I must apologise to the young lady at counter 7 of the third floor (bahagian pekerja asing) of the Immigration Department at Pusat Bandar Damansara.
This morning, I snapped at her. Which is something I had never done to any counter clerks at the immigration department, only because I had never faced any rude ones.
And this young lady was not rude. In fact, she knew her job. Perhaps better than her immediate superiors.
It was just that she was beginning to assume that typical government counter clerk's "I don't have time to deal with your problem" tone on me when handling my "transaction" today.
This episode today had to do with my application for a work permit for my new maid.
You see, everything was in order. Or so I thought.
Let me also say that this morning was my third visit to the foreign workers' division of the Immigration Department since my maid arrived here last month.
And certainly, will not be the last.
I have been unlucky to have been referred -- twice during separate occasions --to two low-ranked immigration officers who were incapable of making decision on the status of my maid's work permit application.
And these officers, sadly, happened to be female.
To me, they might as well have remained counter clerks.
During both (separate) occasions, these officers were not able to assess my application on a "case-by-case" basis.
The first time was in 2003. When an officer I was referred to, could not resolve my simple predicament, I was faced with a "road block". Any decision she could have taken to enable me to proceed with my application would not have broken any law in the country.
Still, she was not able to make decisions beyond the cut-and-dry slip-ups. Anything beyond that was incomprehensible to her.
So I had to resort to asking my immigration department contact to help me which is something I was always hesitant about doing.
My contact was a little surprised that I was faced with a road block so he willingly helped.
(Still, to this day I think it was so unnecessary that I had to resort to asking for help from an "orang dalam")
The second "encounter" with another low-ranked female officer (she was a supervisor, actually), was on Dec 31, 2007 when I was going to have my maid's work permit stamped. That, of course, did not happen.
That became my predicament and explains my 4 exhaustive visits to the Indonesian Embassy to have my maid's passport extended.
That in itself was a problem because I had to explain to the Indonesian Embassy officer why my maid's still valid (it expired November 2008) passport had to be extended in order for her to get her permit (which expires December 2008) issued and stamped in her passsport.
Apparently, the immigration department will not issue an 11-month work permit (instead of the normal 12-month validity) for first-time work permits such as in my maid's case when the expiry date of her permit would have exceeded the expiry date of her passport.
For first-time maids, their work permits will be effective from the day of their arrival in this country.
In my maid's case, she arrived her on Dec 3, 2007.
And apparently, the Indonesian Embassy does not extend the expiry date of valid passports.
My maid was instead, on January 11, issued a spanking new passport which expires in 2010.
I have never relied on any third party to deal with this. All these years, I have been doing it myself. And this has been since they first started legalising illegal immigrants in 1991.
So, this is familiar ground to me.
And I thought for immigration officers too.
When my maid got her new passport, I was pleased but was a bit sceptical about the Malaysian immigration side.
I sensed that the immigration department would still find something amiss because her old passport, under which everything was applied with regards to her employment, was now invalid as it had been cancelled.
I knew somehow that something was not right but I could not pin point what it was.
Would I have to re-apply for her permit all over again?
I was at the third floor of the department in Pusat Bandar Damansara at 7.45am today. I immediately took a number (4003).
At 8 sharp, the counter opened. The first number was 4001.
In less than 10 minutes, I was called. So far so good, I thought.
I told the young lady what I was there for, handed my maid's old and new passports. She looked and flipped through the passports, and asked again what my application was for.
I explained. She finally understood but said that she could not issue the permit because my maid's medical report was under the old passport so I had to go to Fomema....
I told her that her medical report was made when her old passport was still valid so, couldn't they....
That was when she began to assume that, er...unpleasant tone. And that was when I snapped and told her that all this should have been told to me that day on Dec 31 2007 when I was asked to make that RM100 special passs to extend her one-month temporary visit pass, that day when I could not obtain her work permit and was asked to extend the validity of her passport.
You know, so that I could have got the Fomema thing settled before coming to the immigration department.
Sensing my exasperation, she said very gently that I should see "the pegawai" inside because, really, there was nothing she could do. I suppose that was the only other option.
Aah..the same "pegawai" I was referred to that very same day too. The one whose instruction his female subordinate quashed and threw out without any hesitation. And that explained why I had to have my maid's passport renewed.
Nevertheless, I went into the waiting room. I was ready for a fight.
But he was not in.
I took a seat and while waiting for him I called Fomema and someone told me to just have an amendment made so that the number of my maid's new passport would replace the old one.
She asked me to bring my maid's new passport as well as copies of the first and last page of the passport. And in three hours, I could go to the immigration department and get the work permit issued.
Fomema was just at the end of th building so I decided to have that settled.
I've come to the conclusion, that there was really nothing that "pegawai" could do, anyway.
If I had to have that Fomema medical clearance attached to her valid passport done, then I'd do it.
At Fomema, it took me less than 10 minutes to have my maid's Fomema report amended to include her new passport number.
I'm sorry, folks, to have to lay all this on you. But you know-lah. I thought the Immigration Department practises ISO standards. So, it should have procedures in place to deal with "special" or the non-run-of-the-mill cases.
Its officers should be adept in dealing with "glitches" faced by members of the public. They should be effective and capable of making decisions on indvidual cases.
Oh well....laying all this on you guys has been cathartic.
That's what blogs are for, right?
So, until my next visit to the immigration department....here's wishing your day has been good!
And I once again apologise to that young lady whose day, I hope, has not been spoilt.