This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Zambia Immigration: The Bane Of Missionaries

Getting into Zambia is not a problem.  Have fifty dollars U.S. cash and check the correct boxes and you're in.  Staying for missionaries or foreign workers is a little more hassle.
This is one of Kristi's major responsibilities, keeping everyone legal.  This is important and there are police blocks very often and the correct paperwork for cars and people will be scrutinized.

This is Kristi at her desk and behind her on the whiteboard are the names of missionaries whose visas will expire in the near future.  There are two categories for temporary visas, red on the board for under twenty-one and green for over twenty-one.

She also works with some of the missionaries serving FROM Zambia in getting visas for the countries they are headed to.  This is really an exception as their parents and District leaders help them apply for passports and visas.

Here is Elder Stewart trying to get the guards attention at the Ghana Consulate when we were helping a Zambian missionary go to the MTC in Ghana.

In the past the mission used an immigrant "consultancy" to walk the paperwork through.  It cost a $100 US to do that and we still had to go with them.  All the consultancies were banned for three months so the elders learned to do it on their own and now Kristi is the expert but it hasn't been easy.
Pricilla the secretary at the consultancy was smiling but this was probably our last time there.

The nightmare of trying to remain in Zambia starts here.  That white gate on the right is the entrance.  You don't see a sign?  That is correct, you must ask, and ask.  Remember, not all immigrants speak English like we do.

Once inside the gate and up about a hundred feet is the Customer Service Entrance.  This is where all immigration papers are processed.  It does have handicap access.

Be certain you bypass the first door and building on the way there -  it is the "Police Public Complaint Authority" which is also very inviting.

Next is the photo  I got for the first five or six times I went to immigration.  I thought Elder Stewart would have a heart attack when I started to take photos, as photos of government buildings could be considered illegal.
Elder Shurtz and many others had lost their cool in this place and he had been threatened with arrest so they were a little on guard.

This is Elder Stewart not believing I had my camera out and back in my pocket in an instant.
The photo on the wall is of President Sata, the president of Zambia.  He hasn't been seen in public in a couple of months and there is speculation about his health.

The book or register the man is looking through is unbelievable.  I really wanted a closeup but even I am not that stupid.  The register was in tatters.  A book that had just worn out from people flipping pages and hand oils disintegrating the outside corners.  Finding your name, if you could read it, is like winning the lottery as it means you now can pick up a permanent visa and won't have to return here ever again.

In order to win that lottery you must fill out more forms and personally appear thirty days (exactly) after you enter the country.  This is a slight problem for folks working in the far corners of Zambia.
On that day I get involved as you must bring in a cashiers check for $185 US (1000 K) made out to Immigration.  For under twenty-one it is 2000 K.

Here I took a photo that didn't do the office justice or the piles of files on their desks.  There about 21 desks with numbers on them.  Each desk does different tasks, some deal with letters "jkf" and another perhaps "s".  The mindblower is they are not in any particular order and they seem to change places at random.  Every time you go you must ask, "which desk handles "g" and then you go there.  "G" might be ten desks away next time.

This is the prize after your first thirty days and official appearance.  If everything is in order then you pay the cashier (another long line) and go to another desk and after they look you up and down and "feel" you will not be a drain on the economy you receive your "white paper".  This paper will be stamped with a return date of 30 or 60 days.  Today was a miracle as one was stamped 90 days.  That was a first for the mission.  When those days are up then the paper and passport (but not the person) must appear again and be reviewed and enter the stamp "lottery" again.

This is our paperwork when we went in for ourselves.  The receipts for the money are nicer than the white paper that you must keep until you get a permanent visa.  Many missionaries leave after two years without  ever getting one.

This white paper must be kept with you at all times.

You can imagine the added headache for a mission president as he considers transfers etc.  Zambia is really three missions as the Copperbelt area is five hours away and Malawi is a totally separate country.

Some of the regulations and guidelines.

This photo was taken from the Immigration website.  That lady is smiling more than anyone I have ever seen smiling in there.  The looks I have seen on other visa appliers are sad.  It is a cross between laughter and fear as you do not believe that people could hate their jobs that much.  But the rooms are silent as folks do not want to irritate anyone and have to go to the back of the line. It really seems out of a strange movie where you think the next scene will show everyone cracking up and telling you that you were punked.  It never happens.

This is the object of all of the trips to Immigration.  It is a temporary permit or what we call a permanent visa, as we never have to go back for that person again.

By the way, don't forget their office doesn't open until 1400 on Tuesdays and Thursdays!