Sometimes you need to go to extraordinary lengths to get something you want. I know friends who have camped overnight to get tickets to their favourite band, but I never expected to have to sleep on the street to get my residency visa.
When moving to Peru we need to do lots of paperwork to get our residence in the country including checks at the Interpol office. We get ourselves fingerprinted and provide a bunch of personal information so that the Peruvian government can give us permission to live here after confirming that we don’t have a criminal record anywhere else. Normally this is a simple process that takes a few hours. However, today was no ordinary day.
Damaris, a lady from our mission, who helps us with the paperwork, arrived at 6:30am to what was already a massive line of people waiting. This was 2 hours before the Interpol opening hours and there were more people than could possibly be processed in a single day. Damaris called us and we got there as soon as we could with just our son Samuel. Damaris was able to get Christine on the preferential queue which is reserved for people with young kids, disabilities or older people. No amount of pleading would get me to be processed along with Christine. It was obvious with the huge lines at 7:30am that there was no way I would get processed today.
It wasn’t hard to work out why there were so many people because basically everyone waiting was from Venezuela. Thousands are leaving Venezuela, a country in crisis, where it’s now impossible to buy the basics like food, medicine and toilet paper. Peru is allowing Venezuelans to stay and unfortunately the systems are not setup to handle such volumes of foreigners entering the country at once. To the credit of the Interpol office, they had increased the number of people they were processing from 60 per day to 100 and some staff were working 12-hour days to cope with the influx.
I was told to come back at 4am the next morning and join the queue. Doing some simple maths it was clear that coming at 4am wouldn’t be enough - given the number of people who missed out today. So Damaris went to the Interpol office at 7pm and held a place for me. I arrived at 10pm with warm clothes, pillow, food and water for the night. Unfortunately the police wouldn’t let me into the Interpol office complex. A police officer told us that if we wanted to wait overnight we couldn’t come into the complex, we had to wait in the street. There were a lot of people already waiting on the street.
I sat down on my pillow for awhile and later curled up on the pavement sleeping as best as I could. I kept waking from dreams where I had missed the line in the morning. I was afraid to drink water as there were no toilets around. The only toilets in the Interpol office were broken. At about 6am there was movement in the queue. No one wanted to lose their place. At 7am some officials arrived and handed us paperwork to fill out.
I was 10th out of 100 people they saw so by 8:30am I had been fingerprinted, someone had checked my teeth and made some notes and we started the process to confirm that I had no criminal record. After the long wait, I asked twice to be sure it was all over and I could go home.
Praise God that our family's residency in Peru is progressing. Thank God for people like Damaris who can help us navigate the complex paperwork required in countries like Peru. Please pray for the people left in Venezuela in a terrible situation.