Inmigraciones

Yesterday I went to renew my visa at the immigration office, giving me a first-hand look at how it all unfolds. These processes make me appreciate so much more the struggles that people from other countries go through to be able to come to/stay/live in the U.S., and the relative ease of my experience with it here thus far is not something I take for granted. The 2 1/2 hours I spent waiting for various pieces to fall into place made for great people-watching (something I would have missed out on if I’d remembered to bring a book with me!). It is quite humbling to be one of just a handful of European-looking folks in a massive crowd of people filing various papers, paying fees, and trying to handle a foreign bureaucracy. For many of them, though, at least they have the added benefit of speaking the language – I don’t have any hard facts but suspect that the majority of immigrants are coming from Paraguay and Bolivia, and others from further afield in Latin America. I also saw some Brazilians, but the next biggest group after Spanish-speakers seemed to be Asians. The only real problem I encountered personally was discovering that the last stamp in my passport was placed on top of a strip of clear tape (apparently used when I had pages added to my passport), and some of the ink was rubbing off – making it hard to tell how long a stay I was granted and what date I entered. I had to go to another area where they verify and repair stamps, to get a printout and have someone notarize my entry stamp, basically, before I could get the renewal. No big deal, it just added about 30 minutes to the process. And, unfortunately, just a week ago the price to renew TRIPLED, so this was no longer a cheap endeavor (well, it’s all relative – still less than US$100). It would have been cheaper to go to Uruguay, if only I’d thought I had the time to do that this week.

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