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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May 13, 2005 — Maybe the subtitle of this entry should be “The Human Face of Mexican Bureaucracy.”

A week ago today, as I blogged, we went to the nearby city of Queretaro to the Instituto Nacional de Migracion. We thought our FM-3 visas might be ready, but instead we each got a letter saying what they still needed from us. We each needed to pay the annual fee for the visa, of about $100 US. We were expecting that. They also wanted our bank statements translated into Spanish, and we found a translator that day.

That was all Kelly needed but because I was being listed as his dependent, they wanted an official copy of our wedding certificate and it had to be apostilled and translated into Spanish. Apostille may not be a household word in your family, but it has become one in ours lately! Basically there is an international agreement that different countries will accept apostilled documents from other countries as valid. There was one more thing they needed for me, a relatively simple form where we said that we were living as a married couple and two Mexicans had to sign it and we had to have photocopies of their national voters’ cards for ID.

So after that meeting with the bureaucracy a week ago, we were not sanguine about my getting an FM-3. It turned out that there was no way we could get an apostilled wedding license in the 14 days allowed, as it involves two different offices in California and then expressing it down here via DHL (said to be the most reliable courier service), not to mention that we were planning to leave for the US a few days ago anyway.

Our translator had some out-of-town work so it wasn’t till today that she was going to have our translations done. Early in the week, I wondered about going in to Queretaro myself to ask some questions about other choices, but the day I thought of going, I didn’t sleep well the night before, so I just waited till today.

Also during the week I’ve received emails about two other American women whose marriage licenses just like the one I have HAD been accepted by Mexican officials — but in other places. Each Migracion office has the power to require what they want. I know of other Americans who have had to have apostilled birth certificates even though they had passports. This was not in Queretaro.

Yesterday we went over our papers and had one of our rare squabbles, due mostly to the stress of this surreal situation. It didn’t last long, and we did do the form saying we live together where two Mexicans had to sign and provide ID. A friend who runs a grocery store down the street and his assistant know us both and were happy to help out. We didn’t know if we would need it, but at least we would be showing good faith efforts to do all we could.

A neighbor of ours up the street a little ways makes his living with his pickup truck which has stock panels in it. We’ve most often seen a big water bin or hay bales in it, but yesterday in the late afternoon, he pulled in with two sheep in it. They proceeded to B-A-A-A for hours, and I wondered how we would sleep. Well, the sheep slept fine after dark so we did okay too.

This morning we left Bernal on an early bus and got to Migracion in Queretaro before 9:00AM. Our wait was short, and there we were with the woman who had gotten a little stern with me last week when I said we didn’t have apostilled documents in the U.S. (She was right, I just hadn’t heard of them.)

This morning, I explained our dilemma. There wasn’t time to get an apostilled copy of the wedding certificate. I began to ask something but she cut me off. All smiles, she said that there was no problem.

She said I could submit a letter saying the apostilled wedding certificate, translated into Spanish, would be coming within a month.

I said but we can’t stay a month more in Mexico. We have to get back to our business in Colorado ASAP, so will I need to get my tourist visa back?

She said you can go with your FM-3.

I said that there wasn’t time to get it. Kelly had by now caught on to what she was saying but it took me a few moments longer to catch on.

She was saying that I could get my FM-3 without the apostilled wedding certificate. My jaw dropped as she explained that if I wrote the letter, then they would go ahead and give me the FM-3. I could have a friend here in Mexico bring in the papers when they arrived.

The human face of Mexican bureaucracy!

So we left quite happily, to go pay our fees at a bank, have a meal, and pick up our translated documents. Our translator kindly whipped out the letter I needed — in impeccable Spanish.

This Migracion office has a take-a-number system for people waiting their turns, and if you come back on the same day, you don’t have to take a new number but can basically cut in line. So practically the minute we walked in the door around 1:00 PM, we did that. A friendly man we hadn’t seen before began going through our papers with us. I was pleased when our benefactress of the morning came in with a huge pile of folders and immediately called out to him that I only needed a letter today. Was this a standard Mexican way of getting around the bureaucracy, or something she had invented on the spot? We don’t know.

Soon, the man was smiling at us and saying that they had everything they needed. I am not sure what came over me, but he was quite jolly so I asked if he was sure that they didn’t need the name of our cat. He assured me that would not be necessary.

Our visas should be ready in ten days, more or less. Ten days is a week from Monday, so I asked if more or less might mean the visas would be ready next Friday. No, they doubted it.

So here we are in Bernal for at least another ten days. What a fate. Can we stand it? Stay tuned.

2 Comments from my old blog:

  • At May 14, 2005 6:34 AM, Anonymous Bidstrup said…

    Most gringoes have a problem with it at first, but mordida is a fact of life when dealing with the establishment in Mexico. Migration in Queretaro was sending you all the signals, but perhaps they were too subtle. The problem probably could have been solved for no more than 500 pesos.

  • At May 14, 2005 9:42 PM, Blogger Rosana Hart said…

    I wasn’t born yesterday (hardly!) but it had actually never crossed my mind that there was a chance for mordida there. After I read this comment, I asked the opinion of some Americans who live in Queretaro and have dealt with Migracion a lot.

    They said that this might well be true in many other places in Mexico, but that times are changing all over the country, and that it would not have worked in Qro, it likely would have made them annoyed at Kelly and me.

    This is all part of what makes this such a Kafkaesque experience. What ARE the rules? And do last year’s or last week’s rules still apply?

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