Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Red tape suddenly turns into a colossal red wall

So at the moment it appears that there will be scant hope of Slovakia's Foreign Police agreeing to give me a residency visa before the 90-day cut-off date of January 1. This means that I will have to leave Slovakia (and the EU) on January 1 for 90 days. The reasons for this are a bit complicated, but I'll try and give you the Cliff's Notes version.

We have been informed that it can take up to three months to obtain a marriage certificate once you've registered a marriage in Slovakia. (Back in the States, this only takes about 10 days!). Due to complications from Terezia's divorce from her previous marriage, we were not able to submit the paperwork to register our marriage until this week! We were given the name and number of someone in the marriage registration office of Bratislava, and we were encouraged to plead for expediency, which we will do, but at this point, we have no idea how long it will take. The EU's uber-stringent Schengen laws state that non-EU citizens can only remain in the EU on a travel visa for 90 days, and the only circumstances for which they'll grant an extension are if the non-EU citizen cannot return to his/her non-EU home country because of a massive natural disaster there, or if he/she has sought political asylum because he/she would literally be killed or wrongfully imprisoned in his/her home country. That means there's no chance that they would give a rat's ass about making life hell for a married couple. And it looks as if there is no way this is going to get done before my 90 days are up.

At this rate, unless something miraculous happens, it is pretty much a given that I will have to leave the EU on January 1 and not return for 90 days. The most optimistic outcome we can hope for is that I will at least be able to submit all my paperwork (including that darned marriage certificate) to the Foreign Police before January 1. The reason I would still have to leave is that the Foreign Police can take up to 90 days *after* one submits all the paperwork to grant the visa. They are in no hurry, and you can't stay in the EU while the process is pending after your 90-day travel visa expires. If the marriage certificate office is sympathetic and capable of expediting the process, we will have a shot at this. Additionally, if the Foreign Police agrees to grant me the residency visa before my 90 days spent outside the EU are up - while I'm back in the US - they can grant me permission to return to the EU early, so I wouldn't have to wait the full 90 days before returning.

If we are not able to get the marriage certificate before January 1, I will have to go back to the US and submit my paperwork to the Slovak consulate in Los Angeles, and have them send it to the foreign police along with my request for a residency visa. This can even take longer because the embassy has to snail-mail everything to the Foreign Police in Slovakia.

There is also the possibility that I could find a job with an employer who is willing/able to take care of this for me. I have been sending resumes to language schools as well as companies seeking writers/copyeditors who can speak/write in English. Terezia's brother even thinks he can hook me up with a job where he works at IBM, which sounds utterly depressing, but at least it's an idea. However, we spoke with an immigration services councilor today who told us that obtaining visas via an employer is just as time-consuming for non-EU citizens as obtaining one through marriage, and it can take up to 3-4 months. So again, no hope of that happening when we have a month and a week left. The immigration councilor told us that the insane bureaucracy coupled with the uber-strict EU laws makes it exceedingly difficult for non-EU foreigners to obtain citizenship in Slovakia, and that it makes her job quite frustrating.

What further complicates matters is that Terezia is having to deal with even more red tape as far as re-establishing her Slovak residency. We thought we'd sorted this out, but this morning we went to the office where one obtains an ID card, and we were told by an extremely anal-retentive and obstinate paper-pusher that Terezia cannot get her ID card until she has the marriage certificate. Terezia's residency won't be totally approved and official until she is given this ID card, and since the ID specifies marital status, she cannot get one until we can show the office proof of our marriage with the marriage certificate. So, what we have here is a good old-fashioned catch-22. One more thing that I will need in order to get my visa is proof that Terezia has Slovak residency (the ID). Getting the ID shouldn't take long once we have the marriage certificate in hand, but it's yet another hoop to jump through in this increasingly Kafka-esque process.

I should add that Terezia can't even re-enroll into Slovakia's health care system without her residency ID. So, this is how Slovakia treats even its OWN citizens! Way to go, Slovakia! Nearly every native you talk to here wants the hell out of this little country, and yet you make getting back in a seemingly insurmountable headache!

So much for trying to give you the Cliff's Notes version! Ha! At any rate, we'll know more soon, but it looks like I'll definitely be coming back to the US for a bit at the start of the year.

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