I haven’t posted an Immigration rant in awhile. At least 90 days, I’m sure, since that was the last time I renewed my visa. To briefly update: I am currently a ‘precarious resident’ on a 90-day hopefully-renewable visa. The reason I am ‘precarious’ and not ‘permanent’ is because my application for a DIRE (residence visa) is still sitting at Immigration because my application for a work permit is still sitting in some office in Maputo waiting to be processed. Note: My work permit paperwork was submitted in January. It’s now August. Who would like to start placing bets about whether or not I’ll get it within a year or even before my contract ends in May.
At Immigration today, the younger man, who usually helps me and knows me and is somewhat patient with me and explains things fairly clearly to me, was not there. In his place was the older man. Here is a translated play-by-play of our interaction:
Me: Good morning. This visa (pointing to the precarious residence visa in my passport) expires on Tuesday. Is it possible to renew it?
OM: Yes. Go buy the application over there.
(I walk to another counter where I hold up my open passport for the cashier to see.)
Me: Can I buy the paper to renew this?
Cashier: 50 meticais ($2)
(I hand him the money. He hands me an application form. I, for some reason, don’t have a pen in my purse. They, of course, do not have extras for people to use. I ask a few people if they have a pen I can borrow. One guy does. I fill in my form and return to the first desk with the older man.)
OM: This isn’t the right form. Go buy a new one.
Me: What is this form?
OM: This is a residence visa renewal form. You need a precarious residence renewal form. (He explains something else that I don’t understand.)
Me: But this isn’t my error. This is what he gave me. Why do I have to buy a new one?
OM: Because this one is invalid. (He pushes the paper and my passport away from him, yells to the cashier what I need, then turns away from me.)
Me: (Now mad and back at the cashier) I have to buy a new form? But I showed you this (showing my visa in my passport again) and you gave me the wrong form.
Cashier: You told me you needed to renew your visa, so I gave you a visa renewal form.
Me: (Thinking how typically Mozambican it is to not accept any responsibility. I know I did not ask for a form to “renew my visa” because I couldn’t remember the word for visa.) No, I showed you this and you gave me that form.
(Cashier continues to argue with me, so I hand over another 50 and get the right form.)
Me: Is this the correct form??
Cashier: Ask him (pointing to older man).
Me: (Back at first desk) Is this the correct form?
(I borrow the same pen again and fill out the new form. In the space for hair color I can’t remember the word for blond and write yellow. The younger guy laughed at me last time I did that. I give the pen back and return to the desk.)
OM: You need to attach copies of your documents and bring this back on Monday.
Me: What documents?? You have ALL my documents here already!
OM: Your documents, your documents! Attach them! (He quickly explains something more that I can’t understand, pushes the paper and passport at me and turns away.)
(I walk out, hating Immigration, hating Mozambique, hating that I can’t communicate better or understand more clearly. I call my team leader, who’s taking a vacation day today, and ask her if she can talk to this man since I don’t understand. I walk back to the desk with my phone. I stand directly in front of him, and he purposely ignores me even as I say, “Excuse me, sir” several times. Finally he looks at me.)
Me: Can you please talk to my colleague?
(He explains to my team leader what I need then hands the phone back to me. She then explains that I need to make photocopies of all previous visas in my passport and have our administrative assistant type a letter requesting a renewal.)
An hour later, in the comfort of my own office with friendly, patient colleagues, this situation doesn’t seem as seethingly frustrating as I recall experiencing it. I still hate Immigration, I still hate that I don’t understand more Portuguese, but I don’t hate Mozambique. At least not most of the time.