I can't remember if I've mentioned the issue we ran into with my VISA expiring while we were in the U.S.
So in case I haven't, here's the back story: When we moved to Argentina, I came into the country on a two-year VISA. Which we renewed for one year (all that was allowed) when the first expired. The plan was to apply for permanent residency at the three year mark, which is usually granted at that point. However, knowing we would be in the U.S. then, Ivan tried to get things handled before we left on furlough. But was told that wasn't possible.
While in the U.S. Ivan talked with folks at the Argentine consulate in Chicago on numerous occasions, trying to figure out how to handle things. In the end they had no suggestions, except for me to return to Argentina as a "tourist" and then file the paperwork for permanent residency.
Easier said than done, because we haven't been "home" much since we returned November 22nd. Which brings us to this, the final week of the year. Monday was a holiday for government offices and banks, but yesterday morning we were up bright and early, and out the door a little after 6:30 a.m.
Even with the traffic we were in line at the Ministerio de Justicia (Ministry of Justice) by 7:30 a.m., and wonder of all wonders, the doors opened early! We were ushered into the building at 7:40 a.m., settled on a long bench in a long hallway, and then a government employee spent about 5 minutes explaining the paperwork.
Oh, and this was not to apply for permanent residency. This was for paperwork necessary for the permanent residency application. You see, they want to make sure I'm not a criminal.
We'd already applied for, and received, the same thing from the FBI in the U.S. before we came back. It took 10 minutes to download the form off the internet, fill it out, and mail it to them with a check. A few weeks later and my criminal check had been performed and the report was sent to us by mail.
It doesn't work like that here.
Nothing is ever that simple.
Not even paying your light bill.
We had to go stand in line and hope that we weren't too far back, because they only give out a certain number of forms each day and everyone after that is turned away and told to come back another day.
So imagine our chagrin when the line re-formed and the man began handing out forms, only to give the man in front of us the last set!
Not to worry! Ivan, while researching exactly what documents we would need, had found the forms online, printed them, and filled them out.
The government employee took one look at our forms and said, "No, those are old ones."
But the man must have still been filled with good cheer left over from Christmas -- or maybe we just looked pitiful. For whatever reason, he said to hold on, he'd go get us a set of forms.
And a half hour later, he did actually return with a set.
Ivan, an old pro at this since he's been the chief filler-outer-of-forms since we moved to Argentina, knew the drill and first thing he did was have us fill out the two forms needed to take to the bank.
Because corruption is such a problem we cannot pay the required fees to the Ministry of Justice. We have to go to the bank (not just any bank, a specific bank that was about 12 blocks away), stand in yet another line, pay the fees, and then return to the Ministry of Justice with the stamped form from the bank showing we had paid.
Ivan spent the time in line at the bank filling out the other forms, so when we finally got back to the Ministry, we were ready to get in the next line.
The lady who took care of us first dismissed the copy of my national I.D. as being inadequate so we had to leave, find a copy shop and have a bigger, clearer copy made, and then take that back to the Ministry. Thankfully we didn't have to wait in that line again, but got in fairly quickly (maybe 5 minutes or so?) and then we were given a number and told to go back to the waiting area.
We were #798. I was not the 798th client of the day. I don't think they give out more than 30-40 or so forms a day. They just keep using a big roll of numbers until they run out. But as we sat down and began listening to the numbers, we realized we were about 30 down the line. Which made sense, since we were the last ones given forms.
When it was finally our turn, the man who waited on us made a big deal out of my passport being in one name and my national I.D. being in another. Well, duh! In the U.S. I legally go by my married name. In Argentina that is not permitted, so my national I.D. is in my maiden name. Of course they're not the same. And it's not like this is the first time they've ever run across this problem. There are thousands of Americans living in this province who have gotten permanent residency, so you KNOW they've encountered this issue before.
Ivan asked to speak to someone higher up the food chain so we were ushered next door to the supervisor, who also tried to give us a run-around.
I'm not sure what Ivan said but he made it clear that immigrations knew all this, and it was NOT.A.PROBLEM. There was some more back-and-forth chatter and they finally backed down, and we were allowed to finish the process of applying for a background check by the police to make sure I am not a criminal.
It only took three hours.
We get to go back to Cordoba on Friday to pick it up.
That wasn't all we did while in Cordoba yesterday. We're not going to waste a trip, since it's expensive in terms of tolls, gas, parking fees and time.
We also stopped by the immigration office -- which was packed and standing-room-only in the waiting area -- but learned we'd need to get an appointment. Ivan has a contact at immigrations in Buenos Aires who is walking us through the process, and he's going to get the appointment set up for us.
Then we had a hitch installed on our car, so Ivan can pull the little trailer we brought from the states. While they had it up on the lift, he asked if he could check things out and he discovered the front brake pads and a few other parts needed to be replaced a.s.a.p. It was basically metal-on-metal.
Because prices and inflation are so high here, he decided to do the work himself. So he bought the parts last night and that's what he's working on right now.
But back to yesterday...
On the way to the place where we had the hitch installed we were stopped in traffic several times. I took the opportunity to snap some photos. Here's a church with the coolest mosaic domes:
And on a building that houses a labor union was this interesting frieze showing workers protesting:
After that we grabbed lunch and stopped at a mall that has businesses related to construction. We were pricing some things we know we'll need when we build next year: a garage door, electrical supplies, etc. Didn't stay too long because by that time it was about 5 p.m. and we were getting tired, and we knew we had one more stop: Walmart.
I do most of my shopping locally, but there are some things I just can't get anywhere but Walmart. Or the price difference is great enough to make it worthwhile to buy there. My list was fairly short, so it didn't take long and soon we were on our way home.
Pulled into the driveway at 7:30 p.m.
Ivan's pedometer showed we had walked over 13,000 steps.
The adventure isn't over yet. Once we have the police report, the really fun part begins. Not sure yet if we can file the paperwork for permanent residency in Cordoba, or if we'll have to make a trip to Buenos Aires. It's important to get it expedited because otherwise we'll run into problems in March when we have to go to Uruguay for our annual missionary conference. Getting out of the country won't be a problem, but getting back in could be if I haven't been granted permanent residency yet.
It took 18 months to get our national I.D.s
Hoping and praying we get my new I.D. with permanent residency status in two months.
Care to join us in praying?!