Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Setback. . . and towards Resolution

We received an unexpected word last week.  The purchase offer on Pilgrim's Rest, our humble abode here, fell through.  Turns out they were mortgage lender shopping. . . and even at the best available terms, they truly were never qualified to make an offer and buy this residence.  Grrrr. . . waste of our time when the market is moving and people are making plans on what to buy.  Unexpected, but not unforeseen, as it's simply more difficult to qualify for a mortgage loan in the US these days post 2008 Great Recession real estate bubble pricing and lending. 

We ourselves would not qualify with our current income for this house!  That says a lot right there, so I have empathy for those who are struggling with the mortgage loan process these days.  We had a Spanish speaking real estate agent and Spanish speaking buyers who made the offer.  Probably on the low income end of things.  Common around here, and I understand the desire to own versus rent.  Lots of income and housing price disparity in Southern California of late, especially around the Los Angeles metro area here.  Affordable housing is getting harder and harder to find, to buy or even rent. 

Combined with a death of a former friend from our previous church, a tremendously regrettable action on the part of one who was employed at our current church's school - when one hurts, we all hurt - and the death by suicide by actor and comedian Robin Williams, it has not been an upbeat week here.  We have frankly been in mourning about these things, and the work we have been diligently been about in getting ourselves ready for traveling to Ecuador seemed to be for nothing - at least that was the feeling.  At least I had the knowledge that the deal could go awry if the maker of the offer to buy did not qualify for the loan. . . my Sweet Polly Purebred acted like it was a done deal, and was a larger shock to her as a result.  We have talked. . . (smile)  She knows better now for the next round. 

Speaking of the next round, now that the house has been relisted for sale, we once again ended up getting quite a few looks on the Internet for this place - understandable as it's very reasonable in price - and like clockwork, like before, a prospective buyer wanted to come and see the residence Sunday morning like the last offer maker.  Leaving our adult Sunday School class that I hate to miss, I gave the tour myself with the real estate agent present, and they seemed to like what they saw.  Sure enough, I got a phone call from that real estate agency in Granada Hills (Los Angeles) last afternoon, wanting to know where to submit the offer in writing as my Broker/Realtor was in Australia with his wife!  I checked on Facebook and it was true. . . my agent the world traveler once again!  I said to submit it to the Real Estate agency I am with via email.  OK.  Will check up on that later today. . .

A (not chance, was truly serendipitously provided by God) chance running in with the pastor who teaches our adult Sunday School class Sunday mornings - who I never see at the local Costco store. . . what are the odds. . . was very useful.  Finish what you've started.  You need people to help you?  Come and talk to us!  (slaps side of head)  Don't take on too much in terms of things to do and be involved in, especially the wife.  Duh.  Very useful time and thanks to God for putting people in the right places at the right time. . . I need that more than ever. . .

Because of what has transpired in the life of our church in the last week or so that has been so very hurtful to two minor children at the hands of one adult - draw your own conclusions, but it is not worth repeating here - our Senior Pastor Chris Johnson gave a great exposition of Psalm 42 and 43, which really flow together as one Psalm.  It fits.  In time of discouragement, feeling apart from God, like the world is not working the way it should, when others let you down. . . Hope in God, and act in faith in what is unseen, instead of what is seen.  He rewards those who act in that kind of believing faith that sees beyond one's own temporal circumstance.  Time to be a doer of the Word, as James put it in James 1.  By His Grace, not by my human power.  Thanks again Lord, for picking us up. . .

So, time to press on and reconnect, get answers, and get 'er done.  One of the frustrating things I have noticed is that the procedural requirements, especially for the importation of pets (we plan on bringing our dog with us), are not terribly precise in wording.  I can't say if it's due to my learning difference and language pragmatics, or if it really is that ambiguous.  Within 60 days, or longer than 60 days?  How hard can it be to be that clear?  Government speak has always been unclear, especially when you get a foreign government involved that speaks a different language.  Sigh. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

The End Game is in Sight

Time for some good news!  All of our diligent researching, asking around, exploring, and asking questions has once again paid off.  We're in a better situation than we first thought. . . fabulous news!  Much rejoicing and praise to our always wise Father in Heaven for the recent developments. 

I had my first experience using Skype this morning, which was fairly intuitive to use for a first timer.  I also had the opportunity to contact and discuss - on Skype's famous camera system with audio, of course - our visa situation with one of the lawyers from the Coloaustro law firm in Cuenca, who came recommended to us by folks we met from our church in Cuenca, Iglesia Verbo Cristiana. 

Our legal counsel advised us to *not* be bothered with paying the $230 visa fee plus $30 application fee at the Ecuadorian Consulate here. . . a waste of money and of time and effort.  Instead, simply use the existing tourist visa from our US Passport documents we already possess, and let the remaining 51 days (out of the 90 allowed per year - we already used 39 days from our previous visit) be used to apply for the Cedula, or indefinite term visa which has no expiration once granted.  Once the application for the Cedula is received by the Immigration office, the "clock stops" so to speak and we are legally good to stay in Ecuador to the time we get our Cedulas. . . which allow us to stay, of course.  Our law firm would provide expert assistance to expedite that application for us, we heard today.  It's doable in the 51 days we will be in Ecuador.

--->> In other words, my last post of two days ago does not apply to us getting to Ecuador this time around.  <<---  Feel free to ignore it in our case.

Since we are retirees, with documents from Social Security stating such, what we need to focus on according to our legal counsel is getting those statements apostilled at the Ecuadorian Consulate, along with our FBI background check reports, which should show up as "nothing to report."  Those reports likewise need to be apostilled at the Ecuadorian Consulate.  

We have the Social Security earning statement letters already.  By the way, as of August 1st, 2014, you can no longer walk in to an Social Security office and get that kind of statement in person.  You have to get it through the mail, and using the telephone to request it is the way to go, despite the 45 or so minute waiting time that usually takes place.  We lack the FBI docs, which require a fingerprint card, which we've done for our previous employment in education and nursing.  Turn around time for the FBI docs is 30 days in house in West Virginia where the FBI holds its records, and realistically it works out to be a six week period allowing for mail delivery time from start to finish.  So we need to move on this muy pronto, as it is the longest time item to obtain as far as we know.   

As my brother in the faith Robert Brady said tonight, "our ducks are lining up all in a row."  That's true, and time for praise and thanks to our great God who has gotten us thus far.  Still a bit left here to get out of Pilgrim's Rest, which is looking easier and easier day by day as our belongings just. . . disappear. (We're giving them to groups that we believe may best benefit from them, especially my old book library and educational and devotional books - The Master's College in Santa Clarita gets them, and they look to be a wonderful place to have them if they want to keep them). 

Furniture. . . looking easier to do all the time.  Two moves, and most of it will be gone.  Then it's time to put things into temporary storage to sort them out for our traveling - do we really need them, or just want to hang onto them?  We have to be fairly ruthless on this most likely, as we haven't found a way to ship them via UPS or some other way without using a costly cargo container - and the hassle of documenting all of it in English and Spanish and paying all the fees.  We will seek good advice and work it out in a timely way before leaving.  

Looking at my main weblog, Wandering Pilgrim's Progress, at my April 30, 2014 post, it contains all of the items necessary for the Cedula process.  Let's go down that list once again, and I'll bring to the attention of legal counsel any concerns we may have in terms of documents to bring and legalize before we hop on that airplane to Ecuador.  

1.  Written Request.  Easy enough.  Check.

2.  Visa Application Form.  Wonder where those original color passport size photos of us went to.  We can always replace them, if needed.  Check.  

3.  Notarized (in Cuenca) color copy of the passport, valid for at least six months, notarized copy of the current regular visa at the time the person starts the process, and a notarized copy of the registry of the visa.  Three variations on the same theme, methinks.  The first two items are the same thing I believe in our case, using our US Passports as our entry visas, and the registry part is probably the page that holds the passport number from the US State Department.  Will check this out further with legal counsel. . . but looks good.  Check.

4.  Updated criminal record for the last five years (we have continuously lived in the United States all that time).  Legalized (non Hague Convention country) by the Ecuadorian Consulate in the USA.  Check. 

5.  Updated Migratory Movement certificate issued by the Ecuadorian Immigration Police.  (Valid through 30 days)  Have to get this once we're in Cuenca.  Check.

6.  Document issued by the institution that pays or provides for retirement pension from foreign country.  Authenticated by the Ecuadorian Consulate in the USA (the country where documents are issued from)  Not less than $800 a month to the recipient, and increases by $100 a month for each dependent.

Need to determine if the $800 figure is the gross amount before Medicare deductions. . . probably true, but would be wise to check.  If not. . . will need to go the route of the $25,000 presented in secured monies for the visa. . . I'm right on the line on this particular point.  Also, my wife will not be getting her first Social Security payment until the third Wednesday in October, but we already have the letter stating such.  Need clarification on if that fact means we can't leave until she gets her first Social Security pension payment.  With all that said, sin embargo. . . Check.

7.  Certificate issued and legalized by the Ecuadorian Foreign Service Officer, in the country of origin, determining the perception of such pension or permanent income.  Check.

8.  This is about translation of documents from a foreign language (English) into Ecuador's native tongue (Spanish).  Reading the instructions pertaining to this item, it's unclear to me if the translation must be done in the USA in our case before leaving for Ecuador, or is it alright to have it translated in Ecuador. 

On second reading: oh. . . I get it.  If the document is in English in the USA, it must first be (1) translated into Spanish, (2) have translator's signature before a notary public.  Then (3) apostilled or legalized by the Ecuadorian Consulate in the USA.   I think that's the safe way to go.  Need to consult with legal counsel.  Kind of confusing language with this section of the instructions. . . but  Check.

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Recapping the above, as I understand it, the action items to do before leaving for Ecuador are these:

#4  Updated Criminal Record/FBI Background clearance check.  Fingerprint cards, applications, and payments for self and wife.  ASAP.  Upon receiving them, need to have them apostilled by Ecuadorian Consulate. 

#6  Retirement pay documents from Social Security.  Have them in possession for self and wife.  Need to get them apostilled at Ecuadorian Consulate. 

#7  Certificate determining validation of Social Security pension by Ecuadorian Foreign Service Officer in the USA.  Obtain.

#8 All English language documents must be translated into Spanish and have translator's signature before a notary public.  These documents must be apostilled or legalized before the Ecuadorian Consulate.  Translate, have translator sign with notary public present, and have Ecuadorian Consulate apostille these documents. 

Not too hard, I hope. . . looking like a doable list.  Who could I use to translate documents and sign before a notary?  Thank you Lord for making the impossible possible. . . one step at a time, one task at a time. 

Oh. . . by the way, I got a bit of help getting our MagicJack VOIP phone working with our desktop computer a few days back.  Got smart and went to Fry's Electronics in Burbank, where they serendipitously had three (3) MagicJack Plus units left.  Every where else you go, there's this new MagicJack Go, which I couldn't (we couldn't) figure out how to get running, as it did not provide the necessary wiring to get it to operate.  MagicJack Plus, on the other hand, did have everything necessary to operate the system.  So we took that good advice from the Fry's sales rep, who really did know his stuff, and saved a few dollars in price of the item in the process as well.  It works just fine. . . and it will be a godsend when we are in Ecuador calling friends and family Stateside for free.  You have to establish your MagicJack account in the USA **first** before you can make those free calls from Ecuador to the USA. . . procrastinating doesn't work, and you lose out.  So glad that task is done.  So many IT technology related tasks to be able to get this move working as it should and be able to communicate with those we love.  Worth it all, of course. 

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UPDATE:  For those who are like us, using our USA Passports which function as Ecuadorian tourist visas seeking to obtain the Cedula - unlimited time Ecuadorian Visa from the retired pensioner residency standpoint in Ecuadorian immigration law, here's what you need according to our Cuenca law firm, Coloaustro:
1) Marriage Certificate (my wife and I)  both apostilled by either a Notary Public in the USA or at the US Secretary of State (US State Department).  Notary Public is by far much easier for us to do versus sending these documents to the US State Department in Washington, D.C.  Notary Publics can be found all over the United States, too. . . easy to find one right at our own Credit Union, even. 
2) Birth Certificate (my wife and I) both apostilled by the USA based Ecuadorian Consulate.  The closest one to us is based in Beverly Hills, CA within commuting distance to us.  We've been there before, and know the location, 8484 Wilshire Blvd., parking (underground onsite) and hours - 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM Monday through Thursday if I remember correctly, and closing at 12:00 Noon on Friday. 
3) Criminal Records/FBI background check needs to be apostilled by the US State Department in Washington, D.C.  Yep, you have to literally mail it in once you get it in your mailbox.  We are in the midst of having the FBI do its check on us, and so we are ahead of the game that way at the moment on this item.  When I was contacting the FBI approved channeler for departmental submission of our background check requests, they were very emphatic on their Internet site that the only way to get a background check apostilled was by mailing it in to the US State Department in Washington, D.C.  So this information is in sync with one of the preapproved providers of this kind of document.
4) Certification of my certificate of pension - Social Security Award Letter - is done at the Ecuadorian Consulate in the USA. 
So. . . two types of documents to bring to the Ecuadorian Consulate in Beverly Hills, CA, one type by a Notary Public, and one type by the US State Department.  I wondered where the Birth Certificate and the Marriage License would enter into the picture.  Our law firm answered it.  Getting easier and much clearer.  This is doable!  Now it's time to get it all done.  Our papers are all organized and easily findable, so it's not a chore.  Feeling very good about all this now!