After a month in La Paz we finally completed our immigration process. We entered the country as volunteers, so we weren’t able to come under the normal tourist visa. Before we came we went through a process to gather all the necessary documents to obtain the Objecto Determinado, which only gives you 30 days in the country. You are expected (or perhaps not expected) to complete your residency application in those 30 days. We did not. Thankfully we were only 4 days over so our fine was small, but I don’t think that many people are capable of competing this task in the allotted time. Fortunately for us, we did not have to tackle this mission on our own (being that we don’t speak the language and had no experience in the country) and basically just had to show up at random offices and look pretty.
Let me take you through a bit of this process…our fifth day here (mostly over the general haziness that comes with high altitude acclimation), we went to the immigration office to get the list of requirements necessary to complete our visa application. We lost Pingu, got some photos taken and ate some saltenas. Overall, not too bad. A few days later we had to go to another office called FELCC. I’m not sure I can actually tell you what they do or why we had to go to them, but I’ll try.
FELCC: I think they have to corroborate your housing location. Maybe. We went to some small office in the middle of nowhere where we had to give them passport copies, our fingerprints, photos and a receipt that said we put some money in the bank. Don’t worry…I don’t know what that’s about either. They gave us some certificate. I think there were some other documents in there as well, but I don’t know what they were. Next was INSO.
INSO: I don’t know what it stands for, but it has something to do with checking out how healthy we are and whether we will be a drain on their health system, or will infect others with communicable diseases. They sat us down in a big waiting room and then they would call us into different rooms to check different things. We had to pee in a cup, they took our blood, they measured our height and weight (and called Duane “Jesus Christ Superstar” because their height measurer wasn’t big enough for him), they x-rayed our chests, a dentist checked our teeth, and finally we sat down with a doctor who asked us questions and checked out our overall health. This all happened in a matter of an hour, and afterwards we went for Api (hot purple corn drink) and pasteles (cheesy pastry). Next up, Interpol.
Interpol: these guys need to make sure we’re not criminals…possibly. This was my favorite part of the process. Their office was housed in an old mansion that had apparently been taken over by the police due to sketchy business on the part of the previous owner. It was like walking into a Quinton Tarentino film. It was basically an all boys’ club of official police, doing official things. We had to go back to this place about 3 times. The first time just to find out what we had to bring them, the second time to pick up our certificate (which wasn’t ready) and the third time to actually pick it up. Oh, Bolivia. We were fingerprinted again, and I think we had to put money in the bank for them too. I really don’t know what bank this money goes into and who gets it, but it has to be done.
After this we went to FELCC again…but a different office in a different location where they fingerprinted us again (this happened so frequently that Amelia started playing “fingerprints”), and we had to give them more documents. I believe this took us to the final stretch of our visa application with only a few days remaining in our time allowance.
Obviously the Bolivian government wants to know that we are able to provide for ourselves while we are here, so we had to go to a notary public to get our bank statements notarized. The problem with the notary is you can get them to notarize anything…a lie, the truth…you just tell them what you want the letter to say and they say it. So, we went to a notary, got our stuff signed and made our way to immigration where we were finally able to submit our papers.
We just went back a few days ago to get our visa and to finally wrap up this immigration fiasco. Our papers were ready, but the whole thing confuses me…instead of having our papers photocopied, they gave us the entire stack and told us to get them photocopied. After we had done so, we went back to immigration where they told us to return the next day because the papers had to be stamped. Uhhhh…does that take a whole day? So, needless to say, we aren’t finished yet. Hopefully we’ll get this all done before Christmas so we can carry on as temporary residents.
And on that note…we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. For those of you who get to spend the holiday with family, enjoy the time you spend together, and for those of you who won’t be able to, find people who are like family to spend your time with. We are joining Ivonne and her family for their Bolivian Christmas celebration for which we feel so fortunate. Feliz Navidad!