Thursday, September 14, 2006

Paperwork Blues

Well, we haven't done anything too exciting to report on. Pelagia is working VERY hard on her job painting our neighbor's English-tutoring school, and I've been working on getting our paperwork accepted for a residence permit.

Doing paperwork is a full-time job here, really. Keep in mind that I've been working on this same paperwork (to be able to stay in Greece legally) for almost a YEAR now -- literally HUNDREDS of hours. It's the same stuff -- they want to know you're healthy and that you have money, etc.

First, we filed all this paperwork with the Greek Embassy in the US, and it was finally accepted. Now they want the EXACT same information to basically extend this visa into a one-year residence permit. The problem is that no Greek government office will communicate with another. One might think: Why not just contact the Greek Embassy in the US and get that information? Perish the thought! The Greek office here (and its bureaucrats) are just as important as those bureaucrats, and -- as such -- they demand their own paperwork (and originals, too, thank you very much).

But instead of an AMERICAN doctor certifying that you're healthy, it has to be a GREEK doctor (apparently, some diseases are so mysterious that only a Greek doctor can detect them). Instead of an AMERICAN bank account with X number of dollars, it has be to be a GREEK bank account with X number of dollars, etc, etc.

Each time you speak with a bureaucrat, they will ADD a requirement, too. (The laws are so vaguely written that each bureaucrat "interprets" them as he/she sees fit.) They will refuse to write down what they tell you, because this would be evidence you could use against them later. No, they only tell you, so that they can then add one more paper when you come back.

Finally, on Tuesday, I thought I had all the papers we needed. We went down to Thessaloniki to turn them in. The bureaucrat seemed satisfied! But wait -- oh, it turns out that we live in Panorama, so we need to hand these in at the Panorama office. Ok.

So we go Wednesday morning to the Panorama office. Well, no self-respecting Greek bureaucrat could possibly accept the arbitrary interpretations of another bureaucrat -- only their (equally arbitrary) interpretation will do. So if Thessaloniki said I need A, B, and C, then she says that I certainly need D and E too.

Well, I finally snapped. I draw the line here. I am NOT running around in this circle any more. So I brought in the big guns. I complained to our priest Fr. Alexios. It was like complaining to the don. He said, "What's the name of the woman giving you a problem?" ( :

This morning, after the liturgy, he actually walked over to the office with us. When I saw all the bureaucrats stand up and kiss his hand, I thought: "This is probably going to help." Sure enough, suddenly everything was "Don't worry" and "No problem." After a few minutes, this lady was personally taking our applications down to the main office to ask about them. Now she SAYS she will call Fr. Alexi on Monday to tell him what they said. I'm quite sure there will be more to do, but at least we finally have some movement.

The scary part is that, in talking with other Americans, we've had it relatively EASY! I can't even begin to tell you some of the horror stories I've heard. For example, it's not unheard of for a bureaucrat here to make an American FLY BACK to the US, pick up a piece of paper, and then fly back to Greece. I really don't know how to accurately describe this aspect of the society -- it can only be lived (or maybe read about in a Kafka story).

1 comment:

RM said...

After coming back from a 2 week medicated state. The problem of endless paper work continues. Hang in there Gregory, you sound a little jaded. Serinity now!