Monday, October 16, 2006

Another year legally here

Living here can be so frustrating at times. After three years, one would think that I would be used to the bureaucratic inefficiency of the way things are done here. But I‘m not.. Each time I have to deal with it, it burns my butt. Take getting our FM3 Residency Permits renewed.
I have a residency permit that allows me to stay in Mexico for one year at a time. This is so much more convenient than constantly having to renew a tourist permit, especially since they now only give you a thirty day stamp at a time, no matter what. They can give you up to 180 days, but they just won’t. This year was no better than last. Here is what it entailed.
Trip One
At least two weeks before the renewal date, it is necessary to get the papers all in order for submission. I had to drive downtown, park the car at a cost of $2.50 and then pay $5 for a round trip ticket on the ferry to Cancun. Then it was catch a cab to the Immigration Office for another $1.50. Once there, I had to stand in line for 20 minutes at the information window to pick up the forms and instructions. It is impossible to get the renewal forms anywhere but there and it is always advisable to get the instruction sheet every year just in case there have been changes made to the requirements. Then another $1.50 cab ride back to the ferry and home.
Before I could return next week, I had to make copies of every page of my passport, whether there is any stamp on it or not, copies of every page of my FM3, write a letter in Spanish to the Secretary of State requesting that they please renew my permit, and fill out the form, quoting all the necessary rules and laws that apply. Then I have to take this form, in triplicate originals, to the bank and pay $103 to have it stamped in order to prove that I have paid the appropriate fees.
Trip Two
The appointed day came and it was time for me to deliver my papers to Immigration. This would not guarantee my renewal, it was just the acceptance that all paperwork was in order for the consideration of renewal.
This time we decided to take the car over on the ferry and include a day of shopping in Cancun. Another $40 for a round trip ferry ticket.
We arrived a bit early, as was our plan, at Immigration. They are only open from 9am to 1pm and there are literally tons of people trying to do business in this short time span. And only three people working the counter. We dutifully took our place in line outside the door. Promptly at 9am the security guard opened the door. An employee was standing there with a box of numbers and gave everyone a number as they entered. Anyone arriving after that would have to stand in line to get a number, just like I did last week.
Since I was number 4, I thought I would get in and out of there very quickly. Ever the optimist. After a 20 minute wait, during which no number was called, an employee came out from the back and told everybody that they would have to leave. The main computers in Mexico City were down and it would be at least 2 hours before they came online again. And, no, you could not just wait there. They collected everybody’s number and out we went.
We went about our business, going from store to store in Cancun and getting the things we needed. We waited until noon to return, thinking that surely the computers would be up and running by then. And they were. Once again we had to stand in line to get numbers, since our good numbers from the morning had to be turned in. Based upon the numbers we got, it looked like we had at least an hour to wait. But we had yet another surprise in store for us.
Once again an Employee came out from the back and announced that everybody had to vacate the building NOW! He said they had bomb scare. With our numbers clutched in a death grip, out we went. We were quite surprised to find all kinds of Civil Defense people and the fire department already there. Even more surprising was the local TV film crew filming as we exited and formed a cluster a safe distance from the building. As it turns out, this was just a drill but they kept us outside for half an hour. No place to sit, just standing in the hot sun.
Eventually we made our way back in and finally my number was called. The lady at the desk rifled through my papers. Once, twice, three times. Then she told me that the rules had changed just that morning and my papers were not in order! My letter requesting the extension now had to be different, more formal wording. I had her write the letter for me long hand, to be typewritten when I got home. Also, I now needed a copy of a utility bill in my name to prove residency. Grrrrrrrrrr! Nothing to do but return home and make the changes. She did say that the rest of the papers were in order though.
Trip Three
Another $2.50 to park the car. Another $5 for the ferry. Another $1.50 for the taxi and I was once again at the office. This time it went without a hitch. I was there early enough to get a good number and was out of there in less than an hour. A new time record. I was told to come back in one week to see if my FM3 papers were done. Another $1.50 for the taxi back to the ferry.
Trip Four
Another $2.50 to park the car. Another $5 for the ferry. Another $1.50 for the taxi. This time, I waited to get to the office until noon. They close the doors at 1pm but finish waiting on anybody still inside. I figured my wait would be much shorter if I got there just before they closed the doors. An hour and ten minutes later, my number was called. My newly stamped FM3 for another year was handed to me and I was done. Until next year. My partner B was not so fortunate. They called his number and told him that his FM3 had been approved but, sadly, the director had not gotten around to signing it yet! He would have to make another trip next week to pick it up! Nothing to do but curse under your breath and walk out.
So, four trips to Cancun and $174.50 later, I am again a legal resident of Mexico for another year and then it starts all over again!

No comments: