297: Getting Visas – Human and Animal

If I had known how much trouble it is to move country, I probably would have opted to stay several more years at my present school. A friend told me, but hearing about it and experiencing it all first-hand yourself is quite another matter. It is a sheer wonder there is a single hair left on my head, I have been pulling on it in frustration so often lately.

I THINK I have the cats booked. Had I known how much trouble and expense there would be associated with taking my beloved fur children with me…….I would probably have done it anyway. I love their furry faces. I tried Delta, Delta’s Pet first, Lufthansa, Ryan Air, Jet Blue, American Airlines AND their Cargo Department, Air France, Iberia and three international pet shipping companies before I figured out that I did NOT have enough money to hire someone professional to get my three cats from here to there. Bless Royal Air Maroc. They accepted the cats. Now, I just have to complete the paperwork necessary for them to clear customs, which is pretty much about as much paperwork as is required for a human – and about as expensive. They have to see the vet here in Morocco for a rabies booster shot 30 days or more before their flight, but their vet health certificate and certificate of origin (born in Morocco???) have to be issued not more than 10 days before their flight. Those papers have to be copied and certified. Their kennels (travel crates) have to have LIVE ANIMAL on two sides, and be large enough for them to stand up and turn around. I have to include food for them, and bowls for food and water that can be serviced from outside the crate without opening the crate door. There must be bedding to absorb the inevitable accidents that will occur on a long flight. I have booked an extra-long layover in NYC to be sure we have enough time to clear customs and change planes for the last leg of the flight, to Orlando.

Once in Orlando, I clear customs again, and pick up my rental car. Once in the US, I have to see another vet and re-do the health certificates, copies and certified by the USDA or the US or Panama Embassy, to be able to fly them to Panama City, Panama. I have 12 days to do this. Bonne chance to me. PLUS, for the last months, I have been practicing with the cats in the crates. The boys still fuss, but Fez, the elegant lady, just settles down and waits patiently……..

For the human, we have applied weeks and weeks ago to the nearest Panamanian Embassy, in Madrid, Spain for a tourist/temporary resident visa that they tell us by telephone there should be no problems with getting. But, the man helping us mentioned that we needed a C-class visa in order for our friend to travel THROUGH the US on the way to Panama – just to be in the airport in the US and change planes. I kid you not. Being US citizens ourselves, and not knowing any better, it did not OCCUR to us that our friend would need an “alien in transit” visa. There pretty much IS no other way to get to Central America from Casablanca, Morocco except to fly through the US. We did not think anything strange about this, or that any additional paperwork would be required. WRONG. Sheesh.

SO, I logged on to the Embassy Web site and filled out an online application, which conveniently dumped me out of the application over a dozen times before I could finish it, regardless of the number of times I pressed SAVE, and asked questions no person in their right mind would ever answer yes to: Have you participated in genocide, forcible sterilization or abortion against someone’s free will, drug trafficking, terrorism, etc. Do you know anyone who would answer yes, even if they HAD?? Me, neither. Problem is, once all these questions are answered, you must register for an appointment time online to come in for a personal, face-to-face interview, where apparently they ask you the same questions you already said “no” to, while they are looking at you, so they can “tell” whether or not you were lying. Yeah, right. Anyhoo – the appointment calendar with available days for appointments went through the first week in August only – and every single available day was filled. OMG. What now?

We called, and explained our ignorance/stupidity. They have graciously agreed to squeeze her in, and see if they can help us. Now, THAT’S America, and reflects everything I love about my country being willing to give people second chances. They could have said: tough titty.

SOOOOOOO – we are waiting again to see if all the pieces are going to fall into place, or if the chips are gonna fall where they may. AND I need to re-pack my suitcase – I am 10 pounds overweight, darn it. The suitcase AND me.

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