Many days have led up to today. For a year I have officially been a ‘tourist’ in Argentina. I managed to work out how to renew my first 3 month tourist visa at Migraciones, for a second three months. I left the country and headed to Uruguay to get a new visa on re-entry after 6 months. I renewed that one smoothly in Migraciones. But, especially after I bought my flat in Buenos Aires, there was always that uneasy feeling: next time I leave the country, will they let me back in? Of course I know that many people live for years in Argentina on tourist visas, or even on expired tourist visas (as you can just pay a fine when you leave), but I longed for a bit more permanence, stability, security…
I remember the first time I looked on the web to find out whether there was a possibility of obtaining a longer term Argentine visa: and my delight that yes, indeed there was (although at the time obtaining it seemed a very long way off). In my case it is called a ‘Steady Income’ Visa, and basically an amount (not too huge) of money in an English bank is needed. That and a fair bit of leg work of course. The visa must be applied for in London. It is not possible to make the application in Argentina. The problem is with this type of quest, is that it is never very easy to find out exactly what is required. To their credit, the Argentines do a very good job of providing you with specific information on their website, which helps, but I’m the sort of person who can lose sleep over whether I have followed the instructions correctly. It’s funny really, how I can walk out on one life and start another on the other side of the world without worrying about the long term future, and yet, when it comes to filling in forms and obtaining official letters I struggle to believe until the very last that I have done enough… done it right.
In the end it turned out that the time I have had in England was just sufficient to enable me to gather all that I needed, and to make my application. If my flight had been last weekend, I would not have made it. The universe has definitely been with me on this one and has reassured me that my destiny is to be tied with Argentina.
So what took the time?
Week 1: a Chartered Accountant’s statement of my financial status, certified by a Public Notary; the fact finding mission to the Argentine Consulate in London and appointment for the necessary interview with the Consul made; getting the unusually sized 4cm by 4cm passport photos; the applications for Certified Copies of my birth and divorce certificates.
Week 2: the trip to the Foreign Office in London to get my three documents legalised (verified as original copies); the documents and legalisations handed over for translation to the The Spanish Translation Service, London.
Week 3/4: translations completed efficiently and professionally and kindly sent back to me, thus avoiding yet another trip to London. (And in the time I had spare as a result I managed to sell my car, clear most of my personal belongings out of my flat and visit my family.)
Week 5: the interview with the Argentine Consul in London and the handing over of the documents including their Spanish translations, application form including referees in Argentina and in England and the photos; paying the visa fees in person at the required branch of Barclays Bank in London.
Week 6: the final trip to the Argentine Consulate in London to collect the visa (it takes up to 5 days after the interview, which I think is pretty brilliant)… and today was ‘the big day’.
This morning, on my fourth trip to London in six weeks, I got the visa I wanted, with just a few days to go before my flight back to Buenos Aires. The visa is for temporary residence of one year, renewable in Buenos Aires for a second year, and after that the door is open for the permanent residency application which can also be made in Buenos Aires. The precious DNI number can be applied for as soon as I get back… which I had not expected, so I am delighted: I can build more of a life. I can allow my soul to commit, with less fear of rejection. I feel relief.
The visa itself consists of a large stamp in the passport with a letter attached from the Argentine Consul, plus a sealed envelope which I must hand over when I arrive at the airport. I have a second sealed envelope containing my photos, fingerprints, and copies of my documents for the DNI application. These envelopes were filled and sealed in my presence, minutes before Carlos took my photo to record the historic moment.
After that we took a walk through London with a friend: Buckingham Palace, The Mall, St James’ Park, Whitehall, Westminster, Westminster Bridge, The South Bank… It was slightly warmer than last week’s open top bus tour experience, when we could not feel our feet and were forced to get off before it had arrived at Buckingham Palace (for fear of freezing). I can’t remember the last time I took a walk around these beautiful parts of London, and maybe that is because I never have. It is truly amazing how having someone to show around makes you see your own country through fresh eyes. Today I loved being British. But perhaps I loved it more because I had my Argentine at my side, and my Argentine visa in my big pink flowery bag. I felt free: free to live where I want to, free to live my dreams.