Russian bureaucracy puts spokes in the wheels of immigrants trying to resolve issues remotely: how to deal with it
When the pandemic began and people were cut off from the outside world, with limited ability to move around, I opened my notary office. As a Russian lawyer who has been working in the States for many years, I know how to effectively solve most problems remotely. Therefore, I decided to share my knowledge and experience with New Yorkers and help them move forward, despite the objective difficulties that have arisen due to the coronavirus.
Russian pension in the USA: problems in the Pension Fund and even with a mobile operator
Michael was my first client. He asked me to issue a certificate of the fact of being alive in order to continue paying him a Russian pension. In previous years, he flew to Russia a couple of times a year and personally collected the pension accrued to him. But due to the coronavirus, this has become impossible. He became the first person to whom I issued a certificate of the fact of being alive with an apostille and a notarized translation into Russian, everything is as it should be. I sent the original to the Pension Fund in Shabolovka, and uploaded the scan through my personal account on the Pension Fund website, indicating my e-mail for feedback.
Unexpectedly, in response, I received a written refusal. According to the responsible employee of the Pension Fund, the certificate of the fact of being alive must be certified by the consulate and nothing else.
Being not only an American notary, but primarily a Russian lawyer, I wrote a letter to the Pension Fund explaining the provisions of the 1961 Hague Convention. The pension fund went into meditation for a week, after which a short answer came to my e-mail: “The payment of your client's pension has been restored.”
Then Mikhail came to me with a question: how to get this very pension without a trip to Russia. I suggested that he issue a power of attorney, according to which our Moscow employees could receive his pension, and then I would pay it to him in our office in New York. But Mikhail, a former civil aviation pilot, is used to solving problems without resorting to anyone's help. As it turned out later, he has children living in America, but even he turns to them minimally, despite their great desire to help his father. He likes to do everything himself. Therefore, he considered it unacceptable to receive his pension through proxies, because it suggested a certain kind of dependence and a lasting relationship. And Michael is an independent person.
Therefore, Mikhail asked me if it was possible to issue a Visa or Master Card to a retirement account in order to independently withdraw money in America through an ATM. Such a card cannot be issued to a pension account, it can only be issued to a regular, classic account. At the same time, if you have a classic Visa card, the client can install the Sberbank application on his smartphone, which will reflect all his accounts, including the pension one, and online transfer his pension from the pension account to the classic one, and from this account withdraw money from an ATM.
But here, too, everything is not so simple and unambiguous. To have online access to your Sberbank accounts, you need a mobile phone with a Russian SIM card.
Through our office, Mikhail issued a power of attorney for the right to open an account with Sberbank and receive a SIM card from Megafon. When we turned to MegaFon, we were told that it was impossible to issue a SIM card using a foreign passport (and Mikhail has only a foreign passport, there is no internal Russian passport). And they issued a written refusal with an offer to the client to come to Russia (yes, at the height of the pandemic, at his 89 years old).
I had already prepared to go to court, but my mother stopped me: “Why do you need a court? You explain to them, they just don't understand. As in the case of the Pension Fund, I already wrote explanations for MegaFon, indicating that a citizen of the Russian Federation living outside the Russian Federation is not at all required to have an internal passport; that the identity of a citizen living abroad is certified exclusively by a foreign passport, powers of attorney are issued on it and any of his rights on the territory of the Russian Federation are exercised. But when and if he personally arrives in Russia, then the obligation to obtain an internal passport will come. I immediately got a call back from the Megafon company - the employee asked in confusion what to do if their computer program contains columns only for the internal passport. I gave advice to change the program. This is a question for programmers, not lawyers, isn't it? An hour later I got a call from MegaFon and offered to come for a SIM card.
After receiving the SIM card and checking its performance, we opened an account for Mikhail in Sberbank. It was a separate epic. And why does he need a bank card at the age of 89? How is he going to use it? He is too old, he will be deceived... Our employee was persuaded, tried to dissuade, gave various arguments and considerations, but having exhausted all the possibilities of persuasion, they opened a bank account and issued him a bank card.
It would seem that everything, the task was completed with brilliance, the courier delivered the bank card and sim card to New York, I handed them over to a happy client. But it was not there. A week later - a call: "Nothing works for me." The first thought: “The employees of Sberbank were right, there is no need to torture an elderly person with new technologies ....”. “I want to come to you so that you can help me figure it out. When is it possible?” the client insistently asked.
He comes, hands me a SIM card: “Check, maybe it will work on your phone, but not on me.” I check - it really does not work, although I personally replenished the account, and there should be enough money there for the next six months. I am sending an employee in Moscow to deal with MegaFon. “MegaFon”, reluctantly, issues a written refusal dated two months earlier, which says that the SIM card was issued by them by mistake, and therefore they are now blocking it.
Digging further to find out what the error is. They say that there is no signature and seal of the official on the apostille. Are you serious? Realizing that they were wrong, Megafon was afraid to refuse openly and did it secretly, on the sly. Of course, there is both a signature and a seal on the apostille, an apostille is actually a government-issued document, the form and content of which are established by the 1961 Hague Convention. Upon repeated appeal, they issued a new SIM card even without a fight, apologizing and citing a technical failure. In less than six months, a person was able to receive his pension to his own bank account with the ability to withdraw money through an ATM.
Apostille is a stumbling block
It would seem that we live in the XNUMXst century, when everyone is already experienced and educated and knows what an apostille is. And all the same, no, no, but such wild unbridled unprofessionalism shoots out.
There was another similar story. A young doctor approached me. He was educated in Russia and wanted to continue it in New York. To do this, he needed to give permission to his medical university in the Russian Federation to transfer his transcripts to the American company ECE (Educational Credential Evaluators). At the request of the client, I issued him a notarized application to his Russian university, with an apostille and all the necessary formalities. However, a few days later he called me in complete confusion and said that he was sent to the medical university, to put it mildly, sent .... No, not where you thought, much further ... To the consulate. For only the consulate, according to the medical university, has the right to certify such statements.
On the other hand, what is the demand from the medical university? This is not a law university… Each specialist in his field, and the educational department of the medical university clearly did not specialize in the field of jurisprudence. As a professional international lawyer, and as a notary who certified this document, I wrote an email to the university explaining the provisions of the Hague Convention.
On this day, I was in Washington with the children, where I arrived, because I am a student at Antonia Scalia Law School. We were on the road all day, and as soon as we settled in the hotel, I decided to write an answer to the medical university before going to bed, knowing that in the morning there would be no time for them. Wrote and fell asleep.
At the moment when I received the answer from the university, it was dead of night in Washington and, fortunately, I did not immediately read the response email and did not react to it in any way. Sometimes it’s better to remain silent… The author of the first email accused me of incompetence, expressed his vision of paperwork abroad, emphasizing that many of their graduates go through this, and they have no problems when applying to the consulate. The second email from the same author came in about half an hour, where the interlocutor apologetically admitted that he was wrong and promised to give my client the documents. There was also a third email, in which my esteemed interlocutor asked for my permission to provide my contacts to his graduates, because it is impossible to get into Russian consulates around the world, and problems need to be solved ...
Such is the metamorphosis - from complete denial to recognition and the desire to cooperate. This kind person sent my information to numerous Russian universities that send their students to me. Now receiving transcripts for submission to the ECE (Educational Credential Evaluators) became easier and more accessible.
As a professional lawyer, a recognized specialist in private international law, I have issued thousands of powers of attorney and applications for my clients scattered around the world. I did it for free, as part of a big and meaningful cause. With the onset of the pandemic, I suddenly realized that not everyone has big and significant cases that require the participation of a lawyer. Most people have little tasks to solve that they struggle to handle on their own, but stumble either on the unprofessionalism of those who offer them paperwork assistance in America, or on bureaucratic hurdles, justified or unreasonable. These people do not have problems worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but their little problems are no less relevant to them.
People want to sell and buy apartments, rent them out, open telephone lines, receive pensions, confirm the fact of being alive, continue their studies abroad, issue powers of attorney to conduct court cases, enter into inheritances, issue permits for children to travel around the world, film from registration without the need to come home, as well as draw up any other legally significant documents while abroad. And I decided to get closer to you and help you in solving not only big and significant tasks, but also in solving small everyday things.
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