Don’t get me wrong, I love Brazil and I love and pride myself on being this hot blooded sassy Brazilian. But every time I go to the Brazilian Consulate in NY and see how rudely the agents there treat Americans and Brazilians alike I cringe and shrink in my seat. The agents are short tempered and condescending. They don’t think twice about sending you away, it doesn’t matter how many hours you have traveled to get there.
When I think of a consulate I think of an organization that was created to help citizens in foreign countries. Unfortunately that is not what you happens when you visit the Brazilian Consulate in New York. They go out of their way to make Brazilian’s lives difficult. They take pleasure out of making you feel inferior. I dare say that they resent us for leaving Brazil and choosing to live in another country. I don’t know if that is a fact or not but it is the feeling that I get. And I am not alone, every Brazilian that I speak to is quick to point out a problem that they have faced in dealing with the Consulate!
Last year I needed a passport in 24 hrs, and after a lot of begging they gave to me, but to penalize me, instead of renewing for 5 years they renewed it for 1 year, which meant that 6 months later I have to go through the whole process again (forms, pictures, money from the US Postal Service – they do not accept it from any place – it has to be from the Post Office)
So there I go again last week, armed with my old (well, 6 months old) passport to renew it. I fill the application online, email to ask for appointment, I take the picture as per the specifications, I get the money order from the Post Office and on the assigned day I stand in line for over 1 hour. When my turn comes, the woman at the window looks at my documents and makes faces at everything, she questions me on the quality of the copies of my documents, she lectures me on the need to get some of my identifications redone. She has a smirk on her face every time she points out something I should do better or different. I am biting my tongue and trying the nice approach first.
After she collected all the documentation she issues me a number and a receipt so that I can come in one week to get the passport. I feel an immense relief! First time that I will get this done without numerous trips and some begging. I am thinking to myself, once I get my passport I wont have to deal with these people for another 4 1/2 years!
3 days letter, I get a voice mail from the consulate agent that helped (well that is really not the right word) with my paperwork. To summarize her message, she said that unless I present an original birth certificate they will not give me a passport!
I guess giving me a passport for the previous 30 years is not proof enough that I am Brazilian! And of course I am not going to dare ask them to give me then a Visa on my American passport instead- I made that mistake years ago an still remember the scolding I got!
After searching through my documents I find 5 different certified copies of my birth certificate, one even includes a certified English translation. I go back to the consulate and after the required waiting in line time, I talk to her and present everything I have, and promise to get another copy when I get to Brazil.
She looks at each copy and is clearly not happy with any of them, she narrows in on the fact that the letter I in my name is faded from the birth certificate being folded for many years. She again preaches to me how I should go and get another one the first thing I do when I get to Brazil, and how easy it is – I am not going to explain to her that it is not as simple as she is describing. And she tells me to sit down and wait. I am happy and feel that telling me to wait is because they will give me the passport.
After waiting for 30 minutes she finally calls me over and hands me the passport and asks me to sign it (I am so happy and relieved!), I ask where and she says: The same place where you signed the last one! Yes it would kill her to point out to me where to sign. I eventually find the right line and as I am signing she says: next time if you have all the documentation in order perhaps you will get one for 5 years!!
My face fell, my spirits sank, no they didn’t! Yes they did!! Again they gave me another passport valid for 1 year only. So in approximate 6 months I will have to do all this all over again. By then I will have redone all the documentation that they gave me a hard time with. I wonder what will they find fault with next?
But to summarize, it is not even all the impossible and picky requirements, it is the holier than thou attitude, it is the condescending tone of voice, it is the unnecessary preaching and lecturing that makes you feel 2 feet tall! That is what makes me feel embarrassed every time I am in the consulate and see non-Brazilians being subjected to that!
I was once told that it is called reciprocation, that that is the same way Brazilians are treated at the American Consulate in Brazil! Tit for tat? To me that is not a good excuse. At least no one can say they discriminate, no matter what your race is you will be treated badly!
Thank you Consulate General of Brazil in New York! You make me proud! NOT!