OVIR bureaucracy - For those who already have Permanent Residency

The biggest bureaucratic nightmare for any foreigner in Ukraine is the bureaucracy involved in trying to stay in the country legally for longer than 90 days in a 180 day period without bending the rules to breaking point.

For those who eventually get their Permanent Residency card and domicile stamp in their passport like me, life in Ukraine automatically becomes an absolute bureaucratic breeze - at least no more difficult or strange than the bureaucracy faced by any Ukrainian citizen - which can be frustrating but not insurmountable - and even without resorting to “administrative fees”, everything can get done with patience.

Having worked for HMG for the first 15 years of my adult life and then having lived in Moscow for years, I have been forged in the hottest fires of bureaucratic nonsense and thus nothing Ukraine can throw at me will ever amount to more than I have faced before.

That is especially true after having lived in Ukraine for as long as I have and successfully managed to navigate their very best bureaucratic trickery and wild interpretations of any law or protocol.  I am still here and here 100% legally.

Anyway, not long ago, for reasons that are not necessary to go into, I de-registered from one address I own and registered at another I own, leaving the good woman registered at the other address.  Ergo, two addresses which we own now have the good woman registered at one and me at another - despite the fact we both live at the address where I am now registered.

Anyway, this meant de-registering at one district OVIR and registering at another.  I bit of a pain that one OVIR office cannot do both administrative actions at the same time - but that is the Soviet bureaucratic hangover.  Nevertheless it was simple to do and done within a week.

My new address now displayed on the back of my Permanent Residency card as well as in my passport.  All jolly good - except, I was then told I needed to make a new Permanent Residency card, because as of two days ago, I had reached 45 years old.

When I politely inquired why, I was told that as my Permanent Residency Card acts in the same way as the Ukrainian internal passport, it was subject to the same laws relating to the timing of changing of photographs.

Thus just as new Ukrainian internal passports are issued on 25th, 45th, 65th and 85th birthdays with updated photographs of those they are issued to, upon my 45th birthday I must have a new Permanent Residency card made.

Well fair enough, if that is the case for Ukrainians then I am certainly not going to decry being treated the same way.

I presumed (as it turned out correctly - eventually) this would need to be done by the Odessa Central OVIR who issued my original Permanent Residency card and is the OVIR that deals with all foreigners wanting Visa extensions, residency et al.

However, I was told that I needed to go into deepest, darkest Moldovanka, a district in Odessa renowned for its criminal element, providing same havens for the mafia and Russian gangsters, prostitution, drugs and all other socially nasty things.

Personally I quite like Moldovanka - I think it has character (as well as the nefarious characters within) but the good woman describes it as a scary place that should be avoided at all costs - not that I avoid it even though she does.

So yesterday, the day after I turned that bureaucratically fateful 45 years old, off I go into deepest and darkest Moldovanka.  There I speak with a woman at the OVIR office and explain why I am there, producing my current Permanent Residency card and national passport displaying the domicile stamp as well as my newly registered address, an administrative process that is no more than 3 weeks old.

She then proceeds to give me a list of documents I need to make a new Permanent Residency card.  A list far longer and requiring far more apostilled documents than I ever needed for the original Permanent Residency card.

Quite clearly she really had no idea what to do with a renewal and decided that all documentation was necessary as if it was a first ever issue, despite somewhere in the bowels of the Odessa OVIR sit all the documents that were required to produce my existing Permanent Residency card.

When she had finished writing her list, I asked her whether when my Ukrainian driving license expires the DAI will ask me to resit the touch screen theory test and then another driving test - or will they simply issue a new license with an updated photograph - as that is in principle what I would expect them to want, despite the fact I have already gone through their bureaucracy once from start to finish, if they are to follow her example.  In short, the DAI simply issue me a new license based on the integrity of the previous document they have issued - so does she not recognise the integrity of my current Permanent Residency card as proof of already producing all the documents required?

I told her she was talking rubbish and I knew she was making it up as she went along.

She then directed me to the central OVIR office in Odessa, where I had presumed I would and should have gone in the first place.

On arriving at the central OVIR office in Odessa, I was told by the lady in charge, all that was needed was a translated and notorised copy of my national passport, a copy of my Permanent Residency card, a new Ukrainian police check to insure I had not committed any serious offences since the issuance of my current Permanent Residency card and being resident,  and a Zhek Form 1 confirming my registration at the registered address displayed in my passport and on the Permanent Residency card.  That, and of course new photographs taken after I turned 45 years old.

All very simple.

So simple and short a list of documents, that I didn’t raise the issue that my current registered address being made only 3 weeks ago, or that if I had been involved in serious crime of which the authorities were aware since the last Permanent Residency Card was issued, there would be little chance of me being sat at the OVIR.  There would be much more chance I would be sat in the Odessa gulag.

So, off I trotted and got my new Ukrainian police check (Alexandrovsky Prospekt 5 if you live in Odessa and a cost of UAH 100), and then to the Department of Translations and Apostille to have my national passport translated and notorised - which took 1 hour.  (Lanzheronovskaya opposite the Procrotora - www.iatp.com.ua - if you need a very quick translation and notorising in Odessa at a cost of UAH 120).

A quick call to the Zhek, whom I had only dealt with 3 weeks ago and by 4pm my Form 1 was ready, signed and stamped.

All that is left to do is have new photographs taken - but to be honest, yesterday I was not exactly photogenic considering it was my birthday the day before.

The good lady in charge of the OVIR will have my new Permanent Residency card done within a week of giving her the documents, as unlike the first time, nothing needs to go by carrier pigeon to Kyiv and back.  All will be done in Odessa.  She expects me on Monday with her very short list of documents and new photographs.

If it had not been for my changing my registered address and a very eagled-eyed Zhek lady telling me I needed to get a new Permanent Residency card on turning 45 years old, I would have been none the wiser.  And the fines start at UAH 900 for doing it belatedly.  Yet nobody tells you this.

What is annoying is the timing, as the prospect of the new biometric passport and ID card law getting signed by the President and coming into effect on 1st January 2013, may very well mean my very newly issued Permanent Residency card that should have lasted me until 65 years old, will become useless given the need to hold a new biometric internal ID card instead.

That may very well mean another Zhek Form 1, another Ukrainian police check, another copy of my Permanent Residency card, another translated and notorised copy of my passport, plus new photographs, retinal scan and fingerprints in only a few months time - unless the new law envisages replacing existing paper ID with biometric plastic ID on a rolling expiry date system of old documents.

That would mean almost 20 years before I get a biometric internal ID card for Ukraine as the new Permanent Residency card would not require updating until I am 65 when a new photograph is required once again.

To be honest I can’t see such a scheme being rolled out so slowly!