To extend our visas took longer than we’d ever imagined (read more below), but in company of Maria and Juan Carlos, we were far from bored. They took us with to friends and through town: Movie night with a gathering of Swedish expats, traditional Swedish Easter dinner, lazy beach days at the Ilha (an island in central Luanda) and barbeque at Prédio Suéco. It was all a stark contrasts against the previous days’ camping life. Huge thanks to Maria and Juan Carlos for hosting us so comfortably, helping us with the immigration and above all keeping us in such great company. Imagine all embassy staff being as kind as you?
To Extend a Visa
On Thursday, we visit the immigration first thing in the morning. In hope of getting our applications considered within 24 hours, we buy the application forms and fill them in. Despite being intended for non-citizens, four of five forms are in Portuguese, so it takes quite some time. And only when we are about to hand in our application at the office, we’re informed that application days are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. We couldn’t have had less luck.
Come Monday, we return and arrive just past seven in the morning. Once again a surprise awaits us – one has to arrive by five in the morning to be able to get one of the forty desirable tickets that are handed out each day. Only with one such ticket, which resemble those by a supermarket meat counter, one is allowed to enter the office and hand in ones application.
But just like past Thursday we start discussing the issue with the staff. We try to make us seen and heard amongst as many of the immigration staff as possible. The immigration consists of a number of single-floor buildings that enclose an inner yard on which we wait with a hundred or so other hopeful. Each house hosts different departments of the immigration. One counter sells the application forms, another helps citizens to apply for a new passport and yet another assists those looking for a work permit. On the yard, staff runs back and forth occasionally, and it is them that we try to halt to ask for assistance; beg to help us review our applications.
We are lucky – by two p.m., we’re finally let inside the office in which we can hand in our application despite having no valid ticket. But even after being let inside, we have to yet again attract the attention of someone in the staff – someone on the other side of the counter – whom can accept our application. Just that takes us two, three hours. Another 45 minutes later, we’ve received our receipts.
While waiting, we got the less conventional tip from one of the staff to simply continue to the border of Namibia without visa and once there pay the official fine of seven dollars per day of illegal stay in the country. But the fact that one official here say so doesn’t mean that the police officers along the road will agree, we thought.
I also spoke with a French man who had been working in Angola for a decade. Not even then, he had the sufficient contacts to get his working permit in time. After having waited for nine months he still hadn’t received his permit. He said that the ‘regular’ application fee is 5,000 kwanza (about 70 USD), but if you pay 5,000 USD under the table, you can receive you permit in just a few days.
Thursday, we return once again to the immigration to mingle with the staff, hour after hour, but without receiving any news. It seems as if our applications has yet to be considered. Come Friday, we do the same thing – inquire and complain – and finally get promised that our visas will be there for us to receive come Monday.
The immigration is, to say the least, disordered and messy. Another group of tourists applied the same day as we did and got their new visas Friday. But then they’d been there each day from four a.m. until 6.30 p.m. – close to 52 hours during five days. Probably more than most staff.
Monday so, we finally receive our visas, and we leave the capital the next day after almost two weeks’ rest.
Angolan Visa Extension Details
Address: Serviços de Migração e Estrangeiros (SME), nearby the British Embassy.
You need: Three photos, five filled-in forms, which you buy at the office, and your passport.
You come: On Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to apply and on Thursday or Friday to receive your visa/permit. The day that you come to apply, you need to be there at five a.m. latest if to get one of the 40 tickets that gives you admission to the office. To speed things up, it might be worth asking for Balthazar who is the boss at the office, or trying to get even higher up in the ‘food chain.’ You need to ask a lot, chat and complain. Spend at least five hours a day there if you’re in a hurry to get your application considered.