The Residency Permit Nightmare

CourtyardSleep deprived from traveling, the evening we arrived home, I looked over our balcony and said “It certainly is hazy out tonight. It really seems to have clustered in the courtyard, which is especially strange.” It was not until the next morning that I realized there is a green netting covering the interior courtyard.

We knew they were going to remodel the building by resurfacing the front, but we had no idea they planned on working on the courtyard as well. The projected end date is sometime in May, hopefully 2016.

I have to admit that the only reason we returned home when we did was due to our Residency Permits needing renewal. They are good for five years, but need the re-application turned in 30 days in advance. We were CY2really at risk when our flight looked like the delay would be over two days later. March 15 is a national holiday, so the office will be closed on the 14th as well for a long holiday, but worse yet, Wednesdays they are always closed.

This provided us with limited opportunities; we leave for Spain on the 16th and will not return until the 29th. Knowing this ahead of time, I asked our friend Sylvia to find out which forms could be filled in ahead of time to save time when we reached the office. While still in Cuenca, we downloaded and printed the forms she said we needed, after she called the immigration office. Their new and improved website now includes English, but it is incomprehensible.

She also said we needed the last three months of our bank statements, a passport photo, proof of medical insurance, and so on. To save time, we had our passport photos taken while in Cuenca. All of the bank statements were downloadable from the banks websites, so I had all of this ready to be printed out when we returned.

Just to be safe, I also took copies of our health cards, the original and copy of our marriage license, all 67 pages of our business papers along with the 18 pages of the last three months of bank statements from every account we have. The only thing we did not have were the special stamps only available at the post office, but we needed to know the amount first.

Thursday morning, we met Sylvia at 10 am before heading to the office on Budafoki u. I mentioned that someone told me the office had moved, but she said unless it was within the last week; this is where she came to get the information. Just as usual, the waiting room overflowed with over a hundred people. We left Ron waiting in line to get a number while we went across the street to the post office to purchase our stamps for 10,000 Huf for each of us. Sylvia residencepermitlamented that in the 21st century, she cannot believe her country is so outdated that stamps still need purchasing. This started the long litany of things that are outdated in Hungary, which causes her grief personally, but is also embarrassing when explaining it to others.

When we returned, Ron’s number was 54. They were then serving 21. We waited three hours before our number appeared on the screen. The clerk or officer or whatever the job category is, looked confused and mentally vacant. As he looked through our paperwork, his eyes glazed over and he stared into the distance before regaining his composure enough to get assistance from a colleague. She looked at our paper work and then at the current residency cards before telling us that we were at the wrong office. All during the time spent through the time we left, Sylvia could not believe the lack of English speakers within the staff. She was horrified, but I found it gratifying she was there to witness it; she did not believe me when I told her.

As we left there at 1pm, I was on anxiety overload seeing the opportunities to get this accomplished passing before my eyes. Tomorrow was another and last chance unless we had the courage to attempt this on Thursday morning next week before our 5:30 pm flight.

The correct office is located farther out and takes more public transportation options to reach. Being the office opens at 8:30 am, the two of us were at the gate by 7:50 am. There was already one Chinese worker there with her group of six applicants. We were next, but a Hungarian woman made her way in front of me, which turned out to be a good thing. She is an attorney, who speaks broken English. The clerk at the front desk called on her to translate for us.

As it turns out, the offices did not have electricity yesterday, thus a number of people who were there yesterday had to return today. They were given hand written numbers so when they presented their number, they were taken in order and given priority. Still today, the number machine was not working, so it was a hit and miss situation. The attorney did acquire the correct forms for us to fill out; the ones Sylvia procured were not correct. She translated some of the information, but Google helped with the rest. The forms were simple and short. When I asked her how we would know when it was our turn, she said she told the clerk we were next right after her. What?

By 10am, we were still waiting, but then I noticed the attorney was now in the other room sitting at someone’s desk. I was relived thinking she is now having her turn, so we are next. I stood by the door to catch her to remind her to remind the admitting clerk we were next in line. When I did, she responded that we would just have to wait our turn and we would be called. Some help she was. Although there never seemed to be more than 10 people in the waiting room at any given time, we were among the Caucasian minority. Chinese vastly outnumbered us. I could see their passport covers.

The office closes at noon on Fridays, but once you make it in, they will process your application even if it is after closing time. Remember we were there at 7:50 am, but by 11:49 am, we were still sitting around waiting our turn.

Finally, a young man called us in.  Flip pages, stamp, stamp, stamp, initial, adhere the photo, adhere the stamps, stamp, stamp, stamp, initial, done with Ron’s application. Then he went through the same routine for my application before having both of us sit for an electronic photo. What is the point of bringing a passport picture when they take your photo anyway?

They also need electronic fingerprints, so I had to place each finger on a scanner. My fingerprints would not scan. After repeated attempts, the worker pantomimed for me to rub my fingers on my forehead to get some oil. Still nothing showed on the scans, so another worker had to come over to tell me it was not working. They would include a letter in the application stating as such is a type of waiver. I should not be worried about it.

By this point, I have been so sleep deprived still not having recovered from 36 hours of travel; I could care less. At one point, I was ready to leave and go over to the Ecuadorian Embassy to start the residency process there. However, now completed with sweat and tears, oh yes, blood too (I had a bloody nose) in 30 days they will call us to pick up our new cards or have us deported. Only time will tell.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.