He Made It!

My husband finally got his visa and made it to Boston.  I think you will be able to tell how happy we are about this from our photos.

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We definitely will never lose each other in a crowd.

matching2We have a big challenge ahead of us because we have so many stylish matchy outfits, but they are all for warm climates.  Hopefully our love will keep us warm, because we’ve got a lot of Matching in Boston photos left to take!

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A Ten-Year Break from Visa Fiascos

After two months of being an illegal resident in Morocco, I finally renewed my “carte de séjour” last Friday.  I managed to get a ten-year visa this time, which gives me an odd sense of peace despite the fact that I don’t plan to stay for more than another six months.  If nothing else, I’m allowed to live in Morocco at any point during the next ten years.  Here’s a taste of what I had to go through to get there.

Last year, I had a lot of trouble turning my documents in on time because my employer took two months to give me my work attestation (someone in Rabat had to sign it first, which apparently is quite complicated).  This year, I did my best to get everything together on time, and headed to the prefecture a full two weeks before my visa would expire.

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The spiral staircase of Moroccan bureaucracy

Unfortunately, I chose a day when the lady who puts together the visa applications was in a bad mood.  She asked me to provide a document which foreigners are required to get only once, and which I had turned in my first year, and so no longer needed.  I pointed that out, saying that the previous year it had also been she, the same Visa Lady, who did not ask for that document.  Why did I suddenly need it the third time around?  No one knows.

That precious document took two months to acquire.  I had to search for all sorts of documents I had never known existed (for example, the history of my health insurance payments, which was blank because I hadn’t been paying health insurance).  I was also slowed down by a problem with the electricity company, who asked for my housing contract in order to renew my account for paying electricity bills.  They promptly lost the housing contract, and then turned off our water and electricity for the weekend since the account could not be renewed without said contract.  I had to shower with a bucket.

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All doors lead to nowhere.

When I finally got another housing contract and the other document I needed, I was so late in turning in my papers that I had to run yet another obstacle course around Casablanca in order to be pardoned for my tardiness.  First, I had to show up to the prefecture at 8:30am on a specific day.  I waited in a long line of other tardy foreigners until my name was called, and I signed a document.  I was then told to go to the Tribunal at 11:30am, so I canceled my classes for the afternoon to make time.  It took 40 minutes to get to the Tribunal, where I waited outside in the rain (Morocco had experienced a drought up until that very day) with the rest of my tardy foreigner friends from that morning.  After one hour, a man came out and called our names again.  At the sound of my name (or the Moroccan version of my name, Elanoor Yassir), we were given the thumbs up.  Really, the man gave us a thumbs up, and that was it.  He didn’t speak much of any French, but what he was trying to communicate was that we could leave and go turn in our papers at the prefecture.  I am still asking myself why I didn’t just send someone else to pretend to be me.

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This is another police building, by the sea.

Fortunately, the Visa Lady was in an excellent mood this time around.  When I went to the prefecture the next day, she called me up to the front of the line.  As I handed her my papers, she noticed that I have a Moroccan wedding ring.

“Oh, you got married in Morocco!” She said, and I nodded.  “So I think you married a Moroccan?” She asked.  “Madame, are you pregnant?”

I smiled at her.  “Let’s renew my residency visa!” I said.  And she did!  Maybe in ten years I’ll get another chance to chat with her.

The Residency Battle

A few weeks ago, Obama made a huge step in immigration policy in the U.S.  He allowed some of those who have been “living in the shadows” to gain proper documentation, and plans to do so for 5 million immigrants.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t think that the U.S. is necessarily the land of opportunity.  But for those who are trying to make a life there, proper documentation is the first step to moving toward their dreams.

After having worked with refugees in the U.S., I am so thankful to to have certain privileges.  I have a strong passport that allows me to travel easily, I am a native English speaker and can find work teaching English despite not necessarily having all of the qualifications, and I come from a supportive and loving family who is there for me if I am in need.  I am lucky enough not to understand how challenging it is to not have these privileges.

This month, I’ve been struggling to apply for my Moroccan work visa.  First, my employers didn’t give me my work attestation, then when they gave it to me it was in the wrong language and took longer to legalize.  I spent weeks reminding my employers that I need those forms, that my old visa was about to expire, and that if I got any closer to the deadline, I’d have to leave the country.  When I finally did get all the forms I needed, it took me hours to turn them in because I needed an extra form from the police station to pardon how late I was.  They did not care at all that it was not my fault!  I finally managed to leave my documents and am now waiting three weeks to pick up the receipt that allows me to travel in and out of Morocco.  Thankfully, I had no immediate plans to leave the country, because I can’t until I get that paper.

Despite all the worry this caused me, I had the option of leaving the country to renew my visa, and I have a fiancé and a family ready to help me when I’m in need.  Despite how negligent Amideast was, I always had a safety net.  So even though Thanksgiving is over, I’m thankful for everything I have that allows me to remain safe, both physically and emotionally.  I’m also (sort of) thankful to have a better understanding of what it is like to be a migrant in Morocco (meaning, a migrant who is not taken care of by an American school), because I hope to make some difference in the lives of those who struggle the most in this country.  But really Amideast, get it together!

At least the weather here is beautiful!

At least the weather here is beautiful!