About a month and a half ago, I started the process to renew my permanent residency in Chile.
The process is fairly straightforward. Once you have permanent residency, you just have to bring 3 or 4 documents to the civil registry. They then take a new photo, ask you a few questions, and give you a temporary ID card until your new one is ready.
I've found that what is straightforward in practice, however, is not always so straightforward in Chile. Why do I say that?
Well, after carefully reading the requirements on the civil registry's website I made an appointment online (something that is relatively new here) and brought the required documents with me. At the front door of the area specifically for foreigners renewing their ID cards there was a woman checking everyone's documents. It turns out that the certificado de permanencia from the international police that I brought from 2012 wasn't valid. I needed to get an updated one from the international police. As she told me this I smiled and thanked her, while inside grumbling that while it made sense that I needed an updated one that it made no mention of it on the website.
Getting any document from the international police in the past few years has proven to become a daunting task. If you need to get a document from them as a foreigner in Santiago you must go to one specific office. This results in incredibly long lines, and I've heard of people arriving at 5:00 in the morning in order to get in line. (The office opens at 8.) After having mistakenly gone to the wrong office to get the document I needed, I then enlisted the help of a lawyer. If you provide him with the information about the visa and paperwork that you need, he will get it for you.
I made contact and after a few emails he determined he was able to help me. I went to a notary near my apartment and signed a power of attorney and emailed him scans of the necessary documents to get the certificado de permanencia on my behalf.
A few days later, he contacted me that he had gone to the office, but they refused to accept a photocopy of my tarjeta de permanencia. They told him that they needed to see the original.
It's not uncommon for people in government positions to interpret rules and requirements differently, and so if you need a document or visa you are at the mercy of the person helping you. Apparently in the past he had been able to get the document I needed with a photocopy. That means that either people in the past had given him paperwork not following the rules of seeing the original document OR the person that was helping him with my paperwork wasn't reading the requirements correctly that a photocopy was acceptable.
In either case, after some internal debate I gave him the original. The following day he was able to get the document I needed and returned the original to me. I now had everything I needed!
When I didn't have the necessary paperwork when I went the first time, I booked a new appointment for the week after. I made my way back to the civil registry in downtown. I presented all my paperwork to the same woman, and she frowned in disapproval.
According to her, I needed a photocopy of one of the documents IN ADDITION to the original. I distinctly remember the website making no mention of it, but I knew better than to argue about it. I went out, made the photocopy, and returned a few minutes later.
I made my way inside, and after waiting a few minutes my number was called. The woman looked at my paperwork and told me that I didn't need the photocopy of the document I just copied and accepted everything else. She verified that my address was current, asked me where I'd like to pick up my ID card, and also if I'd like to register to vote. I told her I'd get my ID card in Ñuñoa and agreed to registering to vote, and then she took my picture. As is the case every time, the glare off of my glasses and my propensity to blink made the picture-taking process a challenge. Luckily she was patient. She handed me a confirmation of my enrollment to vote, a code to check the status of my ID card, and my temporary ID card.
As I walked out, I breathed a sigh of relief. My ID card was set to expire May 31st, and I had completed the process a few weeks in advance. My new ID card was supposed to be ready around June 6th, and I got an email that it was ready on the 1st.
After my Friday morning class last week I went to civil registry office in Ñuñoa and was in and out in 5 minutes.
So, what does this mean and why is it so important?
On the most basic level, I have another 5 years that I can stay in Chile without having to file any paperwork or renew any visas.
But there's so much more to it than that.
As I was catching up with a friend over coffee a few days ago, he told me how much he admired how I came here 7 years ago knowing no one. Looking back at the journey of starting as a teaching assistant at a school, working at institutes and universities, and now teaching completely independently makes me realize how far I've come professionally. Managing my finances in another country, paying off my loans from graduate school, getting an apartment, and the day to day tasks of cooking, cleaning, and staying healthy while maintaining a social life and growing personally and professionally has been no easy task. Sometimes I fail to recognize that, and I'm so grateful for the people in my life that give me those reminders.
Another part of it is The American Dream. The idea that if you go to college and graduate school, study hard, and work hard at your job that you can achieve financial security. I followed those steps, but the financial stability was already deteriorating when I entered the workforce as a teacher in 2006. While I didn't expect to be handed a job on a silver plate, given my three teaching credentials and MA in Education I didn't expect to have such a difficult time finding a job and having to accept whatever job offer I got. I didn't expect having to move from one school and one city to another to follow where an opening was located. It was very disheartening to pour my heart and soul into a school only to find out that I was being let go due to budget cuts. The American Dream had failed me.
Chile has given me so many unique opportunities. I'm able to live in a safe part of Santiago with an incredible view for an affordable price. I've been able to travel around this beautiful country to see deserts, forests, mountains, and lakes. I've been able to work with people from all types of industries and present at national teaching conferences. I've been able to get to know people from all over the world, each from a different walk of life and at varying ages, all in Chile for a variety of reasons. I've been able to open up my mind to new ways of thinking and adapt in ways that I never thought would be necessary. I've been able to grow in so many ways that I would have if I had stayed in the United States.
As I type this, I feel immense gratitude to not only Chile but also to all of the people that I have met along the way that have been a part of my experience. Whether the friendship or relationship was positive or negative or short or long, all of them have helped shape who I am today.
Today I begin my journey of 5 more years in Chile.