I have taken 2018 as the year in which to try AGAIN for a residency visa for the DR. You all may recall my failed 2013 attempts and then my failed attempt for citizenship in 2015-2016. It’s been rather unbelievable. Here is a brief rundown of my paperwork journey.
In 2013 I applied for a residency visa. I drove to the Dominican embassy in Washington DC several times and applied and unfortunately was denied under the reasoning that “Solid Rock doesn’t work with a specific church such as the Catholic Church or Mormon church. They work with multiple churches”. And here I had thought that was a great thing!!!??? I later grabbed my passport back, returned to the DR, and applied again through the mail and with the advice and help (and cost!) of a lawyer. The end result was that I was denied residency for a second time and the woman in the embassy actually stated to me “Don’t apply again- they are not going to give it to you”. They then tried to send my passport and application packet back via the US mail and it was LOST in the mail. It was lost in the United States mail, NOT the suspect postal system here. For seven months. I had to go to the US embassy in the DR and apply for an emergency passport in order to return to the US. Stressful. Expensive. Overall experience was really defeating and depressing.
In 2015 I heard of some folks who had applied for direct citizenship (through marriage to a Dominican, which I obviously qualified for) and Laura and I began the process. It is managed through the National Police as opposed to the embassy and actually went smoothly compared to the residency process until they suspended my application because my mother’s middle name had an extra “e” on my wedding certificate. Remember that the application itself costs money, as well as all the documents that they require. Everything has to be translated into Spanish, notarized, apostilled, legalized, certified, etc. I believe that one time I estimated that each page that I turn in through my application costs around 100-200 dollars. AND It took Monch and I at least 3 or 4 seven hour round trips to Santo Domingo, driving between official buildings and offices to correct this TANTAMOUNT problem. Several months later, my paperwork was accepted and in late 2015 I was approved to begin the process. I had to study to take a citizenship exam in Spanish. I was the only person who came without a lawyer and I was nervous until the judge assured me that I could pass the exam on my own. When they first sent us the information to study I noticed that the lawyers passed out sheets of information for their clients to study. When I received the questions, I went to Simon James (formally Elin) of Pueblo Nuevo. Simon was 17 or 18 at the time, is brilliant and currently translates for us. I handed him the questions and within 2 days, he gave me all the history concisely and easy to me to study. The 10 question test was cake and I was so excited several months later when I passed the oral exam in Spanish before the judge who verified that I was accepted for citizenship. However, the next step was my international agency approval. I was informed that I had to have Interpol, the DEA and one other international agency clear me from international crime. I was also informed that it could take 9-12 months for that to happen. The office told me that I could continue to check in periodically to see if my results had come in and that I would be sworn in as a citizen when my clearances “cleared” and when I paid for the swearing in ceremony. In the meantime, I discovered that I was pregnant with Magdalena. We continued calling, stopping in to the National Police and following up but the clearances did not arrive. Zilch.
I went home to the States, had a baby, and continued to call them. In December of 2016 there was still no word. I returned to the DR on January 1, 2017 and Laura informed me that the National Police had accepted her FBI background check as an Interpol form. I settled into San Juan and in February I took in my background check and handed it into the Interpol desk in the National Police. They were extremely helpful and told me that they would call me in one week to have me come in and be sworn in as a Dominican citizen. I was ecstatic! My long wait and attempt for legal residency had come to an end!
I waited and waited for the phone call. Laura had already been sworn in and I was anxious to follow. When I didn’t receive the one week phone call I called the office. There were some long pauses and then I was told to come into the office in Santo Domingo, that some rules had changed. I explained that actually I had already undergone all the process, passed the test at least a year beforehand and had only been waiting on the National Police to have my results obtained. They told me again to come to the office in Santo Domingo. So I went. With my 4 month old baby and my concerned husband. We took in updated paperwork and police clearances as directed. We sat for hours in an office before a secretary told us that it was recently a new rule that all citizens have to have legal RESIDENCY (which I had already been denied in 2013 TWICE) before citizenship. I reminded them that I had applied, been accepted, and passed my citizenship test before a judge BEFORE this ruling and had been waiting for them, not the other way around. The secretary wouldn’t budge and stated that it didn’t matter. We asked to speak to the Director and they reported that she “wasn’t in the office” that day. Two other days I made the 7-8 hour round trip to Santo Domingo to meet with her and she was always “sick or unavailable”. I spoke to multiple folks on the phone and was constantly redirected or denied. Monchy made a trip on my behalf and finally spoke to the Director and she replied that she was NOT going to give me citizenship, that I had to obtain residency first despite the fact that I had applied earlier, finished the entire process, and also had a letter from the Director Of the Department allowing me to apply. When I asked them why I had been denied and others (who applied after me) were given citizenship, the final official answer was “Well, you just aren’t lucky”.
That was it. I was done. Thousands of dollars. Thousands of hours. And I’m just “not lucky”. The corruption never ends.
And here I am again. Our world is changing. Immigration/legal residency, etc are such hot topics and I want to do the right thing. I’m married to a Dominican. I have the right to obtain residency, to have Dominican citizenship. I’m trying again. I’m applying for residency in the United States through the Dominican embassy in Washington DC. I’ve driven to DC twice, been to Harrisburg working on legal paperwork at least twice and spent hundreds of dollars and much of my mental energy. I submitted my application over 3 weeks ago and was told it would take 10-15 business days, which means that last Thursday I should have had an answer and my passport in hand. Not surprisingly, the answer has changed to “our system is down or slow and everything is on delay”. So here I sit. Waiting. Without my passport.
Although I am frustrated and nervous, I have seen God’s hand at work throughout this process. I am so blessed to be able to stay in PA while I wait. I don’t love missing out on teams or feeling like I’ve disappointed my San Juan tribe. But I am able to handle some other life events (trying to sell my house!!!) while I’m here which has been unexpected. I have been the recipient of the unbelievable kindness and incredible generosity of my friends and crew during this stay in the US. I am able to watch my beautiful daughter spend time with my family and friends which is just the greatest reward for me. I get to see Monch flourish in what he’s doing here. While it’s stressful for me to wait without them giving me a specific timeline I HAVE to trust the Lord because this is completely out of my control. I want to own it. I want to call the embassy and push them every day asking them “IS THE SYSTEM UP YET???”. I want to MAKE them give me residency. And yet, I can’t. I have to wait. I have to trust.
So. Yes. Please pray for me. Please pray for incredible favor at the embassy and in Santo Domingo. Pray that my paperwork would have nothing at all to do with LUCK but instead be a clear sign from the Lord. Pray that my house will sell quickly and that we will be set up for the future legally in both countries.
Thank you my dear people. Thank you for walking this walk with me, for your prayers and support, for your endless optimism. I’ve needed your prayers and optimism so much in the past several months. Jesus sustains me and your encouragement lifts me. Gracias.