Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Letelepedési Engedély part 1

I can only imagine that this will be a long series. I think I've also written a "part zero," about my previous failed attempts to start the process, but I can't find it to link to it.

Anyway. I'm trying to get my Hungarian Letelepedési Engedély, Permanent Residence Permit / Settlement Permit (not sure of the exact translation because I've never actually read anything about it in English). Not to go into overwhelming detail, but what I have now is a combination of three documents: my Tartózkodási Engedély, a type of residence permit which allows me to live here; a letter from the OM - Hungarian Department of Education - which allows me to work at Varga; and an official letter from Varga saying that they allow me to work in other capacities. All of these documents need to be renewed yearly, a painful process to say the least.

But "if I know it well" (there's my bit of Hunglish for the day), the Letelepedési has several advantages. One, and most importantly, it's good for five years. Two, it gives me all the same rights as a Hungarian citizen - namely, to live and work here without filling out ten thousand forms in duplicate with stamps on each page. I can even vote if I want to. Third, did I mention that it's good for five years? Plus, after five years, I only have to get it extended, not reapply totally. Once they give me official Permission to Settle, they can't take it back, no more than they can take away a Hungarian's citizenship.

But, while Hungarians have gotten their citizenship simply by the luck of being born here, I have to work for mine. First step, collecting all the documents I need, starting with that which will be the most difficult: Erkölcsi Bizonyítvány, "Certificate of Morality." Lovely translation, yes? Basically, it's a letter from the police saying I haven't committed any major crimes recently. Tomi was required to get one when he started working in the school, and said it was super simple: go to the post office, fill out a form, submit it, wait a couple weeks, and receive your certificate in the mail.

So, a couple weeks ago we went to the post office, got the form, and started filling it out. The first thing they asked for - very first, even before my name - was my ID number. Hungarian ID number. Back to the window, where we patiently explained the situation to the woman behind the bullet-proof glass (by "we explained" I mean Tomi explained and I did my best to look like a helpless-but-deserving-of-help American). She called her supervisor. Tomi explained again. Supervisor glanced at me and told him he was crazy, that only Hungarians could get such certificates. She recommended that I contact the American Fõrendõrség - "Head Police". Like, the FBI?

We went home, called around, found nothing useful. Having exhausted all other resources, I fell back on the Goddess of Information and my personal saviour, Hajni. Her calls to the Department of Immigration were much more successful (when we called, no one answered. Hajni knows private cell numbers). She told me how to fill the form - very simply, to cross out the slot for my non-existent Hungarian ID card number, and write in the number from my tartózkodási engedély (temp residence permit).

So finally today we went back to the post office to submit my carefully doctored Application for a Certificate of Morality. I feel that Fate or God (or Hajni?) was on our side, because instead of the usual cranky hags or bitchy nail-painting teenagers who work at the post office, we were served by the sweet, kind mother of one of my students, who I've known since my first year here. That must be a good sign, yes?

Anyway, that's in the works; we'll see what comes of it. Meanwhile, tomorrow I'm off to Pest to renew my passport. Exchanging Hungarian bureaucracy and red tape for American, as it were. Don't expect a positive report.


Jo Peattie said...

I am a UK citizen and find the bureaucracy here terrifying. My hubby's firm uses a "fixer" but there are still problems. Good luck with your application- and the Kafkaesque process. I applied for the a new UK passport in Budapest- got it in 1 week- miracles do happen.

avetter said...

Good luck! It might have been better to get married than to get a Letelepedesi Engedely :)!!!!!!!!! Had I known in advance I could have had you get in contact with my policeman who happens to be in Szolnok! I'm not sure if Laci could have helped you, but he might have been able to speed things along.

As for the utlevet, I'm sure things will go well. Laci got his Hungarian one in 7 days! Good god that is amazing considering it takes 3 days to renew a driver's license!!! Only in Hungary! I guess that is why we have fallen in love with that place, since you have to expect the unexpected!

a.nagy said...

actually, you don't acquire hungarian citizenship by being born in the country. it is a rule of us sanguinis ("right of blood" in Latin), can be complicated as well. but this bit of knowledge won't make your paperwork any easier, so good luck!