Day Two of my Resident Permit Adventures

This morning I went to pick up the FELCN certificate from the office across town and lo and behold it was ready! Along the way I passed a procession of cars draped in blankets and covered with items. Some had silver items, others had stuffed animals. All were interesting.


Back at the office, we took some photos to celebrate reaching 1000 likes on the Facebook page and then I took another look at the paper I got yesterday at the migration office. It had an entry for another certificate that was not mentioned in Steph’s document so I went back to the office to double check that I needed it and to find out where I need to go to get it. It turns out I do need it and I have to go to the law courts to get it.

Then I went to the bank to make my INTERPOL certificate payment. Today is officially the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe so there was a mass going on outside of the cathedral in the Plaza and the decorated cars were lined up for it too. The bank was relatively quiet.


I stopped and got photocopies of the bank slip and the certificate I had picked up earlier. By the time I got back to the office, it was nearly lunchtime. I went home and ran into my landlord who had brought by a photocopy of his identity card as well as an electricity and water bills (all things I needed for INTERPOL). I showed him the letter I needed stamped by a lawyer and the rental contract I had typed up. He said he would meet me at 3 pm and we could go to his lawyer together. He also suggested I stop by the INTERPOL office and see if it was necessary to have the letter notarized or if it was possible to just have our signatures verified.

After I ate my lunch, I headed to the law courts to see what I could find out. I found out they are closed until 2:30 pm and there was a long line so I didn’t stick around. (I’ll try again tomorrow morning when they open at 8:30 am.) From there I headed back to BiblioWorks, stopping by the Interpol office (which is around the corner). They are also closed until 2:30 pm.

I went back to BiblioWorks packed up my computer, explained that it was unlikely I would make it back today and headed back to Interpol. The office was open and the woman said it wasn’t even necessary to have a proper rental contract a letter would do. Then I headed home to meet Javier (my landlord). He showed up shortly after 3 and we got in his ancient VW Beetle. Once we were in the car, he called his lawyer friend who said he would meet us at his office in 15 minutes. We drove there and stood outside waiting for him. I showed him the printed copies of the letter and contract and he said they need a few changes. Luckily I was clever enough to have put them on a USB drive so he was able to make the changes and then print copies for our signatures and his stamps.

Javier took me to buy a yellow folder and then he headed home while I went to try to find the office where I could get my application for INTERPOL. I couldn’t find the street Steph said it was on on Google maps but she gave the cross streets and one of them was only a few blocks long so I decided to take my chances. It was in the same neighbourhood near BiblioWorks where I had picked up yesterday’s form. I finally gave up looking for the mystery street and went to the office I had gone to yesterday. It turned out that was where I needed to be. I got the form from the same woman as yesterday and she still only wanted the original bank receipt not my photocopies but this time she didn’t take my photo.

I made it back to the INTERPOL office before they closed at 6 pm and the woman took all my documents, asked for more information as she filled out my certificate and then fingerprinted me. (She gave me two squares of scrap paper and a bottle of hand sanitizer to attempt to clean my finger off after  – I was unsuccessful.) She gave me a number to call in 5 days and took my mobile and said she would call me as well. Steph’s notes say it can take from 2 weeks to 2 months to get the INTERPOL certificate but I have my fingers crossed that it will closer to the 5 days…

In the meantime, I need to a background check from FELCC (?) and a criminal background check from REJAP (the law courts one) as well as a medical certificate which requires blood work. I need a copy of a work contract with BiblioWorks as well as a letter from them saying what I will be doing. I have to take 6 months worth of bank statements to a notary to get a letter saying I am able to support myself. 

All this running around is getting me quite familiar with Sucre (and Bolivian bureaucracy!).


Getting a Bolivian Residence Permit – step 1

My first post from Bolivia should probably have been about finding my way around town, my new favourite vegetarian café, the dance groups practising for the upcoming Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe or other interesting things. However when there are interesting things going on, I’m less inclined to write. And so, we are starting with my journey towards a residence permit.

I had to wait to start the process until I had a “permanent” residence and since I moved into a place that qualifies as that on Saturday, I took another look at the detailed instructions left by Steph, the previous volunteer coordinator who went through the process in October/November 2014, and headed to the Migration office this morning.

I took a number and sat on a bench until my number appeared on the flat screen TV. I had a two minute conversation with the official and left with a long list of necessary documents. The list seemed pretty close to Steph’s list (but without addresses and her helpful tips). She said to start with the “Certificado de antecedentes de la F.E.L.C.N” (some sort of background check) because it is necessary for the “Certificado de Antecedentes Policiales Internacional emitido por la INTERPOL” (an Interpol police check which can apparently take a couple weeks and with my Special Purpose Visa running out on 26 September, I need to get a move on that one).

According to Steph’s notes, when she did it she needed:

  • To deposit 25 Bs into the Police bank account
  • Two photocopies of the receipt for the deposit of money into the bank account
  • Two photocopies of your passport
  • One 4×4 photograph, on a red background
  • Application form (you get this from F.E.L.C.N. office)

So first I went and got the photos taken and was told to come back at 3 pm to pick them up. Then I went to the bank, took a number, sat in a chair and waited for my number to appear on the flat screen TV. When it eventually did, I made the deposit and got my receipt. I headed back to the office, stopping along the way to get photocopies of the receipt and my passport as well as photocopies of my visa and entry stamp that I will need to the Interpol check.

At the office, I typed up two of the Interpol application requirements – a letter to the director and a rental contract, using Steph’s as models. Both will have to be stamped and signed by lawyers and at least one has to be notarized as well… My landlord says he has a neighbourhood who is a lawyer who can probably do it…

Then it was time to pick up the photos. Once I had them, I headed to the F.E.L.C.N. office which is a bit of a ways from the centre of town but I walked via a park and it was fine. It was at this point that things deviated from Steph’s experience. The man at the F.E.L.C.N. office gave a slip of paper that informed me that I needed to make both a 25 Bs and a 10 Bs deposit at the bank and that I had to pick up the application form from a different office (that is only a block and half from the BiblioWorks office) and then come back to him.

On my way back to the bank, I came across a large group of people marching and chanting. They did not appear to be happy but the tail end of the group passed by before long and I managed to get back to the bank. By this time it was 4 pm and the bank closes at 4:30 pm. I had to stand in a line outside for awhile before I even made it to the machine where you take a number but once I had a number I did get to sit in a chair while I waited for my turn. It was just before 4:30 pm by the time I was served and there were still lots of people waiting. So maybe at 4:30 pm they stop letting people in? I didn’t stick around to find out.

By the time I left the bank and headed towards the other office to get my form, the protestors had made their way to the main plaza. (It turned out they were protesting a fare increase by the microbus drivers that took place on Saturday. The micro drivers were on strike today over the issue as well.) I pushed my way through the crowd and popped into a photocopy place get my receipt copied. It took longer than before as a group of pharmacy students were sharing notes and each one needed 3 or 4 copies of a large stack of papers to share with the others.

I found the office where I needed to get the certificate. The women didn’t want anything to do with the photocopies, she took my original bank receipts. She also took the worst photos of me ever. I left her office with the photos and the form and headed around the corner to the BiblioWorks office. There I collected my computer, printed copies of the letters I had typed up earlier and said good-bye to everyone. I trudged back across town to the F.E.L.C.N. office, crossing my fingers that they didn’t close before 5:30 pm (as I arrived about two minutes after that). They were still open so I gave the man the certificate, the two photocopies of my passport and the photos the woman took. He only wanted one photo. He stamped the passport copies and then fingerprinted me along the edges of one. He passed me a filthy rag to wipe my fingers on (not at all like the police in Switzerland who had special soap and a sink in the office where they did fingerprints). Thank goodness for wet wipes. He gave me back the other passport copy and told me to come back at 9 am to pick up the completed certificate.

I gave my Fitbit to my sister this summer but I am curious about how many steps I would have racked up if I were wearing it. Oh and Sucre is very hilly so not only did I walk across town a few times today, I went up and down a far few hills along the way.

Steph’s list for the Interpol check is a bit more daunting and it will be interesting to see if the requirements are still the same…

  • Colour photocopy of your Passport
  • Colour photocopy of your visa de objeto determinado
  • Colour photocopy of your entry stamp into Bolivia
  • Four 3×4 photographs, on a red background
  • Photocopy of the certificado de antecedents de F.E.L.C.N
  • Photocopy of your rental contract for your accommodation (This needs to be written by a lawyer, then notarized and signed by yourself and the owner of your accommodation)
  • Photocopy of the carnet de identidad of the owner of your accommodation
  • Photocopy of the most recent light and water bills for your accommodation
  • Two photocopies of the receipt for your payment of 50bs
  • Application form – you will need to take the photocopies of your receipt of payment to the office of transito (Calle Escalier, between La Paz and Capitan Echeverria). When you go in, you need to go in the third building on your left (I think – it may be easier to check) and the office you want is upstairs. You will swap your receipts for the application form.
  • Yellow folder (these can be bought from most stationery shops)
  • Letter to the Director Departmental de Interpol specifying your name and surname, nationality, passport number, civil status, occupation, address in Bolivia and your reason for applying for this certificate. This needs to be certified by a lawyer.

I was supposed to be traveling with Silvia, one of the library technicians, later this week to visit two of our libraries but those plans have been canceled due to road blockades (which I think are related to the micro fare increase too). While I am disappointed not to be going, it’s just as well I’m sticking around so I can get on with the Interpol application.

Wish me luck!

P.S. My blog theme and layout have magically changed since the last time I looked. I will need to set aside some time to fix it up soon.