My Kingdom for a Passport!

    Nothing binds the Venezuelan diaspora together as closely as the Kafkian ordeal that is getting a passport abroad. Here's my family's tale of SAIME woe.

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    Until not so long ago, we used to take our VenezueloPeruvianGringo family to Caracas to visit the abuelos, tios and primos at least once a year. Our kids remember those visits fondly. Sadly, we haven’t been since 2012, and not just for the kinds of reasons readers of this blog don’t need explained to them, but also because my wife’s passport had expired.

    She became a U.S. citizen in the mid-90s. For a long time, she travelled home on her US passport. But as relations with the U.S. worsened over the past few years and stories started to get around about the hassles Venezuelans traveling on US passports would face in Maiquetía, she started to fret she’d need to suck it up and go through SAIME hell. She’ll eventually need it: sooner or later there’ll be a wedding or a sickness or a funeral. It’s better to be prepared.

    Where to even start?!

    We’re after all in the 21st century so the instructions on how to do this are to be found on the web. Check!

    Read the webpage, follow instructions… make appointment through the website for your consulate – for us in Atlanta, that’s New Orleans – wait for the email, keep on waiting…

    After a few months of waiting you realize that something is wrong. Very wrong. You go back to the website. You try to call. You get an answering machine that essentially tells you there is nothing they can do for you and you should go to the website.

    You try a few other consulates. Same thing.

    You stew.

    A year into this Kafkian ordeal – and having missed a wedding and a funeral in between – she goes into Venezuelan mode: “I just have to show up and ask”.

    The drive to New Orleans it is 8 hours. Each way. This is not to be taken lightly.

    Making Our Passport Plan

    After pondering the situation for a few weeks and hearing through the grapevine that the Consulate General in San Francisco issued a passport for a friend of a friend in the past few months, we decide to “go West, young man.”

    It doesn’t hurt that San Francisco is a lovely city. We make a holiday of it.

    We go back to the website and meticulously gather every paper, and then a few more just to be on the safe side. Heck, we had to upend the filing cabinet to find the expired cedula. But we get it all. ALL!

    We’re feeling lucky. We even get ambitious. “Why not register our youngest daughter as Venezuelan while we are at it!?”

    I’m the one behind the stretch goal. I had registered her birth in Altlanta’s Peruvian consulate shortly after she was born. It was a breeze: birth certificate, proof of my Peruvian citizenship, 20 bucks, done!

    We also prepare emotionally. We tell each other to keep expectations low.  I remind my fiery wife that no matter what happens she cannot become indignant and give anyone a piece of her mind. She must remember how one behaved when one was pulled over in an alcabala when going to the beach during our college years.  Whatever you do, don’t get confrontational. If you have to say anything, just say “sí, señor”.

    À la recherche du consulat perdu

    The first morning in San Francisco we’re up by 5 am: a direct consequence of changing three times zones, plus all the tension. Getting back into the spirit of things, I suggest she should queue up by six. She laughs it off. I then suggest we get breakfast and scout out the place. It was 7am and we were out, our half-asleep four year old in tow.

    We walk down Mission street and come to a non-descript green building undergoing some remodeling. We see no signs. We look for the directory. Nothing. Finally my wife gets  the attention of the security guard. He lets her in the small lobby.

    “Is the Consulate General of Venezuela here?”

    “I don’t think so”, he says.

    My mind is racing.

    Have they closed it and not updated the website?

    She pulls out her phone and tries to navigate to the website to verify the address. Have we already made a mistake?!

    A second security guard walks down the hallway. By now she has verified that this-is-the-address on her phone.

    The second security guards, tells the first one, that yes, there seems to be something like that in the second floor.

    “Can I go up and check, sir?”, says my wife.

    She hops on the lift and is back within five minutes. It’s there. They open at 9.

    We leave, with our four year old in tow,  to find breakfast.

    Before Hours

    We get some breakfast and we’re back by 8 am at the building. The security guards are friendly and hold the door open for us as we go two stories up to wait for the consulate to open. We sit on the floor and entertain our child. We’re the only ones here. It’s dark.

    By 8:15, a hip young girl gets off the lift. She ask if this is the consulate, we nod. She sits next to us. Within a few minutes she tells us that she took the night bus from LA. She also tells us that she has an appointment for this day.  Appointment…we hear the word with dread.

    By 8:30 another young woman arrives. She flew in from Phoenix, she just got off the plane. She has an appointment, too.

    Shortly after 8:30 a young man dressed in black with a leather jacket walks by us and enters the restroom at the end of the hallway. He comes back 15 minutes later and opens the main door. He tells us that it is a very strict rule and we cannot enter until 9am. He turns the lights on and shuts the door behind him.  

    We sit on the floor.

    The Doors Open…Welcome to Chávez Country!

    A couple of middle-aged ladies enter shortly before 9 am, greeting us dryly on their way in. At 9 o’clock sharp, the doors open into a large room. We are instructed to write our name down on a paper which is on this ugly desk in the middle of the room.

    “Do you all have appointments for today?” say one of the ladies.

    People answer yes, my wife, pauses and in urgent voice say no. Without pause she rambles all the troubles she has gone through and the desperate need she has for the passport.

    Ay mi amor, if you don’t have an appointment, we can probably can’t help you”, says Funcionaria.

    “But I have to go to Venezuela!!!, what am I to do?”, says my wife, still with her voice of urgency.

    “You can go to Venezuela with your expired passport, thing is, you cannot leave without a valid one” says Funcionaria.. She reassures her, “it is easy to get it there, you know”.

    That was not the experience of my in-laws. It took them months to finally get theirs renewed. I think a little more and remind myself that our interlocutor has a Chavista frame of mind, and being trapped inside of your country of birth even though you have lived all your full adult life outside is OK in her mind.

    Funcionaria relents somewhat and says that once everyone that does have an appointment for the day is taken care of they will see if they can help her. We are instructed to take a seat at the end of the room, next to a TV running a documentary about the Venezuelan’ Llanos on a loop. Not a bad show, either.

    Sitting there, I take in the place. The room is very large. It’s divided with some Ikea bookstands, a whole row of them. Behind there I presume are the desks for the consul and Funcionaria. I hear phones ring and conversations in Spanish.  Leather clad young man is sitting behind an open desk across the room from our little waiting area with a computer on it.

    The book stands have old faded titles I can’t quite make out. It also has a small, cheap bust of Chávez, like to ones they use in Santería.

    Across from the double entry door, high up on the wall, there are three large portraits. Maduro in full presidential regalia is one. There’s another of Bolivar and the de rigueur Chávez portrait. I also see a 8 x 12 autographed picture of Chavez at eye level under the portraits. There’s llanero music blaring from the TV beside me.

    I decide to ask about registering the birth of our kid who is playing in the furniture in the sitting area. Funcionaria tells me that it’s very hard to do here, it’s best that we go to Venezuela to do this. I get it, she doesn’t want to be bothered. I think how easy it was at the Peruvian consulate in Atlanta, but I don’t press.

    By now, there are five people at the consulate. It’s 9:10 a.m.

    Things move smoothly. By 10 a.m., they’re ready to deal with my wife.

    Young man in the leather jacket tries the website and gets stuck at the same point that my wife had. He tries again, but he needs help. He looks for Funcionaria, she enters some special URL, gets right through. We are in luck, my wife has no open appointment so she can schedule one for now. They will collect her papers.  

    “¡Reciprocidad!”

    The tension’s dissipated somewhat, so my wife dares to ask some more questions:

    “All my family are US citizens. What do we have to do to go to Venezuela?”

    “Each and every one of them must come here in person for an interview and pay $160” says Funcionaria.

    “Señora, that’s a huge financial and time burden. You imply traveling expenses for 4 members of my family plus $640 in fees for a one year visa!”

    “¡Reciprocidad!” she says in a self-satisfied way, as if this were a knock down argument.

    Wasn’t Motor Turismo one of the big things Maduro is banking on to relaunch the economy? You can fly to Mexico, Costa Rica or Peru without a visa, and even Brazil will allow you to get a visa through mail as long as you send the check. Besides, I doubt Venezuela has many Americans overstaying their visa.

    I muster the best poker face I have and say nothing.

    Epilogue

    Funcionaria did eventually take all the papers and promise my wife her very own Venezuelan passport. Eight weeks later we get the precioius little booklet via el imperio’s very own postal service. Later – courtesy of the #PanamaPapers – I learn the thing is made in Cuba. Have I broken the US embargo? How fashionable!

    After that Chavistoid morning in the consulate we start our San Francisco holiday out right. We walk over to City Hall, just a few blocks away. At  UN plaza, we discover a mounted statue of Bolivar. We laugh, take selfies and Whatsapp them to primos and tíos. We admire the horse in the Venezuelan emblem, it still runs to the right.

    Then, as we’re getting ready to go, a seagull flies over us and lands on Bolivar’s head. It relieves itself.  

    Reciprocidad

    …I grimace, then think to myself …“¡reciprocidad!

     

    46 COMMENTS

    1. We had to cancel our last trip to Venezuela due to my wife being unable to get her new passport (her old one expired) in less than 12 months (I think it took roughly 14 months in total?). And we live in DC, so we went to the actual embassy multiple times. Unreal. And this was several years ago, it’s probably worse now.

      Now compare that to my US passport. It’s expiration was coming up last fall, so I filled out the paperwork, wrote a check, and mailed the necessary documents to the proper division of the State Department. I got my shiny, brand new US passport via mail in 3 weeks!

      • I was on business in Barcelona exactly a year ago and one of my business partners lost her US passport at Sants, the train station. So by 9:00am I went with her to the Consulate, paid something like $150, took some pictures in photo-booth and a Mormon looking intern handed it the replacement to us by 11. Of course that ’emergency passport’ is only valid for a year.

        To boot, the lost passport was found a few days later.

    2. I haven’t been to Venezuela since ~2001, when I traveled on my US passport (I am a dual citizen). Technically not supposed to do that but it was no problem, nor on my previous trip in the 90s. Now….not so much. Universal word from our friends is “don’t do it”. The kicker for me is that I don’t have a cedula – we left before I turned 10, so I’ve never had one. I can’t travel to Venezuela without a Venezuelan passport, I can’t get a Venezuelan passport without a cedula, and I can’t get a cedula without going to Venezuela. Brilliant! Not that I particularly want to go these days, but it’s an epic cluster.

      • Did you ever get a Venezuelan passport? If so, how?
        I am in the same sitauation as you. Was brought to the US very early and never got a cedula and my Venezuelan passport is expired.

        • No, I haven’t – it’s not a high priority for me, since as much as I would love to visit in principle, in practice I have little reason to. I mean, Canaima NP is still one of the places in the world I would most like to visit, but at least it isn’t going anywhere and the world does not lack for great travel destinations. All of our friends but one have given up on the country and I don’t have the network there that I used to. My father was Colombian and I could get Colombian citizenship if I wanted to; if a Colombian passport does not indicate place of birth, I suppose that would let me get in and out with minimal trouble. My last Venezuelan passport expired in about 1985, so I don’t exactly resemble my photo any more.

    3. Aw… passports ordeals. I’m too familiar with that but my last experience was shocking, and not in the way you think.

      I’ve been living in Ireland, for two years in May, and last year my passport expired. This was just a few months after the whole language school’s scam happened in Ireland, students stopped receiving their CADIVI (or whatever it was called at that time), and the Venezuelan consulate in Ireland left. So I was supposed to deal with the UK office. I’m lucky because my work requires me to travel and thus pays for my UK visa, but in other circumstances i would have have to get a visa to the UK to renew my passport.

      So I start doing some digging, and get dodgy reviews about the whole process in London. And most everyone that’s ever dealt with the Venezuelan embassy in the UK agrees that the lady that answers the phone is useless and bitchy (she’s even famous among the Venezuelan community in Europe). People start recommending me to go to Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, etc. to get my passport. I end up in Berlin as it was the one with the best review, still i was a bit reluctant. I write them an email, and before the day was over, I get a response with the process in detail and what sort of documentation I needed.

      I go online, ask for an appointment, and two days later I get an email saying that my appointment has been set for two week from now. I fell surprised and lucky. The day comes and I got to the Venezuelan consulate in Berlin with a bit of a defensive attitude, thinking I’ll spend the whole day in there waiting among a bunch of bullsh*t “socialist” propaganda, and pictures of El Comandante staring at me. I go in, and get welcomed by the lady in charge with a “Good morning… welcome to your consulate”. I think to myself ‘go fu… wait.. she’s being nice’… “good morning”. “i’ll be right with you” she said while she led another compatriota into her office, and I go to the waiting area. I scout around looking for evidence of something that will justify my anger, but there is none. Until I see a clipboard with a list on it asking for signatures, and at the top it it said “Obama, deroga el decreto ya!”, but there wasn’t a single signature on it… I laugh, take a picture and keep walking around. To my surprise there was nothing around, no propaganda, no passive aggressive posters, nothing. Just a picture of the president (which i think it’s mandatory) and that’s it.

      It’s finally my turn. I walk in, and the whole thing runs smoothly, I turn in my paperwork, she takes my information, picture and signature and says “we’ll mail you your passport back to Ireland in about 8 weeks”. She then starts asking questions about Ireland, and I about Berlin. I ask if she has received many people from Ireland and she says “yes, since the Consulate there closed, and because we need a visa for the UK, many of you have been coming here… but it’s fine, we can handle the extra load, plus I work for Venezuelans, not for Venezuelans living in Germany”. I’m baffled. I’ve never encountered such rationality when dealing with a public office. We’re done with the mandatory Venezuelan chit-chat and she escorts me out of the office to go get the next camarada… At this moment, as I leave her office, I can’t help but feel uneasy, like something… someone… is staring at me. I look back and there it is, an innocent coffee mug (being used as a pencil cup), with the HDP eyes just staring at me. I squint back and think to myself “go f*ck yourself”, and exit with a smile on my face.

      In the waiting area, the lady starts speaking to me again, repeating the instructions about my passport in the mail and such, and then she tells me “I don’t know how long you’ll be here, but we have a series of events this weekend. You’re more than welcome to come, after all, these event are for you”. They were Venezuelan food fairs and music festivals. Again I felt like I was in a parallel universe.

      She politely excuses herself and says her goodbyes, and so do I. And then I start feeling like an a-hole for being in such a defensive mood when I walked in. After all the cédulas, licencias, pasaportes, and certificaciones in ministerios i’ve had to do, this was by far the best errand I’ve have ever done. Quick, polite, efficient and almost enjoyable. It’s a pity I had to leave the country to receive this kind of treatment from a Venezuelan office.

      • FYI: Chupetica de Ajo… the receptionist at the London Consulate left. :-). And they are getting nice in London too.

      • Thanks Mauricio , we also have to make the same treasure hunt from Dublin . This is useful information … Hopefully they don’t run out of materials .

        • oh… definitively go to Berlin, I have friends that made it a day trip. If not, I’ve heard great things about the consulate in Barcelona. I’d stay away from Madrid though, rumor has it it takes months just to get the appointment…

      • “Good morning… welcome to your consulate”. I think to myself ‘go fu… wait.. she’s being nice’… “good morning”.

        I snorted coffee on that one. Well done.

        Your experience reminds me of my visa experience at the Consulate in Curacao.

        I needed a family visa, but of course even though we were married in Venezuela and lived in Venezuela…. they couldn’t issue to the visa to someone IN the country already. So we had to leave, together, petition for the visa, wait for the visa, and then re-enter together. Yes, this story has all the right ingredients to be one of true woe…. but it’s not.

        We called the Curacao embassy about 3 weeks prior, asked for a list of documents, and how long it took for them to process the visa. The lady was exceptionally friendly, emailed us the list of documents required, and assured us the visa would be ready in 24 hours.

        We made the decision to only stay in Curacao 3 days / 2 nights. Went to the consulate first thing in the morning the day we arrived. It was about 10am when got there. The lady took our planilla, asked us to wait while they double checked everything. Turns out, we were missing something (can’t remember what it was now, but it required a printer and an internet connection). Ran back to the hotel, printed it out, and got back to the embassy after lunch, around 2pm. They checked the documents again, said everything looked good, and to come back in the morning. Sure enough, we came back the next day at 9am, and the visa was done. ZERO HASSLE.

        In hindsight, we were more than a little foolish, planning the trip around getting it done in 2 days… but I guess it worked out. We were pleasantly surprised at just how friendly they were.

    4. In you go to New Orleans without an appointment they will probably call the police. They are nasty over there. Thing is the Miami one is closed so New Orleans does 20 passports a day for over a million residents.
      And to compound it all, a venezuelan passport only lasts 5 years, that was fine when you could renew it with a seal and a stamp. Now they are non renewable, they should last 10 years like a cedula.

    5. You got your revenge with this great article. Sweet justice!

      I’m curious, do you think there is any down side to having your child registered as a citizen? Aside from the challenge doing it?

      • Upside: he doesn’t need a visa to enter.
        Downside: he needs a venezuelan passport to get out. And you can’t get one without a venezuelan cedula. See below.

      • I cannot speak for Canada, but I know there is a point of concern regarding governing law for gringos (or naturalized gringos) with dual-citizenship and how much help you can expect from the State Department should trouble arise. Essentially, if you have dual citizenship pretty much anywhere, and you get in trouble in the other nation, you will be more or less on your own.

        A U.S. citizen, in the event of legal issues can apply for help from their consulate/embassy, however, if you have dual citizenship, they have little recourse or ability to help, since you are bound by the laws of your nation when in residence. Normally, you’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal, however there is a slight hook with Venezuela and I’ll frame it with a recent anecdote from hereabouts.

        A gentleman we know, who was married to a Venezuelan (she passed away back in 2010) and lived there for nearly twenty years until the mid-2000s, took their 19 year old son back to visit family and friends as they have done every couple of years. They both traveled on the US passports, given the hassles in renewing the son’s, but the boy also took his cedula with the intent of renewing his cedula/passport in Vzla. All was well until they got to Barquisimeto.

        Apparently once there, they were given something of a shakedown by the local cops, and instead of sticking to the gringo-act and bluffing through after producing the passports, the cops somehow found his cedula and he was detained. The father thought there was just some confusion and it wouldn’t be a big deal; however, he was told that his son was a drug trafficker at the station and that the boy had a “more than a kilo” on him at the time of his detention.

        The father notified the embassy of the issues, but while they were sympathetic, their response was basically that there was little they could do to help. And, of course, the father was terrified that the kid would be sent off to Uribana until trial, unless he was willing to “bond” him out for the ridiculous sum of 41,000,000 bolivars (in cash, curiously to be deposited directly with the police).

        You can imagine how that went. At this point, they have no intention of ever going back.

    6. Nice article…would have liked a section documenting the ordeal of Venezuelan parents with children that don’t have cedulas and the nightmare to obtain passports, since for children older than 9 years the web site of the passport gets stuck if you don’t have a cedula number and you are basically required to travel to Venezuela to do both.

      The problem is that in spite of the fact that the saime web page listing the requirements for the cedula states you need the certified copy of the birth certificate issued by the Venezuelan consulate in the place of birth, when you get to Venezuela you find out that you need the original birth certificate that has been inserted in the Registro Civil, process that in some cases has not been done since the year 2000.
      So before you travel with your child to Venezuela, make sure someone in your family has been able to locate the inserted birth certificate, otherwise you will be stuck in Venezuela for some time before you are able to get the cedula and the passport for your child.

    7. How will it be needed to reform labor laws after finishing chavismo off to end once and for all that useless “labor inamobility” which makes all chavista workers to feel entilted to make life miserable for everybody else, game that’ll end once they get the ass kick-flattened after mistreating a citizen.

      Como hará falta reformar las leyes laborales luego de liquidar al chavismo para acabar con esa inutilidad de “inamobilidad laboral” que hace que todos los funcionarios chavistas se sientan con derecho a hacerle la vida miserable a los demás, gracia que se les acabará cuando se les deje el trasero plano a patada limpia luego de maltratar a un ciudadano.

      • Lo cual va a ser casi imposible. No se puede tocar “los sagrados” derechos de los trabajadores. Eso es un “autosuicidio” para cualquier politico.

        • Es raro que digas algo así tomando en cuenta el poder que tiene un aparato de propaganda masivo como el del chavismo, el cual está al servicio del gobierno, que para desgracia del chavismo, en un futuro cercano serán aquellos que aborrecen con todo su ser.

          Después de todo, un bombardeo mediático de apenas un par de meses bastó para que la gente saliera matándose a votar por Chávez en el 98, y fue uno de sus pilares principales para mantener la dictadura chavista hasta el día de hoy, al punto que muchos que no son chavistas, se creen hasta las más risibles estupideces que les han empujado por la garganta durante casi dos décadas.

          Al chavismo como movimiento político no le doy más de seis meses de vida fuera del poder, e incluso menos, si el nuevo gobierno tiene gente con neuronas funcionales que se dedique como debe ser, a erradicar todas las estupideces comunistas de los últimos años, te aseguro que muchísima más gente de la que te imaginas estará de acuerdo en acabar con esa pendejada de la inamobilidad laboral una vez que se les explique (día y noche, 24/7) que parte de la ruina general en la que se encuentra Venezuela es por tener parásitos inútiles que sólo cobran por calentar una silla y que tratan a los clientes a las patadas.

            • Pregúntale a la gente qué opinan de los linchamientos, de las OLPs y de las masacres en las cárceles, y sabrás que esa gente, los que podrían “oponerse a tocar los sagrados regalos populistas” estarían más que dispuestos a acabar con la inamobilidad laboral y hasta con el bodrio aquel llamado Lopna (legado de la Marisabel “esta noche te doy lo tuyo”)

              Para la muestra de cómo se puede manipular a la gente a través del aparato de propaganda en contra de sus propios derechos, sólo mira como ejemplo el ridículo que hacen los chavistas intentando impedir que les den títulos de propiedad de las casas de interés social (AKA misión vivienda) y de cómo ahora también se oponen a que los viejitos cobren cestatickets. O si no sólo mira la cantidad de “antichavistas” que siguen creyéndose el cuento de que abril de 2002 fué un golpe de estado planeado por los gringos o que de verdad la gente se suicidó en masa en esas protestas, sin contar aquellos que se comieron completo el camión de paja sobre las protestas de 2014, alegando que “habían violentos protestando y que por eso se merecían que les tirasen la guardia y los colectivos”

              Créeme, luego de 18 años está demostrado de forma fehaciente que un parapeto de propaganda como el chavista puede cambiar la opinión pública y formarla a su conveniencia, haciendo que la gente vaya incluso contra sus mismos intereses más elementales.

    8. I went to through the whole process of requesting an appointment, which took 6 months. Travelled to New Orleans, paid for a new passport, and patiently waited for the passport in the mail. That was when everything went wrong because I never got my passport. They don’t reply to my emails, and when I log into SAIME it states that I have received my passport. It was disturbing to see how little they care that such an important document is lost. This is where my “Venezuelan thinking” goes into drive and I contact someone in Venezuela to see if something can be done from the inside. Turns out, the information they have for me in SAIME in Venezuela is for my old passport. Data was never entered for my new passport and no one can give me any answers, nor can I request another appointment.

      • Hi Erika,

        Mind if you can share the steps and their time frame? When did you registered on SAIME? When did you get the appointment email? appointment date?date you get the passport, etc?

        Thanks in advance

    9. My wife is an expat, and we haven’t been back since January 2015. The indignities we suffered at Maiquetía Simón Bolívar were beyond the pale. Because she had both US and Venezuelan citizenship, and I was her gringo husband with very little experience with local customs since the Chavista takeover, I was singled out and our luggage searched in another room. My wallet was taken from me… and as a courtesy to me… my US dollars were exchanged for Bolivars. (We had been warned of this. They didn’t locate the lions share of the cash.)
      After about a half hour of this, we were released when it was remembered that I had no cash to offer as a bribe to be released! We were delighted to have our luggage returned to us, though it was considerably lighter. Almost all of the brand new women’s and children’s clothing and shoes we brought in for her relatives had gone missing.
      Never again until there is regime change.

      • Ahh yes, that brings back fond memories!!!

        Same routine for me back in 2011, except arriving in Valencia. I almost always flew in from Curacao since it was an easier route for me to take. As an added bonus, when you’re the last flight scheduled to arrive (sometime between 9pm and 11pm) at the tiny Intl. terminal in Valencia, most of the customs agents just want you gone so they can go home!

        Never had any problems for years, until one day when the plane in Curacao got delayed overnight. We arrived at 8am the next morning to some bright eyed customs agents looking for their first score of the day.

        I was flying alone, they picked my gringo’ness right out of the lineup before even hitting passport control. Upstairs to the side room, alone, for a nice bag search. My Spanish which at the time wasn’t that great suddenly took a drastic turn for the worse, as I carefully walked that perfect line of “just stupid enough to avoid any questions i didn’t like, and just smart enough to not be worthwhile calling in a translator.”

        That was a particularly fun 45 minutes. Fortunately as in your case, they missed the lions share of my traveling cash (I may have been an innocent gringo back then, pero hamas un viajero bruto). I had also taken precautions to disguise most of the things i was bringing with me as used, tag free, part of my clothing. By the sheer grace of God, they didn’t notice the two BRAS I was bringing in (man, traveling ALONE). Not too many options for “disguising” those. That sure would have made for some good gringo act explaining!

        • Ah yes! Women’s undergarments. Not a stitch of the new bras and panties for las sobrinas were left in our luggage. About $400 worth of Victoria’s Secret merchandise… gone. This was especially upsetting to my wife and her nieces, as there is some sort of dynamic in Venezuela that I am unfamiliar with regarding fashionable women’s undergarments!

        • Ah yes, women’s undergarments.

          My wife had purchased about $400 worth of Victoria’s Secret bras and panties for las sobrinas, and every last piece had gone missing when our luggage was returned. This was cause for quite a bit of anger with my wife and tears for her nieces, as there is a unknown (to me) dynamic afoot in Venezuela regarding fashionable young ladies undergarments.

    10. Wow, amazing article as I had to deal with this issue this month.

      little background. I’m born in valencia, im chinese, and I am american. and I live in Chicago. I’m age 35 and have never gotten my cedula. I have an expired venezuelan passport, and an american passport. I have normally traveled to Venezuela with my american passport due to less hassles from the guardia nacional, or la policia, but this year was not meant for this, as venezuela have required visas to visit venezuela for american citizens, however, you are not able to obtain this visa if you yourself are venezuelan. the embassy ended up giving me a paper that allowed me to enter venezuela with my expired passport, the premise was that I had all my papers set to go to make my cedula…. (although there were errors with the spelling of my mom’s name, and it also has a numero extranjera in my birth certificate.

      my flight was thursday night with arrival friday morning.

      friday morning arrived to maquetia and i was excited to get this cedula done, but it turns out the contact that I was going to get this done had a family that passed away.. so we decided to just be patient and get this done on monday with him.

      monday morning we go in to saime la trinidad wait in line for about an hour, called our contact, and was told that the supervisor was not available in that location, we were referred to another location

      we go to second location, saime contact was ready to get his money and get my cedula fixed, he asked me for my cedula number, i told him it was my first time getting one, then he looked at me funny and asked how old i was, and he then declined doing my cedula due to me being 35 years old.

      we then went to another saime location in central de caracas, (i believe this was miranda one) they look at me and assume an extranjero, but since I was born there I had to explain over and over again that I’m born venezuelan so suck my dick. they eventually let me in, but wouldnt be able to do this becuase I was born in valencia and presented in maracay. they sent us to CNE in miranda and CNE sent us back to Saime Miranda. and it was just one run around after another.

      tuesday we decided to relax and try again, we went to las mercedes (where its chic to be) and tried our luck at saime there, finally the man decided to read my documents and noticed a ton of errors, one my birth certificate had an incorrect name for my mother, and the number of my moms cedula was an extrenjera and my copy of her cedula was venezuelan, the extranjera number does not exist in their systems…. and I had to get that cleared up…. turns out after we did a closer look that my moms cedula was also screwed up… (this is what happens when you dont careful parents)

      weds, we were shit out luck, it didnt seem like the capital could get it done (even though i would think they would be the most prepared to fix my problem) therefore we decided to head to maracay and see if I can get it done there. by the time I arrived to maracay, it was a bit too late, there was no electricity and we couldnt get anything done…

      (please note, weds evening Maduro in all his glory to want to fuck with my life, decides that hey, people dont need to work fridays for april and may, now I lose a whole freaking day)

      thursday – go to maracay first thing in the morning, they reviewed my document and said that my birth certificate had errors, however they were considering just using the registered copy of the book of my birth certificate since that looks right, but my hospital paper (certification of birth) had wrong name as well (spelling my moms name was a pain in the ass) so we were told to go to the hospital to get this fixed, we drove to valencia and they refused to help us… said we needed to go to CNE to get permission to fix the problem, we head to CNE and they said birth certificate is not right and we cant figure out what this numero extranjero is… they said to go to the chinese embassy, im like… uhh.. the chinese embassy is not gonna have any data on my mom, and to assume my mom was undocumented and didnt exist until she showed up in venezuela….

      so at the end, it turns out i have to find my mother’s immigration data.. called my dad, told that i had to go to villa de cura…. sigh…. since friday is non working day, i was able to relax and hang out with family.

      monday week after, go to villa de cura, explain that i need this documentation that states that my mothers E id is = to her V id, which they were able to find. however they said they didnt have a pen drive, paper and toner. so i told him I’ll get you the pen drive and paper, but i can go to any other saime to get it printed, he agreed after much scowling. (lucky for me another worker was very nice) i come back with pen drive and paper, and (power goes out!) shit out of luck…. then i decided fine, lets go to magdaleno (where i can get my birth certificate) i drive from villa de cura to magdaleno, im within 5 km, from magdaleno and it turns out there is a protest since 6AM, and we wont be able to get through 🙁 sigh…. we had to drive back to villa de cura and drive to magdaleno via maracay… sigh…..

      by the time we arrived to magdaleno, we had to explain what the correct spelling was, they said to come back next day as the director is not there…

      tuesday, we go back to villa de cura, and finally got them to get my moms paper, the guy kept checking my finger print and trying to find something wrong with it, At the end I was like stop trying to ask for money indirectly asshole… then we went to magdaleno with my document from villa cura with the correct name, the lady says we need 8.000 bolivares for toner to get this done and wont be able to get it done until the next day….. i was like… crap, i dont got 8.000 in bolivares, lucky for me, my dads super market was near by and we have a renter, i run out there to ask for 8.000, got it, and my venezuelan cousin came in and talked to magdaleno’s supervisor, and somehow magically got it to 4.000 bolivares and to get it done that day… we went back to valencia to try again with my hospital paper, hospital refused to do it cause the book showed the wrong spelling…

      with most of my papers finally set up. we decided to try again and explain the hospital’s non willingness to help.

      I go to maracay saime to get my papers fixed up, they agreed that its sufficient.. i get my name registered in the computer after 3 hours of waiting… then wait in line to take a picture….. guess what…. the power goes out… im shit out of luck, gotta wait for the next day…

      weds. i get up late accidently, run to maracay saime to take a picture… they reviewed my documentation again and started questioning all my stuff, at the end i just said shit looks good, stop bugging, they finally agreed to take my picture… of course i cant get my cedula that day, i have to wait the next day..

      thursday – FINALLY got my FREAKING MOTHER Fing Cedula…

      now to figure out how to get a passport without having to wait 3 months… as i was supposed to be on vacation for 2 weeks, i had to call home base and explain i will be another week late.

      (Maduro seems to be loving screwing my life) decides that monday and tuesday people dont have to work (tuesday was festival day) so now, i lose friday, and monday and tuesday…

      week 3.

      monday/tuesday no one working so i was spending time with friends trying not to worry, as i had a contact to help me with my passport which would cost me around 100 bucks USD to get done

      weds I go to saime, and find my contact and get my picture done.

      my contact was a chinese friend who had a contact that can help make these passport in a much faster pace, and they also knew about my issues and promised me i could still get it by friday…

      i changed my flight to saturday praying i get everything done) friday morning comes by and i havent heard nothing, i had a wedding to go to on saturday in cleveland ohio, and didnt look very promising im going to make it to my best friends wedding.. friday at 3 pm i finally get a call that they have my passport, i was so relieved..

      anyways, i just wanted to give my account to those who want to get their cedula done first time over 9 years old.. its a bit of a hassle but i would imagine that most people’s birth certificate wouldnt be nearly as horrid as mine.. nevertheless I would budget a month to get this done and expect to find a way to pay to get faster service, but its also not entirely guaranteed that you would get it.

      still im not going to lie, i still loved my time out there, i know things look like crap, no water when there is no electricity, but still, venezuela is and always be the country that i will always love.

    11. Venezuelan/Canadian citizen here. Just there in October 2015. No Venezuelan passport. My answer to the question “where in your Venezuelan passport” has always been: “El consulado nunca tiene material”. This seems to suffice.
      On this opportunity I was told that I should be able to get one quickly if I made the appointment. I smiled and said I would try it.
      Going out there was no question.
      Of course, this time the lady on the way out was quite nasty. It was just an exercise on self-message repetition:”you are going back home, no te arreches”.

      Friends just came a couple of weeks ago thru Maiquetia (I went thru Valencia). Same question. Same answer. They made the appointment and it was made by the system for after the return. They took paper slip to airport as prof in case they were asked. They weren’t.

    12. Great article! I got some questions. I wonder if anyone renew their e-passport? I am not sure if I am doing it correctly as I just follow the old way: go to saime website registerand wait. I registered to renew the passport in New York embassy back in mid February few months ago; however, I haven’t heard anything. 5 years ago it took me about 2 months to get the email for appointment.

      I also checked the website:

      http://www.embavenez-us.org/_newyork/

      It is not working and error 403 forbidden???

      When I checked the San Francisco website. It shows me this: so we have to use a new website system?!?!

      Can someone kindly help or let me know if I am missing something?!

      Consular Services

      As we transition to a new website, some of the updated information has been moved there. See http://tramites.embavenez-us.org/preguntas.

      Visa information
      Legalization of Debt Certificates for currency exchange authorizations (CADIVI)
      Fees charged by the consulates for services
      Servicios Consulares:

      Nota: Para información sobre trámites no descritos aquí (Fe de Vida, Registro consular para CADIVI, Pasaporte, etc), visite el nuevo sitio web de trámites consulares http://tramites.embavenez-us.org

      Ya estamos emitiendo el Pasaporte electrónico. Para más información visite el web de trámites consulares http://tramites.embavenez-us.org

      Pasaportes
      Requisitos para la obtención de visas
      Derechos Consulares (Consular fees per transaction)
      Legalización de Documentos
      Legalización Certificado de Deuda para acceso a cambio de divisas CADIVI para empresas
      Mientras nos mudamos a un sitio web nuevo, parte de la información relativa a requerimientos para trámites consulares, ha sido ya mudada. Favor visitar http://tramites.embavenez-us.org

    13. Does anyone have any information about getting their Venezuelan passports renewed in Canada (Vancouver to be exact)? My boyfriend went to visit the Venezuelan embassy in Vancouver in August of 2016. They told him it would take 2 months for it to be delivered to him. It has now been over 5 months! The only update he got from the embassy in Vancouver was that the passport had been made, that was at the beginning of January.

    14. Hi Holly, I also requested my passport on August 29, 2016, in Vancouver and today I received an email from the Consulate informing me that they have it. I hope your boyfriend also receives this email soon. Best of luck.

    15. Hi Holly, I requested my passport on August 29, 2016, in Vancouver and today I received an email from the Consulate informing me that they have it. I hope your boyfriend also receives this email soon. Best of luck.

    16. FiMy mother brought me to the US when I was 10 months, my passport has been expired for years. I can’t make appointment with Saint because I have no cedula. I’m planning to go to San Francisco embassy to see if they can renew or provide me with any current documentation. It’s like I don’t exist for either country. Please help does anyone have any suggestions? Need to buy a marriage license but need valid ID.

      • Jisselle, What state do you live in? Many states (I believe California is one) provide state ID cards for all residents, regardless of immigration or citizenship status (you don’t mention whether you are also a citizen of any other country.) you do not mention what your state’s ID requirements are for issuing a marriage license.

    17. Hi all, I am a Venezuelan citizen on a student visa living in the USA (houston, TX). I’ve been here for 4 years and just this month my Venezuelan passport expired…. I’ve been trying to get an appointment for a renewal since September of 2016 but nothing has happened– I go to the SAIME website and all it says is that my renewal request is yet to be processed. In all of the comments I’ve read of issues with dual citizens but none about Venezuelan’s abroad on visas– which honestly seems even worse to me cause we don’t have another country’s passport to rely on. Anyways, a few days ago I finally got the Houston consulate to answer the phone; after getting the typical “Venezuelan government employer” treatment from the first guy (who told me at one point “I dont know what to tell you. You’re gonna have to figure it out on your own”) I spoke to a lady (the Funcionario, maybe?) Who explained that the only way for me to get a passport right now (unless I want to wait upwards of a 11 months, from now, for a renewal appointment) is for me to travel to Venezuela and do my due diligence there— after I explained I have a job and go to school here (so it’s not like I can just take some hiatus to Venezuela. Not to mention theres no guarantees I’ll be able to leave anytime soon) she said there was nothing she could do for me. So here I am, a Venezuelan citizen abroad with my only valid international id expired, meaning that when my renewal of US id’s comes around (license, work permit, SS#) I’m gonna be stuck in a non-renewal limbo cause I can’t renew US id’s on an expired Venezuelan passport.
      I should mention that I recently married my boyfriend of 2.5 yrs and we are in the process of acquiring my greencard (GC)– however, even with a GC I can’t travel unless I have a valid passport issued by the country of which I’m a citizen, and that’s still VENEZUELA! I wont have access to a US passport for at least another 3 yrs whic is when I’d be able to request my US naturalization. So yea… it’s a cluster f#@&. Meanwhile, I haven’t seen my family in 4 yrs and both my grandparents are terribly ill– my biggest fear is that they’ll die before I get a chance to see them again. Also, the idea of not being there to bury them also tears me apart. Like is the case with many Venezuelans, my grandparents are basically an extension of my parents– I was practically raised by them. Sigh… im so utterly done with that cursed Venezuelan government. Everything is so hopeless— might as well be a citizen of some failed state somewhere far in the African tundra or the middle east…

      • You’re looking at a couple months back in Venezuela before your passport is renewed completely at the moment (October 2017). I recommend getting your green card sorted out first and using form I-131 in order to receive a re-entry permit into the USA before you travel into Venezuela. I made the mistake of traveling without the permit and my renewal is taking far longer than expected, causing me all kinds of stress.
        To clear up any doubt about another subject, you should be able to travel into your country of birth on an expired passport, the problem is leaving it once you’re here.
        I’m also a EU citizen and that status does nothing for me — if you come to Venezuela, make sure you have your green card first and fill out a I-131 form (I can’t even leave here to travel to EU).
        You may want to stay here as long as it takes to renew the passport, and as you can imagine, estimating how long the passport will take to be renewed is almost impossible right now. Even through an ‘expedited’ process, I am now going on my 6th week here and haven’t received an update on my passport for 2 or 3 weeks (completed my part of the renewal process in just one week here) — expecting to wait another two or three weeks before I get my papers back so I can go back HOME.

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