I’m so frustrated! How many times can I go to Immigration and have them turn me away? I’ve been here for two months now and am still trying to apply for a resident’s visa.
Part of the application process includes a criminal background check. I knew this ahead of time so got one through Intelius online just before I left the States. I was afraid it didn’t look very official, but it was what I could find for a nationwide background check. For the low, low cost of only $39.95. Once I arrived in Beira I had it translated for $20 to take to Immigration.
Of course I couldn’t take my documents directly to Immigration for the resident’s visa because I needed to submit other paperwork for a work permit. Thank goodness I didn’t have to deal with that myself, but that in and of itself is a process that’s been dragging on for weeks. In the meantime I extended my temporary visa once and sent my passport off to Maputo to have extra pages inserted.
About a week ago, my paperwork for my work permit was accepted. I said accepted; we’ll see how long it takes to actually approve a work permit. However, that allowed me to then take my other documents and application to Immigration for a resident’s visa. As I feared, the official would not accept my background check. He said he needed the original. My colleague and I explained that it was the original. He said, “No, this came from the computer. Where is the original certificate?” We explained that in America we do things online, so yes, this did come from the computer, but that is how it is done. He told me I needed to show it to my embassy and have them verify it.
A call to the US Embassy informed me that they are not authorized to verify criminal background checks. The woman I spoke to recommended that I get a state police check or else an FBI check. However, an FBI check takes a minimum of 60 days. I don’t have that kind of time. Immigration certainly will not let me keep extending my current temporary visa month by month.
So I went online to the Texas Department of Public Safety and obtained a new background check, this time for only $3.57. However, I again faced the problem of it obviously being a computer printout. I spoke to some other Americans who had faced similar problems with background checks, and they told me that they cut and pasted theirs onto a word document and added a state seal to make it look official. So Immigration won’t accept an official background check because it doesn’t look official, but they will accept a counterfeit one because it does look official? It’s no wonder people see corruption as the only means of achieving anything here.
That’s what I did then. I cut and pasted the new background check onto a word document, complete with state seal and DPS header, and address at the bottom (all legitimately copied from the original – no, I did not go google searching or clip art searching). I once again visited the translator to have it translated for $20.
In the meantime my passport was at Immigration receiving yet another visa extension. The procedure at Immigration is to drop off in the mornings and pick up in the afternoons. On Thursday afternoon I picked up my passport with visa, and on Friday morning I returned to drop off my application and documents. These are never short visits either. Once again the official asked me where my original document was. I told him it was the original. He said, “But there’s no stamp on here.” I said, “No, in America we don’t use stamps like you do here.” He said, “But I need to see a stamp and a signature.” I told him that the seal at the top and the address information at the bottom showed that it was a legitimate document. He talked to his “big boss” who said I then needed to write a letter explaining all of that. I said, “You want me to write a letter to you explaining what I just told you?” Yes. I said, “You want me to write it or Senhor James?” He said, “Senhor James, to the director of Immigration.”
I have now written a letter explaining how the embassy is not authorized to verify background checks and how we use computers and not stamps in America. Someone at Oasis is translating it for me and using more flowery, respectful Mozambican language. (I’m too direct for this culture.) Of course Monday is a holiday, so on Tuesday Jim can sign it and I will once again go to Immigration…
(I just reread this and am confused myself as to everything I’ve done with this process in the past several weeks! But I’m going to leave it like that. If my readers are even slightly confused and frustrated by the time you get to this point, then you can understand some of why I often want to scream at the inefficiencies here.)