Thursday, February 15, 2007

Got My Legal Residency, Folks!

What a New Year’s Present! The Argentinian government decided they do want me after all! At any rate, it looks like I convinced them to let me stay. It wasn’t easy!

On January 2, 2007, I received the letter from the Ministry of the Interior, Immigrations Department, granting me permanent residency in Argentina.

This means I’m legally here! NO MORE BORDER CROSSINGS EVERY 90 DAYS!

And to think it only took 3 years, 4 months, and 12 days!! (Okay, and a few tears, acid words, suppressed screams and laughter, and a lot of stunned silence.)

Why so long? Does every US citizen suffer this much? I’ve heard of some who have it easier, but they tend to be single people who move to Buenos Aires, a more cosmopolitan place where there are immigration services who specialize in streamlining the process. Argentina prides itself on being open to immigrants—but that sentiment does not extend to making the system either rational or welcoming.

In fact, governmental bureaucracies show an uncanny resemblance to the popular tourist destination of the Perito Moreno glacier: huge cold blocks that move imperceptibly, with progress measured in years not days.

Are you a First Worlder considering immigrating here? Well, don’t hold your breath waiting for residency if your case is at all unusal. I would bet a week’s stay at the five-star Alvear Palace Hotel that I am the only US divorced woman who has ever been crazy enough to move to San Nicolás de los Arroyos to marry a divorced native. That tripled the time spent on the bureaucratic carousel, it seems.

(Any takers? Let’s make it in dollars, not pesos, if you please!) Did we break out the champagne? We were going to. . . and then we discovered that I am not likely to get the “Document of National Identity” (needed for such trivialities as getting a driver’s license or bank account) until the Civil Registry gets around to processing my request, and that same office says it takes a year, but with luck, just six months.

In the end, I remind myself I moved here for love and sunshine, not for good government. (For you Canadians raised on Arctic winds and short summers, who thrive on life, liberty, and good government, but who hope to thaw out in this life time: choose New Zealand!)

This experience desperately seeking residency allowed me to share what most Argentinians experience when faced with the smallest official issue that requires a rational, timely response: long lines, long waits, immense frustration and helplessness, and a growing doubt about benevolence and usefulness of government. You can bet I won’t be seeking citizenship! (Even if I wanted to, I’m sure I don’t have enough years left.)

Now let's see what happens when my Argentine husband request U.S. residency! That ought to be a real hoot!

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