For Independence Day, I’m celebrating one year of Ecuadorian citizenship and residency, and Bruno is joining me. I found it ironic last year that I ended up finalizing my Ecuadorian citizenship on the 4th of July, and received my national ID card and Ecuadorian passport the next day. Now in 2012, Bruno is celebrating the 4th, by applying for his Ecuadorian visa.
Perhaps more ironic than processing our foreign residency documents on the 4th of July, is how much these activities highlight the differences between the US and our new home – Bureaucracy, red tape, and the power of contacts to facilitate certain transactions.
For example, you might ask, how exactly is Bruno getting an Ecuadorian visa? I’d have to admit, my uncle knows a guy — specifically, the minister of immigration. Yes, Bruno is eligible for a marriage-based visa, and will eventually get one, but there is also a wall of red tape between us and that visa (including an FBI background check, with an apostille, a notarized translation of our marriage license and birth certificates, which of course, also have to be apostilled — the poor translator swears to the validity of the translation and then her fingerprints go straight on the document — I’m surprised they didn’t ask for a notarized rabies vaccination of my first pet dog!). We just did not have enough time to get all those documents in order. To get a temporary extension, my uncle’s friend used the same process that any foreigner could have gone through, but because he’s a friend it was done quickly and easily (relatively). Bruno still has to wait in three different lines between 7 and 11 am on weekdays, to make payments and process the papers, but the necessary signature from the top was done by July 5th.
To be fair, Ecuador has progressed dramatically on official processes. The processes are much more transparent and easier now than a decade ago. As a point of comparison, 20 years ago my grandfather wanted to get me a national ID card, so we went to see his friend in a strange office building that felt like a ’70s Motor Inn. After the friend spent a few minutes admiring this 10-year-old gringa granddaughter of an Ecuadorian, and a nice woman took my picture, they told me to sit outside. About 30 minutes later, my grandfather returned with a laminated card with my name and picture and declared my city of birth as Guayaquil, and my citizenship as Ecuadorian! To top it off my card had no expiration date, it would be valid for the rest of my life. There was no proper paper trail among government documents of my existence, but in 1992, the card was enough.
Since then, more systems are computerized and more checks have been added. I am proud of the new levels of transparency in Ecuador, and I wanted all my documents to be on the up and up. So, last year I used official channels and became a real Ecuadorian citizen on the 4th of July.