“Just Go to Spain!”

Jillian shares the trials and tribulations of obtaining the carte de sejour.


Blogger, writer, activist, co-founder of Talk Morocco 11 comments

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

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 sejourFair 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.

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Posted on Sunday, August 29th, 2010

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11 comments on ““Just Go to Spain!””

  1. Going to Spain is no easy cake either, I had trouble coming back into Morocco. I got lucky they had someone hire up to talk to but, it already brought me up to angry tears before I got the person who was hire up. I had wondered why so many people were crying in line when I walked up. It is a pain all the way around.

    • I know what you mean, Sylvia. In fact, the second time I “overstayed” my visit (my residence card expired, I think, and I had to renew it–can’t remember the exact circumstance), I was almost prevented from LEAVING the country. Morocco is in fact one of the only countries in the world that detains rather than deports, under such circumstances.

  2. It seems that it is impossible to find out exactly what the requirements for re-entry to Morocco as one approaches three months. Sebta border is to be avoided.
    from my friends experiences. Even returning from a shopping trip to Sebta well within the three months
    we had a two hour wait, and may well not have been
    granted re-entry if we had not been in a car and had a
    Dariga speaker with us.
    Look smart and well dressed and be very patient and pleasant.
    Tangier seemed to be the better option, all our
    semi – resident, property owning friends reckon.

  3. Manus McManus

    Just guess how many times I would have given anything to quick up the a*** so many of them. I wish there was forum for moroccans just to publish these stories. Some of them are really worth sharing!!!!

  4. Would have liked to have heard some of your Stories / problems. Manus.
    What about the Moroccan mobile phone scams, where you get your simcard and charge it or recharge. You are told you have you have, say, 50dh valid for ??? then there is nothing left after a call or two.
    And the phone cards that dont work at all!!!!!!!

    It is sad as we are very happy in Morocco and have many Moroccan friends, who suffer from all the same problems.

    Usually inconveniences are not too important if you have time but there are those which are a real worry
    when you have to do something important immediately to fulfill some official demand.

  5. Manus McManus

    I wish it was a simcard that was the issue. I have left Morocco 25 years ago and about ten years ago my mum lovingly advised me to invest in Morocco. I invested around $ 300 000 dollars in real estate and a business. There is only one way to describe my experience with the local authorities, it was hell on earth. As I have sent the initial money via banking transfers and not registered it with the “office des changes” I am technically stuffed. That was the beginning of my nightmare as every step of the way there was more obstacles and more palms to grease. I had enough at the end and I am trying to just put behind me.

  6. Wow,

    David Cruickshank so is better to Tangier… I will consider this next time. Lolol, in the next 3 months. Manus McManus that is a very horrible story… I would have gone postal. Lolololol!! Well, I am in south of Morocco. It is nice and quiet… I only miss the shopping and the fast food in the USA. That is all I miss… but I do make a mean tex-mex burger, so I am doing ok. I look 10 years younger since I moved here. It was the stress… it kills. I wish I could find a more lucrative career here. I am not dealing with the authorities right now and get paid under the table. Shhhhh! Don’t tell.

  7. Sorry Sylvia
    I don’t know if Tangier is better, just heard that with the new port etc.
    I sit corrected.
    Still wont stop us going back in April for three months,
    and that is from Australia!

    Just like Websters dictionary,
    W’eel be Morocco bound.

    Sorry to hear of your woes, Manus

  8. I’m quite amazed by the negative tone in your experiences!! you guys seem to to have forgotten that Morocco is a developing country and tried to compare it to your home countries!sure you won’t find a ’30 year old’ type writer in a police station in New York and your resident permit would take minutes to process as well as any official you deal with wouldn’t have a ‘moustache’… But from my own experience what you folks went through is nothing to compare with the long hours foreigners spend in US airports waiting to be allowed in the country if ever they manage to ‘win’ the ticket to heaven (visa) and all the frustration and humiliation that a human being can go through to obtain…i think a part from the corrupt officials you encountered i’m sure that you felt extremely welcomed and you have seen more smiles than grumpy faces i had the chance to see in your countries…

    • Certainly Alfred, but this is an essay on the proscribed topic of Moroccan bureaucracy. This is not a comparative piece, it is meant specifically to share a personal story of bureaucracy.

      Frankly, I’m fully aware of the awful experiences my own country places upon foreigners entering the country. But I also don’t think that your particular experience of “grumpy” faces is any more typical than my experience. Certainly, I felt welcome in Morocco in a number of ways, from the families that welcomed me into their homes for meals to the students who brought me gifts just for being their English teacher. I also felt unwelcomed by the pervasive sexual harassment I encountered 24/7. It goes both ways.

  9. In the west the laws are clear and regardless of how bad/debatable they are every one is subject to the same rules and regulations. However, the extent of corruption in Morocco is absolutely surreal even by the developing world standards. It is simply the privatisation of the civil service to keep the regime in place and the status quo. As far as the pervasive sexual advances are concerned, officials in Morocco do nothing for free even if it is their function. They will try to get any form of payment for their services, including sexual favours. Unfortunately they are totally shameless.

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