Run the equator: The chronicles of Red Tape

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The chronicles of Red Tape

If you’re like me, from a country that has only recently joined the – how should we call it... bottom part of the "first" world, maybe – then whenever you are traveling abroad you will need lots of visas. We Romanians have not needed visas for travel within Europe for a few years now, but bilateral visa agreements with, say, African countries have not been a priority of our recent governments. Quite understandably, we were trying to get admitted into the E.U. first. So while Angela needs three or four visas for the whole trip, I need about 15 to 17...

Adding to that the entry/exit stamps and the previously used passport pages, it became quite obvious that my passport would not have enough space for the whole trip. So what’s to do?

The first idea was to ask the consulate for additional passport pages, but they said that this could not be done. Angela, who probably took for granted the fact that if Americans can add pages to their passports on request, people of all other countries should be able to do so as well, was especially outraged. I, on the other hand, expected it – it all depends on the attitude one has toward bureaucracy – if you had to deal with it all your life, like me, you just shrug your shoulders. Clearly, the path was to get a new passport, while using the old one to stack up as many visas as possible before getting the new one.

I went to Portland to meet the Romanian consul as he was offering his services in the area and got a power of attorney to be used by my mother to apply for a new passport for me in Romania, since things were much faster that way. The passport office in my hometown didn't accept it because it was missing the transcription of my marriage certificate (I had checked the "married" box on the form and the consular officers told me the certificate wasn't needed) and the old passport (which, they assured me, I wouldn't have to send over...)

The plan changed: now we will travel to Romania after getting out of Africa and I will apply for a passport in person in my home town; by then I will surely not have any empty page left for the visas needed to enter the Asian countries.

But in order to be able to apply for a passport in my hometown I need to have a Romanian ID card (my current one expires in March). To obtain the ID takes time (if you don’t know people…) but I can have it ready by the time I get there by getting a different power of attorney to my mother (all those documents are not for free, mind you). Either way, nothing works without the transcription of the American marriage certificate into the Romanian civil document registry… which requires a lot of documentation: the marriage certificate with an apostille from Olympia (so I drove to Olympia and back one morning) my passport, her passport, my birth certificate, and hers...

My lucky star was shining after all: the Romanian consulate was visiting Seattle today, and they are authorized to give Romanian marriage certificates. My passport arrived back from the Belize embassy yesterday so I had everything I needed to apply for both documents… fingers crossed! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

No comments: