Tuesday, May 20, 2008

La Migra

It's that time of year again: time renew all our official documents, starting with the visas that allow us to live here. Renewing an FM3 visa costs, for some odd reason, exactly 1,172 pesos, and of course, you don't just walk in and hand them $1,172. Instead you go to the bank, fill out some forms, pay the bank $1,172 and then bring your receipt to the Immigration office. The reason for this, presumably, is that there is an enormous body of evidence to indicate that no Mexican public employee should ever be entrusted with money in any form, or any amount, ever.

This year, in the interest of streamlining the process a bit, the bank-related paperwork is considerably less onerous. After waiting 45 minutes at Immigration, we got a pre-printed form, already filled out, that we were to take to the bank. Printed very clearly on the top of the form was the instruction to "bring this form to the teller window."

It didn't seem to matter what bank we went to, so we picked HSBC, since we have an account there. The "HS" stands for "Hongkong-Shanghai," but in terms of efficiency and customer service, oh, it's Mexico, baby! Just because 26 people are standing in line, that's no reason to open up a second teller's window, right? So after almost an hour, we get to the front of the line, hand the teller our form, and he proceeds to stare at it as if he had never seen such a thing before. Which, of course, he had not. After conferring with the manager, he tells us that we want the customer service desk, not the teller window. So we go stand in the customer service desk line. After a relatively zippy 35 minutes, we sit down at the desk, hand the guy our form, and wait while he rubber stamps the thing about 10 times. Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! The whole thing took maybe 30 seconds.

"Now just take this over to the teller's window and pay," he says with smile. "But... but the teller sent us over here!" we said. "Yes, but you can't pay here, you have to pay at the teller's window." We looked at the snaking, Disney-style line. "Well that's a pretty fucked-up system, isn't it?" we asked. He handed us back the form.

All of this is in service of a renewal process that takes 5-10 business days despite the fact that (a) all they do is stamp a new date on your visa and (b) there is no chance that we'll be denied. In other words, there's nothing that needs to be reviewed or approved. The actual "renewal" takes as long as it takes to ink up the stamp and pound it on the paper. Needless to say, Immigration failed to get this done in time for us to leave for NY tomorrow, so we had to go through a whole separate "Permission to Travel" process. This actually does require official review and approval, and generating a new and unique document. So of course that gets done in a matter of hours.


Anonymous said...

Obviously they were traind by our wonderful DMV.

Welcome back!


el cranky Mexfiles guy said...

Ahhh... quitchabitchen! My FM-3 includes "Actividates lucrativos" which means even more paperwork and a visit to Hacienda to get my RFC and CURP... but I'm not about to complain in front of anyone who ever tried to get a green card in the U.S. Or knows someone who tried to get one. Even seen the lines in front of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City any morning of the week?

Burro Hall said...


"Actividades lucrativos"? Man, if I had me a few of those, my troubles would disappear very quickly around here, my friend. Very quickly indeed...