I was out of town on Monday, so our administrative assistant took my passport and documents to Immigration and said they’d be ready on Wednesday. Yesterday I asked if he had the receipt so I could pick my passport up. He said, “I didn’t pay anything, so there’s no receipt.” That sounded suspicious. He said he had a signed letter instead. João, our office runner, said he would go to Immigration on his way to the bank to pick up my passport. He asked if I would join him. I said, “Only if we speak Portuguese.” (He’s my best conversation partner, but he’s recently been trying to speak English with me.)
At Immigration we were told to go upstairs to see the person who signed the letter we had. Both of us were clueless about what was going on since neither of us had been there on Monday. We waited and waited. Finally, João said he had to go to the bank before it closed but would be back as soon as he was done. Of course, two minutes after he left I was called into the office.
I handed the letter to the official who said I didn’t have a work permit. I explained that I was still waiting for it. She said, “But where’s your receipt?” I told her they, Immigration, had it since I had submitted all my DIRE paperwork months ago. She said, “No, we don’t. I asked. It’s not here.” I explained again. She insisted again.
We went downstairs to speak to the older man, who I now know is Mr. M (the younger one is sadly on holiday till next month). He asked me where my work permit was. I explained that I was still waiting for it. “But where’s the receipt?” “It’s here,” I said again. The woman again said it wasn’t, that she had asked and it wasn’t. I asked if I could see my file. She said I couldn’t because it was in their archives. Then the two of them started going through my passport, making note of every visa with a heavy, pointed index finger: “November. December. January. February until May. May until August.” Then to me: “You’ve been here a long time with no work permit.” “I know, I’m still waiting for my permit. We submitted it in January.” “But you have no receipt. How long do you intend to stay?” “I hope for another 90 days.”
I realized we were not going to get anywhere continuing to discuss my lack of work permit. So I asked if I could talk to my colleagues and return the next day, today.
This morning, after our office administrator found out that my work permit had still not arrived from Maputo, I returned to Immigration with my team leader and the original receipt of the submission of my work permit paperwork. Mr. M wanted to know why it was so old: “This is from January.” My team leader explained that we were still waiting. He wanted us to get a new one. She explained again. He said he needed a copy. Of course the nearest copy place was a bit of a walk back toward the direction of the office. (Have I ever mentioned that it’s about a fifteen minute walk from my office to Immigration, over Beggar’s Bridge, which, in my opinion, is the most unpleasant place in Beira?)
We returned once again and handed over the copy. He looked over it, trying to find more fault with it. The woman from yesterday came downstairs, and she also pointed out how old it was. We explained once again that we’re waiting on the work permit. With nothing else to say, Mr. M took my passport and papers and told us to return tomorrow. On one hand, it’s positive that he took everything since that means he could find no more fault. On the other hand, it gives him 24 hours to find fault. Tune in tomorrow for the verdict.