I arrived in 2005 as an English teacher and was greeted with a list of paperwork needed in order to obtain residency. Fair enough, I thought. I’d been a substitute teacher in the U.S. (which requires fingerprinting and a slew of other indignities), so the list wasn’t too bad:
- A copy of my college degree, with an official translation
- A copy of my birth certificate, also with an official translation
- Three separate application forms, to be obtained locally
- Proof of employment, provided by my new job
- A fee, to be paid by my new job
- A stamp, to be obtained at a local kiosk
This would be easy…or so I thought. The first step was on me–gathering all of the required documents. I spoke little Arabic at the time, but as most of my interactions at this stage were with translators, it was actually quite pleasant. About two weeks later, and I was ready to march to the proper offices, papers in hand.
But what was the proper office? Accompanied by a Moroccan friend, we headed to the city hall, surely the first stop (it was right at the end of my street anyway, so no harm no foul). After a few brief interactions, we had obtained the name of the person we were supposed to see…at the police station down the street. Fair enough, I thought, no one gets it right on the first try. We headed down the street to the police station.
Upon arrival, we asked for the gentleman whose name had been provided to us. Fifteen minutes later, he sauntered in, and with a bit more aggression than I expected, demanded to know what we needed. I explained, as my friend translated, what it was I was looking for. We showed him the papers. He looked over them, stroking his mustache ever-so-carefully, then concluded we were short a few papers. He explained where we needed to go and what we needed to bring back. Fair enough, I thought, the process must have changed. We left to procure the last of the papers.
A few days later we returned, papers in hand, to see the officer. We showed him everything once again. He looked over the papers, stroking his mustache ever-so-gently, then told us that no, the translation of my degree needn’t be in Arabic, but in French. We left to get a new translation.
By the time we had the translation in hand, and all papers together, about a month and a half had passed. Foreigners are allowed to stay in Morocco for up to 90 days before they are required to either a) leave, or b) have a carte de sejour. Fair enough, I thought, we have 45 days left, and this shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks.
We returned to the police officer on a Monday, proper paperwork obtained, procured, and translated into French. This time, thankfully, all of our papers seemed to be in line. I was told to return Friday for a formal interview.
Friday came, and with friend by my side, I made my way back to the police station. We asked for the officer, sat down, and waited. Forty-five minutes later, he hadn’t arrived. We explained the situation to another officer, who, pointing to a locked drawer, explained that he didn’t have access to his colleague’s papers, and couldn’t we just come back?
Finally, finally, with 30 days to go, I found the officer at his desk and told him he needed to perform my interview, that I only had 30 days to spare. He commented, if you’d started the process sooner, you would be done already. Swallowing the urge to smack him in the face, I smiled and sat down, ready for my interview.
He asked me where I went to primary school. He asked for my employment history–when I started with my previous job after college, he told me that Americans work young and asked me to start with my very first job. He asked for my previous three addresses. He asked why I had attended Al Akhawayn University the previous year (how did he know that!?) He typed all of these answers on what had to be a 30-year-old typewriter, then asked me to return in two weeks to pick up my card.
Hooray! I thought. Two weeks to spare, and I’ll be a Moroccan resident!
Not so fast…Two weeks later, and no sign of my card. I went to my boss, panicked–he told me to just go to Spain and come back. I seriously considered it, as well as its cost: At least 1,000 dirhams that I didn’t have to get up to Melilla or Sebta, or across to Algeciras, and back the next day…and that was without sangria and tapas. I decided to stick it out.
Each day, I returned to the officer, and each day, he told me it wasn’t completed yet. One time he even asked me out to dinner, telling me it would “speed up the process.” Eventually I hit the 90 day mark, and then it was too late to try to leave…I would have to simply stick it out, wait for my card. I was in no danger, of course…the process had been initiated and it was just a matter of waiting. Just a few more days, I figured.
But it wasn’t. By the time I got my card, it was a full four and a half months after I had arrived. I had to get my boss to call the police. I had to return at least 15 times. There’s no real moral to this story: Moroccan bureaucracy is what it is, and without advanced technology and a central database, it’s unlikely to change. Still, I’m just glad I sprung for the multi-year carte de sejour, so long as it means I get to avoid that cop.