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When I came out to live in Brazil I applied for and received a permanent visa based on family reunion. As Neu is Brazilian and we were married with a child, this was a fairly straight forward procedure, we applied for the visas at the Brazilian consulate in England and they were issued within 3 months of applying.

Although the visa is permanent, the identity card that comes with it has to be renewed every ten years and earlier this year mine became due. The basic form is completed online, you print out the fee form (there is always a fee) and once it’s paid, book a visit in person to the Federal Police, which for me means a trip to Fortaleza.

My daughter was also renewing her document though doing it where she lives in Sao Paulo and her appointment with the Police came through a few days before mine. Having reached the front of a long queue she discovered we had paid the wrong fee (the online form has a section where a drop down menu gives you a code for the fee, unfortunately the name of the fee is not specified on the form so we had to guess which of two options it was and had guessed incorrectly.) so she had to go to another section in the building and pay to have a new fee payment slip printed out, then go off to the bank to pay it, before coming back to stand in a long queue all over again to request a refund of the amount she had incorrectly paid and then process her documents.

Thankfully I got to print out the new fee form at home and get it paid before heading to the Police, where before too long I was seen by a pleasant man who dealt with the process as quickly as he could. I had my finger prints taken and provided the required photos, one was kept for my new document the other was put on my temporary document (a slip of paper with my photo and identity number on) which I was told not to lose as it is the only proof of my permanent status and I would need it to claim my new card which should be ready in 6 months time.

So 6 month passes and I return to the Federal Police to collect my card, to be told at the door that I would not be allowed in as I was wearing shorts.

Now there has, for all the time I have been visiting the Federal Police building, been a rule that men were not permitted in the building wearing shorts, but the dress code had never applied to women before, so now they discriminate against short wearers of either sex.

Fuming slightly, I began to walk back to the car, when I realised that a man selling drinks and snacks on the other side of the street was pssst, pssting me and beckoning for me to come over.

What an enterprising man he was! Saying he could help me, he pulled out a plastic bag stuffed with skirts, one of which I could hire for R$5.00  He rummaged around until he found one he deemed suitable, a lovely (not) grey nylon number, with a handy elasticated waist which allowed me to slip it on over my shorts, it certainly wasn’t my style but in the circumstances I was grateful. Suitable dressed I returned to the Federal Police.

Inside the building the only receptionist that could deal with my inquiry was in no hurry to deal with anything but when he did decide to ask me what I was there for, he refused to go and see if my document was ready as I didn’t have my passport with me. I remonstrated with him that I hadn’t been told to bring my passport,  only the temporary document, after all it had my photo on it and unlike my passport, the same photo that would be on my new identity card so I had to be who I said I was. He was not to be moved.

A few weeks later I returned, this time in my own skirt and with my passport. I was met by the same receptionist who once again was in no hurry and seemed almost disappointed when I handed him my passport along with my slip of paper. He went off and when he returned, without looking at me he asked me to check the details were correct and to sign for my card. When I had done that he tore off the photo from the temporary identity slip and handed it to me, ripped the rest of the slip into shreds then said that was it,  all without looking at me once.

Although I don’t believe it is often done on purpose, this kind of dismissive service is common in Brazil and really gets up my nose, it takes nothing to smile at someone or have eye contact. Having put my documents safely away, I touched the young man’s arm and as sweetly as I could, thanked him for his very helpful service, he did at least have the decency to look slightly non plussed before muttering that it was nothing, which indeed was an accurate description.

As my daughter still hadn’t collected her new document, I warned her to take her passport and not to wear shorts. She followed my advice, only to find that the Federal Police in Sao Paulo do not have a dress code for either men or women and her passport was not needed either, so perhaps in Fortaleza its just rules for the sake of rules.