Chasing Papers

Maroc Mama shares her harrowing story of chasing down papers for her family–on two continents!


Wife, mom, student, activist, traveler, Moroccophile and curious spirit 8 comments

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I held off writing about bureaucracy because I didn’t know where to start, but where better than the beginning? My husband and I have tried unsuccessfully for the last five years to register our marriage, and the birth of our child in the US with the Moroccan consulates in both Washington DC and New York. In order to get my husband’s Livret d’Etat Civil (family book) these steps had to be completed. Our first attempt to mail in the information was accepted and simply never returned. We were told it was lost. Then we moved to Washington DC and thought that actually physically going to the consulate might warrant better results. It didn’t.

First my husband had to register with the consulate before they would do anything. That took a month. Then they told him he needed to update his Carte d’Identité Nationale (National ID). This had to be done in Morocco and would take some time (read 3 months). Are you still with me? – we’re at 4 months now. Another trip to the consul, whose hours are only 10am to 12pm daily to drop off paperwork, was fraught with more frustration. We had everything together that they wanted. We had a civil marriage, an Islamic ceremony with mosque certificates, we had everything translated and paid the fee and were assured they would call us as soon as it was done. In the meantime we went to Morocco for a vacation and attempted to complete the paperwork there as we were getting nowhere in Wisconsin. It had now been over a year since our son’s birth and it would have to be validated by a judge in Morocco anyway. We spent 3 days going between offices getting this stamp and that stamp trying to complete the process. We even had to go to Rabat to try and complete the process. Our trip to the birth registry was certainly eye-opening. After waiting for well over an hour in a waiting room while the staff literally sat within eye shot drinking tea and chatting we had our turn. And we were told that until our marriage was registered there was nothing we could do. We walked out empty handed; no birth registration, no marriage registration, and no family book.

Meanwhile back in the USA……We heard nothing for months. Finally my husband went back in and was told that there was a new consular and that our original application hadn’t been completed and there were new rules with the new consular. The new rules included the need to have 2 male witnesses, Moroccans, who were registered with the consulate come into the consulate to attest to our marriage. Seriously? Now not only did we have to take time off of work to deal with this situation we had to ask two of our friends to do the same thing. And what if we didn’t have Moroccan friends in the area? We couldn’t register our son’s birth unless our marriage was registered. This was a complete and utter mess. My husband was so upset by this that he told the consular that at this point we just didn’t care anymore. We have given up trying to complete any of these registrations. If at some point down the road we decide to live permanently in Morocco we will take up the battle again but for now, there’s no reason.

I can only imagine what the handling of simple mundane tasks is like every day all around Morocco. I did my fair share of complaining about American bureaucracy especially through the immigration process however our struggle with Moroccan bureaucracy has been a nightmare. There is no rhyme or reason to completing tasks. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the ever-changing rules and procedures, or lack thereof.

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Posted on Sunday, August 29th, 2010

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8 comments on “Chasing Papers”

  1. Oh yeah, this brings back memories. We had to go to Ouarzarzate to do the whole “two Moroccan male friends attest to the marriage” bit. It was a total farce fueled by frequent dosings of ja’aba, but we were finally legit, at least as far as the Makhzen were concerned.

  2. Even Franz Kafka didn’t think of that! Until now, my mother needs male witnesses for some documents. Such kind of failure :/

  3. Liosliath – the part that killed me was we had already been married for over 3 years at that point – and did the male witnesses in the mosque…apparently they needed to be consulate registered Moroccan males to qualify post-marriage…?

    Emomo — so true…such a waste IMO

  4. Driss Benmhend

    As Bill Clinton said it well: I feel your pain. I chased these papers for over 3 years in te late 1990s. I think you are the right thing by writing about it.

    I wrote letter to the ambassador, prime minister and got no answers. However, when I wrote an article in a Moroccan weekly, and in, the consulate approched me willing to help. Here is what wrote:
    Please do not give up. Good luck

  5. Driss – Glad to hear you were able to sort things out. I don’t think we’ll fully give up – just taking a break for now and regrouping!

  6. Algerian bureaucracy is the same…hence our child only has a UK passport…

  7. I like the items you put in here. Very applicable information. Consider yourself saved.

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