Thea Pijpers

PERMANENT RESIDENCE OR NATURALIZATION

To travel to the Cook Islands you are obliged to show a return ticket to your original country. Where you have your passport from. Otherwise you are not allowed to travel at all to these Islands.
At the beginning of my stay in Rarotonga I was obliged to visit the immigration office every three months and had to pay a certain amount of dollars to get the necessary stamp in my passport. After six month of residence here ,I had to leave the country at least for 24 hours and was allowed to reenter after this time. For this reason it is convenient to travel to New Zealand or to Tahiti as the distance is reasonable.
Later I was granted residence for one year but the same procedure of leaving the country applied again.
To get stamped your passport you have to follow these instructions.
First of all you have to climb three floors to get to the immigration department . This part is situated in an old colonial style house in Avarua
Mostly breathless you arrive at the floor in question. Normally it is about 9 to 10 oclock in the morning. This cannot be done on a Tuesday as important meetings are taking place for the employees of this department. A meeting like this takes about two hours as it is an important one.
Well, getting there, maybe you try to wish a good morning , like every well educated human being would do . All the heads are turned to you but nobody reply your greeting. Finally one employee female or male gets up and shuffles to the counter. I am astonished every time that there are so many Cook Islanders having trouble in moving their feet correctly, meaning off the floor.
There is no smile on their faces of the. He or she asks you what you want. You tell them your purpose, whereas no word or comment comes from the other part. You have to fill in a form and at this point after doing this, she or he opens his mouth and tell you how much you have to pay. You are almost shocked and certainly surprised when you hear this voice. You pay and then they ask you to get back to them within two days by phone ore passing bye in order to hear if the stamp is now in your passport.
I passed this procedure many, many times. I even succeeded to see some smiles in their faces now. We even spoke about their children. I just call this a victory and certainly persistence .
I would also point out that during my stay I was not allowed to work, I could do some volunteer work but without being paid.
Afterwards, things became easier. I was allowed , instead of presenting a return ticket, to pay a bond at the same amount of the ticket. This money got even an interest rate of 3 percent. That was much easier.
But new difficulties occurred.
It was not easy to get credited my return ticket. Therefore I went to Air New Zealand und handed my ticket to the agent there. Unfortunately, I did not make a photocopy. I was promised to get the money on my account within five days. I was waiting and waiting. After two weeks I showed up again in the office of Air New Zealand. There I was told that this ticket had to be sent to London and it will be reimbursed to England where the ticket has been issued and that this was the cause for the delay. I understood this perfectly. But again, just nothing happened. They had lost my ticket! No short story at al . 4 years ago I bought this ticket in Locarno Switzerland through a local travel agent there. I renewed this ticket every year. Of course I paid with my credit card. Fortunately, I kept all the statements of my Visa card. Now I had to convince the employee in Switzerland and luckily she was still there, in Locarno to find the copy of my payment sheet with my signature on it. They found it and sent a copy to me. What an efficient company to endure so much work for not a regular client? Again I handed over the signed copy to Air New Zealand. But once more, nothing happened. I was even told that as it is such a small amount it would not be so important. But it was some thousand dollars. Slowly I got angry and therefore I wrote a letter to the big boss - the General Manager at that time - in New Zealand .
Five days after my desperate letter to this gentleman I got my money and the manager from Rarotonga came home to me with an apology letter .

After five year, foreigners have the right to apply for permanent residency. You get a lot of paper work to study and you need also some documents from your country of origin, such as birth certificate, certificate of good conduct as well as a statement of your criminal record.
As there have not been given permanent residency during five years, I had to wait another 6 years. Finally it happened. I was nominated and invited. More than a 100 people were there, whom I knew almost everybody . The Naturalization should take place on April 4th. But before this date the ceremony and protocol had to be probed. Two days before the fixed date we were asked into the auditorium where the event would take place. Each chair had a number and you got a paper with the name of the respective number according to the alphabet.
But horror over horror I was not listed. My heartbeat stopped. Fortunately the secretary of the immigration department was also present and he found me under the maiden name of my mother. He spoke with the respective women who made the mistake. We all know her / Every six months I visited the foreign affair department and she knew me very well by name but anyway the wrong name has been chosen. An unbelievable fact as there are not so many foreigners coming to the Cook Islands who want to a new country top live. . Therefore I fervently prayed that nothing bad would happen on April 4th .
The big day arrived. We all had new dresses of course and beautiful hats. We were so absolutely elegant this day. On stage were the prime minister, the immigration minister, his Excellency the representative of the Queen of England with his wife.
We have been told to learn the Cook Island Anthem , which is very beautiful. We should also nod our head and to bend slightly when we would pass the representative of the Queen as well as the Prime Minister. Everything very British and slightly strange for a Swiss women.

We walked, nodded and bent and were very proud. Heard some appropriate speeches. Some pastors blessed us and we sang the Cook Island Anthem with all our feelings and heart. Fortunately the content of the Anthem has been projected on screen. (in Maori language of course)
It was a very sunny and special day and I am proud to be now a citizen of the Cook Islands. I would have liked to sing the Anthem in Maori the whole lovely day long.
Of course, my stay here became much easier, less paper work and also the people do not treat me as a tourist any more. And for this I am very thankful.

 

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Published on e-Stories.org on 10/31/2011.

 

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