Sunday, February 24, 2013

Immigration Hell Cont.

I know it has been quite a while since I have written anything in my blog. It isn't that I have lost interest in it but I have just been really busy and honestly not had much to write about. I will tell you about my immigration hell in Venezuela though. If memory serves, I had written a post titled "Immigration Hell" back when I was in Thailand. Well the problems I had in Thailand with immigration were a cake walk compared to what happened here. Colombia does not make immigration easy. It is a long,expensive,hard process but I finally finally got it done. Here is how it all went down.

Here in Colombia to work legally you need a one year work visa which costs about $255 USD (more or less) but, to receive this visa you have to be "sponsored" by a company who agrees to hire you and gives you a letter of intent and a bunch of other documents. Everything needs to be properly notarized of course. But, you cannot apply for this work visa inside of Colombia you have to leave the country. So, my company decided to fly me to a city called Cucuta which is on the Colombian/Venezuelan border (It is on the Colombian side) from there you can cross the border into San Antonio Venezuela where the Colombian Consulate is. I had been told if you are armed with all the correct documentation this should be a very easy 1 to 2 day process maximum. So I packed three days of clothes and had what I thought was all the correct papers from my company and off I went.

I arrived at the airport in Cucuta early in the morning (from Bogota it is only a 45 minute flight) and I went straight across the border to San Antonio and the Colombian Consulate. I had been told that San Antonio is a "free zone" so you don't have to get your passport stamped or anything. I arrived at immigration at 9:30am (Oddly Venezuela is 30 minutes ahead of Colombia) I was told that they only accepted visa applications from 7am to 9am so I had to return the next day. I stayed one not so enjoyable night in San Antonio (the infrastructure in Venezuela is much worse than Colombia).

I returned the next morning bright and early and after 3 to 4 hours of waiting I was finally called to see the immigration officer for my visa. Immediately I could tell this guy was the guy you hear nightmare stories about. He was SUPER strict in EVERY way. Almost immediately he saw that I did not have an entry stamp into Venezuela in my passport, nor did I have an exit stamp from Colombia. I didn't bother to get these because San Antonio is a "free zone" and no one bothered to stop me at the border and check anything. I learned that San Antonio IS a free zone BUT if you are doing anything involving immigration you MUST have your stamps.

So, for the second time I was denied and had to return the next day.  From this point I decided to stay on the Colombian side of the border where I was much more comfortable with the currency,people,infrastructure etc. I checked into a hotel after a pretty enjoyable day in Cucuta with some Couch Surfers I had met. Fast forward to the next day. I return to immigration in Venezuela bright and early and wait my turn (3-4 hours again) go in to see this guy that I am starting to immensely dislike.  He looks through my documents and proceeds to tell me that my boss sent me with a document that is a copy and he needed the original. Lucky for me I could get this document back in Cucuta even though I would have to leave immigration yet again and go pay for this document and then come back to immigration.

I make a point to ask him with no uncertainty is this ALL I need to correct and then everything will be fine? He assures me everything else is fine and he even tells me if I make it back to his office before noon he will process all my stuff that same day. So I leave yet again to go correct this document that my boss had messed up on. After some time, I return to immigration in Venezuela at 11:30am a full half hour before his "deadline" yet he refuses to honor his promise to see me and process my documents so I am turned away yet again. I am really starting to hate this man.

I return to Cucuta yet again (this is actually the only enjoyable part of my trip, getting to hang out with some awesome Couch Surfers, a big shout out to Jesus,Vanessa,Caesar and Israel!) and my hotel was amazing in Cucuta. It was a family run hostel and the ladies were sweet as pie to me. I really enjoyed that part and Cucuta is a really good city to visit. Anyway, it is now Friday and I return to immigration for what I hope is my final time. I wait and wait and I am finally seen again by the same man. He looks through all my documents ( I remembered to get my entry/exit stamps this time) and I wait with anticipation hoping everything will be ok. He then proceeds to tell me my boss forgot to notarize something. At this point I am a combination of angry,sad,disappointed and just beat down.  I dejectedly leave immigration and return to Cucuta.

Once I get back to Cucuta (I have done this border crossing so many times now, I am literally on a first name basis with a few taxi drivers and border guards) I find out that there is a two day holiday period in Venezuela. Which means I have to stay the whole weekend and Monday and Tuesday as well, before I can have a chance to get rejected by this man again lol. I use this time to air mail express this document my boss forgot to notarize back to Bogota. He notarizes and sends it back to me. On the one bright side, I am having a good time in Cucuta for sure. But, I am missing more than a week of work at this point so, I am not making any money.

Fast forward a few days and the holiday period is finally over in Venezuela. I wake up at 4am (Colombian time) to make it across the border back into San Antonio (it is a long process) I make it to immigration and thank God I am the first person in line. I come armed with ALL my documents and this time I only have to wait a short two hours to see this man (insert sarcasm here) the good thing was that I made some great new friends at immigration that live in Colombia! (Hi, Adrian and Tess :D) By this point I am so beat down by this immigration man I am just expecting to get rejected.

I go into his office and by some miracle of God this time he doesn't reject my documents! I am so relieved. I then have to wait another hour to pay at a separate pay station. I finally pay my money and get out of there! I call my boss and he authorizes my flight home to Bogota. The next day I leave Cucuta after 8 days there. I only had 3 days worth of clothes.

My hell finally ended and now I am legal here for one full year and about to move into my brand spanking new apartment. I truly hope after all the rough times I have had in 2013 so far, that soon things will really start to turn around. I did have a really good time hanging out with Mark and his friend John when I returned. (Thanks for the cigar,John) I also went on my first date since my break up with Vivi but more on that later....

Take care yall. If anyone needs any help with the Colombian immigration process I am now an expert lol. -Tyler

2 comments:

  1. Civil servants have been attacked here for lesser 'institutional violence', congrats for not beating the guy up ;-)

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