Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tip for the day: How to fight corruption

There are many unpleasant places and people in institutions that sometimes you just have to deal with. One of those unpleasant places for me has been OVIR. I absolutely dread going to this place. So don't many Armenians as well. For those of you who are not familiar with this place, I'm actually not sure as to what the acronym spells out to but I know that this is the place where Armenians and foreigners must go in order to receive visas, residence visas, passport renewals and such documents. It is extremely bureacratic and the first time I went to this place, I left the building crying. Let's just say this place is not very freindly to its "customers."

I've decided to apply for the 10 year Armenian passport which would allow me to come back and forth to Armenia without needing a visa each time. Thus, I'm going through the process and getting the required paperwork to do this. There is one document they require which is a letter which explains what I am applying for and to whom and for what reason. Many of the Armenians have also told me about this. In fact, a lawyer friend of mine said that they ask for 1,000 trams (about $2-3) for writing a letter on a blank piece of paper by hand. It's really not very difficult, all I had to do was write in Armenian (which I can do, also to my advantage) that I am seeking a 10 year passport and the reason. Some Armenians have become smart about this and realized that they can do this themselves and were asking who they should write the letter to and actually writing the letters themselves.

But what my lawyer freind also told me was that they do not have the right to ask for this 1,000 trams because they do not have a machine in which they can print receipts. Thus, this person who cannot print "receipts" or "checks" or even place a stamp on a hand-written document, does not have the right to ask for money. So her advice was to ask for a receipt every time I pay money.

I took her advice and it worked. The woman asked for the 1,000 trams and I said, that's fine I just need a receipt. She said, well I can't really give you a receipt this and that. I explained, well I can't really pay you unless you can provide me with a receipt. She gave up really quickly and gave me the letter and told me to go up to the second floor.

So if there is one hint I can give to you all, it's this. If you feel like you are doubting whether or not you should be paying money for something, ask for a receipt or "check" or a stamped document that shows that you paid this money.

Really, the 1,000 trams is not much but it's just the principle. I am just not willing to support the corruption in the system and in these not-so-pleasant places.


At 23 July, 2006, Anonymous Nareg said...

Good one, Tamar!

"OVIR" is Russian for something like "Office of Visas and Registration", I believe, and most local Armenians don't have much to do with it, not as much as the outsiders, at any rate.

Keep at it, you'll crack the system. ;-)


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