22 July 2010

background check: part 3

Remember how I said getting my birth certificate apostilled and authenticated was going to be pretty simple? Yeah, I know. I think we've all realized by now that these things are never exactly simple. But I was so hopeful for a while. Originally, I had my sister express mail my birth certificate from New York to my friend's apartment in Texas, so that I could pick it up on my way to Austin and get it signed, sealed, and delivered at the Secretary of State's office in preparation for going to the Costa Rica consulate in Houston. However, when I got to the Texas Secretary of State's office, they informed me that they can't apostille documents from other states. In retrospect, this seems like a huge no-duh on my part. I guess I just thought you could take these things to the Secretary of State/Consulate that have jurisdiction over the state you currently live in. Silly me.

This was starting to feel like The Land Before Time movie empire.

I mean, we all loved the first one, but I don't think we needed them to make 11 (12?) more of these bad boys... Similarly, I understand that these work Visa processes are complicated, but I could have done without quite so much red tape. If the process had been clearly outlined somewhere, say, in a checklist format, that would have been super. Alas, it was not, but I figured it all out in the end, and ultimately, I guess it's comforting to know that criminals can't just skip out of the country and get a [legal] job overseas.

So anyway, once I realized my misunderstanding, I hopped online to rush order me some birth certificates from the NY State Department of Vital Records (I ordered an extra one just in case). Happily, they were waiting for me when I got to my parents' house, and the day after I arrived in Ithaca, my mom and I road tripped it up to the Secretary of State's office in Albany to get my birth certificates apostilled. Now, all that was standing between me and my work Visa was the authentication of this packet of papers by the Costa Rica consulate in New York City.

Word on the bureaucratic street was that this authentication could be done through the mail. I just needed to send in the required documents, my payment, a letter describing what I needed, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope for them to return the documents to me. I wanted to verify that I was sending the correct items, but when I called, I just reached a voice recording telling me to look at their website for all the information I could need, so I sent an e-mail to double-check. When they didn't respond for a few days, I decided to send in the packet as it was, as I had to leave for Costa Rica in just over a week. However, I did tuck in a note that requested that they call me or e-mail if there were any problems, rather than returning the documents to me un-authenticated.

Predictably, two hours after I express mailed the packet, I received an e-mail saying that for the payment, I could not send a check, but instead had to go to the Bank of America, make a deposit into their account for the required amount, and send the bank deposit receipt to them in lieu of an actual payment. D'oh! Of course! I should have remembered this requirement from my experience in Houston! I dashed off a reply explaining that I had sent a check in error, but would be making the deposit right away and would fax the receipt for immediate confirmation, after which I would express mail the original receipt to their office. I did all of these things and sat back to wait. The next day, my self-addressed, stamped envelope arrived from the consulate, feeling strangely light...yes, my documents had been returned, un-authenticated, for lack of proper payment. Sad day.

I received my original documents on a Friday, and I was leaving early the next Thursday, so it was officially CRUNCH TIME. Cut to me waking up at 3:00 a.m. the following Monday to catch the first bus to New York City. After an uneventful 5-hour ride on the Shortline (FYI, it's also referred to as the "Snortline," so you can never be too sure of what you'll find on those rides), I arrived in NYC and took the short walk from the bus station to the consulate.

When I arrived at the consulate, the woman I spoke with was very apologetic about the confusion and inconvenience of the whole situation. I was worried that my order would not be processed because I only had a copy of the bank deposit receipt with me, but she had saved the original at the office for me, so that worked out. I went in hoping that I could just get the official stamps and head back to Ithaca, but learned that that would be impossible, as I did not have an appointment with them. Luckily, the post office was just two blocks away, and so after narrowly avoiding being hit by one of those cycling couriers, I managed to procure a pre-paid express mail envelope for them to return my authenticated documents to my parents' house.

With my fingers and toes crossed that my documents would make it back to me in time, I caught the 12:30 bus back to Ithaca, and arrived just 13 hours after leaving. Tuesday came...no envelope. Wednesday came...envelope! And so, on the very last day before I moved, I received my last documents for my work Visa.

Thus concludes the Trilogy of the Background Check.

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