Operation: Devolución

Most other Quebecers I speak to who have seen how things are done in other provinces are quick to agree with me when I complain about how overburdensome procedures are, how apathetic is the civil service, and how corrupt the provincial government is in general. When I planned to move to Mexico and people would tell me how “bad” it was here in terms procedures being burdensome and corruption being rampant, I thought that there is no way Mexico could be as bad as Quebec.

Today, I continued to be proven correct on this point.

I was really unhappy at my last visit to INM when I was told I could not get my refund for their error until I got my new card, which is not happening until the end of this month or the beginning of next month. I resolved to go back ASAP to speak to a different person. I didn’t have time until today to do that because, you know, I’ve been working double overtime to compensate for that serious crimp in my cash flow.

Yesterday was a federal holiday so I had a feeling that INM might be very busy today. I decided to arrive around 10AM to let the initial opening throng get through, figuring that things would have slowed down a tad by that point, but still be sufficiently busy to put Operation: Devolución into action.

I was only about fourth in line despite the waiting room being very full — likely folks with appointments. I got to the head of the queue in probably no more than 10 minutes.

My first step was to get through the initial checkpoint, where you say what you want to do and then are funnelled to the correct window. INM wasn’t busy last time I came and I was not able to get by this point. When INM is hopping, this woman has to process a lot of people quickly and doesn’t really want to deal with them so I thought I might be able to slip through on a busy day.

She was busy today — the Cuban in front of me had an odd scenario and her phone would not stop ringing. After asking me three times what I wanted (“To speak with the lady at window 2 about a refund,”) she finally gave me a ticket to put me in line there. Step one was a success!

The lady at window 2 was not the lady I’d spoken to on the day I’d been advised about the steps to get a refund. In fact, not a single person I recognised was working today. I was very worried because I didn’t have a single piece of paper about the refund — everything was taken from me on that second to last visit.

I took a deep breath and recapped the situation for the agent. She said that I was misinformed by the front desk person last time (when I went to get an appointment for the fingerprints) and that I should have been funnelled to her window. *sighs* But better late than never, let’s get the ball rolling. She started to put my ID number into her computer when I had a niggle. “When I was here last time, I had to handwrite a letter asking for the refund, which the lady kept.”

The agent stopped typing, went, “AH!” and jumped out of her seat, returning momentarily with a huge binder marked “Refunds – Window 2.” She went through several bundles of papers in it and could not find my application for refund. My heart was pounding by this point, but as she was putting the papers away, I saw my picture on the last page of one of the packets! I pointed that out and she gave a sigh of relief. She went through the paperwork, checked my passport, and then passed me two pieces of paper to give to SAT, Mexican CRA/IRS, to request my refund.

That was as far as she could advise me. It was now up to me to go to a SAT office to see what they wanted so I could finally get my money back. I thanked her profusely and, clutching my precious documents, I hightailed it to Starbucks for a cold coffee to enjoy while looking up locations of SAT offices in Mérida.

I was delighted to see that there was one just north of home within easy walking distance since I knew I’d likely have to make a couple of visits. So I got on a bus and rode it about 1KM past my normal stop.

There was low-key checkpoint to get into the SAT office — I just had to open my purse for the guard on duty. I then went into a building that felt incredibly chaotic. There was so much activity — hundreds if not thousands of people waiting or being served at dozens of different “modules” and desks. I took a second to orientate myself and found an information desk. The lady there told me I had to register online and to wait for help at module 1, which was a computer lab where people were registering online for tax services and completing various types of returns (from what I could gather based on conversations I was overhearing).

I waited there 10 or 15 minutes and was finally sat down at a computer with no idea what to do. After a further 10 minutes and being told twice by an attendant that he was going to help me, he finally came to check what I wanted and took off for a further 10 minutes with my documents after I told him I don’t have an RFC (Mexican tax ID number).

He finally came back to say that this office isn’t used to dealing with this scenario — foreigner without an RFC needing a refund — but the centro office is. Since my Spanish was good enough for this gentleman to deal with me, his supervisor had given him permission to call the centro office for advice rather than just telling me to go there. I remain incredibly grateful for how kind and helpful just about every Mexican official I’ve dealt with has been.

So finally, the agent had an answer for me. He said I had to come back with a letter for SAT asking for the refund, but he had a template for me that I could reproduce in Word and just fill in the missing info (THANK YOU). I also have to bring my last bank statement (so that they know where to refund the money. They don’t want 50 billion copies, but they do want me to bring all my documents in PDF form on a USB key. And because I don’t have an RFC, I can’t make an appointment to come back on another day — so I have to face the massive queue and funnelling and massive queue again — but I was given the exact phrasing to tell the info desk so that I get funnelled to the correct place next time. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have been sent to module 1 and there was nothing for me to do on the computer.

I’m going to work late tonight and will hopefully have time to go back tomorrow first thing. Who knows how long it will take to actually get the money back into my account so I definitely don’t want to leave this to next week.

It’s been a Day, but a good one. I am eventually going to open a business here and so dealing with SAT at some point was an inevitability. It’s nice to have the ice broken in a context like this.

Now, on to work. But first, maybe a nap?!

In Which I Do Something Really Stupid

The big project I was waiting for this week got postponed to next week and I have a schedule for it, so that was a lot of stress off my plate this week what with my having to make two trips to aduana in Progreso. I did get one of the jobs to be due mid-afternoon today, but I was able to work late last night to do it and then proofed and sent it before leaving for Progreso. I still have other work to do this afternoon, but no deadlines for today, so there was no time pressure. Thank goodness for that…

The drive to the pier took a bit longer as there was more traffic today, plus I had to stop for fuel. I pulled into the guard entrance, presented my license, and stated my business. The guard then threw me for a loop when he asked to see my proof of insurance for my truck. Not a problem, I keep all that in my folder that I always take in the truck with me. So I start to go through the folder to find my policy when I realise that I had taken a bunch of stuff out yesterday to sort it out and… didn’t put the pile back into the folder. First time ever in Mexico being asked for my proof of vehicle insurance and I didn’t have it…

I was told to pull over and wait for a supervisor.

By the time the supervisor came to me, only a few very short minutes later, I had a plan. He greeted me with, “You don’t have insurance on your truck?”

I corrected him. “I don’t have the proof that I have insurance.”

I then presented him with option one of my plan. Option two was to offer to leave him the truck and keys, get in a taxi, go home, get the paperwork on my credenza, and come back in a taxi.

Option one was to show him a contact in my phone for my insurance company, the policy number in the notes, and to suggest that we call them so they can confirm that I do have a policy that is valid until next week. He considered that for a few seconds and said that was good enough, but to never do that again! *sends a thank you to the customs gods*

I hate to leave copies of documents like that in the truck, but I will from now on since the truck is parked 99% of the time in my secure driveway.

I made it to customs at about 9:20 and the lady was obviously waiting for me as I barely had time to sit down. She gave me the expected paperwork, but the unexpected instruction to come back in late May/early June with my new card and photocopies of it. She said it’s not worth asking people to do that for the first year, but it is for the three-year card. So I have one more trip to the end of the pier to do.

Now that I know my truck is legal for the rest of my time here as a temporary resident, I can get to work on scheduling the repairs she needs (*sends prayers to the AC gods that I can get it working again*) and also renew my insurance policy for another year.

I can’t believe it’s not even 11:00 yet. The morning has felt so long since so much happened. But it all worked out and for that, I’m very grateful!

Renewing/Extending a Temporary Import Permit for a Vehicle in Mérida/Progreso

Now that my immigration status is squared away for the next three years, it was time to do the same for my truck with customs (Aduana). I could not find any current information on doing this in Mérida/Progreso. One thing I had really hoped was that I could do the renewal/extension at the Mérida airport, but information a couple of years old said you couldn’t then. I really didn’t have time to waste today so going to Progreso felt like the safest bet. Finding opening hours was difficult, but once I ascertained that I was looking for the hours of operation for SAT Aduana Progreso, I knew what to Google and came up with a page that had them opening at 9AM.

Going to Progreso was going to be a pain since there are detours around the Periférico bridge that goes over the Progreso highway. I didn’t want to give myself a ton of extra time as I’m on a super tight schedule this week, but I also wanted to get there and back as soon as I could. So I left around 8:20 and arrived at the very end of the pier at precisely 9AM!

The detour going north was no big deal — take the service road to the first roundabout and turn around to take the service road in the other direction. I knew the best way to get through Progreso and to the entrance to the pier. So with traffic being surprisingly light, I made record time. At the entrance to the pier I only had to give them my driver’s license for ID (they do not accept a passport).

When I went last year, the customs lady made two packets out of all the paperwork I had brought and gave me one for my records. So I replicated that packet exactly today and had three copies just in case. The packet had:

  1. A letter to Customs asking them to renew/extend my temporary car import permit to match the date on my new residency card. This letter also has a list of the attachments to my request and my contact information. The customs lady today was the same as last year and like last year she told me my letter was perfect. So if anyone wants a TIP renewal letter for customs, I have a template for sale for 5USD. Contact me for more details;
  2. A copy of the official permit page that originally had the windshield holograma stuck on it;
  3. A copy of my passport ID page;
  4. A copy of my letter from immigration granting me my visa renewal (for good measure, I added to that the letter confirming my appointment for fingerprints as proof that there is no way I could have met Aduana deadlines had they asked me to wait until I have my new card);
  5. Proof of residency (I brought internet, water, and power and they wanted the power bill).

There, I was asked to fill out a form as a cover letter, which just needed my name and address. The customs lady filled out the rest, including the purpose for the packet.

That was it! She told me to come back this Thursday for my “resolution,” which I expect to be like last year, a letter confirming that my renewal/extension is in the queue and how to check the progress of it over the next few months. I really don’t have time this week for a second visit to Aduana, but needs must!

Like last year, I did the whole process in Spanish, but unlike last year, the last thing the lady said to me was, “Please come back Thursday.” Yes, like that. In English. So reports that Aduana on the pier in Progreso do not speak English and are unhelpful are false. Arrive with your paperwork in order, make an effort with the local language, and I’m sure you’ll have as easy and pleasant an experience as I did.

The drive home wasn’t quite as simple. The detour at the Periférico bridge was messier and I ended up zig zagging through my maze of a neighbourhood rather than trying to get back to Calle 60. I arrived without any wrong turns — a huge victory!

Once I know that the renewal/extension is granted, I’ll renew my truck insurance for another year and get the quote for the muffler and AC work since I’ll know for sure that I’ll have my truck here for three more years. About this time in 2020, I’ll be contacting an attorney specialising in vehicle temporary import permits to determine the best and most convenient way to get Moya out of Mexico legally that doesn’t involve driving her all the way back to Canada. Bringing a vehicle in Mexico is a huge pain and I wish I’d had the budget last year to have things shipped here while I flew and bought a new vehicle in Mexico, but things were what they were. I’ll figure it out when the time comes because I always figure “it” out when the time comes!

Mexico Is Tightening Supervision of Foreigners’ Visas and Local Income

Several people have sent me a link to the recent Yucalandia article about how Mexico is tightening supervision of foreigners’ visas and local income.

Nothing in this article is new or a surprise to me. It just says what I’ve been saying since I first came to Mexico — the old timers need to get with the times and the new timers need to learn the new rules and stop relying on and trusting old advice. Mexico is modernising at a rapid pace and keeps better records that can be accessed from anywhere in the country thanks to new computer databases. Foreigners need to stop treating Mexico like their playground and start treating it with respect.

In particular, this article deals with how many foreigners/expats are cheating the tax system by not declaring their income in Mexico. Read the article for more all the details.

I’m not sure why people keep feeling a need to send me this link. Maybe because I’ve talked a few times about starting an Airbnb business here? Well, let me reassure you all that after years of not being able to follow Canadian laws (while still doing the very best to fulfil my tax obligations), I am super happy to be in a country where I can live the life I want and I have every intention of complying with the laws to the best of my ability. That means no Airbnb business until I gain “lucrativo” status, which would allow me to start a business here and earn income. I am going to ask at residente temporal visa renewal time if that would be possible or, worst case, I’ll wait until I’m granted permanent residency, at which point I’ll automatically get the right to work and earn money in Mexico.

But wait, some of you say. Aren’t you working in Mexico? Technically yes.

I don’t like to talk about financial matters in great details because everyone’s situation is so different, but I will say that there is no question at all that I am complying with Mexican law at this time. In Mexico’s eyes, I am not working in Mexico. I am physically in Mexico, yes, but doing work for a Canadian company for non-Mexican clients. All my money comes from outside of Mexico and only comes to Mexico after first going through US and Canadian banks. For them, my job is just like retirement income. I fully declared what I do to get my money and all my documents were examined at the consulate in Montreal and accepted. When I came here, I put on my paperwork that I’m a freelance transcriptionist and both the immigration offices in Progreso and Mexico City accepted that as well.

It is an inevitability that I will eventually start a company here since doing so would reduce my tax burden in Canada. I just need to let my immigration status settle a little and do a bit more research about how to do what I want to do. I will consult with a lawyer and accountant when that time comes.

It’s the End of the World and I Don’t Feel Fine

What a world we live in… I don’t think anything is going “back to normal” now. But life goes on, the sun rises and sets, yaddi yadda.

And client orders keep pouring in. Might as well make hay while NAFTA, what gives me permission to work as a 1099 contractor for U.S. companies and which the new administration wants to scrap, is still in place. It was a real shock to realise yesterday that I have, in fact, placed all my eggs in one basket and that despite a robust and diverse client list, my business could very well not survive the next U.S. presidency if I don’t find some solid and regular non-U.S. clients…

While I had to work a full day yesterday, it was hard not to be distracted, never mind that I had slept poorly. I eventually went out for a long walk to clear my head and to get some groceries, perishables and produce, to top up my big shop.

I listened to conversations as I walked past people chatting and there was no talk of what was going on across the pond. This brought on waves of equal parts relief and loneliness. I  really wished that I was home, sitting in C&C’s kitchen drinking a bottle of their wine and having their dry wit and words of wisdom wash over me.

The shop, small as it is, is full service and much better than the one I had access to in Bulgaria. But there are a lot more items that I have to ask for at a deli counter rather than select myself. Thankfully, the guy who selects the produce does a good job of it and I’ve been happy so far with everything I’ve brought home. I splurged on four huge Ambrosia apples I knew would not be cheap (3 euros) because it was that or chocolate and it’s important to take care of yourself in times of stress. Like in Mexico, I describe what I want if I don’t know the word for it, and the clerk seems to be slowly moving from shock that he understands me to amusement. The “orange thing that seems covered in wax” is a caqui (persimmon). I’d never had one and was curious. 🙂

The owner/cashier, whom I’d been introduced, didn’t remember that I speak Spanish. You should have seen the look on her face when I asked her where I could find garbage bags! Vicki, you’ll be pleased to know that the cheapest ones were purple! 😉

One thing that has surprised me in Spain is the lack of fresh milk and cream. Spaniards favour UHT dairy in a box. I wanted some cream to make a pasta sauce and could only find, like in Mexico, a milk product with the milk fat removed and vegetable fat added. They call it nata, “cream,” but it’s not cream as I’d get it back home. I was rather surprised. The taste was okay, though. The yoghurt selection here is pretty dismal (but prices are good) and I’ve been disappointed with cheeses available at small shops. However, I’ve had no trouble finding good butter, although, like in Bulgaria, you really have to read the labels because there are a lot of “butters” that are really just a margarine with a bit of milk solids in them.

Grocery prices in Spain are good, even with the exchange rate. I spent 15CAD yesterday and almost 5CAD of that was the apples (which is less than I would have paid for them there).

I got in and continued to flitter between work and the news until I felt I could quit. I made a good dinner and got to bed early.

And sure enough, the sun rose again today.