Wonderful food, beautiful art & amazing culture were a nice distraction to what would become a plan of changing plans, with stops, starts & many changes in direction.
Here is the incredibly long story about the drama on Monday & Tuesday, the beginning of November at the immigration office for those of you who were concerned & wanted to know. We were never in any danger ⚠️ just jumping through hoops, as rules & schedules changed. Originally we were told we had to make an appointment w/immigration in order to exchange our 30-day entry visa that we got in Albuquerque into a temporary residency card. Which I did on the first business day we were in town, as you may recall. It was good that I got the appointment; however the appointment was for November 30th.
Our original plan was to be in SMA until November 16 then go onto the FIG balloon rally in León, then continue to Mérida, Yucatan, naïvely thinking we would have completed the residency process. Thankfully, we didn’t have plans set in stone, except for the rally in Leon. We had not yet purchased plane tickets & I had specifically booked a refundable Airbnb in Merida. We regrouped & began looking into accommodations to stay in SMA through the end of the year because we had also heard that even when you go to your appointment, you might be sent away without your card which they would later email you to pick up. We really had no idea how long the process was going to take. 🤷🏼♀️ We knew this part of the journey would require flexibility & it certainly did 😊
So we filled out our paperwork & settled into a longer stay in SMA, waiting for our appointment. Then one evening I was scrolling through Facebook only to see an announcement from a local advocate that all future appointments had been canceled & anyone that had an appointment would now have to go to the office, stand in line & get a number to be seen. To be clear, this was the one & only announcement about the change & canceling of appointments, on Facebook, not through the government website, not via email. 😲 After a small amount of panic, we decided we would go first thing Monday morning. Let’s remember at this point that Dave works Mon-Fri, 8 to 5 depending on the time zone. We are not retired, we are not on vacation, we are living down here for roughly 6 months. So Dave took Monday off, we woke up at 4 AM & started walking the 2 1/2 km in hopes of finding a taxi along the way. 🚕 About halfway there we got a taxi which shortcut our route 10-15 minutes, we arrived at the INM at roughly 5:55am. There were already a few folks there, when the place actually opened at 9 AM. When numbers were handed out we were 5&6, we felt pretty good about this. We brought snacks, the Internet was good to keep us preoccupied about the passing of time. At about 10:45 we were called into the building. Dave went up first & then came back down five minutes later…pretty quick! I knew this was not a good sign. He said, “we filled out the wrong form.“ 🤦🏼♀️ I was then called up & decided to go up to ask a few more questions. I asked her specifically where on the website was the correct form, she showed me the drop downs, the URL & I literally took pictures of computer screen. 🖥️ Then we went home.
After some hemming & hawing & gnashing of teeth & trying to decide who’s fault it was, we found the correct form, filled it out & I walked down the street to have it printed.
Dave took a second day off, we woke up before 4 AM & began our walk down to the INM. This time we did not grab a taxi & arrived at roughly the same time as we did the day before. There were now twice as many people there as the previous day. When numbers were passed out we were 12&13. Long story continuing to be longer, we finally got called in just after noon. Dave went up first, they confirmed his form was correct, took his money, & began to finalize the process. Now this is sort of the important part, you know when you feel like you have a plan & it doesn’t go to plan & then you feel like the world is against you? That was our Monday & then when we were super successful on Tuesday we better understood why Monday happened as it did. As I said before, if we had had the correct form on Monday, we still would have left the INM without our actual residence card because they were not making cards on Monday. However, because we went back on Tuesday, they were making them & we left with our cards in hand 💳
I would later learn from Facebook via the same advocate who had posted about the canceling of appointments that the process had further degraded. The first Monday we went they were passing out numbers 1 to 30 & I heard on Tuesday that the INM stayed open an hour later than normal to process all 30 of those people. When we arrived on Tuesday, they only passed out numbers 1 through 20. After Thanksgiving we heard, they were only giving out numbers 1 through 15 & people were queuing up at 2 AM in the morning to make sure they were seen.
It was quite a mess! Could they have done better, sure. But the bottom line is Mexico has seen more than a 100% increase in residency applications over the last two years. As people complained & tried to find someone to blame, I did my best to muster as much grace as possible. The ladies at the INM never stopped running up & down the stairs, they had lunch brought in & barely took time for a bathroom break.
So were we lucky, blessed, in the right place at the right time? Yes to all of those I would say. We are officially done (for now) We are temporary Mexicans, at least until October 2023 when we will have to decide whether or not to come back & trudge through the process again to extend our residency for an additional four years. Thanks for reading all the way to the end. We are in fact, good, most of the time we are having fun & some of the time we are not 🤣❤️
If you are looking to learn more about the Mexican immigration process, I highly recommend these two websites… https://www.mexperience.com/tag/residency-in-mexico/ and https://soniadiazmexico.com/category/visas/