Monday, January 18, 2010

Lucky number 13

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

In this post: an initial consultation at Federal Migration Services (under the quota).

After class today, I stopped to get my passport photos done before heading over to the FMS. They had said not to come early, but I didn’t have anything left to do to kill time.

The day was one of the coldest, but the sky had been an amazing color, perhaps a cornflower blue. Now the sun was starting to go down but it was still light. I was so glad to be going at 5pm rather than 5am!

I got there about half an hour early, and there were already a few “customers” standing outside. I recognized a nun who was also studying Russian at my university. continue/-

I inquired about getting in line, and learned that the “keeper of the list” was sitting in one of the cars nearby. Just then he emerged with the list. He was French. I put my name on the list, #13. Emerging from another car was a Polish priest who had studied briefly in my group. He waved at me and came over to ask how I was.

It was a good thing I was early, as they were only going to be open for two hours. My only regret was not having worn a thicker pair of socks. There was nowhere to stand but in the snow, and I could feel it through my boots.

At 5:00, we headed in through the gate. A man came up and asked if I was #13, saying that he was after me. I said something like, “That’s nice, I don’t know whom I’m after.”

“You’d better find out,” he said. I didn’t really care since there were only about 20 of us, but I found out.

At first only the first 10 were let in, but then the rest of us were allowed to come in out of the cold and squeeze into the corridor. The two ladies in front of me suddenly became best buddies and were comparing notes, but I couldn’t find anyone to do likewise. Oh well. A few other people joined the line and the guard kept pretending they weren’t allowed to come in, but then he relented.

When I got up to the check-in counter, she asked to see my visa. Visa? I wasn’t given the original. She let me in, but the visa will absolutely be needed when I present my documents.

I joined some others in a waiting room. Another nun was complaining about some problems with the spelling of her documents. The priest checked on me again to see if I was okay. I think they are all from different countries, but work together in St. Petersburg.

After 10-15 minutes, I had my turn to go over to one of the stations and talk with an officer. The officers were all women, dressed in green uniforms like the ones you see at the border. My officer said she would run down the list of requirements, and asked if I had any documents ready yet for her to check. I had my FBI background check, but it hadn’t been translated yet. I asked her about the date since it’s a few months old, and she said it would be fine. But when looking through it, she said, “Nope, this isn’t the right kind.” Why was I not surprised? The FBI check has been problematic from the beginning.

I assured her that everything was in order. She left for about 5 minutes and came back with a sample U.S. background check. She said it was supposed to look like that, and showed me the page with the fingerprint stamps.

The FBI no longer returns fingerprint cards.

She also didn’t like the way the seal was affixed. Since the FBI does not apostille documents, we had a notary sign an affidavit, which then was apostilled by the secretary of state.

I will have to work on verifying that this is the way it's done.

Next, I made an appointment for submitting my documents. I chose Feb. 5th. I still need to get my medical exams and translate everything. It shouldn’t be a problem, but everything has to be just right!

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