A time came when I needed to get my visa extended in Iraq. I didn’t necessarily wanted to, I needed to (it’s a long story). I heard some disturbing stories about how people tried to extend their visa for Kurdistan/Iraq in Erbil and how bad it could be, so naturally, I was a bit concerned about the whole business. I needed extension for only a few days and I wanted no complications, hence I avoided Erbil and this is how it went.
I turned up at the Residency office in Sulaymaniyah at 9 am. Immediately, I made my way to the room number 11 (see information board when entering the building) where I waited a couple of minutes. It didn’t take long and one of the counters became available. I explained to a pretty Kurdish girl who spoke considerably good English that I needed to extend my visa.
She says “I have two stamps, one for 7 days and the other for 14. Which one you like?”. Not knowing if everything was going to go according to plan I opted for 14 days extension, lest something goes terribly wrong and I’d have to come here again. I say “14 please”.
She explained I needed to go for a blood test and then come back to her. I tried to talk my way out of it but it seemed she was pretty much set on the idea. It had to be done.
Now, this is where it gets a bit complicated as she points out and explains the whole process and how to go about it. Bearing in mind she was just about the only person talking a little English there it seemed like an impossible mission. ‘Go this way and that way, talk to that man then go and see somebody else on this floor, once you done go get some sort of paperwork then back again and again somewhere else…’ I just about caught ‘go straight and then turn left,’ then she lost me.
So I look at her half panicked, half amused and pull a simple face. She smiles, shakes her head and says: “OK, I come with you”. Now we were finally talking some sense.
She comes with me to a little office by the entrance to the building where I give them one passport photo and receive some paperwork in exchange. Then we take the paperwork to the door marked as ‘lab’ its the first door in the hallway. Here I receive some more paperwork and pay 26 500 DIN. Then it is off to the very next door where I surrender the paperwork and sit down. I wait. My girl says “I go back now, you wait here and come see me when you finish”. She is gone and I am all alone. I wait some more.
Finally at length blood is taken, results given and I find myself heading back to my pretty Kurdish girl again. She sees me and smiles, I hand over some paperwork, she reads it, stamps my passport, smiles some more and I am off. Two weeks extension and Bob’s your uncle.
The whole affair took 40 minutes and was very straight forward. I imagine it would have taken much longer without my little guide there but at the end of the day I would have figured it out myself. Or maybe not, who knows.