Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dealing with Brazilian Bureaucracy

The kids are dual US-Brazilian citizens, but I'm here in Brazil on a tourist visa. The plan was to apply for my permanent (spousal) visa before we came, but when my mother-in-law's cancer diagnosis was stage 4 only a month after discovering she had cancer, we applied for an emergency visa for myself - which is granted as a tourist visa. It allows me to stay here for 90 days before I need to re-apply for another 90 days as a tourist or to apply for my permanent visa. We arrived in Brazil two weeks after her diagnosis.

Let me back up. At some point in the summer of 2015, the Brazilian Consulate in NYC had a pop-up consulate in Philadelphia. We lived in New Jersey, right across the Delaware River from Philly, so we thought perfect, let's go get some stuff accomplished. The first step in our documentation/passport/visa journey was to get the kids' official Brazilian birth certificates and our Brazilian marriage certificate. After waiting in line all morning, a line that had no queue, no organization, and no instructions, we finally pushed our way inside the building when we heard they would be closing for lunch soon. Oh hell no, we said. We did not just stand for hours on a humid Philly summer sidewalk to be turned away. We were given a number and were able to sit down with someone right before they went to lunch. I was literally shaking when we sat down. I was so nervous that nothing would get done, the kids were going crazy, I really needed to either have Alessandra breastfeed or to pump (ladies, you feel my pain), and I was exhausted. After providing the 70 documents requested, we were able to get the kids' birth certificates started. Unfortunately, we were unable to get our marriage certificate because they needed a birth certificate from Farley that was less than three months old. This is the part in the story where I lost my shit. That doesn't make any sense! We have his birth certificate, why does it have to be less than three months old?! The young lady told us that's how they verify that he was not already married at the time of our marriage. Because somehow (and this still doesn't quite make sense to me), if Farley had ever been married in Brazil, it would have been documented on his birth certificate, so a newer copy would have that information. Yeah. Okay. To wrap this up, the only things we were able to accomplish after the entire day were the kid's birth certificates. Fast forward to the appointment for our emergency visas and we were told since the kids were technically Brazilian citizens they could only travel to Brazil on a Brazilian passport - but there were no passport appointments for over a month. After many tears and pleading and sharing the documents from my mother-in-law's doctor basically saying get down here yesterday, they gave us an emergency passport appointment for the kids that day. [Side note: I'm very, very good in stressful situations. 10 1/2 years of military training hardened me to act calmly and swiftly and freak out later. Farley loses his shit. However, in those rare situations where I lose it - e.i. at the consulate where I was convinced my husband's mother would pass away before he got to say goodbye because he was stuck waiting for my paperwork - he's amazingly supportive.] We were able to pick up the kids' passports and my emergency visa the next week. I was in the consulate shaking because I was convinced that something would happen and they would say sorry, they needed more documentation or the visa was denied or for some reason we would have to jump through more hoops. I couldn't believe how calm everyone was. When I picked up the documents I cried a little bit and almost hugged the security guard.

Let's go back (forward?) to Brazil. We attempted to obtain the kids' CPFs - something like a SSN here - but we were told they would have to be issued new birth certificates because the birth certificates from the consulate were valid only for obtaining documents from the consulate. So.. so.. Ok before I get stuck in an endless loop of "What the fuck?" I'll just say we came back with all the documentation they asked for including two witnesses who could attest that the kids were who we said they were and wasted an afternoon and some more $$ getting new birth certificates for the kids. We also inquired about our marriage certificate and were informed that it would cost R$800 to get a Brazilian issued marriage certificate - after we pay to get all of our documents translated. So the plan for now is to extend my tourist visa for 90 more days so that we have time to gather all the documents we need and apply for my permanent visa before my next visa expires. I've heard it can take years for the visa to actually be approved so I'm pretty nervous about that. (Although as long as everything is in progress you're fine).

Really, I have all the time in the world to go to a million different offices and get all this stuff done. That's not what worries me. My biggest concern is trying to get all my paperwork finished so that I can get into the Brazilian health care system. See, I suffer from migraines. Like, really badly. Like, really, really badly. I'm pretty sure I could quit working forever and collect social security if I wanted to - they're that debilitating. In high school I learned not to complain about them too much, because no one wants to hear about your "psshhh, headaches" every day. But almost every single day I have a pounding, stabbing, tense pain in my head that makes doing anything a nightmare and makes me a nightmare to be around. I take anti-seizure medication just to get through each day like a normal person. And when a migraine does hit (that pounding, stabbing, tense pain is just how I normally feel, the migraine is much worse), I take Imitrex or I have to sleep for three days straight. The migraines make me extremely nauseous, I can't look at any light, even daylight is too bright, anything above a whisper sounds like a scream, smells turn my stomach even further, I'm weak and shaky and can't deal with life. I fully depend on my medication to survive. And I only have a two month supply left. I actually have been suffering through my migraines by taking Imitrex on the first and last days and trying to push through the second day medicine-free just to save some. I'm nervous about what is going to happen if I run out of medicine. And that is why Brazilian bureaucracy terrifies me.


  1. I have a friend who has the same issues with migraines. Her Dr prescribed botox which decreases her every day migraine to few a month... I hope you are able to get things done to get some relief

    1. I've heard of that! I hadn't brought it up with my doctor because my medicine keeps me relatively pain-free and I'm scared to mess with it. It took me fourteen years to get the right medicine combination! I had to go to a special headache clinic in New Jersey to finally get it right.