Bureaucracy. If you think you know or understand it but haven’t lived outside of the U.S., you really don’t get it. Though I haven’t had to write about my DNI situation for a while, today it came raging back in classic form: S.N.A.F.U. To catch you up to speed if you haven’t been reading since the beginning, I’m entitled to dual citizenship in Argentina because my mom was born here. The process to get my citizenship approved and get my DNI national ID has been an extreme headache, with today being the 14th time I’ve had to go to the Registro Civil to get the forms cleared and approved. The long process has involved translations, amendments, new birth certificates and of course, time and money.
The last time I had heard anything was in June, almost nine months ago when I was finally approved, able to pay $35 pesos for the DNI, and told to wait 6 months to a year to receive it. I called a few times during this period to check in, but they always said they had no updates. Yet some Colombian friends who received their DNIs, albeit foreign DNIs, in almost no time, pissed me off enough to head down to the Registro Civil today at lunch and ask some questions.
Walking in I spoke to the woman I recognized as the chief, and she said she remembered my face and case as well, directing me to a window. The man behind the counter looked up my information and said something about a notice arriving back in September, which I’d never been informed of, obviously. He went to look and for a minute I was ecstatic, thinking that my ID was there waiting for me. Instead, he had bad news in the form of another road block to my success.
On my amended birth certificate, my mom’s original maiden name was changed by two letters when she moved to the United States, and this correction was shown to match up her birth certificate with mine. This was all accepted and approved nearly a year ago by the State of New York, the Consulate of Argentina in New York, and the Registro Civil in Argentina. A public translator stamped an approval, and everything was given the OK. Yet apparently once it was passed on to the Registro de las Personas, where the DNI was being processed, some pencil pusher decided that he wanted the clarification of the maiden name and taken surname at marriage to appear at the bottom of the document. So even though the original Argentine maiden name, American maiden name, and current last name were all present on the birth certificate, I was denied because they wanted it to appear at the bottom with some official’s signature and stamp. Total bureaucratic bullshit.
The guy in the office told me that I needed to go to the consulate and have someone official right the last name on the bottom and sign it, and though I asked him if there was no way he could just sign off on it, he said no. He did admit that he understood and could clearly see the correct name, but said he needed to get the signature. Once I had that he could fast track the DNI because it had already gone to through the process. It still amazes me that little things like this can happen on a macro level. Everyone is aware of how flawed the system is yet no one does anything to correct it, and everyone has their own tale.
In a year with mayoral and presidential elections, DNIs are getting churned out in record time, and here they are denying one because of a “technical” error, even though in my estimation no error was committed. At no point in time did anyone say that the name had to appear on the bottom, and I assume it comes down to the guy who overlooked it just not feeling like being cooperative that day. Or possibly he saw that I was from the United States and didn’t want to give me the DNI, so no matter what it was, something was going to be an excuse not to give it to me. It’s this bureaucratic nonsense that wears you out. You can ride your motorcycle on the sidewalk next to a cop and no one says anything, or throw trash on the ground even though a barrel is right next to you. Yet the minute you write something on an official form that isn’t a perfect 10 in the eyes of the person reading it, everything you’ve done is for naught. It’s entirely anti-progress, and simply put, it’s ass-backwards.
My friends at work tried to cheer me up but really didn’t have a ton of advice, and in the meantime I made an appointment at the U.S. Embassy for a notary on March 31st. However, their Web site clearly states that they don’t usually handle birth certificates, so it might just be a $50 waste of time. For now, it’s a huge setback and with time short here, I’m wondering if I’ll ever get the DNI.