Hello again, it’s time for another update in this ongoing story quest of mine.
In this chapter of the tale, we’re going to go through my current trials, tribulations, and complications in obtaining apostilles for the documents I need to submit to the Italian consulate on behalf of myself and my brother.
For those that do not know what an Apostille is, the tl;dr is that it’s a 60+ year old international treaty spawned from the Hague Conference on Private International Law that makes your documents valid in another country, be it your birth certificate, college degrees, or what have you.
So, within the context of this quest towards obtaining Italian passports, I need apostilles on my birth certificate, my brother’s, my parents’ wedding, and their divorce. Without them, I might as well have nothing.
In many parts around the world, obtaining an apostille is a generally painless and stress-free procedure. You go in, go out, and get it over within a day or two — maybe a week at most. Venezuela is no such place, though. For the past decade, Apostilles have been a nightmare, and one of the biggest obstacles when migrating out of the country.
Because of how important it is + how convoluted and slow the process has been in recent years + the massive demand for them as a result of Venezuela’s still ongoing migrant crisis, then you can imagine how much corruption has spawned out of the need for people to get these stamps.
People have had no choice but to pay absurd amounts of money just to get these in times past, and as a matter of fact, the person that I had to pay to get our documents from gave me the ‘special offer’ of $150 per apostille (with no guarantees of when I’d be getting it). While the situation is not as bad as it was between 2013-2019, it’s still a torture that would get a bureocrat’s rocks off in a flash.
Certainly, you can escape from Venezuela without apostilles, but if you’re a professional in any field, this single stamp prevents your title from having any meaning pretty much everywhere around the world, that’s how important it is. I need them so that our documents are accepted for our Italian nationality (and subsequent passport) requests.
This is why there are so many cases of people leaving the country and having their families obtain the apostilles for them, because the process is excruciatingly torturous — that much I’ve come to reming myself of in these past three weeks.
I had all of that in mind when I sat down on this very computer to open the Venezuelan government’s apostille system website to request appointments for my brother and myself:
I knew I would be staring at an abyss, I just didn’t expect the abyss to be so dark, so to speak.
Getting the appointments
Alright, so you have to sign up on a website, login, load up the info, and request an appointment. Sounds simple, right? Lmao, no.
First of all, you have to once again, slam your head against a website that doesn’t work all the time. This applies to literally every other Venezuelan government website, be it passports, legalizations, university paperwork, medical paperwork certification, et al.
Now here’s the extra catch. During the days of extreme food rationing, some genius decided that the best way to reduce the unprecedented flow of apostille requests (and in a perverse way, slow the flow of migration) was to ration the appointments in a similar fashion: through your Venezuelan ID number.
As such, you can only login to the website on specific days according to the last number of your ID card (this is exactly how food was rationed back in the day). Certain government services still employ this type of rationing.
So, for example, my ID number ends in 8, which means that the website will only let me login on Fridays and Sundays. If the website is down for whatever reason during those days (it’s happened), then tough luck, try again next week.
It is what it is, there’s nothing else I can do about this. Because the legalization of my parents’ divorce was going to take longer than I had anticipated, I went in and requested apostilles for the other three documents in the meantime.
So, on the last Tuesday of March I helped my brother sign up and request his appointment to apostille his birth certificate. The website assigned him to May 07. On that Friday, I got assigned the same date.
This was upsetting because it basically burned most of my leeway between then and June 13, the date of my Italian consulate appointment. Once again, it is what it is, there was nothing else to do but wait.
We both got assigned to go to a nearby government ISP building that’s being used for apostilles on Saturdays to reduce the excessive overflow in Foreign Affairs facilities. This worked in our favor since we can just walk towards it no problem.
The Venezuela government now assigns the rates of all of their paperwork and passports using their cryptocurrency, the Petro, it’s how they essentially ‘dollarized’ these rates without actually doing it due to ideological reasons. In any case, the amount they charge for apostilles roughly translates to $5 per, so I set the equivalent amount in Bolivars apart for this purpose.
Now came another month-long wait.
The day of the appointment
So, it was finally time, May 07th. We woke up early, took a sip of coffee, went to the bathroom, and prepared myself to spend the whole day waiting in line. We arrived a little less than two hours before opening hours (08:00am), by then, 33 more people were already waiting in line, so my brother and I were the 34th and 35th, respectively.
Venezuelans have been subjected to long lines for more than a decade now, and we know we are there for the same purpose, so there’s a high degree of respect and camaraderie in these lines, that is why instead of just waiting in line and making sure no one skips ahead, you write your name on a numbered list and chill. When opening hours approach then everyone starts to properly organize based on the list.
There was this one lady with experience in getting apostilles (no, not over 300 confirmed apostilles, but she had already gotten a handful throughout the year), so I asked her how long does it take for them to process an apostille (seeing as I had already had spent more than a month waiting for the appointment), imagine my smile when she said that they’d give it to me on the same day.
That was perfect, because that meant that next week I could hire a sworn translator and then request the apostille for my parents’ divorce once the system clears me up for it.
Everything was too good to be true, though.
Sometime around 08:30am, the staff came outside and said that they would not be processing anyone because the apostille servers were down all throughout the country. That’s when I began to get stressed, because I really needed to get that apostille on that day to stay on schedule with my upcoming appointment in June.
The only thing that they said was that the system would automatically reschedule everyone once it’s back up. They taped a notice on the gates of the office, and left.
Disheartened, I just went back home with my brother.
Stuck in limbo
I can’t say it was a pleasant surprise, because once again, the government’s bullshit threw a wrench at my now narrow timeframe (that became narrow because of them in the first place). There was no official statement about what happened, only hearsay and a bunch of images being passed around.
The whole apostille platform remained down for a couple more days, then the website came back in Maintenance Mode, and it wouldn’t allow you to do anything — the rescheduled email that we were supposed to receive ‘as soon as the platform is back up’ never arrived either. The website was fully operational by Friday, when I logged in to check the status of my appointment it still said that I had to go on the 7th of May. Now you tell me how I am supposed to travel back in time to be there, because I do not know.
There was nothing I could do on the site either, I could not cancel the appointment, nor request a new one, nada. I went to that office during the week and saw a massive line of people outside. Turns out, all of them were there to make complaints or requests to the government’s ISP.
My only idea was to go back on the 14th when they’d be attending apostilles again, and that’s exactly what I did.
Once again, I went there early with my brother, and waited for a couple hours. While almost everyone there had an appointment for that day, there were a handful of people from last week that, just like me, went there to see what the hell was going to happen to their appointments.
Eventually, a staff member came out, and we went there to ask for information, because as it stood, we hadn’t been rescheduled yet, and it had been a week already. Long story short, he said they could not process our appointments on that day because the system (the very system that had already screwed us in the first place) can only process the appointments of that day and nothing else. Every appointment email has a serial number, and the system only lets them process the serial numbers assigned to that day.
His only suggestion was that we’d go to the People’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs (actual name) on Monday and see if they could process our apostles, as they’re naturally above in terms of bureaucratic hierarchy.
Another 2+ hour line for naught, and another week of precious time lost.
A trip to Foreign Affairs
One month and one week waiting for the appointment, two ~2hour lines, a week later, and I still hadn’t obtained my appostilles, nor had I any information about when and where would I be rescheduled after all that bs. But sure, the government made sure to slightly increase the cost so keep it at $5 after the Bolivar devalued a little further, whatever.
Last Monday, I took my brother to Foreign Affairs, and once again, we waited outside until they opened their doors. Foreign Affairs is right next to the Finance Ministry, whose large banners serve as a reminder of who is in charge, and that, despite the bubbles of remittances and foreign cash have made some believe, we’re still under their socialist revolution and all that.
As 08:00am approached, we were informed that the line was for people that had apostille appointments assigned for that day. Everyone that was there to ask for info about their stuck in limbo appointments were to do a different line at one of Foreign Affairs’ side entrances further down the street, where they have a special booth for that sort of thing.
The kicker, though, is that the booth would open at 09:00am, which meant waiting in line for one more hour. This time around, though, I was number 4 in the line, not too shabby.
If you think they actually opened at 09:00am like they said well, think again…
More and more people came to wait in line for the very same reason, including elderly women that shouldn’t be forced to do such long lines in the first place. Instead of, you know, offering the elderly a seat somewhere inside in any of the chairs that you can see from outside, the guard was just complaining about social distancing and masks.
Someone actually showed up a little past 10am. All that waiting and the only thing she said to me (and everyone else) was that we have to wait for the automatic reschedule email to arrive. I explained my situation and all that, but the answer remained the same: wait for the system that screwed you up in the first place to spit two reschedule emails, next.
Can’t say it was a pleasant Monday either, cause it started raining. For the third time in the span of a week, I had arrived home without apostilles, tired, stressed, and now soaked wet.
Eventually, we received the emails during the week. The problem is that my appointment is now scheduled for June 18, five days after my Italian consulate appointment. My brother got assigned for June 11.
Once again, the Venezuelan government’s incompetence has fucked my shit up.
This naturally screws everything up, throws my timeframe off the table, and has me stressed like you have no idea. All I can do is spare you the swearing, but you have no idea how much I still want to swear right now.
There is nothing else I can do but endure the storm. Since our apostille appointments are on separate weeks that means that I now have to accompany my brother to his appointment (June 11), and then do mine alone the week after (June 18). I’m not going to make him do yet another line, especially not after he’s been with me through these past 3 lines for naught.
I dusted off my diplomatic letter writing skills and sent a very formal email to the Italian Consulate (as they’re still handling everything via email due to COVID) explaining in detail what happened, and humbly requesting the possibility of pushing our appointments for July. As of the time of posting this, I have not received a response beyond the automated email reply.
I’m presented with the following possible routes now:
1) Italian Consulate agrees and pushes my date a few weeks: I get my apostille (hopefully), translate, and finish prepping the folders. All proceeds as planned, only a few weeks later.
2) Italian Consulate does not respond to my request or says no to it: I’ll go on the 13th without apostilles, which means that I won’t get anything done, but I will explain everything in person, seek guidance, and see if they can push me to whatever next date they can without requesting a new appointment from scratch.
3) Italian Consulate tells me to get a new appointment from scratch: This means that I have to further wait I don’t know how many more months for it, and it’s all thanks to the Venezuelan government fucking my shit up with apostilles.
Whatever the case, I will go there and fulfill my end of the bargain I made with my dad and get the information pertaining to my half-sister’s case so that I can convey it to her, that was the arrangement. I have a general idea of what she has to do, but I would very much prefer to hear what the consulate says first because right now I would just be assuming things based on my experience.
I also have to talk to them in person to explain my brother’s situation, and hope they agree to let me accompany him during his appointment. I don’t see why they wouldn’t be comprehensive about that.
So yeah, that’s where things stand with me right now. This whole ordeal has derailed things a little, but I remain steadfast with all of this. My entire plans being delayed because of one server going down is not pleasant, not pleasant at all.
I will say this though, I am tired, burnout, and both physically and mentally drained by all of this, but I need to keep going, because this is the only way I have right now of getting my brother on a plane and fulfill the promise I made to my mother.
I’m trying to get my groove back, but the government’s eternal bureaucracy won’t let me, lol.
Hopefully, all goes smooth with apostilles next month and with my Italian Consulate appointment. I could use some prayers for that, if you can spare some. Stay tuned for another update next month, where I’ll have a more concrete timetable after all of this based on what they tell me.
Take it easy, love you all.