Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ducks in a Row

Some updated news to share regarding Carolyn Anne's Criminal Background Check and escrow closing on Pilgrim's Rest. 

Believe it or not, despite a long career in nursing which can wear down your hands and obliterate fingerprints, she did get her fingerprints read via Live Scan system with the State of California Department of Justice (CA DOJ).  Her prints were good enough to read to get a verification done that way.  Yea God!

That said, CA DOJ got her first name spelled wrong.  They introduced a variant spelling of "Caroline" when in fact the application to CA DOJ stated "Carolyn."  You just know the Ecuador Immigration authorities will have a field day with that mistake and deny her the granting of her Cedula after our arrival in Ecuador on that basis. . .

So I nipped it in the bud.  Sent an email to correct the name, and also - since she received a legitimate clear Criminal Background Check (CBC) - requested the Apostille letter to authenticate the Criminal Background Check report.  Wouldn't you know, our Anthony over at CA DOJ looked at the first attempt at her trying to get her report, and told her to make a second attempt.  What on earth was he thinking?  Taking each email sent to CA DOJ separately instead of as a whole, of course.  Within minutes, and before I had a chance to send a corrective email to him, he acknowledged his mistake in the previous email. . . upon reading the next email sent from here, no doubt. 

So she will be sent the corrected CBC *and* the Apostille letter, most likely in the next day or two.  Yea, God!  Prayers answered!

UPDATE 10/2/2014: We received the CA DOJ's corrected CBC, combined with a handwritten signature of Mr. Anthony Molina, Criminal Identification Specialist I, with the embossed State of California seal.  Excellent!

In other news, the house here will get an escrow closing date tomorrow.  It would have been today except I have to go to the hospital this morning to have a cardio conversion for my fast beating, irregular beating heart.  Not the first time, and not the last I would think, based on my history. . . but this delays escrow by a bit.  Probably will set a date for mid October.  Things are happening, and events are moving along quite nicely.  Prayers appreciated for my heart if you read this in time, of course. 

UPDATE 10/1/2014: Escrow closing date now set.  We have just a matter of days getting everything out.  Most of it is.  Just a few things to deal with, and we can handle it with the abilities God has given us.  Cardio conversion scrubbed due to blood not being thinned enough by the drug I've been taking.  I'll be taking a new drug to replace it, and it should do the job very well. . . free samples too from the tic doc, which is getting to become rare these days with Obamacare in effect.  A couple of drugs prescribed which have slowed down the fast beat to the heart and have strengthened it.  I feel better now, too, and can tell the difference.  Thank you Lord for good doctors like mine.  I will miss him and his excellent knowledge and manner.

Social Security proof of income letters should be arriving at US State Department today.  Carolyn Anne's Apostille for her birth certificate should also be delivered today.  My birth certificate is still not received. . . once received, I can drive to Downtown LA and get it apostilled.  Getting to the end of the document process at the higher standard required of the Consul General of Ecuador, and presentation of documents to them for birth, and proof of pension income from Social Security.  Pray with us please for approval, and speedy results.  We can see our time here in the US is rapidly coming to an end, perhaps sooner than we might have imagined!

UPDATE 10/2/2014: Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office sent me my three copies of my birth certificate. . . so that's now received.  Getting the documents done in good timing, I hope.  Just a couple of items in transit, and then a visit to CA Secretary of State in Downtown LA where they have a field office at 300 South Spring Street, Suite 12513 for State of California documents needing an apostille, and then. . . on to the Ecuadorian Consulate in Beverly Hills for hopefully the grand finale on paperwork legalization. 

This should be the end of my being able to type new posts into this humble weblog via the desktop computer, which has a real keyboard, allowing for faster typing.  From now on the task will be via the laptop, which while new and up to the task, doesn't have a standard keyboard like a desktop does.  This will result in slower typing speed and most likely shorter descriptions and posts. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Documents in Motion, Part II

What a difference a day makes. . . twenty four little hours. . . reminds me of a song once used by a now defunct LA area men's clothing chain store!

OK, here's the latest: The CA DOJ finally corrected their telephone messaging at (916) 227-4557, which was the number I called for my Criminal Background Check results.  They really do have a thing for email over there, which I'm sure is based on efficiency/productivity and overall communicative ability reasons.  Now we're told in a nice prerecorded female voice that one should email appagencyquestions@doj.ca.gov

and include the ATI identifying number, and the first and last name. . . nothing else since it's for an individual asking on their own behalf.  Obviously ask them for a status report on the Criminal Background Check. We now have a leg up, too. . . we have the trusty Anthony's email address at CA DOJ if all else fails.  CA DOJ does to date provide speedy email responses, a good thing. 

Carolyn Anne's birth certificate Apostille request to Michigan's Secretary of State is on its way via UPS Ground.  Should get there delivered by Tuesday.

Our personal check for our Cuenca condo was delivered yesterday, signed by hopefully the security guard of the building.  Will have to check on that to be sure.  Impressive service by UPS and thanks to Ecuador Customs for allowing it to go through.

Today the sending out for the Apostille of the Social Security proof of income - one for each of us - will go out via UPS.  I prepared, in order: the cover letter requesting the Apostille (the signature on the cover letter is important to authorize the thing to be done), the DS-4194 form filled out in ink per the nicely provided interactive example available on Windows software - the responses make sense - the *original* Social Security proof of income letters, and of course our payment.  The US State Department actually accepts your personal check, among other more obvious means of payment, such as a USPS Money Order.  Shipment can be made in two days less than the cost of three days - a bonus - and the total time start to finish should be two weeks.  Will need to make copies of the DS-4194 forms and provide the UPS tracking numbers on the forms before copying them.  Lots of details. . copies are so that we can telephone the State Department with any questions on processing. 

And yes, of course, I had the local Social Security office sign my proof of income letter in ink a representative's name, printed the name below that, with title. . . and even included his toll free telephone number with extension should the State Department need to talk to them about the letter.  Good to go! 

We're delaying the close of Escrow on the house a week, so mid October is going to be the close. . . as far as we know.  No official date set by the Realtor or Escrow Company.  Still some minor work to be done to the house per the home inspector's report due to the age of the house and how things were built back then. . . but nothing that isn't easily taken care of. 

We're gonna get there, eventually.  God is at work in the details, and we're doing our part. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Documents in Motion

Every day, I learn something new as I endeavor to get the official papers we need for our move to Ecuador filled out, completed, Apostilled, and set to go.  My Organizational Management professor from my College of Business days was right. . . "I am continuously learning and growing."  Without relent.

Carolyn Anne's second attempt Criminal Background Check with CA DOJ is in process. . . and no way to check the status via telephone automated message, as the system seems to still be inoperational.  I appreciated it when my Criminal Background Check was checked at earlier, and I could hear the "mailed" status of the check.  Now, I'm in the dark.  Will send an email to no doubt the trusty Anthony at CA DOJ for the update after a week's time, which should be sufficient based on the last response I had with them.

We were so very thrilled to receive Carolyn Anne's birth certificate(s) in the mail Tuesday.  Wayne County Clerk's office really did deliver on what they said it would do. . . I stand amazed!  Considering the now legendary dysfunction that Detroit has, and considering that they have furlough days according to the clerk I last spoke with, that is impressive service.  And my LA County birth certificate isn't here yet.  My hat's off to the folks in Detroit, for sure. 

The next step is to get her birth certificate Apostilled, which is to say authenticated per the Hague Treaty of 1961.  There's a whole Internet site about Apostilles here: http://www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=text.display&tid=37  Since the clerk in Lansing didn't give me the information I needed, and my email request to them has not been fulfilled as yet, I have little trust with them to do the right thing.  I called up the State of Michigan Secretary of State's SuperCenter in Detroit (Detroit!) due to the fact I could find a telephone number for the office there, and spoke with a very capable clerk who told me I needed to send a $1 money order with the request, plus the birth certificate, of course.  Processing time of 5 to 7 days.  Great information, what I was trying to get the first time from Lansing, and I told her about the great experience from the Wayne County Clerk.  She too appreciated hearing that kind of result from them. . . a bit of good news to brighten her day.  I asked her if I could send my request to her office, which has a number of excellent Yelp reviews, by the way. . . but no.  She said it has to be mailed to the Lansing office (they accept in person requests, though).  So I got the papers in order with a cover letter (we're gonna miss this desktop and the ability to create/print items on the fly like that) stating the request, signed by Carolyn Anne.  Off to UPS to get it shipped, with tracking to *and* from (we included a return envelope, as instructed by the clerk).  We want to know where these papers are. . . coming and going.  Never done this before, and they'll know it's a prepaid UPS return.  We've included our email and phone number, so any problems, I hope they communicate and do the right thing. 

Speaking of UPS shipments, we sent off via UPS a personal check for our Cuenca condo rent for two months upcoming - December and January.  Over $80 for that to get done.  Tell me about it.  Tracking showed fantastic progress up to the entry in Ecuador at Guayaquil at the International airport there, and has apparently not moved since the ensuing 18 plus hours.  It was declared on the package to be a personal check. . . which UPS customer service said was allowable by Ecuadorian Customs.  Hope they're right.  If not, I will have to eat the return charge back to me for the disallowance by EC Customs.  Ouch!

UPDATE 9/25/14: the UPS envelope with the rent check enclosed made it past Ecuador's Customs, it appears.  Yay, God!  "Out for Delivery," is the current status.  Not in Cuenca yet, but should be delivered today according to what the tracking shows.

Now for the "third ring" in the circus act of getting our documents in order: our Social Security proof of income letters.  These need to be Apostilled, and the ones who say they will do it is the US Secretary of State's Office of Authentications.  Internet site link here: http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english/legal-considerations/judicial/authentication-of-documents/authentication-certificate-requirements.html#Federal

After speaking first with a personable, but instrangient staffer at State's DC headquarters - and my request for a return call from a specialist didn't occur, I followed up once again with a phone call to them.  Same instructions via recorded message (a good thing if I need to retrieve them later) and same classical music where I was put on hold for a half hour, as before.  I don't trust getting a call back after the last attempt here.  Patience is the way.  I requested a specialist to call me back.    Sure enough, I got a return call in a few hours from a  very knowledgeable staffer who seemed to be well versed in Social Security proof of income Apostille letters, and gave me the short checklist on what the letter must contain.  Official stamp from the agency?  Rubber stamp is all that's needed, with address.  Check.  Signature of official?  I told him it wasn't there on the letter.  No problem, he said.  Just get them to sign, print their name below the signature, and give their title and you're good to go.  Great!  I asked him how often the State Department got these kind of Social Security proof of income authentication/Apostille requests.  "All the time on a regular basis," he replied.  Good!  Someone at State has knowledge and a clear, level head.  Will be sending our proof of income letters - must be originals, no copies - and the DS 4194 with the proper payment of $8 per request via UPS to US Dept. of State in DC at their Dulles, VA mailing address.  Hope I will get all the details right so it won't be returned unfulfilled.  Lord help. . . so many details, so many documents in motion.  Lots to keep track of. 

UPDATE 9/26/14: I now see how the first State Dept. staffer was basing his responses: treating the Social Security proof of income letter as a General Document income verification letter.  Not the way to handle it, imho.  The second staffer based his response from the fact that this was a Federally Issued document (plus he has had experience doing this very thing before).  Sure enough, the checklist he went through with me jives with the info on the Internet site page cited above.  Executed by a US Federal agency?  Check.  Have an official's original and/or stamped signature with the raised and/or stamped seal of the agency?  Check. . . original signature and stamped seal.  Flows nicely.  You learn new things every day, and it becomes apparent in the sea of regulations how two staffers in the same section of the same Department can come to different conclusions.  Seeing things from the customer's perspective. . . what needs to be done on their behalf. . . is the way, though.  Such a request isn't for nothing, after all!  Find a way to fulfill it.

As a result of all the time I've been spending on the paperwork end of our pretravel preparations, I am strongly considering asking our Realtor to delay the close of Escrow for a week.  That can be done according to him, but Escrow can never be sped up.  Talking to Carolyn Anne about why this needs to be delayed, and having that conversation, but no resolution just yet.  Help us, Lord to be of one mind and in step with each other. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Diplomatic Details

Well, it has been quite the productive morning here at Pilgrim's Rest at things I didn't know I was going to spend so much time on. 

I was able to talk with the Wayne County Clerk's office dealing with my wife's birth certificate processing.  Put on hold three times, not for long each time, thankfully.  It turns out that they log each request sent in via mail and logistic delivery services such as UPS, and so they had a record of her application with the date received. . . Tuesday the 16th, apparently (they have furlough days where the office is closed, one of which was Monday September 15th, according to the clerk who I spoke with).  That's odd, because UPS stated on their Internet site for tracking packages that the item was received Monday the 15th.  Oh, well.  According to the clerk, the birth certificate(s) were shipped back to her at our address Thursday the 18th.  So apparently the statement made to us by the Clerk's office is true. . . send your request via UPS and the turnaround processing time is three days!  Will be looking expectantly for it. 

UPDATE 9/23/14: Wayne County did indeed deliver via USPS the birth certificate(s). . . full page, in color, and with the County Clerk's stamped signature with the date the request was processed.  Imagine Detroit being faster at this kind of request than Los Angeles County. . . but it's true, and not what I expected.  Good for them!

Looking ahead for the next step to be accomplished, I telephoned the Michigan Secretary of State's (SOS) office in Lansing, MI.  Not too long of a wait, but longer than the Wayne County Clerk's office was. . . around 15 minutes on the phone.  Then a live clerk got on the phone, and I asked my question on what specifically do we need to send and in what form to the SOS office.  They couldn't answer that live. . . I was transferred to an automated voice mail system.  I hung up and emailed the SOS my particular questions. . . don't they require payment for the apostille letter service, and does it need a money order, cashier's check, or personal check?  Not too hard of a question. 

Might as well anticipate the next step for my birth certificate apostille letter from the California Secretary of State's (SOS) office.  I was put on hold for a half hour - state budget cuts, I was told while on hold - and got to speak with an articulate, informed clerk in Sacramento.  Yes, I can go to the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in Downtown LA and go to the SOS office there to get my birth certificate apostille letter.  No, they don't apostille US Federal Social Security Award Letters or Statements of Income.  Just as I thought.  I mentioned what the Ecuadorian Consular official told me and my reply on the fact that the Social Security letters were Federal documents, and should be apostilled by the US Federal Secretary of State's office.  They agreed with that reasoning, and directed me to contact the US State Department in Washington, DC. 

After a half hour's wait - you can enter your telephone number and get a call back if desired, but I declined - I was able to talk to a very personable clerk there.  He mentioned that first the Social Security letter(s) would have to be notarized by a Notary Public, then certified by the court (US District Court, I presume) corresponding to the geographical area the Notary Public is located at.  Then get the State of California Secretary of State to apostille the Social Security pension letter.  I then discussed that I just got off the phone with the CA SOS office, and they specifically stated they don't apostille US Federal documents.  Polite silence ensued.  A true diplomatic moment, indeed! 

The personable staffer then advised me that my information would be passed on to a specialist who is more in the know than he, and that I should expect a callback within 24 hours.  OK.  It's always good to say you don't know. . . (smile)  It became obvious to him that I had a point, having raised it with the Ecuadorian Consular official in Beverly Hills, now discussed with both the CA SOS office and the US State Department in Washington, DC.  Someone or something's gotta give, and I don't really care as long as Ecuador's government recognizes our Social Security pension letters as genuine and legalizes them.  Diplomacy is hard work, when you get down to it. . . and the solutions are both so logical yet so hard to put into effect. . . for reasons I will never know this side of Eternity.  God be present in the details, please.  We need your mediation and conciliation in times like these.  I'm reminded of the verse in Isaiah which states, "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD (Isaiah 1:18a). 

Just to be on the safe side, we will get both Social Security pension letters apostilled.  That way, should one of us die before the other, the Cedula of the one who survives isn't made invalid or cancelled.  That was the reason a couple we met in Cuenca had to take an (expensive) flight out to the USA. . . not apostilling *both* Social Security pension letters.  Think ahead, do more than you first think you need to do, and listen to the advice of others in authority and experience.  And yes, I continue to see wide variance on exactly what you all need to do documentwise on this topic in the 'Net.  Don't believe everything you hear  ". . . but test the Spirits, to see if they are from God. . . " (1 John 4:1a)     

Here's a link relating to today's topic from the Government of Ecuador entitled (in English) "General Information for Immigrant Visa Applicants."  The page is in English as well, but when you click on the home link, you'll get Spanish, just so you know.  http://ecuador.toursphere.com/en/immigrant-visas-21224.html

Even here, the statement on having a marriage certificate apostilled is not in keeping with my legal counsel's in Cuenca, Ecuador advice - who says a licensed notary public seal/signature with the date is all that's required.  So there's still a fair bit of fudging on the details of how papers get accepted for the Visa and Cedula process, I would surmise. 

Getting the last of my belongings out of my teacher's filing cabinet. . . clearing out this desk of papers and organizing it all for the move out of here, of course.  Maybe a week and a half 'til we're no longer sleeping here. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Criminal Background Check Redux & Sale of Residence Update

Back again. . .

Carolyn Anne's Criminal Background Check from CA DOJ will be redone this coming Monday.  Last Friday the 12th we received an email from Anthony from State of California DOJ saying that the fingerprints were of poor quality.  We knew that going into the submission from our licensed fingerprint roller lady they day she took the Live Scan, and now it's official. 

Monday September 15th, CA DOJ mailed out the papers via USPS to us to allow us to redo the Live Scan fingerprinting for free, received yesterday the 18th.  Other than a computer generated letter with all the usual identification numbers, notification of why the letter was sent - unable to process due to poor fingerprint quality - and how to resubmit (no extra cost due to using the same Original Applicant Tracking  Identifier - ATI - number code) it includes a preprinted Request for Live Scan Service (Visa/Immigration) form.  The ATI code is handwritten, and The first section is already filled out (Contributing Agency Information - Department of Justice).  The Applicant Information section and The Live Scan Transaction Completed By section are left blank but will of course be filled in upon submission. 

Fran, our Live Scan licensed fingerprint lady, left instructions with me to ensure Carolyn Anne put lotion on her fingers every night for four nights before coming to her appointment for the fingerprint retake this coming Monday the 22nd.  She will also get papers instructing her on what to do if this Live Scan redo doesn't produce recognizable fingerprints, and how to go about getting a clear Criminal Background Check upon the second failure to process.  You can ensure I will safeguard those papers. . . (smile)  So a bit of good news, that there is a way around the fingerprint problem she is having.   

We're probably a week away from the electronic submission from getting a clear Criminal Background Check report from CA DOJ if the prints turn out readable/recognizable.  If not, then. . . we shall see.

        ####     ###     ###     ####   

Meanwhile, the timeline on the sale of the house here is taking its time, longer than expected.  The appraisal report hasn't hit my real estate agent's inbox just yet, or the escrow company's, which is not what he was expecting.  Without knowing if the appraisal is approved, the escrow company cannot proceed, of course. 

The termite repair - minor work with the patio siding and a small part of the exposed frame - is done.  I remember doing this same kind of repair with my Dad decades ago when we were younger.  Didn't cost a lot in terms of present day dollars.  Back then it would have been the classic do it yourself project using the radial arm saw and hammers and nails.   Paint will have to wait until the painter returns from "down below" in Los Angeles from a current job.  Should be completed by probably midweek next week.

I discussed with a staffer at our main recipient nonprofit organization, Grace Thrift Store in Lancaster,  this past Wednesday the possibility of  picking up our last large items.  The good thing about them is they don't turn items away if they are saleable - Salvation Army wants to ensure the items are in very good to excellent condition, and two items we have are a bit on the used side.  A little refurbishing would be doable and be worthwhile.  They would also be providing the truck and the manpower to move these heavy, bulky items. . . very helpful, and a moneysaver from our aspect of things.  They pick up in the area outside of the store on Wednesdays, and Monday is the day you need to contact them to ensure they will put you on their schedule.  I was thinking that we were possibly at the point of having it done this coming Wednesday the 24th, but according to our real estate agent, that would be too soon.  Possibly the Wednesday after that, October 1st.  October is coming up on us sooner than we had hoped. . . wow.  Gotta adjust to what the pace of getting these disparate tasks done is proving to be.  

Getting towards discussion on how we pack things for our trip to Ecuador with my wife.  We haven't done this before, and she wants to help, of course, and do what is best.  We agree on the overall plan, but the tactics part is producing "sparks," shall we say.  Please pray for us that the process of the move and the logistics of how to do all the moving of what we take will be centered on unity, agreement, full and fair discussion, and most of all, love.  May God be abundantly in each of our efforts, large and small, and may His name be made great through it all.        

Monday, September 15, 2014

Updates. . and Making Some Progress

Back again, by the Grace of God that we have through Jesus Christ, or Lord.  Still at it, making some headway, which is heartening news for us these days. 

The Criminal Background Check from the State of California Department of Justice - CA DOJ for short - has been completed for me, but not my wife.  I submitted Live Scan fingerprints to CA DOJ through our friendly local licensed fingerprint roller on August 29th, and the results declared "mailed" - was known to me via my calling the CA DOJ's automated message line for self submitted criminal background checks on September 1, Labor Day holiday.  The actual mailing took until September 4th for CA DOJ to mail, and I got it that Monday September 8th.  Not too bad. . .

That Wednesday, September 10th I emailed my request to CA DOJ *after* I had already received my clear or negative criminal background check record.  (They require you to wait first, for obvious reasons. . . they are authenticating a document they already sent you and have on file, right?)  Once the official at the other end, Anthony, and I ironed out which address they would mail the CA DOJ's Apostille letter to (I kept it simple and told them to use the address they already had on file, and not to complicate matters by using our new temporary mailing address) , the CA DOJ Apostille letter mailing was done (September 10th).  Received the Apostille letter on Friday, September 12th!  How's that for swift state government service, eh?  (smile)  Sweet!  Thank God for good government service, eh?

A couple of things to keep in mind with CA DOJ: they don't apparently have a live telephone number for citizens or other individuals to contact them.  A recorded automated system with multiple telephone numbers, yes. . . but not a live one from what I encountered so far.  The email that you send to CA DOJ has to state your request for the Apostille letter (authentication letter for non Hague Convention countries) with the same address they have on file.  So when you make that request at the Live Scan licensed  fingerprint roller vendor of your choice, you need to ensure the address is one where you will get your mail, or in the event of a move, like in our case due to escrow closing, where you have a forwarding address order on file with the United States Postal Service (USPS).  You don't want to miss getting this letter.  Without it and the negative/clear criminal background check report, it would be very difficult to obtain an indefinite residency in a foreign country like Ecuador. 

On the other hand, my lovely wife, who submitted her fingerprints on the Live Scan system with the same licensed fingerprint roller I used at the same time, has repeatedly been listed by the CA DOJ automated phone system as "in process."  That has continued to the present time, although since last Wednesday September 10th their automated system has not been working well. . . been getting busy signals or the line doesn't answer like previously.  So on that Wednesday I sent out an email to CA DOJ requesting an update on her submission.  Speedily answered once again Friday the 12th by the CA DOJ's Anthony, who stated he would be sending out - through USPS by inference - a form to resubmit the fingerprints for the criminal background check.  No extra cost for us, and we will be getting a code from him stating such.  So we're waiting on that to come for her. 

Another angle to this part of the process is what to do if or when the fingerprints just don't read via the Live Scan system, which is technologically quite excellent in obtaining fingerprints (it did mine, and I have historically been hard to get prints from).  My wife, who has spent her working years in nursing, has essentially no easily identifiable prints to obtain anymore.  Our Real Estate Broker/Agent happened to hear of our situation, and thought we should have our California State Senator's personal cellular telephone number to call should the situation present itself at an impasse.  Good move.  I already heard from Sen. Steve Knight in a return call Friday, but since I received the email from CA DOJ saying they will do a free redo of the prints, will hold off on that for now.  Good to know there's help out there for us, or at least that's how we perceive it. 

In other news. . .

On the birth certificate front, we have sent off for new birth certificates for ourselves due to the Ecuadorian Consulate in Beverly Hills not accepting our years old original documents.  These were done Friday, September 5th.  Mine will be done here within Los Angeles County by the LA County Registrar Recorder County Clerk's office in Norwalk within 20 working days, and hers will be done by Wayne County Clerk, Michigan.  We had to know whether or not she was born in the City of Detroit or in Wayne County outside of the City of Detroit.  Since we had a previous birth certificate for my wife on hand, we ascertained it was for a birth within the City of Detroit.  This is important to the Wayne County Clerk as their records are apparently divided up into these two groupings.  I discussed processing times with the Wayne County Clerk's office in a phone call, and the woman who responded said that if the documents came via UPS, the processing time in their office would be within 2 to 3 days.  !!!  I find that hard to believe, but given the state of affairs in Detroit these days, might as well go with this tidbit of potentially good news.  God only knows what would happen to such a request sent via USPS regular mail.  So we sent our request via UPS Ground for a reasonable $10 cost.  After not getting a delivery signature this past Thursday the 11th, and finding the office closed the 12th - !?! - today the 15th our UPS Ground parcel was delivered midday.  Great!  Now let's see if the Wayne County Clerk's office really delivers like they said.  I'm not holding my breath, though. . . (sigh)

UPDATE 9/22/2014:  Just got off the telephone with the Wayne County Clerk's office, and they checked their log of birth certificate requests received, and they state my wife's request was mailed back via USPS on Thursday the 18th.  We are eagerly expecting that document in the mail now.  If this proves true, really great service from them.

The Apostille letter to be obtained from the Secretary of State's office presumably in Lansing, MI will follow upon receiving the newly printed birth certificate.  We have to send off for it, of course. 

As you can see, with my Criminal Background Check and Apostille letter already in my hands safely here, and with my birth certificate request in process locally in county - the check for payment hasn't yet cleared, which likely means they haven't processed it yet - debiting my account via check would give an indication it is being processed - I am anticipating my documents on these matters to come out completed before my wife's, sad to say.  We sent our requests for them the same day, but what happens after that is many times out of our hands.  We have to remain patient despite the hurdles and obstacles that come our way, and remain steadfast in God's care and wisdom and beneficience.  He will provide. . . at the right time for us. 

We rightly decided that we will travel together to Ecuador, despite one of us having all their documents together before the other.  Wise move!  I would not have it any other way.  Never leave your partner!  We need to work together as we make the big move. 

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Yesterday, we shared a wonderful time with our longtime good friend Pastor Rob Brooks, his wife Becky and their four sons as we were with them in the worship of God together at the church he pastors in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles near UCLA, University Bible Church.  He has been doing a good bit of traveling to Myanmar in Southeast Asia on a missions trip and to his parents place in Virginia where he was raised - and was present to celebrate his brother's wedding there!  Having been to UBC several times before, we knew to come early, stay afterwards, and catch up on each other as time permitted. 

Rob was extremely gracious in recognizing us to the congregation as retirees ready to go and serve the Lord in whatever manner is best in our new home in Ecuador.  Becky told Carolyn Anne that we are missionaries. . . well, that's true, but we're not formally supported financially by any local church.  Rob led the congregation in prayer for us as he concluded the morning's worship service, giving a travel/missions update on his travels as it pertained to the Scripture passage found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.  Yes, the Corinthians were materially and financially well off, and could afford to assist fellow believers in other churches that were not as well off.  The church in the USA is analogous to the Corinthian church that way, as is the church in Myanmar - Burma - analogous to the church in Jerusalem.  It was gratifying to hear how so little money could make such a substantial difference in several different ways by willing donors to freely give what was so valuable to recipients in the work and the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We also were able to spend time at lunch together one last time, despite Rob being somewhat tired after all his travels and not seeing Becky too much of late.  We told Becky we wouldn't keep him too long. . . (smile) and we didn't.  Rob, like our other close and good friends in the larger ekklesia which is the universal church around the world, was thrilled that we are getting so close to starting our journey to Ecuador, a foreign - to us - country, and being willing to let the Lord use us in whatever way seems good.  He sees so many opportunities for believers to make a real difference by being overseas in missions that he basically came out and said these indigenous peoples many times were more hungry for the truth of the Gospel than North Americans are.  Ouch. . . and quite true, methinks.  So it's well worth our while to be where we are going to with the attitude we have towards Christ's Kingdom and Eternal things that matter.  

Rob officiated at our wedding, by the way.  He and I used to be rather informal years ago when he was locally pastoring here and we would meet together several times a week discussing and planning local evangelism outreaches, and got to be rather close.  I still miss those times, but this is a new season of life.  Retirement.  Some extra steps, hurdles,  setbacks, surprises, twists and turns, and in the end, reaching the finish line for all who "run the race" with all diligence who follow after Jesus Christ without reservation and without apology.  By his power, not our own, of course.  Rob - and Becky too, I found out this visit - enjoy my lengthly emails in detailed story form, and are thrilled to hear how God is at work in our lives.  Some very nice words spoken, too.  I'll leave it for the Lord to affirm them, though. . . (grin)  I will miss these folks quite a bit, but the Calling of Ecuador awaits us still.  And we shall go. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Marriage License and Criminal Background Check

Whoops. . . I somehow didn't mention in my first post of the day about the status of getting our Marriage License approved and our Criminal Background Check completed and approved. 

Direction from my Skype session with our legal counsel in Ecuador is to have the Marriage License notarized by a USA licensed notary public only.  Do not submit the document to the EC Consulate in the USA. 

This is remarkably easy to do.  I obtained a newly printed out Marriage License - with two copies (I'm doing that with the Birth Certificates mentioned earlier today, too) from the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk's office here locally, complete in color, full size 8 and a half by 11 inches in size, and with the county's three dimensional embossed seal in the lower left corner.  I can then take it to any number of (State of California) licensed Notary Public individuals and get the license notarized.  Easy to get done. 

The Criminal Background Check has been more of a difficulty than first thought.  We submitted our inked fingerprints on the official FBI 258 form and sent them off to a "channeler" in Ohio who is one of several authorized FBI intermediaries who have a letter on file stating they submit individual's fingerprints on a regular basis.  After a number of days - around two weeks - I called back to the channeler and asked them the status of our fingerprints.  "They couldn't read them," was the reply.  Sigh. 

I have had a history of having a harder time than many on getting readable fingerprints, and knew there might be a hitch in the process.  But it was my wife's prints too that didn't read either. . . and her prints are even harder to take than mine!  Years of nursing does that to one's hands.  Yes, the FBI approved channeler we used in Ohio offers a free second take on the sending of new inked fingerprint cards (which we would have to pay for again locally), but we declined based on our prior knowledge of how our prints usually turn out.  Where to go. . .

I contacted our legal counsel in Ecuador once again and got a Skype session after several tries and talks on Skype with the office staff there during the Wednesday before Labor Day.  My lawyer said that it was good under the circumstances to use the "Live Scan" electronic fingerprint submission process to the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) and from there, with them checking our criminal background with the FBI while identifying us from the fingerprints submitted on glass electronically - CA DOJ does this with all applicants, btw - we should be able to then go to the USA Federal Secretary of State's office in Washington, DC for the official apostille of our Criminal Background checks, and then  submit them to the Ecuadorian Consulate in Beverly Hills, CA.  Whew!  But that's the process.  

We used the retired, but working from her own home as a fingerprint roller, lady who we've used before that takes fingerprints for our church staff and volunteers.  She sent them on to CA DOJ in Sacramento.  

My results were accepted, and are supposed to be mailed to me and received here any day now.  My wife's results are still in process, according to the automated telephone service number the CA DOJ has set up for us to call in for this info.  Hmmm. . . Hope all goes well in the end for us on this matter.  We are at the end of our rope, as after this method, there are no more ways to give us a clean Criminal Background check, as far as  I know.  Maybe it will have to be done through US Federal channels. . . dunno.  

After we receive our results in the USPS mail, we are told to get these results apostilled by the CA Secretary of State's office.  That's right!  I'll bet we can use the Ronald Reagan State office building's offices for that as we are told to use for our other documents.  Will have to check for certain on that detail.  Lots of details in the paperwork process Ecuador requires.  If we have to send them to Sacramento instead, we will do so, of course.  

So we have to be patient, resourceful, wise, discerning, and patient.  Oh, I said that already.  You get the drift. . . 


Rationale for Submitting Official Papers as the Ecuadorian Consulate in the USA Directs

Back again. . . with a separate post on this topic, as I think it's not one discussed much out there in public on the 'Net or anywhere else I'm aware of. 

I had a very invigorating discussion with my Real Estate Escrow officer - who of course is no immigration official or diplomat - on this topic.  Some thoughts follow. 

Getting a US Passport necessitates documents that the US Federal Government requires: Birth Certificate, Driver's License, Social Security Card, Marriage License (if married), and the like.  These are all in most cases US based documents.  Their validity is not usually in question, despite them being several or many years old, not current, without imprinted seal of authenticity, etc.  There is a level of trust within the government of one's native country and its citizens.  It's often implied, but in the case of granting a US Passport, it's stated upon receiving the passport: your papers are validated. . . for travel outside  the USA.  The US, of course, has no legal jurisdiction outside of its borders.  It merely vouches you are who you say you are. . . from the standpoint of a US resident backed by that citizen's government. 

When you travel to live in that foreign country, like Ecuador, you are basing that ability to reside there for an indefinite period on what the Ecuadorian government allows and proscribes, not what the USA states in its own laws.  So it's like starting over.  Who are you?  How do we know you are who you say you are?  Where were you born?  What date?  What are your previous name(s) if any?  What is your source of income while living in the foreign country?  What guarantee is there that it will continue?  How much do you receive per month from this income?  Are you married? Do you have proof of your marriage, including marriage date?  Are all these documents authentic and original, and current documents you have provided from your various sources? 

When you look at it that way, the way the Ecuadorian government most likely does, it makes sense.  Everything about you has to be established and proven to their own standards of proof, not your own or your native country's. 

I will say that our legal counsel in Ecuador didn't tell us that we would be going through these extra steps, but then again, they don't live here in the USA.  They speak to what they are expert on, and working with the Ecuadorian Consulate in a USA location is not one of them.  So time to realize that, give them some slack, and be flexible and above all, patient. 

One other thing: in my dealings with others in this whole process of immigrating to Ecuador, I have found a relative of the President of Ecuador. . .right under my nose!  He works at my ever friendly and resourceful Credit Union.  Maybe an ace up the sleeve when things get sticky down the road. . .  Dunno for sure.  All I can tell you is that the process of moving from one country to another, especially a country in Latin America where there is a certain amount of corruption and less stability, is not as certain as moving from one state in the United States to another.  In that I have experience in.  The present process of moving internationally I am learning. . . one step at a time, one day at a time. 

BTW, the next time I may be able to update here, it will most likely be around the time of us moving out of the residence here, and in a motel locally.  So I will be without my trusty desktop computer, and using the laptop, which takes longer to type on.  With that in mind, please understand my posts will most likely be shorter due to the effort involved.  Thanks for your kind understanding in all of this!   

Making Progress. . . and Yet Another Set of Hoops to Go Through

All the latest from your humble scribe. . .

Pilgrim's Rest, our humble abode, is still on track to getting the escrow closed and sold to the second buyer that made an offer for us.  Our Real Estate agent made it back from vacation in Australia, and he is on board with helping things get done and followed through the escrow process.  This is welcome news for us, and as a result, yesterday much was accomplished. 

The termite inspection was done, I had a meeting with the escrow company to sign the necessary paperwork for the sale to go through, and the home inspection was done later in the afternoon.  Tuesday the appraisal will take place, and that is all I know needs to be done except for the lender approving the loan.  They will of course want to see the appraisal and perhaps other documents mentioned above, and then the loan should be formally approved, and a date set for our move out and giving over the keys to the new owner.  We're getting much closer to getting that part of the process of moving to Ecuador done, which is great and exciting news. 

BTW, our (second) buyer, who I was able to meet in person that past Sunday, has $42k cash to put down and has a preapproved mortgage already made out.  That is what should have happened with the first buyer.  You live and learn.  I have a good sense this buyer is gonna be following through and not flake off  like the first one did.

After talking on Skype again with our legal firm in Cuenca, Ecuador, we have direction on what papers to present to the Ecuadorian Consulate in Beverly Hills, CA.  Birth Certificates for my wife and I, and the Social Security proof of earnings letter in my name (since I am the one currently receiving the SSDI pension monies). 

We made the visit again to the Ecuadorian (EC for short) Consulate - our second visit - and focused on just these three documents.  We were refused authentication on all three from the Consular official present and given direction on what to do to get her to authenticate the documents, namely: get current birth certificates with a recent stamp date - our documents were 31 and 16 years old, get a full 8 and a half by 11 inches birth certificate for me - my document was older and not the size they are used to seeing, and get my document in color, not black and white like the one I present her with.  Likewise get a recent up to date birth certificate for my wife, who was born out of state.  That means in her case using the mail, or UPS.  We chose UPS after hearing from the state government office involved back east would turn around the document in a 2 to 3 days processing time if it were shipped to them via UPS.  Amazing if true, and might as well go for it that way.  Then, get both birth certificates apostilled.  Mine at the State of California Secretary of State's office - the consular official mentioned the Ronald Reagan State office building in Downtown Los Angeles.  Hers would have to be sent by her from here to her state's Secretary of State office for the apostille.  Once that is all done, then authenticate the documents at the Ecuadorian Consulate.  OK. 

And that's just for the birth certificates.  Processsing times for hers, supposedly 2 to 3 days in that office, and a week to send it by regular UPS mail.  Return mail takes maybe a 5 or 7 day period max, so three weeks for hers.  Mine was submitted in person here where I was born, and the processing time is stated to be 20 working days (it could be less, of course). 

Social Security proof of earnings letter has to go to the Ronald Reagan office building in DTLA to the State of California Secretary of State's office to be apostilled, according to the Ecuadorian Consulate.  That sounds a bit strange, as it is a Federal document, not a State of California one.  Nevertheless, they will get what they specified. . . I asked about that particular detail to the EC Consular official, and she reiterated in English that it was the State of California Secretary of State, not the US Federal Secretary of State.  Sigh.  Then the EC Consulate will authenticate the letter, and issue a Certificate Letter stating they agree with the perception of such income is as stated.  OK. 

Easy enough to get this letter apostilled at the Ronald Reagan state office building office. . . I hope.  What if the CA Secretary of State's office doesn't do that?  I need to place a call to them before I drive down there and spend that kind of time doing that.  Sigh. 

Timeline now looks as follows:

  • SSDI Proof of Income letter - two working days (I hope)
  • My Birth Certificate - 20 working days plus a day at RR State Office Bldg. plus a day at EC Consulate
  • Wife's Birth Certificate - ~17 days total for mailing via UPS/USPS? and the 2 to 3 days processing time included. . if all goes well as stated to me on the telephone.  I am frankly anticipating around 20 days processing time like LA County stated.  I just hope they don't lose the Birth Certificate request.  Then around 5 days to mail to her state once again for the apostille, ~5 days to, ??days processing for apostille, and 5 days back to get the document apostilled in her state. 
Bottom line, it looks like we are set back a month give or take from where we would have liked to be at in the whole moving process.  I had heard about the need to be patient and flexible, and this is probably not the last of it. . . and we haven't even left the US yet!  The good news is we are still within the timeframe we had hoped to have to be in Cuenca by November 1.  Depends on what the EC Consulate does with our resubmitted documents, of course. 

Good thing I heard from the Lord that the paperwork should be looked at now at the EC Consulate.  What if I had waited until later when we would get the "pet visa" (discussed below) for our dog?  You can never be too early to do documents and paperwork.  Always something new to learn everyday. 

By the way, the reason why we are submitting Birth Certificates, which was not discussed a couple of posts earlier in what to submit for paperwork, is from the advice of our legal counsel in Ecuador.  FYI.  Your mileage may vary. . . and probably will.  Things change all the time in international immigration issues between nations, and USA to Ecuador has 'em too. 

Now on to some hopefully good news: the last item we need to deal with documentwise is our dog and his papers as he travels with us to Ecuador.  I have been doing quite a bit of research on the whole topic, and it seems to boil down to this: Rabies shot has to be performed by our local vet 60 days (or more) before he lands in Ecuador.  Other shots need to be given within 30 days (or more).  We've done these already about 10 days ago.  This gives us a potential airplane landing date in Ecuador of no earlier than October 25, based on the date of the rabies inoculation given.

Parasite check (inside and outside) is to be done within 21  days of landing in Ecuador. . . this will start a clock of sorts.  First off, we have to do this at the local vet, who will have the USDA 7001 form to fill out.  They have it on their computer software system. . . I checked.  Then we go to the USDA APHIS VS vet office in El Segundo (they recently changed addresses from Hawthorne to El Segundo (closer to LAX, btw) to get their VS 7001 form signed off from the USDA.  So far, so good.  And the clock doesn't start ticking. . . yet.  It starts ticking when the EC Consular official who gets the USDA Form 7001 that by now is all (correctly and completely) filled out, approves it and issues what could be called a "pet visa."  Very official looking document from what I saw on the 'Net. 

Here's a link to a site I found most helpful.  It seems to be from one who has performed the transport of pets from the USA to Ecuador a number of times recently, so I find that useful, though it's not from an official source.  http://www.casadecuenca.biz/Bringing_your_pets_to_Ecuador.pdf

As you can see, lots of hoops to go through, and lots of loose ends to take care of as we progress ever closer to our goal of traveling to Cuenca, Ecuador for the purposes of retirement there.  Getting this residence sold is now becoming an achievable goal.  Now the paperwork issues are front and center.  Others have done them, and we will get it done, too.  By the help, wisdom, and the Grace of God it will!  Your prayers for us in all of this are coveted and appreciated so very much.  Selah.