Thursday, July 02, 2009


The easiest way to know which visa of ours is most current is to look in Rachel's passport. Hers is the most empty of all of ours and only has the trips we've taken while living in Egypt recorded, meaning that 11 of the 20 pages in her passport are full, already. Looking through either Andrew's or my passports is unfruitful, at best. Whenever we go anywhere we have to locate the appropriate (valid) visa for passport control ourselves. It's far too confusing, otherwise. And now that we've had to get extra pages put in it's even more so.

We relinquished our passports to the AUC visa folk near the beginning of June. Our last visa expired on June 30 and we wanted to give them plenty of time to get new visas for us because these things take time. Lots of time. We're so happy to have a representative from AUC whose job is just to go to the mugama and get visas for people. That way we don't have to go to the mugama to get visas for ourselves. Phew.

It's still annoying, though, since we have to do it so often and it takes so long. We just got our passports back today. Apparently we're back to being tourists. We haven't once received a student visa. We're beginning to wonder if those even exist here. For the life of me, I can't figure out any rhyme or reason to the way visas are handed out here. We've had 6 visas issued to each of us so far and we haven't even lived here for a full 12 months.

Here are the visas we've been issued to date:
13 August 2008 thru 13 September 2008 -- One month touristic visa -- 15 USD

13 September 2008 thru 13 February 2009 -- Temporary Residence for Touristic Purposes -- 83.10 LE or 3.10 LE -- Plus a Re-entry Visa (thru 12 February 2009) -- 61.10 LE (total: 144.20 LE or 64.20 LE)

13 February 2009 thru 30 June 2009 -- Temporary Residence for Non Touristic -- 53.10 LE

30 June 2009 thru 30 September 2009 -- Temporary Residence for Touristic Purposes -- 83.10 LE -- Plus a Re-entry Visa (thru 29 September 2009) -- 61.20 LE (total: 144.20 LE)
Does that make sense to anyone? It kind of reminds me of those MasterCard commercials. "A temporary residence visa, 53.10 LE. A two-year stint as poor international students in Egypt? Priceless."

What really boggles my mind is why we've suddenly become tourists again and why there are so many discrepancies between the details of the long-term tourism visas.

September through February is 5 months, but June through September is only 3 months since that visa technically only covers July, August, and September. Yet they are the same price (maybe). The first long-term tourism visa in our passports is listed as costing 3.10 LE, in each of our passports. It isn't really that cheap since we also have to get the re-entry visa and that costs 61.10 LE, but still. 3.10 LE is dirt cheap. That's like 55 cents. I'm going to assume that it was a misprint since our current long-term tourism visas, which last only 3 months, are each listed as 83.10 LE.

Somehow I just don't feel like I'm getting the same bang for my buck when a visa lasts only 3 months, compared to lasting for 5.

The mysterious AUC people (I have no idea who they are because I'm not allowed on campus) warned Andrew that he might have to get the more expensive visa (the long-term tourism plus re-entry one), so they asked him for more money, saying that they'd clip the change to his passport. Giving extra money to Egyptians is always a gamble. Usually they come up with change, but just wonder...

Luckily these folks were honest and Andrew's passport came back with a whole 50 piasters paper clipped to it. 50 piasters! That's less than 9 cents in USD. It comes in bill form, though, and is highly paper-clippable. Way nicer than getting 9 pennies back (or 8 pennies, depending on which way you round). How would they have managed to return that kind of change?

Obviously the better visa to get is the long-term non-touristic visa. This one only lasted for 4 months, but counted as a re-entry visa all on its own (I'm not sure why the long-term touristic ones don't) making it much more cost effective and taking up far less room in our passports. Who knows if we'll ever see one of these puppies again. They're kind of my favorite. (Is it normal to have a favorite visa?)

I wonder what kind of visa we'll get, come September/October. Maybe we'll even catch a glimpse of the elusive, largely rumored and rarely seen, so-called "student visa."

What a headache! I just realized that we'll all have to get visas at the beginning of October and the baby isn't due until the end of October. I wonder if the visa people will have the decency to put the baby on the same visa schedule as the rest of the family. My guess is they probably won't. You can call me cynical or you can assume that I've just lived here long enough to know...or is that the same thing?

After hearing about my friend Jen's experience getting her baby's paperwork done, I'm positive we're in for an adventure. Her baby was denied an entry stamp in his passport (foreign babies born here have to first apply for a passport in their home country and then get an entry stamp for entering Egypt...via the birth canal...I wonder what the stamp for that looks like--will it have a plane, boat, car, or pregnant lady on it?) because his middle name wasn't his father's name and they therefore couldn't prove that his father was his father, even though his father was listed on the birth certificate. (They eventually did get the entry stamp, in case you were wondering.)

Weird things like that happen all the time. Like the time they tried to detain Rachel when we came home from Greece because they couldn't find the right visa in her passport. Did I mention hers is the empty one? How did they find the correct visa in my passport but not in hers? And how could they possibly suggest that someone come and take my baby away to be detained until her visa could be sorted out?

"Give me her passport, I'll find it myself!" I half-screamed at the passport control guy. Don't mess with mama bear at 2 AM after an international flight. Just don't.

Another time Andrew and I had to have his mom search through our important documents at home to find our marriage certificate and scan it for us so that Andrew could present it to the folks at the mugama. They simply wouldn't believe we were married until they saw that document and wouldn't give Rachel or me temporary-residence status until we could prove that we were dependents of Andrew. The only document they would accept was our marriage certificate. And they were miffed that it wasn't the original. We've only had to show that once, though, and it was for our second temporary-residence visa, not the first.

I wonder if the other visa-giver-outers were smart enough to realize that since we have the same last name and have a baby together and because I followed Andrew halfway around the world that we're married. It's not like getting married young here is uncommon so I fail to see why we were suspect. Or maybe the rules are different for touristic vs. non-touristic purposes.

Or maybe it's simply because all rules are arbitrarily enforced here (that could be it).

So, I'm almost tempted to throw Andrew's name into baby's name just to be on the safe side.

Miriam al-Noor bint-Andrew Heiss or Thomas Spencer bin-Andrew Heiss.*

Kind of catchy, I guess. Or we could go with the more Scandinavian style Miriam al-Noor Andrewsdotter Heiss or Thomas Spencer Andrewson Heiss. That almost goes back to Andrew's mom's maiden name: Anderson. Maybe we'll just throw that in; it is a family name, after all, and it looks more normal and sounds better than Andrewson.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens. It will definitely be an experience, I'm sure. Getting anything accomplished with all the bureaucracy here always is.

*We're still pretty positive it's a Miriam but have a hopefully-more-decisive ultrasound scheduled for the end of this month. There were no boy parts last time so unless that's's a girl. But it might have changed since our last ultrasound was technically before the magical 20 week mark, by which time testes are supposed to have dropped.


  1. Oh the Visas in Egypt, I had a brand new passport when we got there, had never been out of the country and now there is not a single space left. One time when we went to Israel the already quite intimidating female passport checker got really mad at me because of all the Egypt stamps or maybe she was mad at Egypt for being so unorganized with their visas/stamping. Such a headahce! Mark did his at AUC most of the time but we had to do mine at the Mugama and I never felt that great about leaving it there in the mountains of paperwork but we did always get it back.

  2. I have a passport because I went on a cruise. I have ZERO stamps in my passport - and to be honest wouldn't even know where to begin in the whole visa thing. So, I'm inclined to say that yes it's weird to have a "favorite visa". :) I'm not-so-secretly jealous.

  3. Patrick's favorite visa so far was the one for Ghana, and Josie's favorite the one for India. She was miffed that we had an electronic visa for Australia--that doesn't look cool in the passport at all--it looks invisible.

  4. Okay, so it's been a while since I've come to visit your blog. I just have to say congratulations on the little girl!! (or if it turns out to be a boy, congrats on that.)

    I have no idea what it's like to be a visitor in America (maybe it's just as annoying as any other country), but there are a lot of things like this whole visa situation that make other countries oh so stupid.

  5. @ Aprillee -- You had to do yours on your own? That bites! I can't imagine wanting to go to the Mugama every few months. Ugh! AUC has done ours so far...they haven't said anything about having Rachel and me do it on our own so I guess we'll just keep giving them our passports until they tell us to stop. :)

    @ Mom -- Mine is my favorite simply because it's cheap and long(ish)-term and is multiple entry by definition. It's the best visa we've had so far.

    @ HH -- Actually, there was a discussion about this on By Common Consent (a Mormon-ish blog that discusses...stuff) and I mentioned that it's totally confusing! Like, totally! Everywhere you go visas are confusing, so I really do feel for people who "accidentally" become illegal immigrants. The United States has just as much bureaucracy as anywhere else.

    Just ask my cousin who is in the process of trying to get her green card so that she can leave the country to visit her family (she married an American in America and therefore can't leave the States until all her paperwork is finished). Her facebook status was, "Dylan is "going to freak out at the people at the immigration offices if I don't get my interview for my green card by Friday."

    Guess who didn't get their interview by Friday? Dylan. So she's stuck in the States, still...which isn't necessarily a bad thing...unless you haven't seen your family in a while.

    Anyway, my point is that America is just as annoying and has just as much red tape as any other country...

  6. Oh my gosh. That sounds like a huge pain. I literally smacked my forehead when I read about issuing stamps to babies born there. You're right, does the stamp have a pregnant woman on it? Seriously. Wow.

    I think the Jordanians I lived around were always suspect of me because I was foreign. They would always ask super rude questions about my sex life, too - like they would actually ask me if I was a virgin or not. I'm not going to chalk that one up to "cultural differences" - that's rude to ask! They just couldn't conceive that a young, white, single girl from America would choose abstinence. Some people refused to believe me. One of them was one of my teachers at the language center in Yarmouk University. Talk about awkward. Maybe they just assumed you were living together because you're white Americans, and that's the image they always get of us. Totally ridiculous. And anyway, I don't see how that would change much about Rachel's situation - I mean, that she's your guys' child seems kind of like, "duuuuh." Wow. Sounds like craziness.

  7. haha. I like the whole bint-Andrew/bin-Andrew thing. How bizarre! It would be so cool if they did have a pregnancy entrance stamp...