Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lighting a fire under Slovakia's bureaucratic ass

If there's one lesson we've learned while navigating Slovakia's bureaucratic labyrinth, it's that getting on the horn and persistently pestering people can actually get results. Doing this drastically shortened the time it took to get our marriage certificate, and it also helped speed up the process for getting Terezia's Slovak ID. And now this approach appears to have paid off with the seemingly impenetrable, bleak, bureaucratic hell that is the Foreign Police.

You may recall that last week we went to the Foreign Police on Wednesday to give them some necessary documents like the marriage certificate. We then had to come back Friday morning to give them a signed and stamped bank statement from our bank here. I just have to mention that we woke up at 6:00 am Friday morning and high-tailed it to the Foreign Police, getting there by 6:30 so as to avoid the horrifically epic lines. But when we got there, there were already approximately 40 people standing in line ahead of us, waiting anxiously in the cold for the place to open (at 7:30). Terezia has noticed that a good deal of the people we've seen here are Russian or Ukrainian. The reason I mention this is because at 7:25, hordes of Russians and/or Ukrainians suddenly showed up and they ALL apparently had friends or acquaintances standing in line ahead of us, who gave them cuts. This meant that the 40 people in front of us instantly ballooned into 60 or more. Not cool, but what can you do? These people have clearly found a way to game the system.

At any rate, we eventually got in, submitted the bank statement, and tried to feel out the young woman we dealt with on the possibility of giving my case priority, or at least giving us some sense of whether we stand a chance at getting an interview in December before my travel visa expires. But all she could do was say, "I don't know," and shrug her shoulders. Wisely, Terezia wrote down a few phone numbers posted on the wall of the waiting room and decided that if we were going to get anywhere, we'd have to pester these people and plead like crazy.

So, Terezia started calling, eventually getting through to actual human beings (instead of recordings), who passed her on to other people, none of whom could tell us anything reassuring. The most anyone could say was, "Well, rules are rules, and we can't make exceptions," but that we "should try to get a hold of the director," who "might be willing to look into it." Frustratingly vague, right? And no direct line to this director, of course.

Well, Terezia kept calling, 3-4 times per day, passionately pleading our case, and this finally appears to have gotten us somewhere, as today we got a phone call from the Foreign Police saying they're scheduling our interview for this Sunday evening at 7:30. We had to go to the Foreign Police (yet again) today because Terezia finally had her Slovak ID in her hot little hands (not just the official document stating that it's on its way), and she needed to bring it in so they could photocopy it for my file. The guy who helped us today is someone we've dealt with before and he's quite nice and helpful. We confirmed with him the time of the interview and he put a note in my file to request that the Foreign Police make their decision to grant me the residency visa by December 25. If this pans out, that means I can get my visa before my January 1 deadline, and I won't have to go back to the US for three months! This is amazingly good news, but we're still keeping our fingers crossed!

At any rate, here are a few random photos of Bratislava.

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