Bureaucrazy and Bank Accounts – Part 2

(This story is a continuation of a bureaucratic miracle whose history started months ago.  Part 1 started last week.)

As instructed, I called the Federal Police back in April.  My vacation-loving contact told me that my paperwork had been submitted to an office in Belo Horizonte with so many initials in its acronym that he lost me.  I know that it started with an “F”, that’s about it.  You would think someone makes a living of dealing with people with Portuguese as a second language would avoid acronyms or at least slow down.  Anyhow, what I got from the conversation was that this F-ing Office got it a few weeks ago and should soon be sending it on to the Ministério de Justiça in Rio de Janeiro, at which time I could check on their website.  I should keep checking that website because the next step once it was approved was to send it to the Federal Police offices in Governador Valadares, and once there it would only be held for two months.

Ministerio de Justica Estrangeiros Website

I started checking the website.  It came up with an “file not found” message.  I emailed the address listed on the website.

An anonymous representative formally replied back that according to the records at the Central de Atendimento do Ministério da Justiça (Ministry of Justice Service Center) my application “had been received and was awaiting being processed.  Checking on website would only be possible once the internal process had been completed.  It is important that we stress to you the importance of following up on your case so that you do not miss any deadlines.”

I tried again in a few more weeks.  It came up with the same “file not found” message.  

In March the website came up with an “error” message.  I emailed the address listed on the website.

An anonymous representative replied that the Central de Atendimento do Ministério da Justiça states that my case “was being analyzed.  It is important that we stress to you the importance of following up on your case so that you do not miss any deadlines.  There is a website where you can follow up on your case.  Try typing the protocol number without any hyphens, dots, or dashes.”  Hmm… that would have been helpful to put on the website itself.  I found my record.

The closest I ever got to an actual signed email from the Ministério da Justiça.  Who was I talking to?  Who knows.
The closest I ever got to an actual signed email from the Ministério da Justiça. Who was I talking to? Who knows.

I checked every week to watch my progress.

Finally in early June 2013 the site informed me that a supervisor had approved my case and that a publication had been made in the Diário Oficial da União.  I emailed the address listed on the website to know if this was the end of the process? and should I report to the Governor Valadares Federal Police offices as instructed? (Please please please say yes?)

An anonymous representative replied that according to the Central de Atendimento do Ministério da Justiça the approval of the permanent residency request number 00000.0000000/0000-00 had been published in XX Section, Page YY of the Diário Oficial da União.  The edition is available at the Natonal Press website, and should be printed for your records.  The interested party should appear at the Federal Police offices closest to your place of residence within (90) days of the date of publication.”

Yahoo!!  I printed the publication and my husband and I did the three-hour drive to the Federal Police offices in Governador Valadares (yes, that’s the closest Federal Police offices to our place of residence) the very next week.

The Federal Police official informed us that there was no way to process my paperwork that day. We needed to present registered copies of our marriage certificate, notarized copies of my passport, as well as receipts of processing fees.  Our marriage certificate was back in our little home town.  They asked me to push a button and rate today’s encounter.  I pushed the non-smiley face verging on grumpy button. I might have pushed it more than once.  We went home with a little piece of paper describing the paperwork to be collected.

I pushed the non-smiley face verging on grumpy button.

Two weeks later we showed back up again with all the paperwork and taxes paid.  I completed endless forms and was fingerprinted in more angles than I knew possible.  

I was issued a temporary ID card that looks a heck of a lot like the one I received a year ago, and was informed that my official residency card (with my RNE#) would arrive in another six to eight months.  “Now look here,” I explained gravely, leaning into the desk, “Six to eight months?  I’m really trying to put a life together here, and I need that RNE# to get a driver’s license and open a bank account.  I’m trying to open a small business.  Without a bank account I can’t charge my clients for work done nor can I deposit their checks.  What am I supposed to do?”  The official smiled sympathetically and slipped me a number on a little piece of paper.  She said, “Call that phone number in five days.  The system won’t generate your RNE# until we enter your information, but in four or five days that should be done.  Call and we can write you a letter that you can use in the meantime and someone can come pick up documentation for you.”

I went home with my little piece of paper that was my temporary ID card and my little piece of paper with the phone number to call.

I called in five days.  No answer.  I called the next day–twice.  No answer.  I used up all my cell phone credits making long distance calls to Governor Valadares.  I went into town and recharged my phone.  No answer.  On the fifth try I got a human being.  She had no idea what I was talking about, and went to ask someone if they divulged information over the phone.  While on hold I used up my cell phone credits.  I went across town and called back on a land line, listing off in terse tones the answers to the questions knew would come: yes, the police officers had already come to my house, yes, I had been already checked the website which informed me that I had been approved, yes, I had already gone to Governor Valadares and presented the relevant paperwork, and could I now please have my RNE#?

I got someone to give me my RNE# over the phone.  

I went to our local bank to open an account.  Smarty-me asked first what documents I would need (I’m a quick learner). The hipster with the white-rimmed glasses behind the counter gave me a list on a little piece of paper. 

The tiniest to-do list ever.
The tiniest to-do list ever.

I took my little piece of paper home and collected everything in duplicate, as instructed: Proof of residence, copies of my passport and residency documents, copies of my Brazilian ID#, copies of my marriage certificate, and two credit references from local businesses. I went back to the bank.  My hipster friend (the same one who had given me that littly silly piece of paper in the first place) sighed dramatically and said, “Well, now… bank accounts, you see… They’re only done from 10am-12noon and 2pm to 4:30pm.  It’s 1pm now.  Well….Can you come back after 14:00 hours?”

Yes. Yes. I can come back.  Maybe they can add their schedule to their little piece of paper?

I came back at 3:30pm and my hipster friend called over the supervisor.  Ms. Supervisor took one look at my documentation and asked me if maybe I could come back tomorrow morning?

No. No, I’m not going anywhere.  You told me to come back after 2pm. What gives?

She called her supervisor in the main branch and together we all began scrutinizing my paperwork.  Did I have a national identity number?  Here’s the copy.  What about two copies of your marriage certificate?  Here.  Proof of residence?  Here.  But that doesn’t have your name on it.   Yes, but it’s my father-in-law’s house where we get our mail.  See?  His name’s on my marriage certificate.  Identification?  Here’s a copy of my passport.  RNE#?  Here’s the number that I was provided over the phone.  Here’s the temporary document that they issued me.  No, no, no… that won’t do at all.  We need a certificate from them in writing with your number that corresponds to a current travel document where the number appears.  We need duplicate copies of both.

When dealing with bureaucrazy, sometimes a little scream does you good.

In short, I needed to travel back to Governor Valadares to get another piece of paper.  I begged.  I pleaded.  I tried other banks.  I needed to travel to the Federal Police offices in Governor Valadares and get an officially issued piece of paper that displayed that number. 

I drove back to the middle of the fields and had another primal scream therapy session. I rolled my terrible eyes and gnashed my terrible teeth, and then got down to business. I can be stubborn to a fault, y’all, but sometimes it comes in handy.  I pulled myself together and I refused to not let the bureaucrazy win.  I was going to have my bank account by the end of the month, and that’s that.

Since my husband couldn’t take the day off work this week, and I don’t have a driver’s license yet,  I started researching bus routes.  Buses left our town for Governador Valadares at 8:15am and 9:30am.  I would get there at about 1pm.  Buses would only return at 10:40pm, 11:30pm, midnight, and 2am.  The day’s trip with bus fare, taxi fare, and food would cost me over R$150 (USD$50).  Late night travel in an unknown city probably wasn’t the safest, and on the other hand after two years of living here, I desperately need my own bank account.

As a last-minute check before I left town, I called the number on my little piece of paper to check the office hours of the Federal Police office.

And here is where the miracle happened:

  1. Someone answered the phone.
  2. On the first try.
  3. Not just anyone.  THE someone. The Federal Police contact that I was given way back in December. Mr. Vacation. The man who issued the permanent residency stamp in my passport.  The man who signed my temporary ID.
  4. I explained what I was trying to do.  What are the office hours?  “7:00am-6:00pm, he stated.  But I can just look up that information in my system and email it to you.  Would that work?”  Yes, that would work.  Sweet Jesus, that would more than work. Here’s my e-mail.  Can I send you flowers?

I danced my way to the internet cafe to print out my official certificate from the Federal Police.  I contemplated buying a lottery ticket along the way. This sort of luck doesn’t happen every day.

I went back to the bank and presented my very complete and thorough documentation to my hipster friend.  We finally opened my bank account.

Once they get done processing my paperwork in two weeks I’ll actually be able to deposit money in it.

See you in two week's time.
See you in two week’s time.

My ATM card should arrive in 45 days.

Two steps forward, one step back.


  1. I don’t know if I should keep reading your stories about the bureaucracy here in Brasil ! I try so hard to forget my own adventures with the bank, Providência Social, the electricity and phone companies… 🙄

    • I write to explain to family members why I’ll have more white hairs the next time they see me. 🙂 You’re right that dwelling on it does no one any good; it is what it is, might as well move through it and move on.

  2. Great post, thank you. I have a question regarding checking the status of the permanency process online. What is the website? And when were you FINALLY able to get updates on the process? I believe I am using the correct website but continue to get the error message. Federal police have come to my house so I know the process is moving, but it is frustrating that I cannot view it online.
    Thank you!

    • The website is: http://portal.mj.gov.br/estrangeiros/
      Click on “Consulta a processos” in the left-hand column.

      It took them over a month to enter my file into the system and for the website to start registering my status. I’d recommend emailing their Central de Atendimento ao Estrangeiro (estrangeiros@mj.gov.br) if you have any doubts. They’re pretty prompt at replying with your status, even if they are extremely bureaucratic. Better to have peace of mind.

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