Saturday, September 21, 2013

Back to normal life again

This most recent bout with bureaucracy wasn't as frenzied. However, we did have a few snafus which almost created a last-minute mad dash. But not quite.

What happened was that we were running around to different places and got the schedules wrong on at 3 occasions. And by "we" I mean mostly "me."


First, to District A to get Stamp #1: Approval. In order to claim this elusive reward, it's necessary to get in line on a Tuesday to get on the list for Thursday. Unfortunately, we I had the Tuesday hours wrong (I found the information as I was heading out the door, too late). Which meant we didn't get on the list for Thursday, which meant waiting until the next week. Which brought us one week closer to my previous registration running out, but I still had 2-3 weeks left, which is GOBS of time compared to other times when I've been a day or two shy of being deported.

Attempt #2, a week later, was successful. The Tuesday part, at least. But while she was signing me up for Thursday, she gave me a packet of documents. WHAT? Had I known, I could have been working on them last week, for goodness' sake.

Now, here was the catch: My 3-yr registration in my friends' flat was expiring. Andrei and I own our flat, but have been told that our "district" is the worst in the city/region as far as number of people and lines at the Immigration Office. Switching districts could mean waiting in line for hours at TWO different offices. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Know what I'm saying? I'd been down that road before with my last name.

Since registration must be completed within a week, I had 2 days (until Thursday) + 7 days to figure out what I was doing and how.


When I hinted to my friends about renewing my registration, they said it probably wouldn't be possible since there had been 2 babies born (to different siblings) in the past 3 years, also registered in the flat and bringing the number of people per living space up above the quota.

So it looked like I would need to be registered in our flat, or at Andrei's parents'. Since they're in our district, it would be the same packet of documents either way.

I began to feel that it was God's provision that I was "forced" to register in our district, though there were still several hurdles in our way...


One ubiquitous form here is "Form 9." It can be obtained at the housing office, but there are SO MANY of these various offices around the city, called by identical long names differing only by number. I looked up the information and it looked like the office was only open Thursdays and Mondays (for 2 hours each), and Thursday was already booked because of our visit to Immigration. If I got the form on Monday, then I'd only have 2 business days left (the subsequent Tuesday and Thursday) to hand everything in.

That was as far as I got with my research...


We decided to attack the problem from all sides, and on Thursday we got in not one line but TWO. The first line was actually only hypothetical since they were going to call us by name. And the second line was for the registration officer so we could ask her all about the process. Andrei got me on the list in the morning, then went to work. I got up with David, then Nina came to stay with him while I went to resume my place in line. For the first two hours the other line-holders and I kept watch while people slowly went in and out of the little room visiting the registration officer. Then the other inspector started calling people. So I might be called by both at once! Thankfully I was able to have my turn with the registration officer and ask her my questions before the other inspector called me to get my stamp.

After getting my stamp, the inspector reminded me to register within 7 days. "And if you're having trouble getting everything together, you can always just register temporarily," she said rather off-handedly. Say WHAT?


"Temporary registration" is what David and other visa-holders have. It seemed silly to have permanent residency without the registration to match. On the other hand, Vladimir had registered David successfully several times in our district, without waiting in line for TOO long. So evidently it was possible, and I wouldn't be left without registration.

On the other hand, if I was going to do the long-term registration at SOME point, wouldn't it make more sense to get the nervous-wreck part over as soon as possible?

So I continued to work on the forms.


On Friday, David and I went to check out the housing office to confirm the hours and see where it was. The sign did indeed say only Thursdays and Mondays. When Andrei called on his way home from work, I told him about the trip and our notes seem to match up what he described from getting the form last year.

Later, we managed to intercept his parents who were also planning on heading our way to check out the housing office. The plan was in place for Monday to go get the form. Andrei only had a 2-3 hour break between his morning and evening classes in the event that I needed him (as the second property owner). But it looked like it was going to work out. We had the temporary registration option as a back-up.


Nina came over on Monday and we went over to the housing office together, though she and David stayed outside to avoid the multiple flights of stairs. I was there a little early, but I asked a woman in the hallway if I had the right day. "Wrong building," she told me. It turns out I'd been wrong all along! But the right building was next door.

In the right building, it was the typical Russian "live line" which means you have to discuss with everyone who is last and each subsequent person also confirms who is last as he enters the room so he knows whom to keep track of.

So there were tons of people, but it all moved pretty quickly and getting the form took about 30 seconds, whew. I had told Andrei to head over, but then called and told him to go home for lunch instead.


Next stop: the bank, to pay the government fee. In the past they used to know what I was talking about and give me the proper form or just use the code on their computer and print it out on the receipt.

Well, this was a new low.

"I'm here to pay the registration fee for Immigration."

"What's the code?"

I was completely stunned by the fact that countless people come in to pay this fee and the bank didn't have the information to make the transaction. She told me to go home and look it up on their site. I didn't understand why she couldn't actually use the fancy-looking computer on her desk to look up the site. Then I asked..."So, you don't have it in the database?"

"Oh, we have it in the database." Huh???

She told me to go over and get the "consultant" to help me make an electronic transaction. I still wasn't understanding why this paid employee couldn't look something up for me.

The consultant "helped" me navigate a stubborn touchscreen menu at the electronic terminal. It took a lot of guesswork to try to find the option I wanted, and even as it printed, I wasn't sure it was exactly what I needed. But since it was electronic, there was no way to override the system and write the receipt the correct way. Grumble...


Monday, 11 pm or so. We're all set to get on the list Tuesday morning and then they take people from 2-8 pm. I'm still filling out forms and have discovered that my copier is running out of ink, so we'll have to stop by somewhere tomorrow.

I decide to double-check the schedule.

"They're open Tuesday MORNING, not afternoon!" How could I have mixed that up? Well, seeing as how they work in the morning 2 days a week and in the afternoon 2 days, it's easy to get confused, but....arrgh!

My forms aren't even filled out. We'll have no time to stop at a copy center. Andrei was at work all day and is falling asleep at his computer. But he takes my documents and scans them for his parents to print out and bring to me.

At first glance, I had wondered why my first time filling out the forms 3 years ago had resulted in staying up until 4 a.m. But now it is becoming clearer.

This time, I finish them by 3...


Andrei and I are up at 7 to leave by 8 to get there by 9 for opening. I'm stressing that there will be a huge line by the time we get there. I'm also shaky from lack of sleep and feel too yucky to eat breakfast.

There are 2-3 lists already going, and we put my name on two of them. It turns out that all the different processes are divided differently than in the other district. That only makes it more confusing!

At first, we're fourth in one line, which seems too good to be true. Sure enough, it turns out this is the line for temporary registration. So if we'd chosen that option, we would have been done in a matter of minutes. It's good to know for the future. Long-term registration is a different window at a different time, for two hours before lunch and one hour after. Not too long considering people might have piles of documents. It was all one line in the other district office.

The line is moving steadily enough. The first hour goes by and now we have one hour until the break. It would be so nice to be out of here by then. That's probably what everyone in line is thinking. I pace and check my forms over and over again. I shuffle the papers, putting them in order. I check the list. I notice one photocopy missing. Andrei runs to go make a copy. Whew.

The suspense is prolonged as a few people step in right as my turn comes up. They need a blank form, they need to ask a question, etc.

I make it up to the window and she starts checking everything, not seeming bothered by my transferring from another district. She seems pleasant enough. I don't know these inspectors yet. She asks where my "photos" are and I respond they I don't have any; they weren't on my checklist. She shrugs and moves on. Piece of cake.

I'm told to come back September 30th for the Final Stamp. I'm almost there.

It is SUCH a relief to have taken this step. And it feels right to have transferred to our district. I think people were wrong that our district is "the worst," though I'm glad to have handed in my initial application elsewhere. A great load has been lifted off our shoulders. Thanks be to God!


  1. I am not sure why, while reading this, I got more and more tense - as though you wouldn't MAKE IT!!! Obviously you already told us you had - but, heavens! It's so stressful even to read about! I can, sort of?, understand why they might make things hard for an immigrant, but I do not, at all understand why they make things hard for David, when they have such a stated goal of increasing population! Surely they should be luring you in, and giving you special stipends per child, or something - not making you stand in line...but the Russian love of bureaucracy hasn't changed since Gogol.

    1. Oh dear, I'm sorry I gave that impression!

      They don't even want to give citizens the special stipends, let alone a child with a foreign parent!


Just added word verification to reduce spam. Nothing personal!

You’re welcome to leave a link to your own blog here if it's relevant to this blog.

Please make sure that your comments are 1) relevant and 2) respectful (i.e. no cuss words, attacks on individuals).

5 years later

 After my latest  weird dream sequence , I found my mind wandering to an alternate scenario where our church never split up . I did the math...