Archive for the ‘red tape’ Category

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None Can Recommend – Joys of Banking

May 6, 2018

Posted by Kanga. Please do not reblog.

Banking is one of the guaranteed areas of culture shock when you live abroad.

Let’s talk banking in the U.A.E.

What was strange:

1. The bank required a letter from one’s employer certifying employment and listing the salary figure.

2. There was no such thing as a joint account.

3. One could and was actually encouraged to write post-dated checks.

4. We had a credit card with the bank and they drove us crazy with constant calls to verify our transactions. If they didn’t reach us to confirm the transaction, they suspended the account, but only after letting the transaction go through. They did this over $.99 iTunes transactions.

5.Even better was when we were using our debit card in a store and the store received a “not authorized” response, so that we had to pay in cash or do without, yet the bank showed the transaction as authorized and withheld that amount from our account until the transaction expired 8 weeks later, or longer.

6. There was a limit on how much we could withdraw per day, no matter how high our balance was.

In America:

1. The bank doesn’t need to know where you work and does not ask how much you make. If they do ask, they take your word for it. You can open an account with a government issued ID and proof of mailing address (and money, of course).

2. Joint accounts are common and easy to establish.

3. Post-dated checks are illegal.

4. I never had to speak on the phone to my credit card company. They never suspended my account, either.

5. Rarely are debit transactions falsely rejected.

6. You can purchase whatever your balance allows. ATMs have withdrawal limits.

The checks DaddyBird received always led to interesting and inconsistent bank transactions. Since we did not have a joint account, depositing a check written to his name was a challenge. The first one, we took to the bank it was drawn on and were able to cash it. The next time we tried that, they refused. A few times we were able to deposit checks into my account, but I had to go with him to do this. The corker was the time that the check was made out in just his first name. Our bank wouldn’t let us deposit it because the account was in my name only and they suggested that we go to the bank it was drawn on. We did and they cashed it, even though it just said “Paul” and they didn’t even ask for ID.

Frequently, people posted a message on Twitter saying they wanted to change banks and asking for a recommendation. I have never seen a response actually recommending a bank. Most responses are “don’t go with XYZ, they are terrible.”

Some of these frustrations may come from the lack of protection for the bank against fraud.  I have no expertise in finance law, but judging from the amount of bank paranoia over every transaction, here is no FDIC or similar protections there. They spent a great deal of time and effort straining at gnats. I was constantly getting calls from the bank or having to call the bank. I have never talked to a single institution that much before or since.

The result was very bad customer service and the impression that the money belongs to the bank, not the customer.

Let’s talk banking in China.

1. The bank sent employees to my place of employment to set up the account. It was a bit of fiasco with lots of paperwork, repeatedly signing my name, and entering my pass code multiple times. I had to provide my passport, expert card, and a copy of my employment contract.

2. Again, there is no such thing as a joint account.

3. There are no checks.

4. My debit card works at stores and ATMs without a problem. The account has never been blocked or suspended. We don’t have a credit card.

5. ATMs have limits, but I haven’t encountered a daily debit transaction limit.

6. Transferring money out of the country or changing to another currency is a huge pain in the butt.

I recently had two of these pain in the butt experiences. I needed to pay the registration amount for a professional conference by bank transfer. I went to the bank, thinking I had all the paperwork I needed. The employees did not speak much English, but we managed to communicate what type of transaction was needed. A man at a kiosk near the entrance took my paperwork and typed up the form that was needed. He typed the information into the computer and printed it out on a triplicate form. Apparently, his computer and software do not connect to the software used elsewhere in the bank. So, then I took the typed up triplicate form to the teller who shuffled a lot of papers, making me sign 4-5 of them.
THEN my passport wasn’t correct. I had a new passport, as the one I entered the country and set up the bank account with had expired. She needed to see the old one, which I had not brought with me. Never mind that the new one has a notation printed in it indicating the number of the old passport. So, I had to take all my paperwork, go away, and come back the next day.

One day 2, I started over with the guy at the kiosk showing him my triplicate form from the day before. Once I got to the teller, she started with the paper shuffling again, more signatures, and my old passport does the trick. I leave the bank thinking that it is all finally done. Ha! Later that evening, I get a call from the bank. They need the mailing address of the recipient. The SNAIL MAIL address. I asked if she could take it over the phone. No. I had to come back a third time. The necessary mailing address was on the invoice that I had presented to them, but the kiosk guy had not typed it into the triplicate form.

SO, day 3, back to the bank again. I get the kiosk guy to type the form up again and insist that he include the mailing address. (Remember he is typing this up on a computer, but the information is not stored or communicated to the teller, except via the printed triplicate form.) Also, I do not speak Chinese and the bank teller does not understand much English, so I can’t say “remember me? I was here yesterday and you need the mailing address.” So, I hope that she will recognize the transaction and get that I am just there to fill in the missing info. Otherwise, I may be paying this thing twice. Luckily, I see that she has figured it out and pulled out the original triplicate form. I sign a bunch of papers, yet again. Transaction finally finished. Only required leaving work early three days in a row to walk to the bank and jump through the hoops.

Before our Christmas trip to Prague, we had a similar experience. Daddybird wanted to have enough euros with us in case we had any problem checking into the hotel like we did in India. Unfortunately we waited until the week we were leaving to do this bank transaction.

Daddybird went to the bank to attempt to change yuan into euros. He was told he would need a copy of his employment contract and passport, unless he wanted just 500 euros. So, he got the 500 euros.

I went with him the next day (day 2) with my passport and employment contract to do a larger amount. The clerk shuffles my paperwork around and then finally says he needs my tax form (proving that I have paid China taxes on said money. I pay China taxes on every yuan I get before I get it.) SO, I ask why he didn’t tell my husband that the day before? No answer.

Day 3, back to the bank with contract, passport, and tax form (which I had trouble finding). We go through all the paper shuffling and paper signing routine. Then the clerk explains that we now have 2000 euros in our bank account, but he cannot give us the cash. We can come back tomorrow to get the cash. I manage not to have a stroke or explode. However, we CANNOT come back the next day because we are getting on a plane in about 8 hours. The clerk explains that there is a regulation against making the currency exchange and receiving the cash from the same bank on the same day. Wouldn’t want to deprive China of MY money, ya know. The only solution he can offer is that we go to another branch of the same bank and see if we can withdraw the cash. Which we do, but only after I give the clerk a piece of my mind about good customer service and that not telling us everything we needed to know up front the first time and requiring us to come in 3+ times to get our own money was not good customer service.

Lesson learned. I now know to take all possible documentation with me, even things I might not need.

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Happy at Last!

August 14, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

This is the only form of social media that I am allowed to access at work, so instead of expressing my joy on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, I’m doing it here.

My visa transfer and new employment visa are FINALLY completed. It has been over two months of misery, frustration, and financial precariousness (or is it precariousity? spell check says “no”).

Of course, I may be crowing too soon, since my final paycheck from June has not actually hit the bank account, yet. There is no reason that it shouldn’t, but if there is one thing this whole process has taught me is that there is always room for a catch-22 and it is more “probable” than ‘possible.”

So, again, for any readers looking for “living abroad” advice – NEVER DO A VISA TRANSFER!

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For the Love of Paperwork – Part Two

July 31, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

sign for Babil typing service

There is such a deep love of paperwork here in the U.A.E. that there is an entire typing service industry to support it.

After spending all morning in the Emirates Identity Authority office attempting to get my national identity card renewed as a step in the process of getting a new residency visa and having the computer system crash twice, we went off to a typing center to get it done. These are stuffy little offices where you can get just about any form typed up for you. Official documents must be done in Arabic, so this is a vital service for those not literate in Arabic.

Our visa process has turned into a long, drawn out nightmare. If you are ever given the choice between a visa cancellation and a visa transfer, TAKE THE CANCELLATION! I cannot stress this enough. It is the ultimate exercise in pointless paperwork. It has already taken 7 weeks and we have at least another week to go, if we encounter no more obstacles. A visa transfer can potentially leave you homeless and broke. Don’t do it.

National identity cards were instituted about one year after we arrived. They are tied to your visa in that they expire at the same time. The new decree is that you can’t renew your visa without having an id card. Apparently, this is to force everyone to comply in getting the id cards. However, it creates a catch-22 in which you have to have a visa to get an id card and you have to have an id card in order to have a visa. We ran into that today as the EID typist kept insisting that she needed my new visa to finish the id application and we were making the id application so that we could apply for the new visa. No one sees the illogic in this situation.

Also illogical is the fact that the EID experience started with the reception personnel using my existing id card to pull up my information on the computer and print it out. We were then to take this printout to the typist, so that she could enter the information into the computer system. Yes, the information already in their system had to be hand entered back in. Who programmed this computer system????? Who designed this workflow????

Oh, for the love of paperwork…

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For the Love of Paperwork

July 29, 2011

Posted by Kanga.

heading of the U.S. attestation document stating to all to whom these presents shall come, greetings

Governments love paperwork, or so it seems. There is no end of forms to fill out and passport photocopies and handwritten log books, etc. The workflow of any organization could be improved 400% by the reduction in unnecessary paperwork.

My advice to anyone embarking on a living/working abroad adventure is to get your documents (marriage certificate, children’s birth certificates, and your college transcripts) “attested” before leaving your country of origin. It is a lengthy process, so start early. It also wouldn’t hurt to get multiple copies of each attested, while you are at it.

For Americans, this involves getting an official copy of the document (from the appropriate state’s vital record department or from your university). This document must then be attested by the Secretary of State for the state in which it is issued and there will be a fee for that. Next, it must be attested by the United States Secretary of State in Washington, D.C., again for a fee. Next, it must be attested by the embassy of the country to which you are moving (in Washington, D.C.), again for a fee. So, if you have done all your living (marrying & birthing) in Washington, D.C., this could be a fairly easy errand involving driving from government office to government office. However, if you married and gave birth in a state 3000 miles away from Washington, D.C., it will be more difficult. Also, if you had the audacity to live, marry, and give birth in multiple states, you are very nearly screwed.

It is possible to do this process by mail, but it will take MONTHS. In fact, the U.S. Department of State warns on its website that the paperwork won’t be processed until 4 weeks after they receive it. Anything received by mail must be irradiated in case it contains bio-hazardous materials (anthrax, etc.).

I recently had to get my college transcripts attested, which I had not done three years ago before leaving the states. To do this via mail was going to take at least 3-4 months. Not viable. So, I went in search of (Googled) paralegal services that might do this for me a bit quicker. A paralegal in Washington state offered to do the state attestation for $250 plus fees & postage. I found a couple of services in Washington, D.C. that do this on a regular basis and were willing to do the complete process for $265 plus postage. They assured me it would only take 2 weeks. We sent it on the 14th and received it on the 28th, so not bad.

Back in 2008 when I had the marriage certificate attested, I didn’t really look at it closely, but now that I’ve gone through this horrendous process again, I actually read the attestation documents.

The marriage certificate is signed by the state registrar. The Oregon Secretary of State then attached a piece of paper which states that the person who signed the marriage certificate is indeed the Registrar of Vital Statistics. It also gives our names and says that the marriage certificate is authenticated. Next, the U.S. Department of State attached a paper which states that the other attached document has the seal of the State of Oregon and is “entitled to full faith and credit.” There’s an asterisk referring to a comment at the bottom of the document “for the contents of the annexed document, the Department assumes no responsibility.” Next, the UAE Embassy turned over the State Department document, affixed a paper stamp, two rubber stamps, and a handwritten signature. One of those rubber stamps states “we certify stamp and signature of US Department of State – not responsible for the contents.”

So, the Registrar of Vital Statistics “signed” the marriage certificate, thereby certifying the contents. (Her signature is printed out, not actually handwritten.) Then, the State certifies the name of the Registrar and that if she signed it, it must be okay. Then the U.S. State Department says, “yep, that’s the seal of the State of Oregon alright.” Followed by the UAE Embassy saying “yep, that’s the US State Department seal/signature alright.”

The university transcripts are a little different. The state attestation was skipped. The transcript is signed by the university’s registrar (again a printed signature, not handwritten) and it has a raised seal impression. This document was then notarized as original by a notary public. Next, the District of Columbia Notary and Authentication Section attached a paper stating that the person who notarized the original is indeed a notary. Then, the U.S. Department of State attached a paper saying “yep, that’s the seal of the District of Columbia, alright.” And, the embassy followed suit with their stamps, etc.

(Governments don’t actually use words like “yep” and “alright,” but you get the idea.)

Considering the amount of fuss, stress, and expense involved, I find these documents rather disappointing. This is just government “make work.” However, one must have these signatures/stamps/seals as was so clearly illustrated recently in the news. A woman gave birth in hospital while her husband was out of the country and because she could not prove that she was married, she went from the hospital straight to detention with her newborn until her husband could produce an attested marriage certificate to get her out.

Seems quite antiquated to be shuffling and rubber stamping these papers in the age of telephones, internet, and comprehensive databases. Couldn’t they just call Big Brother and have him check my dossier?

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Driver’s licenses

November 18, 2008

We were at the bus stop at 8 am to begin our journey to get our driver’s licenses. We had our licenses in our hands by 9:14 am and I was to work by 9:40 am. I wish everything was this easy.

After we got our licenses, we were standing at a bus stop waiting for either a bus that would take me close to the college or a taxi. Traffic was quite thick. A taxi driver in the far lane saw us and signaled, so I signaled back. He crossed four lanes of traffic to come over and pick us up. Typical Dubai taxi driving. Needless to say that we had to run a little way to get to where he had pulled over (blocking the right lane) and the driver behind him was honking madly.

Now that we are licensed, the search for a car to lease begins in earnest. Hopefully, we will have wheels soon! Then watch out. We will be making the best of our weekends.

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Miscellaneous – cats, civil servants, Obama

November 6, 2008

First – cats. Daddybird met up with our little friend (pictured in previous entry) again. He offered him some cat food, but Nipper (as he has now been dubbed because loves to give “love bites”) was more interested in being petted and playing with Daddybird than with eating. Very odd for a cat living by his wits on the streets. I told Daddybird this cat seems to have Maslow’s hierarchy of needs all upside down. (Maslow says we have to have our basic needs of food and shelter met before we can deal with social interaction and self-actualization.)

Second – civil servants. The government has declared that everyone has to get a national identity card. Apparently, this has been in the works for some time and the plan was that citizens would get theirs first and expatriates would get them by the end of next year. However, in true UAE fashion, it was recently announced that professional expatriates would have to get them by Dec 31 of this year and government employees would have to get them by the end of October. This resulted in a big rush to comply. However, the online application form is inadequate to handle the load and it is near impossible to get the form filled out successfully. You also have to make an appointment to go to one of the offices handling this procedure in order to complete the process. IF you didn’t fill out the form online successfully, you can go to the office an hour before your appointment time and pay them to type it up for you. The online form is the only form that is acceptable, so don’t try showing up with a printed out form. Also, if you are even a little late for your appointment, too bad. You are turned away and will have to make another appointment for some other day. Here is the “Third World” part of this country. The civil servants are neither civil nor servants. The rules are the rules and there will be no deviating from them. No mercy. No accommodation. Just come back when you can do it according to the rules. So, I think it goes without saying that we were late, with the wrong application forms, and do not have our id cards.

Third – Obama. You may be happy or sad according to your political bent, but most everyone here is happy. Daddybird was stopped last night by an Emirati woman who was doing a survey about a new furniture market and when he said he was American, she congratulated him on Obama’s win.

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Living the Travel Channel – Residency visas

September 9, 2008

After very annoying and troublesome additional medical falderall, I received my residency visa. Almost in the knick of time, since for the first 30 days we were on temporary visas and those were about to run out. As of this writing, however, Paul’s remains a question. We have all the necessary paperwork, except the duly processed marriage certificate. Now, by duly processed, I mean a legal document obtained from the Oregon office of vital records, then sent to Salem to be authenticated by the Oregon State Dept., then sent to Washington DC to be authenticated by the US State Dept and then sent to the UAE Embassy in also in Washington DC for the final authentication. You can imagine that this process takes a while. Unfortunately, I do not know exactly where in this process my certificate it, but I know it ain’t here. So, hopefully, the director of immigration will take pity on my situation and sign my application to sponsor Paul’s visa anyway. I suspect that the plan B is to send Paul out of the country for a day (to Oman) and back in with a new 30 visitor’s visa. Hopefully, this will turn out to be another tempest in a teapot.

(Post script – we met the deadline and Paul can stay in country, however there is more to the process. Paul has to go through the medical exam process and then he should get his residency visa following that.)

In order to get a residency visa, you have to be sponsored by someone, either an employer or family member. Hence, the college sponsors me and I sponsor Paul. Seems like a reasonable way to control immigration, otherwise everyone would be coming here! However, it sets up some employment problems, because so many of those who do manual or blue collar labor are dependent on their employers in order to stay here. If you don’t like your job, you can’t just quit and get a new one. It also opens the door to blatant exploitation of those lower level workers. Many of them work 12 hour shifts 6-7 days a week for what we would consider low wages (better than what they could get in their home country, which is why they put up with it).

The thing that is probably most uncomfortable for us here, is being waited on. It’s one thing to have busboys in a sit down restaurant, but they have them here in mall food courts. People look at you strangely if you bus your own table. Also, even the juice kiosk in the mall has a seating area and they may take your order at the counter (if you don’t have the good sense to sit down first) and then you are expected to sit down and be waited on. There is a security guard in the entrance to our building. He is actually more than that, sort of a manager as well, although he wears a blue uniform. Whenever we come in from the store carrying bags, he offers to help us by carrying the bags up to our apartment. We always refuse and thank him for the offer. We are so used to being self-sufficient Americans, that the offer still surprises us. The people in
service type jobs also seem very eager to serve and a little put out if you don’t let them. They differ from the surly American busboy who would much rather be doing something else, somewhere else. The American idea that anyone can be president, a star, rich, etc., makes a service job a negative thing. I don’t know enough about the cultures of the people in service jobs here to know how deep their positive attitude goes. Are they eager to please because they are genuinely eager to please or only because it is the demand of the job.

On days when I have to take a taxi home from work, I wait in the lobby of the college administration building. It is large round area with granite flooring. And, regular as clockwork, there is a man mopping that floor (apparently everyday) at 5:30 pm, whether it needs to be mopped or not. When he comes by where I am sitting, I raise my feet so that he can mop under them and this seems to amuse him. He may very well be saying to himself “crazy American.” Who knows.