A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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April 26, 2005 — As I described in my last post, yesterday we went to the nearby city of Queretaro to see about getting FM-3 visas, to be able to live and travel in and out of Mexico more easily. The day flowed easily, with help coming from unexpected sources.

So this morning we were curious what it would be like to actually encounter Mexican goverment officials in this quest. From other foreigners, we’d heard that the office in Queretaro was a helpful one. But I’d read many different tales online and in books, about the quirks of Mexican bureaucracy. As we walked over to the Instituto Nacional de Migracion from our hotel, I was mostly curious and hopeful, a little daunted at the challenge I knew this would be to our Spanish, and a wee bit nervous.

The office had a take-a-number system, and we had about a 15-minute wait. A blond woman came in after us and sat down without taking a number. I went over to her, to tell her that she needed one. She looked like an American to me so I said in English, “Do you speak English?” She said yes.

It turned out that she had a number but had stepped out for something, but we started chatting. She is Mexican, with an American mother, and married to a European. This is not all that unusual here — I think few Americans realize how cosmopolitan Mexico is! We had a lively chat in English, and I was almost sorry when it was our turn at the counter.

The immigration official we spoke with could not have been more helpful. I did have to ask her to slow her Spanish down several times. She spoke a little English, but I didn’t realize that till near the end.

She had a check-list form and she marked which things on it we needed. We showed her our tourist cards or FM-Ts. You have to get them stamped after you pay a fee at the bank, and we had done that immediately after getting the FM-Ts last December. She said we didn’t have the right stamp. We said we had done it. It began to look like a confrontation, so I said that if we had to pay the fee twice, we would. She said don’t worry about it.

She barely glanced at the bank statements I had downloaded from the internet, other than to say they looked fine. They were on pink paper with a black ink cartridge that was barely printing a medium gray. No problem, she said, other than that we needed two copies — one for Kelly’s application and one for mine.

She said that Kelly was changing his status from tourist to rentista. Did I also want to be a rentista or did I want to be his dependent? Well, I’m a woman’s libber from way back, but I had heard that if you were a dependent, the amount of income you have to prove is half what it is otherwise, so being a dependent seemed like the way to go.

I did have one question, though. There’s a lovely phrase in Spanish, “Ojala que..” which could be translated “Would to God that…” It goes back to when the Moors ruled southern Spain and the “ala” in “Ojala” refers to the Muslim name for God, usually spelled Allah in English. This phrase takes the subjunctive verb, but my verb tenses generally fall where they may and so far relearning the subjunctive has not been a priority.

Anyway, my question was: Ojala que my husband will lead a long life, but if he died in Mexico and I was a dependent, would it be a problem to change my status to rentista at that point? She said no, I said call me dependent then. I did blanch a little when she said Kelly would have to write a letter in Spanish that he would be responsible for my moral character and actions, something like that.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, I made a passing reference that we found the quality of daily life better in Mexico. Without missing a beat, she said, “Claro,” a commonly used word meaning clearly or obviously.

She went on down the list. We didn’t have an electric bill that proved our address, but we did have an old electric bill for our house, in the name of our landlord’s sister who lives in Californial because our landlord had never changed it when he bought the house from her. We also had an official paper that showed the bill is in the process of being changed to Kelly’s name. That wasn’t quite good enough. We will also need the rent contract, which we did have with us, and also a letter from our landlord explaining about the electric bill and including a photocopy of his ID. Ojala que the new electric bill will arrive tomorrow — it’s due about now — and we can skip this step. I think the landlord’s letter has to be typed.

I was pleased that she didn’t mark birth certificates as something we needed, as we had heard that some foreigners have been required to have them recently. We don’t have ours with us. We had gotten a friend at home to scan in our wedding license, but she didn’t ask for that.

She gave us a couple of daunting forms that have to be filled out PERFECTLY by typewriter, no photocopies or mistakes allowed, in duplicate. I looked at them and gulped.

I asked if there were people who helped foreigners fill out the forms. I knew that there were in other cities, but didn’t know about Queretaro. I said that for example, I didn’t know if my nose was concava, convexa, recta, o ancha

A little impatiently for the first time, she turned the paper around and looked at the list of 11 characteristics and rattled off which one I was for each. I had to agree that my complexion fisica, given a choice of slender, medium, or robust, was robust, but after a lifetime of being told that I have a big mouth, it was nice to know that — in official Mexican eyes, anyway — my mouth can go down as medium.

There was also a form to fill out in triplicate for each of us that we could buy at a stationery store and pay about$40US each at any bank, for getting the application started. There would also be a fee of about $100US each when we came back in with all the papers.

I wondered aloud if we should just wait till we come back to Mexico to do the rest, specially since we are leaving Mexico in a couple of weeks. No doubt about it, I was in total overwhelm. The Migracion lady gave me a brief pep talk. In effect, she said, look, you have almost everything. You just need a few little things, then you can come and go as you please and it will be better. But I do recommend that you come back this week with your papers done, so there will be enough time. We thanked her and we left with our fistful of new papers.

We bought the triplicate forms we needed, filled them out over brunch in a nice restaurant, and paid our first set of fees in a bank before catching a taxi to the bus station on the edge of Queretaro and then the second-class bus back to Bernal. It was a pleasant ride.

Back in Bernal, we stopped by the house of an American friend who knows about getting forms filled out. He wasn’t home, but just as we arrived at our door, he pulled up. He has a self-correcting typewriter and much better Spanish than we do, and will help us with the forms tomorrow. The flow continues.

Note: This is probably far more detail than most people will be interested in, but I imagine that foreigners planning to get an FM-3 may find it fascinating. Do remember that your mileage may vary. One nice thing about Mexican bureaucracy (or not-so-nice, depending on your experience) is that there seems to be more variation in how things are handled than Americans are used to.

We could have waited till we were out of Mexico to apply for the FM-3, but there were a couple of reasons we preferred to do it here. The Queretaro office is the one we will be dealing with in Mexico, since our base will be in Bernal, a town in the state of Queretaro. If we did all this in the United States, we would have to use the Mexican Consulate in Denver. An example of the variability I mentioned in the last paragraph is that each consulate is allowed to set its own standards. We’d heard that Denver was requiring larger income amounts than most places. Also, Denver is a 3 1/2 hour drive over the mountains from our house in Crestone.

Another choice would have been to wait to do all this till we come back on another tourist visa, but we are doing it this way because technically you can’t bring the same vehicle back into Mexico on a tourist visa in the same year. This isn’t always enforced, maybe usually isn’t, but we didn’t want to risk filling our little motorhome Cando full of stuff we want in Mexico and be stopped at the border.

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