So… getting married in Lithuania is not an easy prospect.
Here’s how it’s all been breaking down so far: Last summer, when we were in Vegas, Rasa and I had talked about getting married. We’d also talked about having kids. To be fair, we also talked about various fast food restaurants and why Dr. Pepper was a national treasure even if native born Lithuanians in the car couldn’t stand it. But those first two things were a little bit more important, surely.
Thing was, at that point, Rasa had been offered a slot at the University of Bonn to study for her Masters degree. If she decided to take it, we’d be moving to Germany and since it would be difficult for me to get a job, we figured we could just get married for logistical reasons (not that I didn’t or don’t love her) and not tell anyone about it until we were ready. The only problem is we both had a problem with this. Neither of really wanted to make it happen this way. At the same time, when we were discussing procreation, neither of us had the slightest concern. Yup, nippers before nuptials was our motto (or at least it would have been had one of us been clever enough to think of it then).
So we came back to Lithuania, not having gotten married in Vegas. As it turns out, Rasa postponed her university appointment for a year (again, logistics) and accepted a position with a local office of a German company. The kid thing, though, we were still down for that.
And it happened at the end of September (of course, being conscientious parents to be, we didn’t say a word until after the first trimester, right around Xmas-time). Now, I had already been thinking about the whole marriage thing and had been planning for a proposal either in January, when we were on vacation in Belgium or, more likely, June or July when we were on vacation in central Florida (see, that was our plan back in September, go to Disney and Universal over summer break). But with the whole pregnancy and then Rasa not being able to join me in Belgium, I figured New Year’s Eve was the time to make it official.
At a few minutes past midnight, with the fireworks going off outside our window (and Laika freaking out and hiding in the bathroom), I asked Rasa to marry me.
I’ll spare you the suspense: She said “yes.”
Perfect! Now all we had to do was make it happen. Again, there was a logistics issue at play. We wanted to get married before the baby arrived since being unwed at the moment of birth would just lead to more hassles and bureaucratic nightmares. No worries. Except I needed all sorts of paperwork – like my birth certificate and divorce decree. Okay, so I start off January by finding out how to get these things. Really, all I thought I needed was the decree since I had a copy of my birth certificate. And I could get this online. What could be easier? (The original, I’m sure, is in a box in Vegas and had I realized I’d need it, I would have grabbed it when we were there… not, as I soon found out, that it would have mattered)
So eventually I get the divorce decree and the birth certificate and I head down to the translation office… see, everything needs to be translated to Lithuanian before it will be accepted… and once it’s accepted, then we have a 30 day waiting period (which can be shortened to two weeks due to the pregnancy). At this point, we’re thinking middle of February will be a good time to get married. It isn’t until I walk into the translation office when I first begin to realize there might be a problem.
The initial problem presents itself with the divorce decree. All they really need is the first two pages which state I’m divorced and eligible to be married. However, the decree itself is about 25 pages and filled with all sorts of division of property BS (considering we really had very little, I can only imagine what a complicated, messy divorce looks like) and the first office I go to tells me the notary, who will verify the document, will only verify the whole thing. And at €15 a page, that’s about €300 more than I want to spend for things which aren’t needed. Then they tell me they can’t do it anyway, because it’s not “original.”
This is true, it’s a copy with an official signature, but that’s all you can get so I start to get to get frustrated. The first translation office sends me to a second one, just down the hall, and this is where I first hear the word which will haunt me for the next two and a half months – apostille (a word so unknown it not only shows up as spelled incorrectly, but autocorrects to apostle).
The second office said it wouldn’t matter if they translated the document or not, notarized it not, because the registry office wouldn’t take it without an apostille. But when I asked what that was, because this thing I had presented to them was an official document, signed by all the right people, all they said in response was “that’s not an apostille.”
I went home and looked it up and thought it meant an official seal. Okay, my birth certificate was from the late 80s (not that I was born then, but that’s when this copy was procured) so I figured I could get a new one, ignore my divorce and just tell them I was single and go from there. Now, getting a certified copy of ones birth certificate isn’t complicated… provide you live in America and have a checking account, since you can’t pay online or by credit card and you can’t request a copy without getting your signature notarized (and you’re an immediate family member). So the folks, bless ’em, took care of all that, got me the new certificate and I took that in…
And was summarily rejected. Why? You guessed it – no apostille. I still had no idea what the hell that was so we decided “screw it, we’ll get married elsewhere.” and started looking into destination weddings and lamenting the fact we hadn’t gotten married in Vegas last summer. The problem, we discovered, was it didn’t matter where we got married. The marriage needed to be recognized by Lithuania for it to serve our purposes regarding the kid, and in order for it to be recognized, we needed to have all these pieces of paper.
I finally discovered what an apostille is (TL:dr – a stamp that says the official signature is real) and then started looking how to get them on the two documents. Turns out there are expedited services which will do it for you in a day, but it’s pricey, or you can go to the secretary of whatever state the documents originated and it’ll take a little longer, but won’t cost as much. Again, you have to have everything originate from the US since they only accept checks and will only mail it back to you free of charge at a US address (which is funny since no one in the US requires it – in fact, no one in any significantly sized country uses it – none of my friends in the UK had heard of it either. If you have, please, let me know). Naturally, I took all the steps necessary, buying and addressing four separate envelopes with detailed instructions to send everything to folks so they could send it all to Sacramento who could send it back to them who could send it back to us.
Still with me?
Once the package with the apostilled (I may have just verbed a noun and I don’t care) pages arrived, we took it to the registry office to make sure this was, in fact, what they had intended all along. This is what added greatly to our frustration, that no one there could actually explain (even to the Lithuanian in native language) what it was, just they wouldn’t accept papers without it. These are the same bureaucratic workers found 1st world over, they’re upset at their lot in life and taking it out on everyone who crosses their professional paths.
But low and behold, the papers were fine, we just needed to get them translated – back to square one. This time a different translation office (I was embarrassed to go back to the first two, since I uncharacteristically and frustratedly lost my temper) where the first person I talked to was unhelpful but the second… ahhh, she was great. Until I said I needed the translation with a notary and apostille. “That makes no sense,” she said to me. I just shrugged my shoulders and explained this is what I was told. “Well,” she said by way of explanation, “that’s Lithuania.”
In the end, we agreed on getting a notary for just the birth certificate and their seal for the translation of only the first two pages of the divorce decree (same problem as before regarding notary and complete documents). If needed, we could always come back and get the rest done. The translations were finished while I was in London and Rasa picked it all up. But of course, we couldn’t take it in to the office to confirm it was all okay until Tuesday, two days ago.
It was touch and go for a bit. Lots of checking and rechecking documents, Lithuanian back and forths, Rasa translating marriage laws to me, which we then had to sign. And then they asked about the paper which stated I was eligible to be married. I pointed to the divorce decree. Not good enough. My divorce was final 13 years ago and in that time I could easily have gotten married and divorced again a half dozen times. So now what I needed to do was go to the US embassy and get a notarized affidavit from them (at considerable cost) saying I was free to marry and pending that, our wedding date was set for the 23rd of April at 3:10 in the afternoon. (Rasa got the pregnancy short term paper from our doctor so we could get married in two weeks, not 30 days).
With all this in mind, tomorrow I head off bright and early to go to the Embassy in Vilnius, and, fingers crossed, get the paper I need so I can drop it off next Tuesday and the wedding can go off as scheduled two weeks from Saturday (same day, just ten hours later, as my good friend Annie and her fiancé Brad in Melbourne Australia).
Provided it all goes smoothly, watch this space for an update on how you can help us celebrate.
8 thoughts on “The Tale of the Apostille…”
OH JEEZ! What a circus. I feel so sorry for you both, for all that red tape.
My own UK citizenship hit a hump when the Home Office decided (well, they didn’t *decide*) that my birth certificate which I’d brought with me was a copy. Yup, my ‘original’ birth certificate, which I’d used for 35 years in the US with no legal problems, was in fact, a copy, and not the original. Cue loads of hassle. With no living parents in the US (and like you, no US address, no extant US checking account, blah di blah) it wasn’t pretty. (At least I didn’t have the language barrier you suffered through.)
“when the apostilled (I may have just verbed a noun) pages arrived” – no, you adjectivised it!
or … ‘gerunded’ it? 🙂 Don’t make me re-live high school English grammar! (*sobs quietly*)
Dante’s circles of hell omitted opaquely implacable bureaucracy as you’ve sadly had to experience. I hope the next missive will tell us all of your joyous nuptials.
Congratulations in advance, Jaq and Rasa. I’m throwing a bit of rice over the kitchen floor in celebration.
Damn… you’re right, it wasn’t verbed. But still, playing with parts of speech is fun for kids of all ages!
It is painful to read how bureucracy works sometimes, reminds me a lot my South African visa experience… But it all works out in the end, so congratulations with the upcoming wedding!
And yeah, the machinations of government are a scary thing