21 June 2010

background check

Some of you have requested that I keep you updated on my move to Costa Rica, so this post is in response to those requests. I'll have more student cuteness/amazingness stories later this week. Since the school year ended, I've been getting ready to move to Costa Rica. Of course, I've been doing a lot of packing, putting things in storage, canceling my utilities, and saying goodbye to my friends and favorite places around the Rio Grande Valley. Probably the craziest part of this process, however, has been getting all of my Visa paperwork processed. Really all I need is to get my birth certificate and background check clearance letter authenticated by a Costa Rican consulate or embassy. I will then take these papers with me to Costa Rica, where my employer will use them to procure a work Visa for me. Sounds pretty simple, right?

In reality, it has been totally nuts (and pretty hilarious)! After three visits to two local police departments, a broken-down car, a trip to the county Department of Public Safety (DPS), and a night-time fingerprinting session at a local jail, I think I'm finally on my way to getting all of this paperwork taken care of. Allow me to explain...

The birth certificate wasn't really a problem; I just had my sister mail it from New York to a friend I'm staying with on my way to the consulate. The background check has been another matter. Word on the street was, to get my background check, I just needed to go to my local police department to have them print a "clearance letter" certifying that my record is clean, then get that notarized. When I went to the Palmview precinct on Friday, however, I learned that the woman in charge of printing these letters is on vacation...perhaps permanently. Her co-workers are not sure when (or if) she will return. Apparently, no one else can print out the necessary paperwork. What the what?!?! No worries, I thought; I'll just go to the precinct in the next town, Mission. En route to the Mission precinct, my [very old] car stopped working properly and its dashboard lights started flashing. Luckily, I ran into a good friend and former co-worker, E, on my way to the repair shop, and she offered to follow me to the repair shop and then drive me on my errands. What a pal!

When I arrived at the Mission police department, I learned that because I do not live in the City of Mission, that precinct can't print my clearance letter. Well, darn. I was directed to the DPS in McAllen, the next town over, to get my background check completed. After waiting in two lines at the McAllen DPS, I received the form to put my official fingerprints on, rather than my actual background check. I would have to go back to the police department to get my fingerprints taken, and then send off the form to the state background check people in Austin.

Whew! Finally I was getting somewhere. Only problem is, that process takes about two weeks, and my appointment with the Costa Rican consulate in Houston is a mere four days away. Oh, and, I don't currently have a mailing address, as I'm in the process of moving and will not be in the same place for more than two days any time over the next three weeks. And after that, I'll be leaving the country. I decided that I will send off the fingerprints and have the background check mailed directly to the consulate, who will authenticate it and mail it back to my parents' house. It makes me a little nervous that some of these documents could get lost in the mail, but I guess it's my only option at this point. As a backup, I'm planning to go back to the Palmview precinct later today and beg them to print my local clearance letter so I can take that to the consulate myself on Friday.

Anyway, to get the state background check ball rolling, I called the Mission police department to find out their fingerprinting hours. Our conversation went as follows:
Me: I'm calling to find out the hours that I can get my fingerprints taken for an overseas work Visa.
Man: You can't come in right now, because we're really busy.
Me: Oh, that's fine. When could I come in?
Man: You can just call right before you want to come in, and if we aren't busy, we'll squeeze you in. 9:00 p.m. will probably work.

Ok, good enough. In the meantime, my friend E dropped me off to pick up my newly-repaired car, I went out to eat with some friends, and otherwise killed time. Things were looking up. Shortly before 9:00, I called the Mission police department again to find out if I could, in fact, go in then to get my fingerprints taken. The man I spoke with responded, "Yes, Miss, you can come in at 9:00, but we might be kind of busy, because we might be releasing all the prisoners then." Hmm. Not sure how to respond to that.

I drove over to the police department and entered the main lobby. All the lights were turned off, but the room was partially illuminated by the cop show playing on the ceiling-mounted TV. Clearly, I was not in the right place. I re-speed-dialed my new BFF at the Mission PD to find out where exactly I needed to go for the fingerprinting, and he directed me to the jail, where the jailer would take my prints.

In light of our earlier convo, I was a little nervous about the timing of this trip, but I decided to press on. I rounded the corner and tried to look tough as I strode up to the jailer to ask him to take my prints. I'm pretty sure I succeeded at looking thug life. We passed the newly-vacant cells on our way to the fingerprint room, where he took my prints and signed off on the card. Victory! And, bonus, he didn't even charge me!

After cleaning the ink off my hands with some gritty, orange-scented slime, I booked it out of there and headed home. Now, I'm off to the Palmview PD again to beg for my local clearance letter, just in case my state background check doesn't come in time. Do you think if I squeeze out a few tears, I can get someone other than the mysteriously absent woman to print it for me?

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