Monday, March 29, 2010

Visa Time

Well, it's that time again. Time to renew the visas. Can't believe we've already been here 3 months, but we have and our expiring visas prove it.  You may remember that we had tried to renew them a bit earlier in the month, only to be told that it was too early, come back the last week of the month. We were told to come on Monday as there are no cruise ships in port, otherwise it is very difficult to catch the immigration officer in his office. We asked our friend, Luz, who is a native Spanish speaker, to come along with us "just in case".  I really didn't think we would need her - surely we could handle this by ourselves! But Don wanted the added security of someone fluent in Spanish. As it turns out, she was invaluable.

We picked Luz up early this morning and were at the immigration office in Coxen Hole by 9 a.m. No one else was waiting ahead of us and no one was in the office. We waited, and waited, and waited. No one came. I had noticed a small bit of paper taped to the top of the door earlier and finally had the good sense to go over and read it. It said "favor llamar" and listed 3 phone numbers. Hmmmm. Perhaps we should call one of these? I called Luz over to look and she agreed we should try that. I gave her my phone and she called the first one. No answer. Tried the second one. The man who answered told her that the immigration officer was at the airport checking in the Canadian flights. He gave her a number to call there, and she did. The officer said that he was tied up at the airport all morning.  She explained what we needed and asked if we should come there.  "Oh, they'll have to go to Tegucigulpa (on the mainland) for that," he said. "No, no, they are getting their residency and already have their constancia," Luz told him. That was the magic phrase! He agreed to meet us there at 2 p.m. I think without Luz, we would have been sunk.

At 2 p.m., we returned to the office. He was there. We presented our paperwork, he looked it over and then filled out the extension papers. He handed those to us and instructed us to go across the street to the bank, pay the $20/per person fee and bring the paid receipts back to him. Long line in the bank. Luz and I sat down to wait while Don stood in line for an hour. Not that many people ahead of him, but every single person had multiple transactions and took about 15 minutes to complete. We were thankful for our comfortable seats and the air-conditioning. Don was able to sit in the seats reserved for older customers for most of that time though, only standing the last 20 minutes when he was next in line.

Finally, armed with the receipts, we returned to the immigration office, waited a few more minutes for the people ahead of us to finish and were able to complete the renewal process. We left a copy of our constancia with him but have no hope that it will ever be found again. We've seen their "filing" system: bundles of papers stacked wherever there is room, included a couple of small stacks propping up the ceiling at the top of one wall. We'll bring another copy next time. He shook our hands and said see you May 2nd (when this visa expires)! Yup. We'll have to repeat this every month (that we're here) until our residency comes through. Then, hallelujah! we'll be done with the visa business.  We were back home by 4:15.

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