Visa maze

30 juillet 2010

Our visa expires soon, we need to renew them if we want to stay one more week.
You can find icebergs even in hot countries. A procedure pretty simple at the first glance that turns into a nightmare in reality.
If the government tries to strengthen paper work and create a system, it should be pretty proud of this realization.

There are 7 steps that you can deal with in 4 full days if you are lucky.
This is the map of the slalom :

1 Ministry of Tourism
2 Ministry of consular affairs
3 Ministry of Tourism
4 Ministry of foreign affairs
5 Passeport office
6 Central bank
7 Passeport office

For those who love bureaucracy here are some details :

1) Ministry of tourism, we have to ask for the form. An old dark office in which you enter by a garage door ! The head officer has a TV that takes 3/4th of the space on his desk. An interesting double color pen. Two pens taped together at opposite ends, one red on blue. He has a stapler and a lot of crystal sleeves. These are his master tools, he uses them really slowly and stops every two minutes to eat something the secretary brings him or to drink another cup of tea.

It’s so slow…. but after 20 minutes he invites us to go to the Ministry of Finances to get our signatures approved first and then to come back.
On the way to this ministry an American convoy goes through the city. Impressive Hummers, and a jammer to stop people using their phones.

2) Ministry of Finances, one of the tallest buildings downtown—5 stories and a lift that could have been used to lift us up to the 4th if it wasn’t broken for 4 years. It’s the same style as the Ministry of Tourism, pretty cold, a lot of people quango everywhere, a lot of bodyguards.
A nice lady welcomes us. Nice to see some women in these places. We wait 20 more minutes to learn that we will have to come back the tomorrow to get the validation.

3)The day after, we are back to the 4th story. We wait 10 minutes until this charming lady opens her file holder and signs the paper we gave her yesterday. It’s really important to let this kind of paper sit for one night.

4) Back to the Ministry of Tourism, the master of the double pens leaves 5 minutes after, he needs to go to the doctor, we have to come back tomorrow !!!!

5) One night of rest for the pen holder, helped him to sign our paper in 40 minutes the following day. The form got two more pages, staples and new signatures.

You need to know how to avoid goat gangs especially in the city center….

6) Ministry of Foreign Affair, standard deep search before entering, no bag no camera, just us.
This place looks like an ant house, there are so many people, 70 percent of them policemen. You don’t joke there especially when it’s 11:45 and almost lunch time.
Come back at 2 please !
We come back and surprisingly we don’t wait to learn that we have to show up tomorrow to get the paper signed. This time we have to pay 20 dollars.

7) Back to the ministry of Foreign Affairs, one signature, one stamp ! The next step is to go to the Passport office tomorrow.

8) This office is located in a special street. previously wide open it’s now closed by two checkpoint, hummers and policemen. Concrete walls everywhere. Lost in the middle, this office is surrounded by container walls and Ecko bags. a lot of snippers around…. Nice !!!
We spend an hour, just enough to get two new signatures, one upstairs the other one a bit further. We have now to go and pay the bill at the Central Bank…

9) This bank or Alcatraz I should say is an amazing place. No parking 100 meters around. Right in the city center, if you want to get in you better have to be cooperative. Giant containers wall, barbwires…. We ride bicycles, so we can park not too far. After a long slalom between concrete and doors we enter this big old building. There are many, many booths inside in a 1950’s style, made of wood with a counter and windows.
A lot of people with big plastic bags come to get cash or to put some in their account. That’s really impressive—piles and piles of banknotes. They come with 2 or 3 people to double check when they count. Even though the biggest note is 1000 Afa (20 dollars) They have huge piles. Every transaction is in cash.

A lot of money, strange place really, a giant monopoly set. we have to queue to pay 100 dollars for both of our visas, and then wait a bit for the receipt. Half an hour, pretty fast. Back to the Passport office and to give them the receipt which get stapled to our files (now 5 pages, a lot of signatures and stamps everywhere)

10) Last step one day later : an employee of the Office of passport calls and distributes all the passports in the courtyard of the passport office. He has a hundred of them in a plastic bucket, One by one we can get our ’’crazy passport’’

You really have to be motivated to follow the rules of this strange country !!!!

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