Choosing Mexico — Renewing My Residente Temporal Visa

Wow, I can’t believe I’m already at the point of having had to renew my residente temporal visa!

The visa started the day that I entered Mexico last year, May 2nd, not when I got the card, and needed to be renewed about 30 days before expiry. Time has flown by!

My options were to renew for one, two, or three years. I’d been asked if I intended to renew for the full three since my lease expires in eighteen months. Of course. Where else would I go?

I honestly cannot think of anywhere else in the world that I need to be more than right here. Mexico makes sense to me for so many reasons.

Still being in my working life, I need to be somewhere stable and with good infrastructure, including reliable internet access. This part of Mexico certainly qualifies for that — I’m not worried about issues in other parts of the country affecting me here in Mérida, at least for the medium-term. The infrastructure here is great — I can get mail and, of course, the internet access is fantastic.

My job requires a lot of brain power and I don’t have the energy to learn a new language right now, a lesson I learned in Bulgaria. So going to some place like Thailand that otherwise ticks my boxes isn’t something I’m willing to do at this point. I’m comfortable enough with Spanish now that it doesn’t exhaust me and I don’t get “Spanished out” by the end of the day like I used to. In fact, I’ve been spending my evenings lately watching a Mexican show on Netflix with a very complicated plot and it’s been more entertainment than work. I can live my life here in Spanish and do everything I need to do, which has definitely helped me settle in quickly.

I can’t think of a single country where the main language spoken is English or French that I’d want to live in at this time. So that leaves other Spanish-speaking countries as possible alternatives to Mexico. I’m not saying that all of Latin America is like Mexico, but if I’m going to be in Latin America, why not just stick to what I know and which is so convenient to get to and from? Spain is really attractive since it also has an easy path to residency for self-employed people and would be a gateway to Europe, but it would always be a poor substitute for Mexico to me. I think there will come a time when I’ll be happy to move there for the access to Europe, but for now, I’d rather stay in the more vibrant and flexible country I’ve come to love.

Going back to Canada is a non-starter. The break has been made. Even if the cost of living were to go down, I now know too much about how we get ripped off by the telcos to ever want to give them money again. I’ve been fighting them for 22 years now and have zero reason to believe anything will change. I also am used to a certain lifestyle now that I have zero hope of ever achieving in Canada. So that bridge has been burned.

Therefore, I didn’t entertain too much thought on the what-ifs of my renewal. It had to go through, simple as that.

Tuesday was the earliest day I could renew so I headed to INM in Mérida with my mountain of paperwork. Last year, I did the process in Progreso, a small office. The one in Mérida is really not that big, but it’s busier. In Progreso, I believe everyone I saw at INM was Canadian or American. According to the sign-in book in Mérida, I was the only non-Cuban, Central, or South American on my visits this week. I have no idea if anyone at the Mérida office speaks English but I’m sure someone must.

The first visit went well, but of course I was missing something — paperwork related to my change of address. I bet the gals in Progreso would have had me sort it out right then and there, but, again, the office in Mérida is busier. So I got sent home to complete more paperwork. Not a problem, I like filling out forms. 🙂

The second visit was fine. The lady was definitely more approachable than the one the day before. She did question that my application didn’t have the accent in my legal full name and my passport did, but the lady from Tuesday told her it was fine. At this step, I had to handwrite some things on the paperwork and this is where I have to give this woman a lot of thanks for her patience. I don’t handwrite much in Spanish — I’m usually typing so I have access to autocorrect and Translate. She enunciated super clearly so that I could spell phonetically if needed, advised me if I was missing an accent, and gave me some much appreciated praise for my efforts. One of the things I wrote was, “I am annexing such and such” to my application and then I had to list all the the items in question.

The other bit was on a letter I had to write to INM requesting my renewal. I had written my own letter, but they wanted me to fill in the blanks on their own template. One of the blanks was to put that I would be living in Mexico as a retired person, which, of course, I’m not. So I had put in instead, “…as a self-employed person with no remunerated activities in Mexico.” The lady said that was actually pretty good, but to double confirm that I won’t have any trouble when the application is reviewed in Mexico City she had me add something to the effect of, “I live according to my own means from foreign assets.”

Finally, she confirmed that I had all my paperwork in order and handed me the payment form so I could go to a bank and pay 7,518 pesos to renew for three years, the maximum.

I’d arrived at INM pretty late that morning since I’d been into Centro to have my photos taken in case they were needed. There was a bit of a longer wait and I was with an official for more time. So I knew that the odds of my being able to get back to INM with proof of payment before they closed at 1PM were slim since there was no bank super close by. I decided to not rush and just come back on Thursday morning (today) with the proof of payment.

This map (click to embiggen) should illustrate well why going back and forth to INM is no big deal. I take the bus at the left-most red X, which is almost outside my house, get off at the corner of 62 and 35 and INM is half a block away. Then, I walk 1.5 blocks to the “1” and take a bus to the right-most X. The 2 indicates where I took the bus after going to the bank. Each bus trip is only 8 pesos, about 50 Canadian cents.

On average, each round trip was just under 1.5 hours, nothing out of a day. I did do other things on Tuesday and Wednesday before INM, but I’d planned to lose full days this week, so really, it’s been way less time-consuming than was a single trip to Progreso INM. By the way, I was wondering when I’d been by INM before and as it turns out, it’s literally neighbours with the lawyer where I signed my lease!

So back I went today, expecting a quick in and out since I’d been told that it would just be a matter of dropping off my paperwork and proof of payment…

Oh, boy! I finally got the horrible immigration agent everyone dreads. She went over my application again with a fine-tooth comb and questioned everything, including my financials, which should not have been brought up at the renewal stage. She spoke super rapid fire to me and scolded me for being  flustered and taking time to try to piece together what she was asking and then formulate the right answer. Basically, this was the first time dealing with anyone official in Mexico who punished me for not speaking her language fluently. It was bound to happen! I knew I had my ducks in a row, so I just spoke the minimum necessary to avoid further aggravating her and she finally gave me the printout with the info I need to check on my application status online.

So next step should be going in for fingerprints and to give the photos, which should happen within about two weeks. In the meantime, I’ve had to surrender my visa card, so I have to carry a copy of that printout in case I’m asked to show proof of being in Mexico legally. I believe the next stage is where I get the letter that says that my application for renewal was successful that means that I can make the very long drive to Aduana in Progreso to start the process for extending my truck’s temporary import permit.

I have been purposely vague in this post about the renewal process because I don’t want to give super detailed information that might be true for my experience, but which could confuse the process for someone else. As always, I advise people who don’t speak Spanish and, frankly, anyone who can afford it, to use an immigration lawyer to take you through the process. I definitely plan to do that when I start on my application for citizenship and after the third examination of my application today, I was starting to wish I’d lawyered up!

But it looks like I’m through the worst of it. I am shocked by how stressed I have been about the renewal. Even though I knew it’s basically just a formality, I’ve lost sleep over it. I can’t take this lackadaisically — it’s my life I’m gambling with and I don’t have the means to say, “Oops!” and then go back to Canada to start over.

So it appears that all is well, but I won’t really be able to breathe again until I get the official confirmation from Mexico City that my renewal as granted. Then, a few more steps and I don’t have to deal with immigration again for three more years, unless I have another change of address. Nice reward for going through all that paperwork!

And before anyone says anything, no, the process is not convoluted and I don’t consider that I’m being sent through a bunch of “hoops.” I’m glad I’m immigrating to a country with a very clear and easy to follow immigration process.

Muchas, muchas gracias, México, por su cálida bienvenida y su hospitalidad.