Visa application: welcome to the bureaucratic republic of Ecuador
“Where´s the rest of your documents? I can´t give you a number if you don´t have them,” says the grumpy receptionist. Emily has the rest of my documents. But Emily is not here yet. “I can´t help you then. Next!” She doesn´t say she´s sorry. Well, fair enough: she isn´t sorry anyway.
Twenty minutes later Emily arrives. The woman sighs dramatically when she perforates my papers and puts them in the prescribed order. I get my number and then I sit in the hall for twenty minutes wondering which number´s turn it is, before we´re told that we should go to the waiting room two floors up. (On piso number 1 ? :D), where they just call for number seven when I get there. I´ve got number twenty eight.
One hour and a half later I sit in front of the desk of an obviously bored office worker. She takes her time to analyze my folder with a colleague before she gives it back to me. “You should write down your Ecaudorian address, not your Dutch one.” I look at her questioning. “Can you give me a new form then?” The first one I got in the internet café downstairs for fifty cents. “No, we don´t have forms, you should get one downstairs,” she says without blinking. Ah. “But I won´t have to queue all the way to the desk again when I have one, do I?” She smiles vaguely. “No, you can come back here directly. Oh, and there´s no volunteer visa for six months, so you also have to print this letter again, but with a request for 365 days instead of 180.” Apparently, the man from the internet café isn´t as up to date as “he knows exactly how it works” suggests.
It´s almost ten when I enter the cyber. I join the line with all the other people that have been told off in the ministry. As Ecuadorians do, five people (who came in after me) are attended to before the owner seems to start editing my letter, but after ten people more who push in, it turns out he already forgot what I was waiting for. Forty five minutes after I left the ministry I have a new (perforated :D) letter and a new form to fill in. Who can stop me now? Back to the office of my new friend.
“Oh, you forgot to fill in ocupación,” she says. I start with the “e” and the “s” of “estudiante”, when I remember why I left it blank in the first place. Am I a student or a volunteer? ”Put “voluntario” there: that´s the visum that you´re applying for.” She watches me patiently while I cross out the “e” and the “s” of “estudiante”, before she says: “No, now you´ll have to get a new form, you can´t cross anything out.” I look at her and smile amused. Sure. Haha, gringa. But she doesn´t smile back and she doesn´t seem to understand what´s so funny. “No, seriously, you can´t cross out anything.” At that moment I´m sure that they have shares in the cyber downstairs. I wait for another thirty minutes as the first one in the queue to get two new forms: one to fill in “voluntario” and one extra, before I go back to the ministry. The guard already salutes me.
For the third time this morning I fill in the form, when I see that “date of issue” and “place of issue” are in the part where my passport and personal data are. I thought that the “issue” of today was getting a visa, so the last three times I had put “Quito” and today´s date there. The office woman had seen that three times, and she hadn´t said anything. But ha, Nelly´s prepared: I have my extra form! I fill in the place and date mentioned in my passport and I go back to “my” window. Yay! Four forms, two letters and four hours later they accept my application. I´m supposed to be back in two days.
Two days later at half past eight I take number 47. Fifteen minutes later they start calling number 1. Great. But in the end I´ll get a turn: I give them my passport and fill in another form (no idea what for, but this time it´s all correct right away!) and I´ve been told to come back again at three this afternoon.
A few minutes after three I walk up the stairs again (!) to the first floor on the second floor: there´s about a hundred and fifty people waiting (really!). Oh oh. Queues in Ecuador. I ask the guard if there´s a system to indicate who´s turn it is, because I don´t see any numbers. “No, just take a seat somewhere over there and ask who´s the last one in line.” Right. I may just have applied for a visa, I´ve been in Ecuador for a while already. “Are there no numbers?” She shakes her head. “How do I know then if it´s my turn?” She shrugs. “If nobody else gets up when they call “next!”, it´s your turn,” she says and she turns around to show me that our conversation is over.
During the three minutes that I´ve been here, three people have arrived and have picked a random seat without talking to anyone. Hmmm. But after half an hour, it turns out that my friend from the security just didn´t feel like telling me that they call groups of people per kind of visa. I´ve got visa 12-VII and totally unjust I get my passport with my visa only half an hour later.
I think I deserved a cappuccino to celebrate that! With cake. Right? ;)