Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three More Years

Imagine heading over to the post office to get your passport for the first time. Next you send that passport off with a completed application form to the embassy in Washington D.C. for the country in which you'd like to travel. A few days later, the passport is returned and you have a beautiful stamp in your book. While I realize this isn't the picture of how most expatriates would actually obtain a work permit, it is the image most of us share given our limited exposure to other countries and cultures.

Obtaining a work permit from inside a developing country is rather different from how it's done from America; and it's rather different from inside each country too. No two processes are alike. I recently had the opportunity to experience the contrast between the process in Kenya and the process in Uganda. I have to be honest that I continue to be surprised at how drastically different the two countries are in so many ways given their close proximity.

Both countries required some kind of proof for the need to be in country. In my case, that proof was the establishment of the NGO (nonprofit) in that country. Once that general step was complete, each with its differing set of hoops, the work permit application begins.

Uganda required a letter from the NGO board recommending me for the proper work permit. Asking in advance what Immigration required was the key to avoiding extra money, travel, and frustration. I simply provided all the documents, signatures, and the NGO Board letter to the Immigration office. I think this is where people get frustrated. Many differing lists of requirements exist and, well, some folks aren't great at documentation and following lists and such. Perhaps my operations management background gives me a leg up in this area. I checked back in the allotted time, paid the prescribed fee, and dropped my passport to receive its final stamp.

In Kenya, though, I needed help from a dear friend, James. Moving around Nairobi in and of itself is exceedingly different than in Uganda. Nairobi is so much more spread out than Uganda and so without his help I would have failed to find the mailbox let alone Nyayo house. Kenya has more information available online and it seems to be consistent. Once he delivered the prescribed documents, we waited. The next step was delivering the money. The next, picking up the approval and then fingerprinting and registering for an alien identity card (wonder if I'll have green skin and google eyes).

Getting to the point of the so far rather boring story, I have heard via personal conversations, Facebook groups, and eavesdropping while waiting in line that those applying for both Ugandan and Kenyan work permits were exceedingly frustrated. Here's why, they'd had:
  • Service providers who were unethical or inattentive.
  • Bribes that were required to get files "unlost."
  • Delays were unexplainable (though a peek inside the office mess explained a bit).
  • Advice differed from one representative to another.
  • Rejection notices seemed not to be warranted.
  • Time was lost.
I could go on. Instead I want you to hear my story.

My story is one of favor - the favor of my Father in heaven. I am truly rejoicing in him for sparing me the anxiety so many have experienced, for giving me favor with the leaders and decision makers in high offices, and for affirming my work through Surprised by Hope. Please, I am not saying he loves only me and all these other people and their unfortunate frustrations are any sign of failure or lack on their part. Not at all. Instead I'm choosing to give him the glory for making my application and approval process relatively easy. Yes, I now have 3 year work permits for both Kenya and Uganda. 2017 here we come!