Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bureaucracy Slovak style: No one seems to know what the hell they're doing!

So, last week we had to go to the nearby town of Senec so that Terezia could get her ID card that shows she is a permanent Slovak resident. Without this ID, you can't register a car, you can't enroll in the state-run health system, you can't buy a house, etc. You apparently can't do much of anything! She was told by a rude and obstinate woman in Senec that she couldn't have this ID until she gets her marriage certificate, because the ID denotes marital status. This lady kept saying "nedam! nedam!" ("I'm not going to give it!") while aggressively pounding her fist on her desk for emphasis. While I had no idea what this lady was saying at the time, her body language and tone made it abundantly clear that we were not going to get what we came for. What made this issue particularly annoying is that we had just learned that it takes three months for Slovakia to issue a marriage certificate, which could mean three months of Terezia not enjoying the full benefits of the country where she was born! Mind boggling!!!

Then, for some reason, the rude and obstinate woman entered Terezia into a country-wide database as being divorced. The problem was that she entered Terezia's divorce date as 11/23/11, when in fact, Terezia was divorced in the US eons ago, and the divorce was recently made official in Slovakia the week before. This is problematic because it could possibly render the marriage certificate that we'd just applied for prior to 11/23 void!

However, this apparently rude and incompetent Senec woman did do something really helpful: she gave us the name and contact info for the head cheese of the Matrika (the office that processes/issues marriage certificates) in Bratislava, saying that this woman is nice and that she could help expedite the marriage certificate.

So, we went to the Ministry of Internal Affairs building, which houses the Matrika. (You might recall this is the office we went to back in early October where we couldn't even get past the lobby, and had to talk to someone upstairs over a phone by the receptionist's desk).

Terezia wrote an eloquent and pleading email to the woman who heads the Matrika, and lucky for us, this woman took pity on us. More importantly, she actually has the power to turn this thing around quickly. We brought all the necessary documents to her office, and she was extremely sympathetic with the time-sensitive nature of our predicament, and commiserated with Terezia over the sad state of Slovak bureaucracy. A nice lady. She said she would have the marriage certificate done in a week (!!!), and to come back next Wednesday to pick it up. This woman also went off on the lady in Senec who entered Terezia's divorce info in the system incorrectly. She said that this was fixable, but that it'd be a royal pain in the ass (not her exact words, but you get the idea), and that this woman could get in trouble for making such an egregious error. (The thought of fist pounding "nedam" lady getting in trouble secretly made us kind of happy).

So, what does all this mean? It's very likely I'll still have to go back to the US for a bit when my travel visa expires on January 1, but at least we should be able to submit all the necessary paperwork to the Foreign Police in early December. If we're lucky, we'll even be able to schedule the interview we're supposed to have with the Foreign Police for later in December, before my visa expires. Then, I would go back to the States for a while, and either wait three long months until I can return to the EU on a travel visa, or wait for Slovakia to issue my residency visa, whichever comes first.

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