Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Bureaucratic Black Hole of Buenos Aires

registro civil por lukam!.

Yesterday was another one of those big days. The kind that really only need to happen once, yet there I was, finding myself going through the same process for the 3rd time. In my continuing attempt to get citizenship papers in Argentina, I went down to the Registro Civil to attempt to get a turn (appointment) to apply for the national ID card. You can already see it’s complicated.

Why do I continue to bother with this? It has its benefits for sure, primarily allowing me to live here without hopping the border every three months. Additionally I can open a bank account, get a lease on an apartment rather than getting screwed with foreigner prices, half priced domestic airfare, and get a driver’s license if I ever choose to do so. And let’s not forget access to that sweet, sweet passport, which will help waive those awful visa fees that Americans have to pay in countries like Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia. One day, I would like to see all of those countries (I’ve already been Chile, but want to go back).

After first arriving in the country in August I went to the Registro. It was a total mess. They told me to come back in October, which I did, and again they told me to come back, this time on December 1st at noon. That worried me, because it meant half the country would be there are noon at the 1st. But I had no choice. So I left work at 10:30 am yesterday anticipating the long lines and went down to the mysterious, dirty government office that I had yet to step into.

Already people were outside and being turned away. A cop told me to come back on the 7th, and I was sure this had to be wrong. A sign said something about foreigners, and though by all logical means I am one, I still have Argentinian citizenship. That means through a technicality in the law, I’m not a foreigner. I explained this to the official outside the building, and he immediately warmed up and said this was the building for foreigners (hence why it was so impossible to get anything accomplished). So all along I had been trying to go to the wrong building, but no one ever bothered to tell me when they looked at my documents. He told me to go to anther government building down in San Telmo, about 15-20 blocks away.

It wasn’t even midday but already extremely hot and humid, and I didn’t feel like walking all those blocks in my work clothes, sweating along the way, so I jumped in a taxi. We hit traffic by the presidential palace as protesters were camped outside and the police were forcing them back. No surprise though, as there is literally a strike for every day of the year or more. This is the place I wanted citizenship in.

The story at the national building wasn’t any better, with lines forming around the corner. But I spoke to a guy outside and at first he didn’t want to believe I should be there. He insisted that I should go back to the building I just came from. Yet I persisted and told him I had the papers saying I was technically Argentinian since March, at which point he agreed to give me a slip of paper with a new number to call for an appointment. “This should give you an appointment for this week”, he said.

Upon getting back to the office I tried at least 10 times to call this new number. I only got through three times and every time that happened, I would somehow be disconnected a minute into the call. It’s as if they’ve never worked a phone in the government. Eventually I got through to someone, but she insisted I needed the foreigner DNI, rather than the national one, and gave me an appointment for April 5th at an address that Google Maps doesn’t even know about. 

This is the definition of a bureaucratic mess. It makes you really appreciate hell holes like the DMV, because comparably, they are smooth and easy. I mean imagine that, you can actually go to a government office any day of the week and be seen that day! But at the very least, you don’t have to go down there just to get a ticket that says you can go down there again just to make sure you have everything you need, which you probably don’t. But I am used to this kind of stuff in Latin America, and it’s not surprising. Yet it continues to be aggravating from time to time.

I took the issue to a co-worker for some help, but we found no success in getting through to the administration. So we’re at another point now where I have to wait around, hoping to someday get my DNI citizenship card. After getting disconnected a few times my co-worker asked me, “Are you sure you still want to be Argentinian?” Some days, not so much.

Above: Photo by lukam!

No comments: