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 USDDoes 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."
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)
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 sometimes...you 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 changed...it'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.