permit! Time to go from "passive" to "active" bureaucracy mode.

Last week I went to the regional authorities to try to ask some questions. I thought if it wasn't ready then I could at least get some information in advance. My prayer was to get just one bit of helpful information.

Well...does finding the building count? Thankfully, I had checked the website and it said "entrance via hotel." Otherwise, I would not have guessed that the windowless door under the hotel/cafe sign would lead the way to a government office. It surely did not look like it had anything to do with passports or citizenship. Yet, beyond those very doors, people were taking care of  important-and even life-changing-matters. read more/-

The hallway/waiting area was blissfully uncrowded. Too good to be true. As usual I was too shy to break the silence by asking who was last in line. So I played it cool and pretended I was interested in the information posted all over the walls. Actually, I WAS interested. I was hoping that I would see samples of the forms that I would need to fill out for registration.

I was also trying to figure out if I was even there for the right category of documents. There were several timetables posted, and I could not make sense of them.

As I sat down on the bench and tried to figure out what to do, I happened to glance at the man on my left, who was holding...a list! He was the keeper! And it even happened to be the right one...for temporary residency, not for passports or whatever else was going on.

And there were just a few people ahead of me...but....when did they close?

Nobody knew if they would close at 1 or stay open until 3 or some other time. Toes were tapping and thumbs were twiddling nervously as it got closer to 1. There was only one person ahead of me...and they closed for lunch.

(McDonald's break)

I came back at 2....instead of the practically empty hallway, all the seats were filled up! A new batch of  "customers"!

A few people came in as I stood there, and asked who was last in line? "Which line?" was the response. Uh oh. Now there were even new categories of people. The guy who had been in front of me was still waiting; apparently, a few people who had been in front of him had now resurfaced. I was still in line, but everything was going very slowly, and time was ticking.

Besides that, I listened in a little bit as the others compared notes. They were there for their yearly review that comes with having residency...and it seems that regulations for that change each year too; there is a minimum income that you have to report. I suddenly realized that having residency won't be much easier than having a visa, after all...

I didn't care anymore if I was in the right line or not and what the status of my documents was. I just wanted to talk to a live person and get some answers.

FINALLY, my turn. I walked in and showed a representative my sheet of paper proving that I had turned in the application in April. "They said 5 months," I told her, "but I haven't received notification yet."

"6 months," she said, literally yawning at me. "October." What? I had been told so clearly, at the central office, that it was 5. One month makes a big difference when you only have a 90-day visa!

"Well, what happens after that? How do I get registered?" I was going to make my visit worthwhile. "After you have the permit, they give you the forms to fill out."

"So they'll give me the forms here, at that point."


Grrr...why could they not give me the forms now, then I'd have them all ready? Makes no sense...

I went home very frustrated...and worried. I didn't have any "Plan B" for not getting the permit in time. I had built in an extra 3-4 weeks until the end of my visa, but not a whole month!

Now I've calmed down a bit. I talked to someone who got his permit last year, and he advised me to wait until the end of September to start checking on it again. It's possible that everything will come together in plenty of time. And by "plenty," I mean...with an hour or two to spare. Does it ever happen differently? ;)


  1. Yes; Russia. And I love it even so.

  2. Sounds like us the very first time we applied. We ended up going in and out to Estonia 2 times before everything was settled. The last time we got a 1 month tourist visa just to cover the time we needed and they almost rejected us at the last minute because they said, "you can't get residency from a tourist visa!" We tried to remain calm and explain that it was only because the approval had been delayed (their fault tho we didn'tpoint that out) and we just needed to go out and come in again. After hemming and hawing they decided to give us our stamp.

    Be encouraged that every time you have to go through this it gets easier every time.


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