I’m working on getting my Albanian Residency. The hardest and most expensive part for me is getting my Social Security benefit statement Apostilled (an official government affidavit). For $20 I could get it Apostilled at the official government agency but their lead time is 20 weeks! So I have to use an expedited service. I paid $150 for that, uploaded my benefit statement to them, and voila! It was done that same day and sent Priority Mail to my friend Raquel in California. Well that one got lost in the mail somewhere. After almost a week, I reached out to the service and they redid it and re-±¹sent it, and this time it made it to Raquel!
She sent me a copy of it though and it was Apostilled by the State of Illinois, not the US government! It’s a federal document and must be done by the federal agency. I looked on the service’s website and nowhere does it say where the apostille will be done. I just assumed they would know where it needed to go. So…you know what happens when you assume things. My $150 mistake.
I sent that copy to my residency facilitator but didn’t hear back from her about whether or not that one might be acceptable. She’s not good at communicating, but I felt like it needs to be done properly and surely the Albanian government will feel the same way.
In the meantime I did more research and discovered that I can’t use the benefits statement from the SSA website; I need a special letter signed (stamped) by the Commissioner of SSA and notarized by me. That’s only available by calling SSA or visiting the local office. My “local office” is in Rome. I contacted them and they are not able to supply it with that special signature.
So I called SSA on my US phone that uses wifi. The connections are always awful. I managed to finally get through to a real person after only a 49 minute wait, and of course she could only hear half of what I was saying. We both persevered and she finally understood what I needed and then suddenly I lost the connection completely but I am hopingà the document is on its way to Raquel.
Raquel would have to send me the letter via DHL at a cost of $147! Then I’d have to take it to the US Embassy in Tirana (5 hours on a bus plus $50 fee) for a US notarization. Then I’d send it via DHL (about $125) to the express apostille service ($195) and finally get the Apostilled form back to me (another $147 DHL fee)! So in the end, about $600 cost for this one document, and a whole lot of chances for it to be lost. Eeeek.
I thought it would actually make more sense to just fly back to the US and get it notarized and sent off to the Apostille service from there, saving around $425 in DHL fees. Plus I could restock some of the supplements, etc that I’m unable to buy here, and by leaving Albania and reentering, I wouldn’t have to make that $200 one day trip to Italy. (Residency applications must be made within 30 days of entering the country).
I had a $563 travel voucher from British Airways so my ticket to Atlanta only cost $200 out of pocket. And don’t you know, 30 minutes after I bought it, I got an email from the facilitator saying, “Great! They won’t notice where it was Apostilled”! She thinks we should proceed with that one. I’m very skeptical…obviously the woman is not aware of the perpetual bad luck cloud that follows me around!
But I canceled the flights and I think I’m getting a refund since it had been less than 24 hours since I had purchased them. Raquel will wait to receive the new benefits statement that’s hopefully on the way and send it along with the Apostilled document, just in case my application does get rejected and I need to proceed with the new statement.
Phew! This stuff is not for the faint of heart! It’s exhausting just writing about it.