My plans of spending the entire weekend on Zanzibar have possibly been foiled by my misunderestimation of the Immigration Office. Went down there today to pick up my Residence Permit. Inside was rather dark – turned out to be a power cut, but since it wasn’t affecting any of the surrounding buildings I can only guess that they hadn’t paid their electricity bill – not something unusual for a Tanzanian government office. They didn’t have a generator either.
This meant darkness, and more pandemonium than usual. Everyone else in front of me in the queue seemed to be at more or less the same stage of the process as me. It is pretty drawn out. Let me enlighten you:
- Go to immigration office at the Ministry of Home Affairs
- Discover on enquiry that you have to pick up all application forms at the Immigration Office near the pier for the Zanzibar ferries
- Collect your application form from the burly women at that other immigration office
- Fill out the application.
- Return to the main immigration office, and queue in order to hand over your forms
- Wait and sweat as the immigration officer pours over your forms and letters for what seems like an eternity. Watch him/her hesitate over each page until he/she finds a slight error
- Correct all the errors and return application form, whilst queue grows larger behind you (you watched this happen to three other people before you, and you weren’t very patient about it…
- Watch the immigration repeat the process of reading and rereading every aspect of your application twice
- Take the slip of paper that you are handed, and wonder when to come back, but now you have the slip, the next person is under the spotlight, and your questions fall on deaf ears, unless you are really pushy
- Come back three weeks later to find nothing has happened and that you should return tomorrow
- Return tomorrow to be told to return tomorrow
- Return tomorrow tomorrow to find that your file has “been lost” – hint hint. Bet there is a “finders fee”
- Wait another month, then return to find that – joy – you should come back in another week to pick up your residence permit
- Return a week later. Your permit is not actually ready. Now is the time that you have to pay your fee(legitimate).
- The immigration official tears a small piece of paper, writes some numbers on it, then attaches it to your file. He then ticks the slip you have been keeping safe all these months, and motions you to the cash window
- At the cash window you have to fill in the register. There are three registers – one for Visa’s and other short term permits, one for Citizenship, and one for residence permits. People take the registers away from the window to fill them in – they could be anywhere in the immigration office
- On locating the appropriate register you must write down the serial numbers of all the notes you are going to be handing over, along with your name, address and dossier number
- Once you have done this, you return to the window, only to be told to come back in half an hour, or maybe two hours – this is because the electricity is out, and they can’t use the machine to check your currency – if your currency fails the test you must adjust the register, noting which notes failed, and which ones are replacing those notes.
- If you succeed at this stage, you will be given a yellow reciept, and the woman at the cash desk no longer has to talk to you
- Return to the immigration office window to collect your residence permit. He tells you to come back on Monday
And that is where I find myself now. I am going to go in tomorrow afternoon on the off chance that they might have my permit ready – the immigration guy kindly suggested I try. If so, then I might suddenly be able to pay $6 rather than $35 to go to Zanzibar, and I could jump on the last ferry, and hopefully find a room somewhere. Or maybe Saturday. Or maybe I really will have to wait till Monday, which is when I am supposed to be bussing back to Arusha…