May was certainly marked by visa issues. By the end of April, we were actively waiting on a local Church of Christ here to get their house in order so that we could proceed with the paperwork for the application process. We already had a vague idea of what that would entail from talking with a missionary in Lima. It was conceivable, if not probable, that we would get far enough
into the process not to have to renew tourist visas before they expired. Technically, the Smiths were due for renewal toward the end of May, but the McKinzies had decided to renew at the same time, as they would otherwise have a new baby when their tourist visas did expire. Due to the “not probable” variable of that equation, Kyle and I headed down to the Immigration Ministry to found out precisely what our application would entail and how long it would take. It looks something like this:
- The adults have to apply first.
- We bring a half dozen documents identifying the congregation here, verifying their registration as a legally recognized religious entity, making the petition on our behalf, and affirming that the representative has a clean legal record—a notarized copy of each and a regular copy of each, for each applicant (that is, times 4).
- We bring copies of our documents--a notarized copy of each and a regular copy of each, and a form that we fill out.
- Having completed the application process, everything is sent to Lima for processing. If approved, it is sent back to Arequipa, and we are notified.
- At this point we have to leave the country to get our visas at a Peruvian consulate in another country. After we’ve got our visas, we return to Arequipa and enter with them (apparently, this trip is the only way they’ve devised to cancel our tourist visas and activate our permanent visas in the system).
- Then we return to the Immigration Ministry and complete the application for our Carnet de Extrajeria (basically, our green card). This is sent to Lima, and we have to go to Lima ourselves to pick them up.
- Once we have our Carnets, we do the process over for the girls.
Naturally, we decided to run for the border (no Taco Bell, though). Total overland travel to Arica, Chile is about 7.5 hours, so we bused down on one day and back the next. It’s the visa equivalent of pulling off a band- aid--just get it over with quickly.
After we got back, we received a call from a fellow novice missionary in Lima, who had a providential encounter with some people that make a ministry of getting Christian missionaries their visas quickly. There is something of an “expedite fee” associated, but given the travel costs of the other way, it will be considerably cheaper to use these wonderfully connected people--they apparently have Immigration Ministry friends in high places. As there has been no sign of progress from the congregation here in Arequipa, the new prospect is looking good on all counts. It seems to us that your prayers have opened another way where there was no way, so please persevere with us through this logistical struggle.