Today marks two weeks since I started the process of applying for my residence permit. I was crossing my fingers and toes that the migration official would accept the document that the notary covered in my blue thumbprints and the other document that she said she couldn’t do anything with. I started out in the BiblioWorks office where I replied to a few emails and then I took a deep breath and at 9 am I headed to Migration.
The official in charge of cases like mine was eating his breakfast when I arrived. I started by telling him that I had taken the two documents to a notary as he had told me to do on Friday. His reply was, “What did she say?” so I told him that she said she could only do an authentication of our signatures on the one and nothing on the other. He said that was fine but then he wanted new photocopies of the one covered in blue thumbprints. He also tried to convince me that I should apply for a 2 year residency permit rather than just one. (The price of 1 year is just under $200 USD and a 2 year is about $90 more.) He said I could think about it and come back later in the week but I said no, I would only like it for one year and I would like to submit my documents today. When I got back from making photocopies, he accepted all my documents and then sent me to the bank to pay. On my way back from the bank, I stopped and had photocopies made of the deposit receipt. When I got back to Migration, I was told I had to wait for a different officer. She was quite busy so I waited for ages. When it was finally my turn, I gave her the original receipt as well as the copies. She asked me for the “sheet” the other officer had given me to take to the bank and didn’t seem impressed when I told her he hadn’t given me anything because I already had the bank account number (in Steph’s document). She filled out my name on a special folder and sent me back to wait for my usual officer.
There were several people ahead of me but by about 10:30 am it was my turn. The officer filled out an online form, printed off copies and had me sign them and then started filling out another online form. This one involved him taking a photo of me with a webcam and five impressions of each thumb using a small device connected to his computer. After that he was supposed to click to upload the information but it wasn’t working. His solution was to madly keep clicking his mouse button. I bit my tongue instead of saying in my best teacher voice, “Take your hand off the mouse” which is my usual reaction. Eventually I did show him how to use Ctrl+Alt+Del (Supr on his computer) so he could do a force quit and restart his computer. Unfortunately it didn’t fix the problem. He spent a while on the phone with someone in La Paz and then more time exchanging WhatsApp messages with them. After about 45 minutes, it worked which meant more printing of documents, more signing them etc And then suddenly, he was printing my visa and pasting it into my passport! (With 15 minutes to spare before the office closed for 2.5 hours for lunch!)
He sent me to get two photocopies of and then we were done. He was very apologetic about the delay and thanked me for my patience. (I’m not sure he realized just how much patience I have needed over the last two weeks of the process…) I was a bit stunned as in Steph’s notes it says the visa takes about a week after you submit everything (but that hers took two weeks) and that once you submit all the documentation, migration will make arrangements to visit your house. This visit requires paying the taxi to and from the migration office for the officer who does the visit as well as having the most recent light, gas and tax bills, the ID card of the owner and a letter to the director of migration saying you live where you do that is signed by the owner. I feel like I got off quite easy and felt good about being done with the process.
Or nearly done. The official gave me a stack of papers and a bank account number. The next step is to pay 450 Bs (about $65 USD) and then take the papers to another office to apply for my identity card. He warned me that the office I needed to go to wouldn’t open until 3 pm.
I treated myself to lunch at my favourite vegetarian restaurant (Condor Cafe) where I had a yummy moussaka and touched base with “my” waiter, Edwin.
I spent the afternoon at the office doing assorted tasks while waiting for my first official initial volunteer meeting. A volunteer from Montana and her 11 year old daughter arrived in Sucre on the weekend and are staying with the woman from whom she has been taking Spanish lessons via Skype for the past few months. They will be volunteering in our library in Sopachuy starting at the end of the month. It was around 4 pm when they showed up, we spoke for awhile and then had a meeting with Roxana, the project manager for that library (she and Silvia are each responsible for 6 libraries). She helped answer many of the volunteer’s questions. This part of the meeting was in Spanish and it always makes me smile when I end up being the “translator” in the office when someone with only somewhat less Spanish than me needs help. (My Spanish is coming back to me but I am still far from fluent. I am contemplating taking some lessons once I finish off all my migration stuff.) The exciting news (for me) is that I will be going to Sopachuy with Roxana and them on October 1st to settle them in. We made a plan for the volunteer to come by again tomorrow at 4 pm so we can go through some documents.
As we were wrapping up that meeting, another visitor came by for me. It was an English guy who had hoped to volunteer with BiblioWorks while on sabbatical but his plans changed and he needs to go back to the UK earlier than he planned. In spite of this, he came by to make a donation to BiblioWorks.
Just before I left the office, Roxana invited me to visit another library with her next Monday. She told me we will have to get up super early and take a noisy school bus to Maragua. We will spend one night and then to come back we have to walk 2 or 3 hours to a main road to catch a bus back to Sucre. Sounds like another great adventure to me!
Tomorrow I will head to the bank and yet another office to apply for my ID card. It will be odd to be able to focus on my work at BiblioWorks and not have to keep dashing out to go to various offices. Oh but I do need to go back to Migration tomorrow to inquire for the American volunteer with regards to how her 90 day visa works. There seems to be something about Americans returning every 30 days to their point of entry into Bolivia to keep it valid. We are hoping this is untrue.
One of the assorted tasks I took care of this afternoon was getting Maritza to take a photo of me for the BiblioWorks website. Thankfully it looks better than the one on my visa!