Saturday, December 21, 2013

Our first visit to the notary

We mentioned earlier that there are a number of notaries around, which was probably a sign of what it takes to do business in Kazakhstan.  Sure enough, on our first day in country, where do we find ourselves but at the notary!

In addition to the suitcases we traveled with, we have an air freight shipment coming, but before it can be sent, we've had to provide several documents including copies of our passports, migration card & visas, letter of invitation to work in Kazakhstan and last, but not least, a power of attorney to the shipping agent to act as our representative. This last document is what required notarization.

In talking through the procedures with our local helpers, they were surprised to learn that notaries are somewhat hard to find in the USA.  "They're everywhere here," they say.

And sure enough, there is a notary in my office building. So Kevin & I head there first with our power of attorney in hand.  We are greeted by a young woman who takes the document, reads it thoroughly and then says no (actually "nyet" was what she said).  Just then, her colleague walks in, takes the document, reads it thoroughly and then says no, accompanied by head-shaking. We couldn't figure out through sign language why head-shaking was necessary but clearly it was a waste of time to linger. (We did note that both of these normal-sized women share one normal-sized desk. Cozy?!).

With the help of the English-speaking desk clerks in the lobby we learn that the onsite notary is out on maternity leave so no notarizing is going on.  (They couldn't help us understand how it was that two women are working full-time when the notary is gone but...)

As we had heard, there are notaries everywhere, so after fetching our coats we set off for a notary across the street.  Or try to.  We are stymied by a security buzzer.

Luckily a local Kazakh helps us get in and find the notary on the third floor. We follow her up the elevator and around the corner, and together we sit in the notary's "waiting room," chairs in the hallway.  We assume that she is also waiting for the notary, but after a few minutes, she gets a call on her cellphone and leaves.  We're still not clear if she was just helping us or had her own commission for the notary.

At last, our turn.  The notary is a middle-aged woman with manicured nails sitting behind a desk laden with old-fashioned lined registers in a windowless room.  "English?" we ask. She shakes her head no. But we pull out our document to be notarized.  She takes it, reviews it (it's in Russian), asks for our passports, starts typing away.  A few questions we can answer, but then we get stuck. We just don't understand what she's asking.  I (Robyn) have forgotten to bring my local cellphone so can't call a colleague for translation.  I'm afraid it's over and we'll have to leave, but the notary picks up her phone, talks and then hands it to me.

I hear: "Hello, this is Mohammed.  She asked me to ask you a few questions..."  Hurrah!

We confirm a few of the details, but simply do not know the Date of Birth of the shipping agent we are giving power of attorney to (really?  we have to know the date of birth?).

So, it's back to the office, a colleague to the rescue to get all the details we need.  Updated document in hand, it's back across the street for a final review.

The notary takes our document and produces her own. Sign here, sign here. and we get three stamps to make her version official.  Then we sign her register, one name on each line (I did it wrong and had to redo my signature).

Total time: 2 hours
Total trips to the office: 3
Total stamps: 4
Total signatures: 6
Total cost: $12

It wasn't efficient but we got what we needed, and got news today that the shipment was greenlighted. We hope we'll get it before Christmas.

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