It’s almost here, the day I’ve dreamt about for five years, the day where I can finally board a plane with my brother out of Venezuela, and into a new life, thus fulfilling the promise I made to my mother on her deathbed — wherever we end up arriving at, that is.
I’m not going to lie, I’m still trying to process the fact that I got a way out at last after failing so many times over the past five years.
With the 10-month Jus Sanguinis story arc of my life over, and with Italian passports in our hands, there was still one crucial matter that needed to be solved if we want to travel out of Venezuela on an airplane: Our expired Venezuelan passports.
“But why even bother renewing a Venezuelan passport when you have an Italian one?” You might ask. Well, Venezuelan law dictates that if you hold Venezuelan nationality and are in Venezuelan territory, then you must exclusively abide by, no ifs and buts about it, and that includes boarding a plane, for which you’d then need a valid Venezuelan passport.
Our previous Venezuelan passports, which had been given two extra years through an extension in 2021, were already close to expiration by the time we got the Italian passports. So it had to be done, no choice but to suck it up and pay the rather hefty fees for it.
At roughly $215 each (at official exchange rates), it is one of the most expensive passports in the world — and yet, it barely does anything on its own without a visa, which, due to how things have been going for us, is an extremely uphill battle to obtain as a Venezuelan. In my case, it’s something I failed at for the past five years of my life.
Other than the kidney punch that $430 means to my limited finances, I’m still quite surprised that getting these new passports wasn’t as “painful” as getting my two previous extensions, or even the apostilles that I needed last year for my Italian Consulate paperwork. Due to personal logistic reasons, I had to wait until January to do this.
This time around, being able to pay for the passports themselves — as in, through one of the few banks that they accept payments from — wasn’t as much of a hassle as it was before, kudos to them, I guess. Although I’ve heard that its still best to simply pay through the listed government bank, as there is an anecdotal high chance of payments done through one of the two approved private banks taking days, even weeks to go through, with some cases of money simply getting lost.
I wasn’t going to take any chances, even if I have an account in one of the listed private banks, so I simply moved the $430 worth of Bolivars (Bs. 3,790 at the time) to one of my family members’ government bank accounts.
I also made sure to get the payments done on that same day, due to the constant devaluation of the Bolivar. Right now those 7,590.00 Bolivars would only be worth about $323.
The other alternative is to pay using the regime’s scam cryptocurrency (that they use to “anchor” the price of passports, apostilles, and other stuff), lmao no thanks.
After that, everything went smoother than I expected. We got our appointments scheduled for the 136h of January, woke up at 1am (instead of my target 4am), arrived as early as possible to the office, and nabbed the not too shabby 6th and 7th spot in a line of over a hundred people. There were even more people for Venezuelan ID cards that day.
As an added sprinkle of “good luck” at the expense of another’s misfortune, one lady that was among the first in the line forgot to print her passport application form, so she had to step out of the line for a bit, making my brother and I the 5th and 6th in the line, respectively.
The office opened its doors at 8am, they started letting people in at around 8:30, and we were done before 9am. For a moment I couldn’t believe it, after all, I’ve been through so much bureaucratic bs and endless lines over the past years that I was fully expecting to be out of the office no sooner than noon.
After that, it was just a matter of waiting for the application to run its course. A new unspoken rule is to check the tracking on the website, once your passport shows up as “shipped” you count exactly one week, and then it should be ready for pick up, even if it is still not flagged as such on the system.
And true to that, we went last Friday, and, contrary to what the system’s tracking showed, both passports were already there.
So after losing the two two-year extensions on my passport due to failing to get a visa and the COVID pandemic lockdowns, we now have brand new Venezuelan passports that expire in 2033, so that’s one less headache I won’t have to deal with anytime soon.
Two lost extensions, so… third time’s the charm I guess.
A few years ago our passports weren’t that expensive, but good luck getting it within a reasonable amount of time, as it could take months, even years before you’d get to receive it — unless you were willing to pay hundreds or even thousands of Dollars to bribe your way through it.
Paying for the first 2-year extension (2019 – 2021) was an odyssey of its own, as at the time, they’d only accept payments through local credit cards. With hyperinflation and the collapse of the country destroying the economy, a sheer majority of the available cards simply did not have a credit limit high enough to pay for a passport renewal or extension — plus, I don’t have a credit card to begin with.
My solution at the time was to borrow a corporate credit card from a friend of a friend of my mom to be able to pay for it. To make matters worse, due to the collapse of the country’s power grid that left us without electricity for days, the passport system’s servers were kept offline for weeks, much to my disdain.
It took quite some time for me to receive that first extension too, between delays due to the aftermath of the blackouts and other stuff, but I eventually got it — only for it to be wasted by failing to get Italian passports in 2019 and the COVID pandemic.
In January 2021 I paid the equivalent of $100 each to get a set of 2-year extensions on my brother’s passport and mine, as at the time I was working towards something that could’ve gotten me a visa, had things not crumbled down in November 2022, which left me defeated and depressed.
By January 2022 those extensions had one more year to go on paper, but effectively only had about six months left for travel purposes due to the international “six month rule.” Time was running out and I had to make a choice: Either gamble with what money I had and jump to Spain before time was up, or sacrifice the extension and try to get Italian citizenship with the one photocopy of a document that my father gave to me.
I went with the latter, with no guaranteed chance of success, and the rest is history. Finally, after almost five years, I have a way to travel alongside my brother.
I didn’t achieve my goals of getting a visa and all that, but at the very least, as it stands right now, there is nothing stopping us from boarding a plane and traveling to literally almost anywhere in the world (or as far as we can go with the amount of money I was able to save through the years, that is).
What comes next is figuring out where to go, and in some options, how to stay and be able to legally work and all that. That’s what I’m going to be giving a hard through and listen to everyone’s suggestions over the next week or two before I make a decision — it’s an important one, so I can’t take it lightly.
Be that as it may, what matters is what I’ll be soon closing up a chapter of my life, and I will be starting to live the rest of my life, with the hopes of finally being able to pay forward all the help and support I’ve received over the years as soon as possible.
Until the next one,