21 May 2006

Work Permit Update

And the saga of securing a work permit continues. For those who do not remember, and for those who just might care, here is the story until now.

Before leaving California, I duly had all my university degrees and teaching credentials notarized. I got a certificate of clearance form the county sheriff’s department. I sent all these to my first employer, who forwarded them the Vietnamese consulate in San Francisco. There, they were translated into English. They also obtained a beautiful, official, State of California letter, with a big gold seal, stating that the notary who notarized my documents was really a notary licensed by the state.

Once in Vietnam, I also had to get a medical check and a Vietnamese police check. One would think that that about covered it. Not so. The HR office at work keeps telling me I need other documents, and I am not really sure what they want. In all fairness, it is not the HR people; it is the Ministry of Work Permits.

From what I understand, I need a dean of admissions from one of my universities to write and sign a letter stating that I graduated. That letter must then be notarized. And that notarized letter must then be sent to the State of California’s notary office to verify the authenticity of the notary. Said letter must then go to a federal office for the final stamp and seal of approval.

The woman in HR tells me that the notarized diplomas I have submitted are not valid because my name appears on the notary cover letter. You know, that part that says, “I_______ swear that the attached document….”. She tells me that someone other than myself, like the Dean of admissions, has to fill it out. It does no good in trying to explain that no one, at any institution I have attended, will undertake such an insane request.

I even pulled up the State of California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, where I, along with valid credentials, am listed. No, that is not good enough. No embossed, gold seal.

My almost last resort was to head on down to the US Consulate to see if they could help me out. I already knew that they would not notarize, or help in any way with obtaining work permits. But I heard that for $35, they would attach an affidavit. Since I actually have my original teaching credential with me, I thought I would give it a try.

I really had to psych myself up before going down there. All Official Government offices make me itch. I especially didn’t want to see a portrait of a smiling “W” looking down on me. But I persevered.

Once there, I went through the requisite search, and handed over my cell phone. They tore my purse apart, but did not ask me to drink from my water bottle as all other consulates/embassies I have been in do. As I proceeded through the bomb-proof doors to counselor services, I looked forward to waving to the cute Marines who I knew would be on duty in their glassed in control room. Oh no! I had forgotten! The Marines no longer guard diplomatic posts. Instead there were Vietnamese guards. It was very strange.

I took my number and waited for half an hour either reading or doing waiting room surveillance. Weird – no picture of W. But there was a tacky tin cabinet with consulate paraphernalia for sale. One could by a mug, or cap or bag, all with “the handsome Sate Department seal”.

Eventually, number 15 was called and I proceeded to the triple-glass, speak-through-a-microphone, window. I have no idea how people work in such a tomb. I explained what I wanted, and was told to pay my $35 at the window on the right. I asked about paying in Vietnam dong. It wasn’t allowed. Where was I to get dollars? The clerk suggested I ask the other people waiting if I could buy dollars from them. Right. She then said I could walk one block down to the bank. So off I went.

Three banks later, and 2 taxi rides, I was till unable to exchange money. I ended up at one of those seedy looking, money changers. It was located on a main tourist street, but I have my suspicions about them. Not to mention the exchange rate was higher than at a bank, not that a bank would sell me dollars. I took one more taxi back to the consulate.

This time, knowing the drill, I picked up my bag from the x-ray machine, walked over to the inspection table, unzipped it and pulled out my cell phone. They took my phone but said they didn’t need to check my bag. Why, because I had been there an hour before? The Marines would never have been so lax with security.

Another twenty minute wait and the clerk takes my form and credential and tells me to pay my $30 at the window. I guess I had heard her incorrectly the first time, and had bought an extra $5 at way too high a rate.

Once I paid, I sat back down and waited to be called. At window number three, an actual American state department person had me raise my right hand, swear that this was me, and sign the affidavit, which she also signed. I all but begged her to put a fancy gold seal directly on my credential, but that is not allowed. The seal I did get, on really cheap consulate paper, was pretty lame looking. I am sure that the labor ministry people prefer ostentatious seals as I seem to be questioned about the authenticity of low-budget seals like the one I had just received, for $30.

Tomorrow I will submit the new documentation and hopefully get reimbursed. I have no idea if it will fly with the powers that be or not. I certainly hope so.

Question Authority
ps: Apparenly, the Blog site folks agreed that I wasn't a spam blog, but they are still blocking me from attaching pics. I HATE my blog without photos, but this is a free service, so I can't complain.

Sorry about the boring layou.