Yesterday we decided to walk over to immigration and begin our Cedula process. We wanted to do it last Thursday, after receiving our visas, but it was 3:30 pm, and the guard wouldn't let us through. We invited our friends to walk over with us so they could receive an update on their visa process since their documents were accepted one month prior to ours, and they still hadn't heard anything from immigration. I've blogged over and over again that every person's adventure here will be personal and different. From the day we arrived until this very day, I can only write about what has happened for Bo and me personally. Having our friends with us yesterday at immigration has proven this to be so true.
We arrived at immigration at 8:30 am, and I first told the security guard that my friends were here to check on the progress of their visas. He motioned for them to go to the back of the visa line outside that was being checked in by the immigration staff. At this point, Bo and I went to the back area of the immigration office where passports and cedulas are processed.
We waited approximately one-half hour before the woman who was to help those with cedulas arrived. The security guard ushered us to her office, and she asked for our passports and birth certificates. She seemed a bit tired, stressed, and disinterested, but my Spanish seemed to lighten the atmosphere, and she even smiled a couple times. We were asked to fill out two applications (one for each, since we were filing with me as Bo's dependent) called, "Datos Para La Cedulacion De Extranjero." Of course, it was all in Spanish, and we were required to answer in Spanish. I didn't take it for granted that I knew exactly what each line was requiring, so I would interrupt her and ask! She seemed very disinterested in her answers, but I made sure I was answering every line exactly as required and not crossing anything out or making any writing errors. I've learned from our past visa process that this is critical!
She would peck away with one long-fingernailed-ring-adorned finger every letter required on her end - and it seemed to take forever. At one point her computer system was not responding, and she immediately hollered at her co-worker across from her, "Are there a lot of people.....?" Whatever that meant? She tapped away trying to get into the system, and it would beep. I began to wonder, "Are we going to get through this process today?" Finally, her system was back and she began to ask me questions about where my parents were from, if their name was such-and-such, and so on. Of course, it was right there on my birth certificate, and Bo's, but I guess she was wanting to make sure she put in the correct information on her end. Who knows?????
Because I know these visa/cedula processes can be tricky, I was not going to assume that this sit-down time with our finger-pecking cedula processor was going to go smoothly. Well, it did! She did Bo's information first, had him go pay the $4 application fee at the "Banco" window, and then began on mine. She then had Bo go and pay the $4 application fee for mine next. No, it couldn't be done all at once - that would be too easy! After each application, she would have Bo and me check the information she finger-pecked in, and we were careful to make sure the passport number, name spelling, and all information required was accurate. Lo and behold, she spelled Bo's name wrong on mine, "Longoog instead of Longood." He tried to joke with her and tell her it wasn't "Longoog," but she wouldn't crack a smile. She just acted like it was no big deal, and began to finger-peck enter the application information ALL OVER AGAIN! (Yawn.....)
At last, the process finally came to an end. She gave us receipts for both application fees paid ($4 each) and made it a glaring point to let us know we are to report to the OFICINA DEL REGISTRO CIVIL in El Centro next Tuesday and how important it was for us to hold on to these receipts because they would be required when we went to the cedula office to turn in our documents for processing. I immediately grabbed both receipts and filed them away in my folder of "IMPORTANT PAPERS." GEESH! By now I'm exhausted, ready to bolt from the unhappy office of immigration and walk off all our anxiety and head home!
Before we leave, we thank her, shake her hand, and I ask her one last question, in Spanish of course, "Can you please do me a favor and tell us what documents we will need for our cedulas?" She quickly turns to her right and asks her co-worker in the booth next to her to answer my question in English. Bo and I leave her booth and pop into her co-worker's booth who is jabbering away at some attorney-like person who sounds like he's defending some important issue he is having with immigration. She interrupts him and he quiets down. I ask her in Spanish about the document requirements and what time the Oficina opens. She paints on a pretentious smile and answers in broken English, "I don't know. You have to go there." I ask her in Spanish, "Can you please tell us anything about the documents required?" She answers again in her broken English, "You have to go there," keeps her fake smile and then turns back to her attorney-like client as if done with us! I turn to Bo and say, "Let's go. She's done with us!" So we walked away.
On our way out of the immigration office, a couple we know who are out front waiting to be called to finally receive their pensioner visas begin to ask us about our cedula process. I explain to them a bit of what we just went through, but because they have an attorney working for them I advise them to turn to him since he's handling their entire process. It will be different for them and they already have competent help! We say our goodbyes and head outside to look for our friends. We find them and they do not look happy. Their news is not favorable!
Apparently, immigration claims they tried to get hold of our friends via both e-mail and phone a few weeks ago but with no success. Immigration claims the e-mail address they had on file was rejected and that our friends did not respond to immigration's phone attempts. Though their documents were approved and accepted 3 months ago at the front desk, they were now being rejected because of translation issues and spelling errors in their application letter. Of course, our friends were devastated. They were not expecting this and now have to begin some of their visa process all over again, which is not going to be a simple process and will prove to be costly. Had they not gone back to immigration to check on their long-due e-mail notification, they would still be waiting and not knowing that there was a definite problem. (It is a good thing to stay on top of your documents if some time has passed with no word.)
We walked back to El Centro together, Bo and I happy that the first step for our cedula process was accomplished, yet concerned for our friends who were quite solemn because of their unexpected news. We tried to encourage them, but by now they were too discouraged and overwhelmed. One of the things I love about my husband is that he's a possibility thinker. He may be one of the most impatient people on earth, but he never looks at situations as hopeless. With him, there's always a solution and always a way! We tried to encourage our friends, but this was not the day they would hear, "It will all work out - it always does." Maybe tomorrow!
The four of us headed for the "Oficina Del Registro Civil" in El Centro because Bo and I wanted to immediately find out what documents we needed and when their office opened for our next Tuesday cedula visit there. There was a long line of people standing and waiting inside when we arrived - not sure for what - but I bypassed it by asked the guard where we needed to go for our cedula information. He pointed to the back, and we conveniently found someone at a desk who immediately ushered me to sit and state my case. I asked him specific questions about the documents needed for Tuesday's cedula visit, and he quickly pulled out two application forms called, "Datos Para La Cedulacion De Extranjeros" and another form that listed the many documents required for a cedula. I explained that we already filled out the "Datos..." form, and he said, "Yes, but you have to fill these out AGAIN and have them notarized. You also have to ask the notary for a form called, "Declaracion Junomentada en Base el Formularia." The documents he told us that were required included our apostilled, translated and notarized birth certificates and marriage certificate, notarized copies of our passports and visas, the copies of our $4 cedula receipts, and the "Datos..." forms filled out and notarized, along with the "Declaracion.... form" from the notary office. So, we left the cedula oficina well-informed, also knowing that they open daily at 9 am Monday thru Friday.
We walked back to our apartment with our friends, and then we parted ways as they joylessly headed back to their apartment. We felt we had accomplished much in our day, yet our friends walked away heavy-hearted. They expressed they should have gone sooner to immigration to find out what the delay was about their documents, but at least now they knew what was going on.
Today, our next "cedula" step was to visit our knowledgeable and efficient
translator, have her look over all the required forms and documents and confirm to us
exactly what we would need for next week. We were at her office at 9:30 a.m., and she helped us fill out our application forms and pulled from our files all the required documents needed for our cedulas. She will now review and work on the translation of our documents. On Friday we will meet with her to visit the notary and complete this continuing process.
Next Tuesday we will appear bright and
early at 9 a.m. to submit our documents to the cedula "oficina." WE'RE ALMOST DONE!!!!