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Renewing the Carte de Sejour

The residency card (Carte de Sejour) that I finally obtained last year after arriving expires on March 5th. As a responsible person, I begin gathering my documents and showed up at the immigration office 90 days before the expiration only to be told that I had plenty of time. “Come back two weeks before it expires.”

In the meantime, some of the documents that I had obtained in preparing to apply 90 days in advance expired. They are only valid, according to the immigration office, for three months. So, I had to obtain an update on a couple of them.

None of the documents are difficult to obtain. I gathered my rental contract, our marriage license, three months bank statements, a report from a doctor saying I am in good health, copies of my passport, and a background check from Morocco, which I was able to do online and then pick up, along with two application forms.

Since we are traveling at the end of February, I decided to return thirty days before it expired. My husband got up very early to put my name on the list at 7:30 so that I could get one of the first numbers when they handed them out at 8:30. However, they have changed that process. You must arrive at 8:30 and take a number as you arrive. I met him there and was given number 4.

Some men called each number and at a desk in the waiting area went over why you were there and what documents you had brought with you. They determined that I needed to fill out one other form concerning my past work and hobbies and that my husband needed to sign a statement of support. All of these documents had to be “legalized” which is some form of notary service. We had already done all of the documents that we brought with us and he was able to go next door and legalize his handwritten statement.

We were then asked to wait for one of the officers. When I was called, I entered the room with my husband. My husband asked the officer if I could get the document for ten years and he told him, “We will see.” He then began looking over my documents. This was a long, slow, painful process and he seemed to just move the papers around the desk while leaving the room several different times.

My husband who had returned to the waiting area said he came outside and asked him a few questions about our change of address. Finally, the office said to me, “Give me a thousand dirham”. Apparently, I looked shocked and I was. He said, “You wanted ten years, right?” I was speechless. We went to the ATM to get the money and returned quickly and obtained a receipt and instructions to return in two weeks for the card.

I don’t even know how to describe how exciting this is! If only you could understand the ten years of document chase that, I have done in Italy and now here. Italy was by far the most difficult with the permission to stay and residency being two separate transactions. Both require some of the same documents plus others and are at different offices.

We also got married in Italy, which was a year-long document gathering process for us both. Here in Morocco, it has been more streamlined and efficient (if you can ever say that about anything related to any government transaction) but in all fairness, since I am married to a citizen, half the battle is already won. Therein lays one of our biggest reasons for moving to Morocco. Two foreigners in a different country can be a challenge.

When I hear stories of American immigrants, I can really empathize. I think the process there must be even worse than what I have experienced. Dealing with documents only in English, many only available on the computer and traveling long distances to the immigration offices are only some of the obstacles that I see. These days, I am certain it is even more difficult than ever.

In ten years, I will have to return to Casablanca to renew my passport and will have to renew my Carte de Sejour. That seems like a good long time and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

Visiting the American Consulate

I paid a visit to the American Consulate in Casablanca, Morocco for renewing my passport. After living in Italy for eight years, getting married there to another foreigner, and then moving to Morocco, I’ve dealt with enough government offices bureaucracy for a lifetime.

Italy has a reputation for being one of the most bureaucratic countries in the world. Of the three countries, that I have experience with that is true. However, Italy, at least when I was there, does have some strains of humanity woven among the angst of getting documents. I chock that up to the warm, friendly Italian personality.

That’s not to say you won’t meet a few assholes along the way. I personally believe that this is how these types of jobs are filled. The bigger asshole you are, the more chance you have of being hired to do one of these jobs. Granted they aren’t easy. The wear and tear of dealing with so many different situations, people, cultures, and languages can understandably get on your nerves.

I’ve visited the American Consulate in Italy as well as in Morocco now to obtain documents. My observations are this: If you work in one of these locations, you are safe. There is more than ample security to get in and the tanks outside the Italian consulate should scare anyone away. (Including some Americans in need of assistance) I understand the need for this security, but it absolutely makes you feel like an “enemy of the state”.

Frankly, I hope I never need their help for some emergency. They don’t always seem willing to help. They have rules and laws that prohibit them from doing most things it seems. Two meetings I’ve been to in Morocco and Italy with the consulate consisted of them explaining more about what they could not do for citizens than what they can do. It seems they can notarize documents, issue visas, renew passports, and record births. All for a fee of course.

You cannot show up at the consulate to ask for assistance or questions. Everything is by appointment, online, and you must have exact documents showing the appointment, your passport, etc when you enter. I watched furiously while they patted down and scanned a man who looked to be well into his nineties, tried to walk with a cane, but needed assistance to accomplish that. He was frail, scared, and trying to renew his already expired passport. A HUGE problem.

My stomach ties in knots when I know I have to make a visit. Most of this is from dealing with documents in Italy where I referred to my visits as “going to gather information” to alleviate the inevitable failure if I thought I was actually going to accomplish something. There, the documents you need were not always clear and you often left with a list of more things to obtain. This could work for you as well as against you.

The U.S. Consulate is more exacting. In fact, they have the exact list of things that you need without any deviations. I showed up with that (my old passport, the appointment confirmation, and the form they asked to be filled out along with two photos of a particular size and pose) and after paying my fee was told that all was in order. The lead up to this simple transaction was daunting.

I approached the first woman at a desk outside the consulate. There are barriers and soldiers around the perimeter leading you to one opening. I told her I had an appointment and showed her my passport and confirmation and she passed me through to the second guard about 30 feet away. He looked at my appointment which was at 9:45 and told me to wait (it was 9:35)

He asked me if I had any cameras, lighters, cigarettes, aerosol, makeup, explosives, guns, or computers in my bag. I did have a camera and makeup and had to leave them with my husband. At 9:45, he looked at my passport and appointment again, checked me off a list that he held in his hand, used a hand-held wand to scan my body, and passed me off to the guard another 50 feet down the sidewalk. This guard was in front of the door. He checked my passport and appointment and opened the door.

I entered into the “compound” with an airport security scanner and belt. I put my purse on the belt and proceeded through the scanner. The officer at the other end took out my cell phone and asked me to turn it off, took out my phone charger and ear buds, my house keys and put them in a bin for collection upon my return. He gave me a claim ticket.

He checked my passport and appointment confirmation and told me I could enter the door 20 feet ahead. I entered that door, where another guard stood and there were several glass doors with small waiting rooms ahead. I felt like I was in a prison and the surroundings were stark, clean, and sterile.

This guard told me to enter the two doors ahead and have a seat until I was called. I entered a small waiting room where the elderly man sat, another young Asian man, and a woman and her child.

From here, my process went quickly. I waited about 45 minutes for the others in front of me and there is no privacy here as the people behind the bulletproof glass bark out over speakers your name and your situation. I felt particularly embarrassed for the woman with the child who was in a real predicament and was offered no hope of a resolution and her private business was discussed over the speaker for all of us to hear.

They will email me within two or three weeks when my passport is available for pick up. They allowed me to ask questions and when I told them that I would be traveling to Italy in a little over three weeks time and that my current passport was valid for five months and Italy required six months, the only advice they offered was that I could travel at my own risk. It is the option of the admitting officer at passport control whether they will allow me entrance or not.

So, now I am waiting for the email to make the 5-hour trip back to Casablanca on a Tuesday or Thursday between two o’clock and four to pick up my passport without an appointment. Hopefully, this will happen before my trip to Italy! Fingers crossed.

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