The Visa in My Passport Makes It Officially Official

It’s a bit of a complicated story, but I ended up getting a chauffeur for most of my day, which made going downtown to the Mexican consulate to pickup my passport very easy rather than something to have nightmares over. I settled my driver at Starbucks with a coffee while I walked up Peel to the consulate. I arrived around 9:15, gave them my receipt, and was told to have a seat. Less than five minutes later, the visa lady called me over and handed me my passport with this beautiful thing stuck to one of its pages (redacted, of course!):

She then wanted to give me a spiel on how things work from here on out, but when she started off by telling me that I had 180 days upon arriving in Mexico to do the “canje” (exchange to the residency card), which is incorrect, I knew I was better off just saying thank you, I can handle it from here. So I was in and out in less than ten minutes!

We then headed up to Laval for several hours so I could meet my uncle, for whom I do non-transcription work, as he had a big job he wants me to do and it was easier to show me everything in person, plus I got to see the company’s new offices. I also got treated to lunch, where I rediscovered insane North American portion sizes (glad I declined any sides with my burger that ended up having pulled pork and coleslaw on it!).

Coming home from where I’d dropped the car was “fun.” Traffic was already starting and even though I followed all the signs from the 20 to take the 30 ouest to do this route:

I somehow stayed on the 20 and ended up in Brossard having to take this route:

I’m not an idiot. That’s just typical terrible Quebec construction detour signage for you. Surprisingly, I only went 9KM out of my way and I wasn’t lost! Traffic was heavy in parts, but reasonably fluid, and people here are civilised enough to let you merge.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day of driving for me, but I feel confident now that I’ve got some mileage under me again. Busy, busy!

Applying for a Mexican Residente Temporal Visa (at the Montreal Consulate)

Today was the day that I presented myself at the Mexican consulate in Montreal to request a residente temporal (temporary residence) visa. This post will cover what the process was like at the Montreal consulate. It may be very different at other consulates and in other countries. Because I can read Spanish well, I did the process myself using information I found on the consulate website. This post will provide translations of Spanish, but please make note that I am not a professional translator or fluent in Spanish. So the translations are provided as information only and may not be legally correct. If you do not have strong Spanish language skills, you may wish to go through this process with a lawyer.

The process started with checking out what I needed to bring with me to request the visa. Be sure to check your consulate’s site as the requirements and even amounts to prove economic solvency can differ from consulate to consulate!

This is the list that I got from the Mexican consulate in Montreal’s website for a residente temporal visa (edited to remove irrelevant items):

Requisitos para los visitantes extranjeros que pretendan internarse y permanecer en México en condición de residente temporal por un período mayor a 180 días y menor a 4 años.

Requirements for foreign visitors who want to enter and stay in Mexico as a temporary resident for more than 180 days, but less than four years.

Formato de solicitud de visa impreso en una hoja, por ambos lados, debidamente completado y firmado.

Visa request form printed on one sheet (both sides), duly completed and signed.

My mother showed me how to make her printer do this, thankfully! I opened the form in Adobe so that I could use the typewriter tool to fill it out. The form is in English, but where I could, I answered in Spanish.

One of the questions is “reason for the visit.” I wrote that I want to discover a new culture and improve my Spanish.

Pasaporte o documento de identidad y viaje válido y vigente, en original y copia de la página donde aparecen la fotografía y los datos personales.

Passport or other identity document valid for travel, both the original and a copy of the page with the photograph and personal information.

I brought two copies of the passport page.

Una fotografía de 3.9 cm x 3.1 cm con el rostro descubierto, sin anteojos, de frente, a color y con fondo blanco.

A photo 3.9cm x 3.1 cm with the face uncovered, no glasses, from the front, in colour, and on a white background.

This was surprisingly tricky since the requirements are not the same as for a passport photo in Canada. So I had to go to a dedicated studio and pay for a photo there (about $17 with the tax, very fair). Lo and behold, the photographer is Mexican! She was perplexed by the instructions because it wasn’t clear if the dimensions were for the face within the photo or the photo itself, which made a big difference. A common format in Mexico is “infantil,” but that doesn’t match the information provided. She decided to make the photo itself 3.9cm x 3.1cm and make my face within the photo as big as possible while still having some background visible. Spoiler: the photo was fine.

Pago de derechos en efectivo por la expedición de visa.

Payment of the visa fees in cash. That linked to a page in Spanish only where there was a range of visa fees ranging from not much to hundreds of dollars. I was pretty sure that I wanted “Visas a pasaportes extranjeros,” for $49.

Adicionalmente, se deben presentar los siguientes documentos de acuerdo a la categoría solicitada:

Also, you must present one of the following documents in accordance to the category under which you’re applying:

a. Solvencia económica:

Economic solvency

Original y copia de comprobante de inversiones o cuentas bancarias con saldo promedio mensual de $27,654.00 dólares canadienses durante los últimos doce meses; u

Original y copia de los documentos que demuestren que cuenta con empleo o pensión con ingresos mensuales libres de impuestos por un monto superior a $1,659.00 dólares canadienses durante los últimos seis meses.

Original and copies of statements of investments showing a monthly balance of $27,654.00 Canadian dollars during the last 12 months, OR

Original and copies of documents that prove that you have monthly employment or pension income of more than $1,659.00 Canadian dollars after taxes during the last six months.

Because I am self-employed and my money comes into different accounts (PayPal mostly, but I have some direct deposits into chequing and wire transfers into a USD account), I don’t have nice neat monthly bank statements that show that I make the necessary income. So I preferred to bring my investment statements as they are very clear and there is no puzzle to put together.

But, not being a stranger to Mexican red tape and being a belts and suspenders kind of gal, I also prepared the following:

-12 months of chequing account statements showing an average monthly ingress of just barely more than the minimum needed;

-a print-off of 12 months of PayPal ingresses in support of the bank statements. PayPal, frustratingly, doesn’t have nice neat statements every months, so that was the best I could do;

-a print-off of a list of my invoices for the last 12 months in support of the PayPal document and which is the most complete look of my income over a period of time. I did a total for the 12 months I printed off, converted it to CAD (99% of my income is in USD), and then divided by 12 to show my monthly average income.

This is what my pile of paper looked like when I was done. Disclaimer: the investment statements are four pages each (both sides), so 12 statements x 4 pages x 2 copies = 96 pages for that alone!

I tried to make an appointment with the consulate by both phone and email and they never got back to me. So I decided to show up in person and hope that they could take me, even if I had to wait, or else I was prepared to make an appointment in person and return.

Getting to the consulate is hassle-free by public transport. From Chambly, I left the car at the park and ride this morning and caught the 7:58 almost direct bus to 1000 de la Gauchetière Ouest, the downtown terminal, which took about 30 minutes. As an aside, my sister-in-law takes this bus every day, so we got to ride together and catch up, which was lovely!

It wasn’t worth taking the métro for just 1KM, so I just walked from the bus terminal to the consulate, at 2055, rue Peel. Plus, I had to stop at a CIBC en route to take out cash.

The office number for the consulate is 1000, so I correctly assumed I had to take an elevator to the 10th floor. There, I had to ring the doorbell to be let into a a neat lobby. There was a window for visas, one for reception, and one for passports. I waited to be served at the reception. I was ready to do everything in Spanish, but was grateful to be served in good French since I was, of course, nervous, and didn’t want to make any mistakes. The man at reception said I absolutely needed an appointment, but his colleague at the visa counter might be able to take a few minutes to make sure I had everything I needed for when I came back. So he told me to have a seat.

It was about 9:30 by the time I sat down and I only had to wait five minutes for a young woman to call me to the visa counter. She said she had a 9:30 appointment and if they showed up (they were late by this point), she’d have to serve them, but if they were a no-show, I could have their slot!

So she started the process. I hope I can remember the order of things! She started by asking what I wanted, if I’d been to Mexico before, and where I planned to live. She also asked me about work and whether I had clients in Mexico or if I was was just physically working in Mexico, but earning money outside the country. The latter, of course, which Mexico is fine with and still qualifies for the less expensive visa without work authorisation.

She then had a look over my application form, which was fine. She saw that I had printed out info in Spanish and filled out what I could in Spanish, so she confirmed that I speak Spanish. I told her that I could do the process in Spanish if she preferred, but she said we could stick to French.

Next, I had to show her my passport (and copy) and the photo.

Then, I passed over the investment statements, but she wasn’t entirely satisfied with them and I didn’t ask why. She wanted to know more about my work. Do I belong to a professional order, the way translators and accountants are? No. I offered a business card and she said that wasn’t enough. So I pulled out all the backup financial stuff I’d brought and all of that together was sufficient for her to believe that I do work remotely, make a steady income, have regular clients, etc. So she gave me all that back and said that she would use the investment statements for my application. I was not sweating during any of this. Her questions were pertinent and while I hadn’t anticipated this exact scenario, I was, ultimately ready for it!

Finally, she told me to have a seat while she went off with my documents to do who knows what.

When she came back, she said that I needed to have a photo taken for the visa itself and she could do that right there. So that’s how, without fanfare, that I learned that I was granted my residente temporal visa.

She then took electronic fingerprints of both my index fingers, right, then left. Then, she had me pay. Then, she told me that I can pick up my passport, with the visa in it, on Friday morning. That works out well since I have to go to Laval (north of MTL) for 11:30, so I’ll leave right after rush hour and pop in. There is ample street parking in the area, so I can just pay a parking metre.

So now, I have six months to get to Mexico (will be there much sooner than that!) and once I cross the border, not once I arrive at my destination, I will have 30 days to convert my visa into a residency card. This means that I will only get a 30-day TIP for my truck. This means that there is going to be a strong risk that I will lose my truck deposit and that the only hope of that not happening is to be in regular contact with aduena (customs) and Banjercito (the folks who hold the deposit). So there is a huge pile of paperwork ahead of me, but I’ve decided I do want to drive down, if only for the adventure.

So, really, applying for the residente temporal visa was the easy part since there is a ton of hoops ahead of me now, especially since I intend to come in with a Canadian-plated vehicle. My hosts in Chelem, where I’ll be spending the summer, say that the immigration office in Progreso is fantastic and that the process for converting my visa into a residency card should go smoothly.

The residency card will only be valid for one year. Next May, I will be able to renew for an additional three years. At the end of the four years, I will be able to convert to permanent residency and, if I want, to begin the path to citizenship and a Mexican passport.

So it’s official. I’m moving to Mexico.

Sticking It To Canadian Telecom

I spent $160 for mobile service the ten months that I was in Europe. The breakdown is:

-$55 for three months in Bulgaria because I was paying per minute, text, and MB and didn’t realise that I should have been buying a package.

-$12 for 10 days in Serbia, for which I got unlimited calls and texts and so much data that I ended up using it to do my iOS updates.

-$30 for two months in Spain, for unlimited talk and text and a generous data allowance

-and $62 for two months in England, which was a more premium package with international calls, unlimited UK calls, unlimited texts, and something like 10GB of data.

There are so many Canadian plans and they vary from province to province, but as a point of reference, Bell Mobility starts at $32 a month (plus tax!) for 200Mb of data and limited talk and text. Realistically, I was looking at about $200 to get me through to my departure from Haven in May.

My original plan had been to keep my Mexican SIM topped up and use that in Canada since you can do that at the same price as if you’re in Mexico, but being an idiot, I forgot to top up.

Well…

TelCel is very generous with giving free gift balance and kept my account topped up the whole time I was gone. I just put 15CAD (200MXN) onto my account and got a package good for 30 days that has unlimited talk and text, plus 1.5GB of data, all good within Canada, the US, and Mexico. Bell’s most expensive plan ($66 plus tax) doesn’t even come close to that.

Any Canadians who go to Mexico on holiday should unlock their phones and get on a Mexican plan while down there, then cancel their service at home and tell Bell, Telus, etc. why. Now, I’m not sure if a Canadian number can call the Mexican number for free, but there are workarounds that would make this little protest painless. Canadian telecom prices are out outrageously out of sync with the rest of the world and it is time for us to revolt. As for me? Bye-bye Canadian telecom! You’ve seen the last of me!

Recap of the Best Year of My Life

If I measure 2016 by the one yardstick that matters to me, how much I travelled, it was the best year of my life. That’s hard to reconcile with how horrible the year was to the world in general, but it’s my truth.

This was a rare year of my life where there was enough money to do what I wanted to do. I prioritised paying for the big stuff, like making sure I had a roof over my head, could get from point A to point B, and that I stayed healthy. I savoured the little stuff I could afford. I refused to be a glass half empty person and bemoan that I couldn’t do X, Y, or Z because of a tight budget and instead celebrated that I was wherever I was at that moment.

I covered so much ground this year that you might have forgotten where I started. So here’s my 2016 travel retrospective.

January started in Mazatlán, Mexico. It was the second year of my life starting there and the novelty hadn’t worn off! I spent many hours cantering on a beautiful tropical beach, a weekly ritual that made me feel like the richest and luckiest woman in the world.

The lagoon at the Isla de la Piedra botanical gardens.

The lagoon in Mazatlán’s Bosque de la Ciudad.

February brought me to Mérida, in the Mexican state of Yucatán, on a scouting mission in anticipation of possibly moving there!

I saw ancient Mayan ruins!

The Mayan ruins at Uxmal.

The Mayan ruins at Uxmal.

March had me discovering the wonderful botanical gardens right in my backyard on Isla de la Piedra.

The lake at the heart of Isla de la Piedra's botanical gardens.

The lake at the heart of Isla de la Piedra’s botanical gardens.

April found me seeing Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

…and exploring Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

…and the town of Moab, Utah.

May took me to Cody, Wyoming

downtown Cody, WY

downtown Cody, WY

…with plenty of time to explore the Center of the West

Sacagawea at Center of the West

Sacagawea at Center of the West

… and a Japanese internment camp

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center

… before going home to Haven…

Sunset at Haven, May, 2016

Sunset at Haven, May, 2016

… before getting on a plane and technically visiting my last Canadian province.

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So June took me to London, England (really!)…

London from the St. Paul's Cathedral

London from St. Paul’s Cathedral

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… and to Bulgaria!

Malak Izvor, Bulgaria

Malak Izvor, Bulgaria

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July took me on two trips to Sofia, Bulgaria.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia

August took me to Plovdiv

Plovdiv from Nebet Hill

Plovdiv from Nebet Hill

… and across Bulgaria in a Chevy to Nessebar

Old Nessebar, Bulgaria

Old Nessebar, Bulgaria

…to Soviet ruins

Buzludzha

Buzludzha

Veliko Tarnovo

Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo

Tsaravets Fortress, Veliko Tarnovo

…the scenic town of Teteven

Teteven

Teteven

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

Prohodna (Eyes of God Cave)

…the Etropole Waterfall

Etropole Waterfall

Etropole Waterfall

…and a the magnificent 15th century Glozhene Monastery.

inside the Glozhene Monastery

inside the Glozhene Monastery

September saw me quit Bulgaria for Serbia and finish the month in Belgrade.

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia

October found me in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo, BiH

Sarajevo, BiH

Kotor, Montenegro

Old Kotor, Montenegro

Old Kotor, Montenegro

…blipping through Albania

an Albanian fortress

an Albanian fortress

…staying out too late in Prizen, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren, Kosovo

…not being impressed by Skopje, Macedonia

Archaeological Museum, Skopje

Archaeological Museum, Skopje

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…ambling through Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

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… then through Alicante

Alicante, Spain

Alicante, Spain

… before settling in Almería for seven weeks.

The port of Almería

The port of Almería

November was spent in lovely Almería learning to live in the real Spain.

Pedestrian street in downtown Almería

Pedestrian street in downtown Almería

December saw me in Málaga for a few days…

Málaga from the top of the itinerant Ferris wheel.

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…before jetting off to end the year and ring in 2017 in Amsterdam, Netherlands!

Quintessential Amsterdam scene

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What a journey 2016 was, from getting more and more comfortable in Mexico to becoming a seasoned European traveler!

But the most amazing thing that happened? I was offered my key to Mexico. So my 2017 is well plotted. But before I return to the blistering tropical heat of the Yucatán, England, Quebec, and Haven beckon. So clichéd as the saying is, the best really is yet to come.

Happy New Year to all of you lovely readers!