El Salvador Part 2 – Bureaucracy

As I mentioned in a previous post, I got my Salvadoran citizenship. Prior to coming to the country, I had already started the procedure at the consulate in Montreal. I had to fill out the paperwork and bring my mother and father’s birth certificate, last one proving to be a bit tricky as my father passed away 13 years ago. According to El Salvadoran criteria’s, in order to get citizenship, one only needs one parent to be from El Salvador so I didn’t understand why they absolutely needed my father’s certificate. Jokingly, I said to the lady, I can provide the death certificate if you wish, he’s buried in El Salvador, however, she didn’t appreciate my humor. I think, in the end, my brother managed to get a copy while he was vacationing there. Paperwork done, I am told, I have to wait two months before getting my birth certificate and I have to get someone in El Salvador to pick it up for me at city hall. I figured I would get it done myself I had already planned my vacation there. I told my cousin Betty about it when I arrived and straight out of the airport; we went to pick it up. Three dollars (USD as it’s the currency used in this country) and 2 minutes later, I had the document needed to get my Identification Card.

Getting my ID card was another ball game. I was told by my mom, I needed to bring two witnesses with me. This was a difficult task as the few people I know, all family members were working or going to university during the day. My cousin Betty then thought, I could bring two of her workers to act as my witnesses. I get there, bring my witnesses in and of course, the lady starts asking all these questions about them that I can’t answer and in all honesty, I wouldn’t be able to answer then about my own family, let alone strangers. She then told me to bring back two other witnesses. We went back to the office and told my cousin’s husband what had happened. It was then decided that her husband and her daughter would come with me. I knew the questions so we were able to practice in the car. They wanted to know their address, their parent’s name. I actually found out here that my mother’s full name was Concepcion de la Cruz Evora. I know where my cousin and my mom live, but I don’t know the address, just how to get here. Anyways, we all passed the witness test and I was able to go to step 2. So there are seats lined up and you have to take a seat, the last one. Every time someone gets called, you have to move a seat forward. I was thinking, wouldn’t be easier if they just handed out numbers instead of playing musical chair. This whole process took an hour at least. Finally, get called in, am asked many questions, when I ask her if it’s possible to put my profession, she tells me I had to get all my diploma’s to the Education Ministry. I am like so instead you’re going to put student. For the next 10 years, I will be a student? Yes. A bit ridiculous, but hey, I might get discounts because of it. They took my finger prints and I was asked to wait on the other line. No musical chair this time, they just call out your name. It took ages, they finally called my name, but only to tell me they had made a mistake with my father’s name and I had to restart the whole procedure with the questions and finger prints. I had to wait a bit more and realize everyone that was behind me was leaving; I get up and asked them what was happening, she gave me some stupid answer, that they have to make sure all is done properly. I am like, well, not really my fault the other lady made a mistake. Not that I wanted to be difficult, but I had been there for over three hours at this point, I was hungry and wanted to get out of there. Etienne had also been waiting for me for ages.

So by now, I had my birth certificate and my I.D card, was just missing my passport. I am taken there by my cousin Rosemary; she drops me off and leaves for work. Its midday and it’s bloody hot already. I am sweating like a pig, nothing unusual there. As I enter the immigration building, the security guards asks me if I have paid the $12 fee at the bank. Shit no, you’ve got to be kidding me (I think in my head). I politely answer no. Where is the closest bank? My cousin has left already. El Salvador is not a place you just simply walk to places. I do it anyways; I figure its broad daylight, what can really happen to me. I paid the bank the passport fee and head back to the immigration office. The security guards tells me that I walked really fast as I came back fairly quickly. I head to the window that says step 1. I wait there for 20 minutes as the lady in front of me is having some sort of problem with her demand. Its finally my turn, I handed him my new acquired ID card and my birth certificate. He photocopies my ID card back and front and charges me 20 cents for the photocopy. I waited 20 minutes for the guy to simply make a photocopy of my ID card. Couldn’t they simply ask me to bring a copy? I go to the second booth where I handed in the paper I was given and I am told that I have to pay $13. Once again, why not saves us the trouble and just pay $25.20 in one shot. What was the point of going to the bank to pay the first $12 if they were going to charge me another $13.20 later? It’s now time for the musical chair again. I must advise you that all these procedures are actually outdoors once again its midday and it’s very hot. We are sticky and sweaty; there are no more cups by the water machine. I wait another hour or so, I manage to get in fairly quickly this time as they seem to have more workers. I am once again asked questions, she did acknowledge it was my birthday (Yes, I spend my birthday at the passport office). The lady took my finger prints again. The whole country has my finger prints at this point. I ask her how long before I get my passport, 45 min she replies. Nothing I can do, but wait. I see security guard has put new cups, I drink shitload of water; like I said, it’s hot. Big mistake, I feel my stomach feeling queasy, I run to the bathroom. Luckily, I am an experienced traveler; I always carried toilet paper or Kleenex. At least, the waiting felt shorter because of my little trip to the toilet. I finally get called; I have to check if the information is correct which it is. Five minutes later, they hand me my passport and my cousin comes to pick me up.

I think they could probably simplify the procedure. It took me over three hours to get my passport. However, I did get it the same day and I didn’t really have to do anything special to get my citizenship and passport so I guess, in the end, it was worth the wait even if it was my birthday.

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