Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mad Props To Norwegian Bureaucracy

Have I ever complained about the song and dance an expat has to do to get a passport renewed while living abroad?

It's pretty much absurd.  The pictures, the paper work, the permission forms that have to be signed in front of a frigging judge, for God's sake!  One year the girls and I had to fly to Oslo for a day because we'd missed the one day that year a consul from the embassy set up in Bergen to notarize all that stupid paperwork.

We've never bothered to get the kids set up with Norwegian passports, a) because we haven't really needed them before, all our travel being directed Stateward, and b) because I flat out refuse to go through all that song and dance in Norwegian, I figure--his country, his language, his kids, his job.

We've known since early last autumn that we'd to be spending a week in Madeira this coming summer.  It's Mister's mother's 70th birthday in July, and her birthday wish was to get her whole family (us, and Mister's two sisters' families) on the same tiny island at the same time.  Fine.  Fun, even.  But travel within Europe requires European passports for European citizens--even the 50/50 models.

I reminded him when the trip was planned and agreed to, "It's your job to get the kids' passports.  Don't leave it to the last minute."

"Yeah yeah, fine. No problem."

Every month since September, I've said, "You need to get the kids' passports."

And he'd say,  "Yeah, yeah. Soon.  Next week maybe.  Can you do some research for me?  Find out what's required?"


And here it is--April.  Plane tickets should have been ordered at least a month ago, but we can't order them because the kids still don't have Norwegian passports.

GRRRRRR!  FINE!  Here!  Just let me do EVERYTHING!

I thought for a long time that there was a good chance that they wouldn't even let me apply for the passports, me being a scary foreigner and all.  I dropped into the passport office at the police station one grey day in March to ask that very question. The guy looked at me like I was more than a little bit soft in the head.  "I don't understand," he said, "You're not the children's mother?"

"No, I am.  But I'm not Norwegian."

"Then why would we give them Norwegian passports."

"Their father is Norwegian.  But he's too busy.  I need to bring them in to get the passports.  Can I do that?"

"You're the mother of the children?"

"Yes.  But I'm not Norwegian."

To which he lifted an eyebrow and snorted as if to say, "Ya think?"  Then he gave me a form for Mister to fill out, giving me permission to apply for passports for his kids.  The Americans have a similar form, but it comes with a whole bunch of strings attached, so I asked, "And does this form need to be notarized?"

"It needs to be signed, yes."

"But does it need to be notarized?  Like...(my norwegian words were failing me here) know...official like?"

"Just sign it.  And bring his passport when you come."

"And the other forms?  Can you give me those too?"

"What other forms?

"For the passports.  The application forms."

"This," he held up the permission form, "And the kids.  You bring.  We take care of rest."

So maybe he didn't say it exaclty like that.  But he was clearly getting frustrated with the fact that I was so desperately working to complicate a really very simple process.

Blah, blah, blah.  Life, school, crap.  I finally managed to get the kids into the police station just this past Wednesday.  They looked everything up on a central computer--my status, kids' status, addresses, fødselsnummer (basically a Social Security number)--everything.  They took pictures right there.  We were in and out in less than 15 minutes. When I asked how long it would take to process the actual passports, she told me, "We guarantee them within 10 days." 

This shocked me, "That's it?  Seriously?"

To which she gave me a level, I shit-you-not kind of look over her bifocals, and said, "It'll probably be much early than that."

I snorted and said, "Dude, could you call the Americans and tell them how you do this?"

She must have thought I was pretty damn funny, and put a rush on my order, because I'll be damned if the very next day, Thursday, the passports were......



I might have to take some of my mad praizzz back.  See I wrote all that yesterday, after I'd recieved TWO of the passports in the mail a mere one day after applying for them.  I thought that was pretty freaking impressive.

But....why just two?

I assumed that the third one must have come up on the pile just in time for someone's coffee break, so I'd get it the following day--yesterday.

Only, I didn't.

I still only have two passports.  Which means, I still can't order plane tickets.

I'm kind of suspecting this little hiccup has more to do with the post office.  But who knows.  I'm probably going to have to make a phone call Monday.

Anyway--I spent a lot of time on this post, so I'm posting it. 

Happy Weekend!


Jono said...

You must have been the entertainment du jour for the bureaucrats that day.

Emily said...

I'm so confused as to why European citizens (who are also American citizens) need European passports to travel within europe!!! Especially when they have a legitimate passport already from a country where they are citizens!!! I don't doubt you at all. . . I'm just kind of flabbergasted by it all.

but what's new. . . bureaucracy not making sense. Again.

Good luck with the third passport!

Caroline said...

Such a breeze isn't it! :). But isn't Madeira part of Schengen? Non EEA citizens living in Norway with family permits in their passports do not have to apply for a visa to travel within Schengen. My husband has a South African passport and his Norwegian family permit allows him to travel in and out of schengen. It's all part of the schengen agreement. But I'm sure that you have the 3 rd passport by now. Enjoy Madeira!