Sunday, January 17, 2010

Getting into the FMS

This is a part of my series on pursuing temporary residency in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I had heard about the crazy lines, and read detailed descriptions of success stories, but I still didn't know exactly what it would take to get into the building where the Russian government deals with foreigners seeking temporary and permanent residency.

My first attempt was rather feeble. Then, as I had heard from another American that I would need to get in line early in the morning, I decided to go check out the morning shift and at least see how things were handled.

It wasn't the crack of "dawn," but it was shortly after 8am as I approached the facility. I actually got a bit lost since I was paying more attention to snowbanks and icicles than the street names. more/-

There was definitely action when I arrived. There was a sea of people, mainly men, with darker skin. They were assembled into groups of some sort, with a man in the center holding some papers (a list?). People were sitting in cars to keep warm.

I stood there for a minute or two and then approached the end of a queue. I obviously didn't belong there, but I hadn't gotten up at 6am for nothing.

"Excuse me, what is this line for? Temporary or permanent residency?"

The man who was last in line said he didn't know. Why was he standing there, then?

"Miss, what's your number?" an older gentleman called to me. I walked over to him, answering that I didn't have one. "It's only by number. And today is only Tajikistan."

"Would you happen to know when is the day for the U.S.?" (why would they?)

"No, it's not on the list," he said.

"How can I find out?"

"You can just go in and ask them." Really? I was allowed into the building? I started to go towards the door.

"Miss! It's too early. They open at 10:00." Sigh. I left for home.

Later in the day, I tried to reach the office again by phone. I had tried before and hadn't gotten an answer. Maybe I needed to be more persistent.

To my surprise, someone answered the phone. As I already mentioned, I learned that my time was supposed to be 5-7 pm on Monday.

"At what time does the line start forming?" I asked.

"There is no line," she said. "It's still early, and this week there was hardly anyone."

Could it be true? I guess I will find out tomorrow...

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