Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More fun with the Foreign Police

This morning we made a mad dash to the Matrika to get our marriage certificate, which you may recall was expedited by the extremely helpful woman there. This was a huge deal because they got this to us in a week and it normally takes three months. With that, we were able to high-tail it to Senec where Terezia could finally apply for her permanent residency ID card. She won't actually get the card for about 15 days, but she has an official piece of paper that states that she has permanent residency.

So, with these things in hand, we finally had what we needed to go back to the Foreign Police in Petrzalka and submit my documents to get the visa process started. If you remember my last post about the Foreign Police, you'll recall that going there involves waiting for hours on end in a small room packed with stressed-out people trying to immigrate to Slovakia. Last time we only waited two hours, but today, we waited for about five. That's right - five hours. When our number was called, we gave the woman all of my paperwork and she started my file. She even took one of the small passport-sized photos of myself that I had to supply and pasted it to the form I filled out. It felt like we were finally getting somewhere!

The architectural wonder that is the office of the Foreign Police, tucked away in the council-estate housing labyrinth of Petrzalka

However, predictably, there were a couple of things that we hadn't got quite right. Firstly, my bank statement, which is needed to show I have over a certain amount of money, was not what they wanted. We had simply printed out my monthly bank statement, which I receive via email, and had it stamped and notarized. But what they wanted was an official letter from the bank, on bank letterhead, signed and stamped by a bank manager. Of course they don't specify this anywhere on the website or even on the info posted in the waiting room. And, of course, getting this from my bank in the US right now would be a royal pain in the ass. But we were told that since we finally had our Slovak marriage certificate, we could just get this from the bank we use here in Slovakia, so that's nice.

In my last post about the Foreign Police, I mentioned that it was extremely difficult to find. This is literally all you see from the street! 

The other thing they needed was a notarized copy of our marriage certificate, which is simple enough. So, we'll need to get these things and bring them back on Friday for some more fun-filled time at the Foreign Police.

The one thing that really sucked (aside from spending five fucking hours at the Foreign Police) was that the info we were originally given states that it costs 165 euros for foreigners (me) to apply for a residency visa. Now, I need to explain here that any time you pay any fee to any government office, you cannot pay with a credit card, check, or cash, like you can in the US; rather, you always have to pay with kolky. Kolky are special stamps designed solely for the purpose of paying fees to government offices. I think the rationale was to prevent government clerks from pocketing cash, and possibly to thwart bribery, but it is a heinously arcane system held over from the communist days, and everybody hates it. The chief problem is that you can only really buy kolky at the post office. I have seen a couple of rare instances where a government office had a kolok machine, but most offices do not have this. And post offices never seem to be conveniently located near any government offices where you would need kolky. For example, when we went to the Register Trestov for my Slovak criminal background check, countless frustrated people were asking others there where the nearest post office was, because they needed kolky. Same thing happened today to several people at the Foreign Police. One particularly angry guy even punched the wall after walking back into the waiting room, and then he asked in broken Slovak, and then English, if anyone happened to have kolky they could sell him.

If you're like me and you tend to think of how things can be made more efficient, you'll agree that this whole kolky business is completely backwards and absurd. If Slovakia can't figure out how to catch up with the 21st century and purchase credit/debit swipe machines for its government offices, then at the very least, why not place kolok machines at all the offices of these government agencies? Why make people have to run around in search of the nearest post office? And I'm sure people here wouldn't bat an eye at the inevitable extra euro service fee to be able to pay conveniently with a credit or debit card. There's a special place in hell for the genius that thought this whole thing up.

At any rate, wanting to show up to the Foreign Police fully prepared, we went by the post office and bought 165 euros worth of kolky. When we tried to give these to the woman working our case at the Foreign Police, she said that non-EU citizens seeking residency through marrying a Slovak citizen actually don't have to pay 165, but only 4.50! That is an awesome and dramatic reduction in price, but... we had 165 euros of kolky that we were possibly stuck with. Plus, this incredibly useful and hugely important bit of info was not written anywhere on the completely useless Foreign Police website, nor was it mentioned on the info posted in the waiting room, where it lists all of these fees. What the hell?!?! Either this is all part of an elaborate ploy to thwart immigrants, or these people are all on crack.

So afterwards we went back to the post office where we bought the kolky and tried to return them for a refund. On the way there, I'm naively thinking, "hey, we've got the receipt, well just give 'em back the kolky, get our cash refund, and be on our way home." Nope! Instead, we had to fill out the same exact form three freaking times, then Terezia had to sign the back of each and every kolok (rather than simply reuse them, they're officially considered wasted now and have to be returned to some central facility to be accounted for and then destroyed), and we were told there'd be a 5% fee deducted from our refund, and that a letter will be mailed to us in about 3-4 weeks, which will then instruct us to go to the nearest post office to pick up the refund. So, until then, we're out 165 (-5%) euros, all because of this mind-bogglingly idiotic and arcane system! Yay Slovakia!!!

Anyhow, we're going to get up bright and early Friday morning and head back to the Foreign Police. The woman we dealt with there said she'd make a note that my travel visa expires January 1, and that they will try to give my file priority, given the time constraints, but there are no guarantees. So, I guess we'll see what happens.

The Foreign Police building is so difficult to locate that you have you use this blue panelak across the street as a marker to find the place. 

Gotta love these weed-filled communist concrete planter boxes. You see 'em all over Bratislava. 

1 comment:

  1. I had to do the exact same thing with stamps in Paris for my work visa. However, there was a very important difference: they were actually just regular stamps, so you could purchase them at any tabac (like the one outside the gov office, as I did). Still kinda strange but it sounds better than dealing with kolky.