This is the post I’ve been hoping to write for weeks now. Yes, the improbable finally transpired.
After calling our local immigration office last Friday and being told that we couldn’t be told anything over the phone (once again) and acknowledging that indeed, 5 weeks since giving our fingerprints and signatures was unusual and inexplicable, we needed to go in once again to check on the current status.
We’ve been told all along to check the status of our visas online at a unique webpage that contains our information. Through the weekend it continued to show the visas in the stage of being physically created in an office in Mexico City.
So, yesterday we went back in and checked-in at the desk where they usually tell us to wait a few minutes while they check in the back offices to see if the visas have been received and thus ready to be given to us.
Hmmmm…this didn’t start well. The lady at this desk looked at our info and told us we’d need a ticket. Not the blue ticket for this desk (which is a rapidly moving number) but an orange ticket (oddly referred to as either orange or red depending on the worker calling out a number for this ticket). There were also green tickets (much more rare) and I think yellow (which is what we usually get before this last stage when we normally get a blue ticket). Orange (or is it red?) is reserved for what we perceived to be a higher level of attention, although we’re still not sure.
So, we had number 16. The LED light for the orange/red tickets was sitting at number 1. So, we sat…and sat…and sat. Nearly 2 hours later (with the boys sitting and reading in the car), our number finally came up.
The official, who appears to be a managerial level worker, looked at our papers and listened to why we were there and immediately he screwed up his face and said, “I don’t understand why you are here.” Oh crud.
He asked us for another paper. We have never been given another paper. We told him this is all we’ve ever been given. His face screwed up even worse. This is not going well.
I had a thought that maybe I should throw out a disclaimer: “We have a lawyer.”
“You have a lawyer?” (he looked around the room)
“Yes, she is in Mexico City.”
So, this seemed to clear up something as he began punching buttons on his computer and looking for something. He wrote down a code number next to each of our names and disappeared in the office behind him. After a couple of unnerving minutes he returned and said,
“Why did they send you to me? You need to go to the front desk.”
Oh great. That’s where we started this 2 hour wait. So, we went back to the front desk and told the lady, “We’ve been told we shouldn’t have been at that desk, we’re supposed to be at this desk.” The lady said, “You’ll have to take a ticket and wait.”
WAIT. Yes…she just made us wait 2 hours for NOTHING and now we get to wait in her line. This is wonderful.
So, we get a blue ticket, number 24.
We hear her calling out numbers a good bit below #24, but after only about 10 minutes of waiting, we hear our number. So, we go to the desk. She looks at our papers again and says, “You’ll have to wait.”
So, we attempt to patiently wait and wait and wait. After hearing blue ticket numbers called up to about 30 over the next 30 to 45 minutes, we hear Beth’s name called. So, we go up.
“Your visas are here.”
I must say the 3 hours of waiting seemed worth it at that moment. However, there were a couple of signatures lacking that they had forgotten to have me sign at the fingerprinting and I quickly took care of those. Within 10 minutes we were walking out with our new visas!
Of course, the odyssey was not over. Now we must drive across the city to the Aduana (customs) office and see whether or not they will allow our vehicle permission to be continued or if they will revoke it and thus make even driving back to our house illegal.
Once again, we left the boys in the van and walked the 400 meters down a street next to railroad tracks and containers to a small lobby that doesn’t look like it was designed for the purpose for which we are now using it. It was lunch hour, but an official came out within just a couple of minutes and looked over my papers and appeared perplexed beyond the meaning of perplexed. I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.
She couldn’t really understand why I was there on May 27 with a new visa in-hand when my visa had expired on April 9. How is this possible? How could I even think they’d accept such tardiness?
Fortunately, I could show her the printout of our online status for the renewal of our visas and that clearly showed we had started the process in March (before the visas expired) and that as of even Monday, the online printout was showing the visas in the process of being created. (Before we left Immigration with our new visas in-hand, I also had providentially thought to ask the lady at the immigration desk for some way to prove that I had just received our visas. So she took the paper to which my visa was stuck and had another worker put an official date stamp on it.) That was apparently THE KEY to getting past the Aduana people successfully. WHEW!
The Aduana official took my visa and the document this same office gave me on May 7th (when I went in to Aduana just before the 30 days of grace after my visa initially expired and also the day that I last checked in-person at Immigration for the status of our visas and was told they weren’t ready) and came back saying, we were all good.
Apparently, the visa number they told me on May 7th that I needed (which was on the front of my new visa) was not the number I really needed. It was a number on the back of the visa that I needed on my auto permission. This was a number I did not an would not have had on May 7th. However, the front number was acceptable enough and she was able to transmit the number I actually needed to the central office in Mexico City, and that office apparently accepted the prior paperwork that they had accepted 3 weeks before! She also mentioned, you don’t have 30 days after your visa expires to renew your auto permission. You only have 15 days. Really? I thought it was 30 days. Another official from Aduana agreed with me on May 7th that I had just beat the 30 days deadline. I hope that’s confusing to you because it is to us too.
“So, what do we need to do now?”
“Do we get a new auto permission document?”
“No, the paper stamped May 7th is all you’ll ever need.”
“So, that’s it then?”
“Yes, that’s it. Oh, well, you may receive a document in the mail from Mexico City. Or, you may not. It would be good if you got one but you may not get it.”
“What is it?”
“Just a paper or something, but don’t worry about it. You may not get it.”
Clear as mud yet?
“Another question. What about our $300+ (USD) deposit? Is it safe? Have we lost it?”
“I don’t think so. I hope not. You can call this 800 number to the bank and they can tell you if they still have your deposit or not.”
Hmmmm…you’d probably have to pay me $300 to try calling an automated switchboard for a bank in Mexico. It would likely be more irritating than waiting 3 hours in the immigration office for a 2 minute transaction that should have taken a wait of less than 10 minutes. It doesn’t even matter. When we drive out this summer and cancel our car papers, we’ll find out within a couple days whether or not we’ll see that money again or not. It doesn’t really help to know.
Oh, and that online webpage for immigration that shows the status of our visas which we now have in-hand…that webpage that we’ve been told over and over is the key to knowing that the visas are ready or not…you might have guessed it. I just checked and the visas are still in the process of being created in Mexico City!
And the document/paper to which each visa was attached (sort of like when you get a credit card), each of the four pages has a partial date at the top of it. It says: April.
THE END (I hope)