For some reason, no matter where in the world you go people always complain about bureaucracy. Some people say it’s much worse in the Western world. Others say exactly the opposite. Coming from one extreme to the other, I still haven’t quite figured out which is worse.
When leaving Denmark, I had to hand in my social security card and a piece of paper saying I was moving out of the country. No problem, one should think. The problem was though, that I had to wait forever in line to be allowed to do that. The people in the municipality were certainly taking their time small talking, getting coffee, looking at the case the person next to them was working on etc. When I asked if I could just leave the things at the desk, I was told no. Somebody apparently had to register everything. And finally after 20 minutes of waiting it was my turn. It turned out the “registering” simply meant that somebody had to look at me, look at the paper, look at some kind of photo id and that was it.
With that in mind, I was a bit nervous about what to expect from Lebanon. I entered the country on my Danish passport, but seeing that I’m also a Lebanese citizen I wasn’t sure whether I needed a visa or an exit stamp once the visa I entered on became too old. Neither did anyone else it turned out.
I went to the security office to find out what to do about my papers. The first time went fairly easy (especially because being a young woman who doesn’t speak Arabic means some soldier is bound to feel sorry for you and take you to the front of all lines). It took a while for everyone to get around the concept of me having Lebanese papers as well as a Danish passport. But in the end I was told that they would give me a three-year residence permit. I tried to ask why I needed a permit, since I had the nationality. No one could answer me, but they were all very adamant that I needed one.
The only problem was that I had to bring three photos, three copies of my passport and two copies of my entry visa. It would of course have been nice if information like that had been online (seeing that you always need those things whenever it has to do with visas or permits). But seeing that I never even saw one single computer in the entire security building (all registration done by hand), I guess that’s too much to hope for. So I returned the next day with all my papers (they took two photos, two copies of my passport and one of my visa) and everything went very quickly. Maybe they don’t have computers, but they are also not afraid of dealing with more than one person at a time. So there is never any waiting around while the officers sit and do nothing.
So I handed in all my papers and was told to return after one week, which was today. And I went, happily expecting to get a three-year residence permit. But when I got my passport all I could see was a lot of things written in Arabic and the date 06. September 2010. Being Danish I naturally thought that I probably misunderstood some thing; because of course the officials couldn’t have made a mistake. I was wrong.
It turned out that they had simply renewed my visa. When I went to the same office they once again told me to bring my photos and photocopies. Now, if I lived close to this place I probably would have accepted that they had made a mistake and returned the next day with all my things just like they asked me to. But I don’t. And I really didn’t feel like going through everything again. So I dug out the most Lebanese part of me and I took on the system.
Instead of just leaving, I started raising my voice, demanding to get a clear answer to why I even needed a permit. Once again no one could tell. At least not until the highest ranking officer (and the man who has to sign everything) came over to find out what was going on. He took one look at my passport then at my Lebanese ID and within three seconds said “You don’t need anything. This is enough. Have a nice day!”