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Getting Legal

July 20, 2011

I have been working on getting my Permis de Sejour, my permit to stay in Haiti.  This is a complicated and expensive procedure involving proving I am medically fit, that I have no criminal record, that I arrived here legally, that I have a legitimate reason for being here, that I have sufficient money for my stay, that I have a Haitian bank account, etc.  I had to provide a fistful of documents and pictures.

One of the requirements for the Permis is a criminal record check from one’s country of origin and that turned out to be tricky.  When I went to the Canadian Embassy last week, staff informed me I could apply from there, by the process uses the mail and that can take as long as 3 months.  It would also cost me $30 plus mailing costs.  As I am legally required to have my Permis by the end of the month, I did not see that as a viable alternative.

So an influential friend called someone, who called someone, who told him to call someone else and somehow what appeared to be an acceptable solution was found.  I could purchase a form to be fingerprinted by Haitian police and that would be accepted in lieu of the Canadian document.  I don’t really know how this arrangement was arrived at and I didn’t ask; it’s better not to know some things here.   We couldn’t do any more that day because unaware of what we would be doing I had come to Port wearing shorts.  My friend just shook his head and said I would not be allowed into a government office inappropriately dressed.

When I went to the bank in Saint Marc to open an account, I was presented with a Catch 22 situation:  I needed to open a bank account to get my Permis, but the bank clerk was telling me I had to have my Permis before I could open an account.  After some negotiation they agreed to let me open an account.  Then I was told that I needed to provide 2 photos.  Fortunately there was an instant photo shop right across the street.  As we waited for the photos to be printed we noticed Canadian and Quebecois flags flying from a balcony across the street.

Then we were off to the government tax office to purchase the form authorizing fingerprinting.  The staff there said they knew nothing about it.  When Bryan, who was acting as my interpreter, persisted, we were sent upstairs to the “higher ups”.  They told us we needed to get the form in Port-au-Prince.  Bryan finally phoned our police contact in Port and handed the phone over to the local government official.  After a brief conversation we were escorted downstairs and a form was produced and completed.  I would have to take that form to a Port-au-Prince police station to be fingerprinted.

We then went to see a doctor Bryan knew to get a Medical Certificate.  The doctor was very nice and as a bonus was fluent in English.  He gave me a complete physical and found me fit.  It was a nice surprise to find Haiti has been very good for me.  Although blood pressure has never been an issue for me, it was lower than it has been in years, below average for a 19-year old.  I paid the fee ($12.50) and headed home.

When I arrived in Port the next day, my friend was furious.  The form for fingerprinting I had completed in Saint Marc was not properly done; in fact it wasn’t even the right form.  Off we went to some place unknown to me.  I handed over my passport, the pictures I had taken, a small amount of money and the improper form to my friend.   A few minutes later he emerged with the proper form all completed.  Off we went to the police station.

We found the police less than cooperative.  The pictures I had taken in Saint Marc were unacceptable.  The background was the wrong colour.  I was not wearing a jacket and tie.  So we found a photo studio that supplied me with a white shirt, dark jacket and a tie.  “No glasses, please.  Don’t smile.”  Looking at the finished pictures I was wondering who that person was.

When we returned to the police station, the person in charge decided he wanted nothing to do with me.  I was a Canadian; go to the Canadian Embassy.  When my friend insisted that the purpose of all this was to obtain a Permis and that was a Haitian matter, he finally agreed to be more compliant.  We were given the appropriate forms to complete and I was measured, weighed and fingerprinted.  My friend was told that he would be informed of whether this was going to be acceptable in a week or two.  And I was presented with a choice:  pay a bribe or have my just completed documents thrown into a pile never to be looked at again.  Not much of a choice as I saw it.  My friend just shrugged and said, “Barry, this is Haiti,”

I was then informed that what I had obtained from the bank was not acceptable.  I would have to have $1000 American on deposit to get a Certificate of Attestation to prove that I had money to live on.  But this certificate cannot be obtained until I have my Permis.  Catch 22 all over again.

So now I wait.

One Comment leave one →
  1. kim evans permalink
    July 21, 2011 9:07 pm

    It seems the entire world “system” is out to make the population crazy!
    Heaven has no forms Barry…forever and ever amen!
    I’m enjoying my holiday. Back to you later

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