Wednesday, May 13, 2009

visaless in melaque

Well, not really.

But I am without my beloved and hard-earned FM3 booklet.

Those of you who have followed my move south know that one of the early choices I had to make was whether (1) to come across the border on a tourist card (FMT) and then obtain a non-immigrant visa (FM3) after I got settled in Melaque, or (2) obtain my FM3 in Portland before I crossed the border.

The second option seemed the easiest because the process for obtaining an FM3 in Portland is extremely efficient.

The downside, as many of my fellow bloggers told me, was that I would still need to jump through all of the bureaucratic hoops once I arrived and tried to register my FM3.

Tuesday was reckoning day -- when I would discover whether I had simply wasted time by getting my FM3 in Oregon.

My new neighbor (and fellow blogger)
Sparks Mexico, agreed to accompany my brother and me to the Immigration office in Manzanillo.

And I am glad he did. I am positive that if we had not had him along with us, I would never have found the office. It is well within the commercial bowels of the Port of Manzanillo complex.

But, with his expertise, we arrived to take our efficiently-dispensed number: 39, with number 35 currently being served.

I fully expected to witness people shoving ahead in line when the next numbers were called. But everyone was as orderly as if we were in a Norwegian DMV.

When my number was called, I explained why I was there to a young woman who spoke very precise English.

I gave her my FM3, my passport, copy of my passport, and 6 photographs (front view and side view) that could be used to re-issue Franco coins. (No. I did not digitize copies for sharing.)

And, of course, I provided a copy of my newly-purchased Constancia de Domicilio. It worked just as advertised.

She then asked me to fill out two very detailed forms -- one in English, the other completely in Spanish.

I was extremely smug that I figured out most of the questions, and answered a good portion accurately. The fact that my birth date is not 17 March 2009 was more a matter of amusement than embarrassment.

She thanked me, kept my FM3, and told me I could pick up my registered visa in two weeks. When I asked her what needed to be done, she informed me it was the normal time period.

The answer was non-responsive, but I was not in a trial. I was at the mercy of a bureaucracy that needed to grind fine my request to live in mexico.

Instead of a fancy green booklet, I left with a copy of my oddly-completed application form as a temporary visa. Fortunately, we did not run across any military checkpoints on the drive north to Melaque. A folded, scribbly form just does not have the caché of that seal-ensconced visa.

What I did not need to register my FM3 was a police check and proof of income. The checks conducted at the consulate were adequate for those purposes.

The lesson I bring away is preparation will not ensure a perfect result, but it will elimate the number of variables.

Thanks to my fellow bloggers, I knew a number of those variables. Thanks to Sparks, even more were elinated.

All in all, a very good trip to Manzanillo.

We will see how "happily ever after" turns out when I return to pick up the visa at the end of the month.


1st Mate said...

True, that piece of paper doesn't feel nearly as secure as an FM-3 booklet with your photo, etc. in it. But I seriously doubt you'll ever be called on to produce either. I haven't, after three years, except when I went to Immigration for renewal.

Constantino said...

Good lesson #328, you will always have more paperwork then you need.
Lesson #329, you will never have enough paperwork with you when required.
Lesson #330, if all else fails, go to another employee, then next day, chances are you have the right paperwork anyway......

Larry in Mazatlan said...

That form is your receipt. Keep the original at home and a copy in your vehicle. It's as valid as the booklet. You'll need to turn over the original receipt to receive your updated book. Always check the next renewal date to make sure they got it right.


Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

Hey there. I too originated from the Portland area before my venture to Mexico. I am glad to hear that things went as well as they did. :) Not always the case. It went smooth for my kids citizenship and is so far okay for my FM2. Anyway... keep up the posts.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Please allow me to translate "it always takes 2 weeks" means either "we have everything we need and this is just a formality" or " I just certify that the copies are indeed true copies,so I have no idea if you will need anything else".
I am going to blog about immigration today too!

Brenda said...

Glad it went smoothly.

Steve Cotton said...

1st Mate -- There have been road stops in the area lately where the military have requested the production of original visas. I have not yet had the honor.

Constantino -- Good lessons all.

Larry -- Thanks for the additional tip. I never thought about making a copy for the truck. I have tucked the original with my paperwork. I am not so foolish to believe I am done with document production.

Rosas Clan in Tulum -- And doesn't it feel good when you are denied the opportunity to tell a horror story in the future?

Theresa -- I also considered the possibility that it meant: "I have already stamped and registered your booklet. But you are in my power. And this is lot simpler than shackles and whips."

Brenda -- I trust the last bit will go just as easily.

Suzanne said...

Hi Steve,
you finally made it! A note on the fm3 - we keep a copy on us and most of the time leave the booklet at home. I have had to show ID a couple of times but usually only my passport and so far, only at the bank and immigration office for both passport & fm3 - where they want the original, not the copy. I put emergency contact info on the copy as well .

Otherwise, are you enjoying your move and settling in?

Steve Cotton said...

Suzanne -- I did, indeed, make it. And each day brings new unexpected events. I have no doubts about the move. But I am still adjusting to doing without some things and learning how to use new ones.

Larry in Mazatlan said...

The two weeks is universal. On the appointed day just walk in with your original receipt. They usually have certain hours for returning documents, though. For us it's between 12:00 and 2:00.

Odds are the only paper you'll need to take with you when you pick up your FM3 will be a book to keep you occupied while you wait. The processes here aren't sinister. Just a little confusing sometimes.

You don't need to keep your passport and visa with you for local travel. We keep copies of the first couple of pages from our passports and the first few pages of our visas in the vehicle. Just enough info to show we're current. We also carry copies of our drivers' licenses because I'm reluctant to turn over an original unless I absolutely have to. The one time I needed to I told the transito that it was at home. He said okay when he saw the copy. Not even a little mordida.