The ongoing paperwork of living abroad - work stamps, waiting in line and the endless bureaucracy

The bureaucracy that never ends
The bureaucracy that never ends

The bureaucracy, it never ends!

Remember how excited I was to finally have gotten my registration card from the GNIB? Well, upon inspection a few days later I realized that they had given me Stamp 2 on the card and my passport (saying I was in Ireland as a student and could only work legally for up to 20 hours a week) instead of Stamp 1, which lets me work full time.

So, back I went to Burgh Quay. The room was much less full this time and it was early evening. No one was at the window where numbers are given out, so I went back to the front desk in the building’s lobby. “Do you know if they’re still giving out numbers inside?” I asked the man. “You’ll have to ask at desk 13,” the man said, and pointed back in the direction I’d come. “Inside? But there’s no one there. Do you know if – ” “Desk 13,” he said, pointing again and refusing to make any more eye contact. I stared at him for a bit but he was determined not to be helpful, so I went back and joined a line of people hoping for a number in the real line.

After some time, a man in a suit and overcoat carrying a briefcase and acting like he was in a big hurry walked past and said with annoyance that they’d been announcing that no more numbers would be given out that day. Others in my line complained that the office was supposed to be open until eight. He spoke with some people behind the counter and said they hoped to be giving out some more tickets soon, and that we were queuing outside of the designated queue spot and had to move the three feet to the left where the ropes were. An argument over maintaining the original order of the line ensued.

The irritated man began giving out the numbers himself and sorting us based on our issues. After having been very vocal about everyone keeping their original spots when the line shifted, the American girls behind me were happy enough to cut me at this point.

But this is the good part! When the man got to me I explained the problem as quickly as I could. He took my card and my passport out of my hands, stomped over to the window, slapped them down and said “Wrong stamp,” and then told me to take a seat. I was expecting to have to wait for hours again, but they must have jumped me to the front of the line, because I was walking out with my new [correct] registration card half an hour later. Thank you for fixing that quickly, GNIB!

The most recent batch of bureaucracy has to do with tax, unsurprisingly. I went to a day of training for a job that I ended up not taking, and they told me that I needed to ring the tax office and give them my PPS number so as to register it for tax. Wouldn't it have been handy if this had been explained to me as a necessary step by the PPS office itself when they issued my number? Alas.

So, I found a number that I hoped was right online, waited on hold for a while, and was told that actually I had to fill out “form 12A,” which I could do online. The form needed some information like my employer’s PAYE registration number, so I had to delay a day or two more to gather all of that. I finally filled it all out and checked it – and then it wouldn't let me type anything into the signature field. I called the tax people back, waited on hold again, and was told that I actually couldn't complete the form online: it had to be printed out and mailed to the revenue office. I was pretty annoyed at this point – having the right information and instructions from the beginning would have been so much easier.

I saw on the revenue website that I could also drop off the form in person at my nearest revenue office. I headed into town and walked to the revenue office near Merrion Square. There were several pieces of paper on the office’s front doors that said “NOT A PUBLIC OFFICE” in red, capital letters. Of course.

Luckily, there was a man outside taking a smoke break. “Is there another entrance where I can go in to speak to somebody?” I asked. “No, it’s not a public office.” “Then where can I drop off a form? The website directed me to this building!” “Oh you want to drop off a form? Yeah you can do that, I’ll let you in.” There was a tray sitting on the front desk, and I placed my folded forms in there, no envelope, no clarifying questions addressed. I have no idea if there’s anything else I’m supposed to do or if I’m to expect any confirmation that I’m properly in the system and paying taxes as I ought to be. Let’s hope!

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