And then everything came to an end. Not as a surprise, but as a result of a complex and very bureaucratic procedure. And as you can (or maybe not) see on the picture above, I am holding my personal foreigner’s ID-card in my hand. I am a legal alien now, not allowed to leave the country for more than two years, and it is quite ironic that I do have the card in my hand at a time when we are tossing around the idea of moving out of the country like so many Brazilians. But this story is about how I finally received my RNE – what many call the ID-card for foreigners here in Brazil, even though the RNE is only the identification number on the card.
A visit from the Policia Federal
As you might be aware, my process to apply for an RNE started over 15 months ago and went through several, sometimes painful, mostly friendly stages. First there was the application and the announcement, that some officers of the Policia Federal would visit us in our home to see, if what we were living was a real marriage, or a fake one. And of course there were stories of foreigners failing this test or to be more precise: the police just never showing up in their house and getting your permanent visa rejected for dubious reasons.
So we were nervous and the “porteiros” in our house were aware of the fact, that we were expecting visitors. Finally in April May of last year, my wife and I were coming back from lunch in a small restaurant and our “porteiro” explained, that two strange looking men had asked for us. He didn’t know more, and so we were waiting nervously for their return two hours later. The two guys had indeed been officers from the Policia Federal and they were very friendly and apologizing for invading our home. They seemed to be happy with the pictures of my wife and me, which we keep in the living room and in the kitchen, as well as with the toothbrush and the closet situation in the bedroom. They left and explained, that we should check a certain website frequently from now on, because the result of my application would be announced on the Internet and I would only have three months after the announcement (on the Internet) to return to the office of the Policia Federal here in Santos (in person) to continue the process. It sounds easy, but the problem was that this website never worked. Never ever! Even when I accessed it with the recommended configuration of Internet Explorer (somebody actually uses this thing?) and turned off Anti-Virus software (which made me wonder…).
Many visits to the Policia Federal
As a result of the never working website I had to go to the office of the Policia Federal about every three months and ask for the result of my visa application. It was my own, Brazilian version of the groundhog day. And I always found myself stuck in the same dialogue.
One of the friendly girls from the Policia Federal: “You don’t have to come here. You can check the result it on the internet.”
Me. “I know, but the website never works.”
One of the friendly girls: “Yes I know, it’s a problem. Let me check it. No, there is no update yet.”
During my visit in October, shortly before we traveled to Germany, the friendly person at the Policia Federal explained to my surprise: “Your visa application has been confirmed.” Great, I thought, now everything is fine, but I was wrong. She explained: “Now you have to apply for the RNE, this can take another three months”.
Ok. So I had my fingerprints taken, a portrait picture as well and I signed another paper. How would I find out, if my RNE was issued and I could pick it up at the Policia Federal? “No problem”, I was told, “there is a website, where you can check the updated.” And when I was about to laugh (or cry, I don’t remember) she added: “This website actually works.” What a relieve. The friendly person even continued: “actually you don’t have to check the updates, because the system will send your application to Brasilia, there your ID-card will be issued and sent back here. And once it arrives here, you should receive an automatic email, that you can pick up your card. But”, she looked at me with an apologizing smile, “I would check the website, because sometimes the system does not work and the emails are not send.” I expected nothing else and I was happy to finally have a working website with status updates to rely on.
More visits to the Policia Federal – never trust the system
So I checked the website (it was working!) for status updates and once the status said “approved” I made my way to downtown to the Policia Federal pick up my ID card (and maybe have a pastel next door). But I was not yet at the end of this beautiful process. “Yes the status has changed, but the responsible authority has not changed you.” She gave me an arbitrary combination of letters and explained. “Only when you see this, the card is actually here and we can give it to you. But don’t worry, this should not take more than 3 weeks.”
Two weeks later I checked again and indeed found the random collection of letters on the status page. “Hooray”, I thought and jumped on the next bus to go downtown and pick up my ID card. “Yes but no”, I was told, “technically the status is correct, but since there is no arrival date below the code, it means the card did not arrive here yet with certainty. But don’t worry”, I was told, “it can only take a couple of days from now on.” By this time the friendly person at the Policia Federal also always asked me about my wife and how we were doing, checked a pile of letters in a cupboard, and then she sadly shook her head. “There is really nothing here. Sorry.”
Once again I had to go home without success. In my house I checked my mail, only to find an email from the computer system of Policia Federal which informed me, that my ID card had arrived in Santos. It had been sent only 30 minutes before I arrived home.
The next day I jumped on a bus again to go downtown, the friendly girl at the Policia Federal smiled at me and she was indeed able to pick up my RNE, and I had learned another important lesson: Even when everybody expects the system to not work, sometimes you can safe time and money by trusting it. Sometimes the system is not as bad as you think. But going to the Policia Federal to have an excuse to eat Pastel Carioca is also worth something. I wonder if I shouldn’t go there just to check if everything is ok.