This so called "visa"

Well, actually it’s called a “carne de extranjeria,” but for our purposes, we’ll call it a “work visa”. The most important thing to note is that I still don’t have one and I need one. I needed one yesterday.

I have been in contact with my Peruvian employer since July when I came to visit and first made contact with them. It sounded like a dream job- teaching English, paid 30 day vacation, flexible schedule, benefits, the whole deal. While back in the States preparing for my big move, I stayed in contact via email with my contact at the Institute. She knew exactly what steps needed to happen in order for me to apply for a work visa and exactly what day I would be arriving in Lima.

Three days after my arrival, I met with her to being the visa process. My hopes were high and I was expecting to begin work within four weeks. Now, three weeks later, I have yet to sign a contract. I have yet to take my papers to Immigrations. I have nothing but little hope in my future job.

The past three weeks have been filled with excuses about a sick employee and promises that my paperwork will be “at the top of the list.” It appears that a Peruvian perception of the “top of the list” is much different than an American perspective. My expat friends have told me that Peru is notorious for being slow. Combined these expats have lived in England, Nigeria, China, Egypt, Finland, Canada, and Scotland, yet there is one overwhelming consensus- Peru is by far the slowest. I have also learned that the standard “3-4 week processing time” for my visa is in reality “6-8 weeks”. That is, of course, unless you are willing to slip someone a hefty fee to ensure that your papers get to the “top of the list,” whatever that means.

Here’s where it gets interesting. I’ve noticed that due to the general lack of a sense of urgency, sometimes Peruvians take matters into their hands. I have been told to take names, ask to speak with supervisors, be firm and keep a paper trail. I have also been told that even the appearance of a lawyer can make the difference in getting what you want. It’s a weird cultural line to cross. Keeping paper trails and showing up unannounced in the United States would most often result in nothing but office gossip before your first day. No self respecting office would be threatened by an attorney and asking to speak with a supervisor rarely gets you a different outcome.

This isn’t the United States. If it were, I wouldn’t be so eager to obtain my work visa because I would not be counting down the days until I need to plan an out-of-the-country vacation only to reenter as a tourist. Emmaline, we’re not in Kansas anymore. I guess it’s time to start acting like a Peruvian.