Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bureaucracy in the US, not Israel

One of the first steps in my aliyah journey has been the filling out of inumerable forms -- the NBN application form, the Go North addendum, the heath affidavit, the financial affidavit, the exit/entry form -- and the production of various legal documents -- birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, death certificates -- any and all of these that apply to one's particular situation. BUT ---

One cannot simply produce/provide ORIGINALS of these items. Each of these items must be accompanied by an "apostille". So, in my case I needed an apostille for EACH one of the above mentioned items. I was born, thus a birth certificate. I was married and divorced, hence the need to provide the divorce certificate, only the divorce certificate in this case since the divorce certificate voids the need for the marriage certificate. But, I remarried, so I needed one for that marriage certificate. My husband had died so I needed his death certificate as well. No problem, I thought. A cinch. Hah!

For my birth certificate and the divorce certificate I had to apply first to the office of vital records in the county in which they occurred (Ulster County, New York) for "certified" copies of each. Then, once I had the certified copies in hand, I had to mail them back to a different office, also in Ulster County, to be "notarized" and then an apostille could be affixed to each item. Besides spending money on the postage for all this (and I did not use regular postage, I used certified postage so I could have the ability to track the items and insure them) it cost me for the certified copies, for the notarization and for the apostille. But this was not so bad. I did this inside of a month.

For the death certificate I happened to have a certified copy already in my hands. So, I sent it to the appropriate offices in NJ, along with prepaid return envelopes for expedited processing. So, what did they do? They sent it back to me, telling me they needed to know for which country I needed the apostille before they could process it! I had given them my phone number, in the accompanying correspondence. You mean they could not CALL ME UP and struggle through a phone call with me to get this information??? They wasted the prepaid return envelope! So, I had to do it over again with the word ISRAEL in BOLD RED across the damn sheet of paper. That worked. And yes, there were fees on top of shipping costs to do this.

All that was left now was my marriage certificate. As it happened Barry and I got married before a justice of the peace in New York City for our "civil" marriage ceremony. Thus that item was stored within the vast acres of files of the offices of records for New York City. I did not have a certified copy and I need that first. So, I called their office and after an interminable wait, finally spoke with a real live human being. and was told that I could not order this over the phone but must MAIL in an order. I was given all the information I needed -- how much to send, where to send it, etc. Then, I asked what the turnaround time was to get the certified copy of the marriage certificate. The clerk told me, "Ten weeks". "TEN WEEKS?? You mean ten DAYS, right?", I stammered. "No ma'am, I mean ten weeks!". I was dumbfounded. I realized that I could wait ten weeks for the certified certificate, then send it to be notarized by a NYC clerk, get it back , and then send it to receive an apostille, and who knew how long THAT would take. So, I had no choice -- I would have to drive in to NYC to do it in person and thus get it in one day.

Driving up from Baltimore is probably not a terrible drive, and while I LIKE driving, I am not overly fond of LONG trips. With gasoline at nearly $4 a gallon, tolls ONE way costing about $25, this is not a cheap trip. This would cost me $100 just for the trip alone -- not counting the fees I paid to each office I stopped at along the way to getting an apostille for the marriage certificate. But now I have them. They are nifty, neat, and beautiful. They are now residing in a glassine page protector in my aliyah album. And now, I am ready for my aliyah interview with the Jewish Agency for Israel Shlicha...

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