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I’ve been a firsthand witness of the immigration process in the US, since my wife Maria came to the US on a tourist visa. It took us almost five years, several letters to my representative, several thousand dollars in legal and processing fees, and countless hours. It would seem those in charge of immigration have as their motto “Do everything possible to obstruct, delay, and create difficulty, in order to delay the process until the interested party gives up.”
Now I am experiencing the immigration process myself. My first trip to the Ecuadorian consulate I have already described below. Now that I am here in Ecuador I have begun the official process. I had to enter in on one kind of visa, which had to be “registered” once I got here. This procedure seems to be just that, nothing more than a procedure which has no other purpose than to charge a $10 fee. I did this two days ago with Maria. A very polite man named Patricio received the documentation, and explained the procedure for getting my visa changed so that I can obtain full residency. I went in this morning to pick up my passport now that I have registered my visa.
The government office, part of the Foreign Ministry, has as its supervisors Ecuadorian police, usually just one or two standing at the door. Today I came in, told the officer what I was there for, and he pressed the button on the electronic ticket machine and told me to take a seat. The television mounted in the corner blared a Latin daytime comedy show. People streamed in and out of the office. Within five minutes my number was called, and the officer pointed me down the stairs to a numbered desk on the floor below.
I descended the stairs to the desk, and the girl told me I needed to go back upstairs, as that was where registered passports were kept. I went back up, told the officer I had been sent back up, and with a confused, semi-blank look on his face he pointed me toward a nearby desk where a man was attending to someone else. The man at the desk asked me what I needed while still attending to the other man. I gave him the receipt I had been given two days previous and said I was there to pick up my passport. Then he spoke down to the police officer, telling him “You don’t need to issue a ticket for people coming to pick up a registered passport. Just send them in. It doesn’t take any time at all.” The policeman just looked down at the floor with silent indignation. While I was waiting, “Don” Patricio, the man who we had met with previously, saluted me with a courteous “Buenos días, cómo está usted?” and I responded in kind. Nothing like having a personal contact, no matter where you are.
Within a minute, the man turned to an old file cabinet him, opened a drawer, and looked through an unorganized pile of folders. He found mine immediately. My passport had been stapled to the inside of the folder. He removed it gently, asked me if it was my passport, and handed it over to me.