Tag Archives: San Miguel de Allende

Getting Legal–Renewing our U.S. passports–Trip 2

U.S.-passport

A few weeks later, I received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. The Spanish speaking flunky on the other end of the call informed me that my photograph was unacceptable. Apparently, he judged the background too gray. I suppose my ink was running low when I printed that picture. So he told me I should take a new picture meeting the acceptable size and color guidelines to the consulate within 90 days. I told him I didn’t live near the consulate and asked if there was some other way I could deliver the picture. He told me I could deliver it directly to the U.S. embassy in Mexico City if I liked. Not that we live any closer to Mexico City.

Later that day he sent me an email that outlined the procedure for a name change on my passport. I wrote back asking for clarification of the email since we hadn’t discussed a name change on the phone. He sent another email with an apology and an attachment (all in Spanish) with the requirements for the passport photo. I printed the attachment out and asked again if there was another way I could deliver the photo, like through the mail, rather than making another trip to San Miguel. He didn’t bother to respond.

Since we were going to have to make the trip again, I gathered all my paperwork for working papers together in order to try for a two-for-one deal. I requested a letter of employment from the school secretary and the director stamped and signed it. I dug out the paper that listed the requirements for the change of status through immigration that I had gotten on a previous trip (See Working Papers). I also packed up any documentation that I thought might be requested (my residency card, my birth certificate, my canceled passport, and my marriage certificate). I also sent an email to the U.S. consulate asking if I would need any additional paperwork when I brought the new photo.

Strip mall where the passport office has been moved to.

Strip mall where the passport office has been moved to.

And we were off.  We arrived in SMA and parked in front of Office Depot. My son and I trotted to the consulate and discovered that it was closed on Fridays. The kiosk where I was planning on having my picture taken was also closed on Fridays. Well damn!

Of course, this fact was not found anywhere on the official website. (See Hours for US embassy offices in Mexico.) So as not to waste the trip, we headed over to the SEGOB office at the other end of town.

In order to avoid denial due to spelling or format errors, I trotted next door and had this office fill out my forms.

In order to avoid denial due to spelling or format errors, I trotted next door and had this office fill out my forms.

We went to the lawyer’s office next to immigration and I explained what I needed. The secretary filled out the on-line form for me and the lawyer called me into his office. I gave him the letter the school had given me. In the letter, the secretary had written that I would be the English coordinator beginning August 18. As it was only August 15, the lawyer said this would be a problem as I was only to inform immigration AFTER I started working. Since I hadn’t shown the letter to immigration, he said he would write in the letter bajo de protesta decir la verdad (swearing to tell the truth) that I had begun on August 13. He said this wouldn’t be lying since I had attended teacher meetings during the week, but that I shouldn’t present the school employment letter unless asked. He also said the letter was invalid on another point. The director had signed and stamped the letter, but I needed a copy of his IFE (voter registration card) to prove the signature was his. Well, I didn’t have that either. I asked about identification since my current passport had been canceled and the new passport was waiting on a new photo. The lawyer assured me that the only identification I would be asked for was my permanent residency card.

For the letter and on-line form, it was $210 pesos. I took these two documents, plus my permanent residency card and a copy next door. I took a number and waited less than 5 minutes. I nervously explained what transaction I was applying for and gave the clerk my documents. After he looked them over and stamped them, he told me to check back in 5 days. He printed another document with the web address where I could check on the status of my application and told me that I would receive an email as well. Much to my surprise, he kept my residency card. Back home we went, but wait there’s more!

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Getting Legal–Renewing our U.S. passports in México–Trip 1

passport

It just happened that both my son’s minor U.S. passport and my own U.S. passport were up for renewal within a month of each other. (See Applying for a U.S. passport from outside the United States) Checking online, I discovered that my husband and I would need to go personally to renew my son’s passport and that the office in Morelia no longer processed passports for minors. (See Renewing Passports for minors) Therefore, we would have to go to either Mexico City or San Miguel de Allende. Having been to the U.S. consulate in San Miguel before, we decided to head there.

I printed out passport pictures that I believed met the appropriate qualifications, even using the handy dandy online assistant. (See Passport photos) The size is different from Mexican passport photos. I printed out the appropriate forms and filled out the appropriate parts. I asked for a small advance on my salary to cover the passport and trip expenses. My husband didn’t want to take Myrtle as we are still discovering her quirks and therefore, we gassed up Butch the truck for our trip. (See Getting Legal–License plates). We bought some fruit, packed some sandwiches and filled our water bottles. We even managed to get a verificación (inspection) sticker since we always get stopped in Celaya. (See Getting Legal–Trip 1).

I emailed the consulate in San Miguel de Allende and was told I could have an appointment at 10:30, which would give us plenty of time to get there. Having thought of everything (or so I believed), we were ready to go.

The trip to SMA was completely uneventful. No emergency repairs by the side of the road, no attempts by the policía for mordidas (bribes), we weren’t even stopped in Celaya for a sticker check. Unprecedented! We arrived in SMA and parked in a pensión (enclosed parking lot) and asked direction to the U.S. embassy. We were about 2 blocks away.

The official guard at the parking lot.

The official guard at the parking lot.

So we strolled along, it being well before 9 a.m. We arrived at the building and sat by the pigeons in front of the church. We sat there a few minutes, then doubt began to creep in. What if the office wasn’t where it used to be? What if it was closed for vacation or some other reason? It would be better to go in and see, we reasoned. And well reasoned we were. The office was no longer there. We asked the sales clerk in the store by the front door where the office was. She told us that after having been in that building for years, the office had been moved to the strip mall next to Liverpool.

This is where the U.S. consulate used to be in San Miguel de Allende

This is where the U.S. consulate used to be in San Miguel de Allende

Sitting with the pigeons in front of where the passport office used to be.

Sitting with the pigeons in front of where the passport office used to be.

Umm, ok? No reason for panic. We walked back to the truck and talked to the security guy at the parking lot. He tried to be very helpful (even though he regretfully had to charge us for the full hour of parking) and drew a little map on his hand to help us on our way. The key points in his map were the statue of Pípila where we would go around the glorieta (traffic circle) and the statue of a caballo (horse) which meant we had gone too far.

The statue of Pipila at the glorieta (traffic circle). Turn right here for the U.S. consulate. The immigration office SEGOB is left here.

The statue of Pipila at the glorieta (traffic circle). Turn right here for the U.S. consulate. The immigration office SEGOB is left here.

And we were off. It was pretty straight forward. My husband remembered that our first year doing transactions in SMA we had to go to the Bancomer bank at this strip mall to make the immigration payment and he was right. Of course, now there was a Bancomer closer to the immigration office and the strip mall had tripled in size, but it was all good.

Strip mall where the passport office has been moved to.

Strip mall where the passport office has been moved to.

Best of all, parking was free. So we got out and asked a security guard where the U.S. Consulate was and we were directed to the food court. I was flabbergasted at the luxuriousness of the area and wanted to stop at Starbucks for a cappuccino just because but my husband said he certainly wasn’t about to pay $30 pesos for a cup of coffee. I had to admit he was right, so we walked on.

Kiosk in front of the U.S. consulate in San Miguel de Allende.

Kiosk in front of the U.S. consulate in San Miguel de Allende.

We passed an enterprising kiosk that offered to get your U.S. visa for you. After reading the sign on the consulate wall that said visas could not be applied for there, I had to admit the kiosk was extremely well-situated.

The "new" U.S. consulate in San Miguel de Allende

The “new” U.S. consulate in San Miguel de Allende

We walked into an area that reminded me of DMV and I jumped in the line. I figured at least I would have to check in, but felt sure that having an appointment would take care of everything. Even though the person at the counter in front of me was speaking in Spanish, when it was my turn, I spoke to the receptionist/secretary in English. I was in the U.S. consulate and by golly, I was gonna use English. I also remembered that the secretary was perfectly fluent in English from our last visit.

She seemed surprised that I had an appointment. Hmm. Well, I explained why I was there and gave her my documentation and then my son’s documentation. She asked whether I would be paying in dollars or pesos. When I told her pesos, she did the currency exchange and gave me a figure I could live with. I paid her and she gave me a number and we sat down to wait.

The ambassador or notary or U.S. representative or whatever he was, arrived at 10. He looked like he was ready for a day at the beach in his guayabera shirt and khakis. It might have casual Tuesday at the office but the secretary was dressed (from what I would see through the window) in formal business wear.

He spared not a greeting for the now crowded waiting room, but passed through in a flash, leaving us to cool our feet. We spent some time looking at an awful painting of a Mexican taxista (taxi driver) looking in a rear view mirror and wondered if the U.S. ambassador painted it himself because surely no one would spend good money on it.

Then he was back and flashed a number at the window. This was the sign that the group with #1 should enter into the side door where he presided much like a bank teller. The door between the waiting room and the teller office did provide some privacy, or so I thought until we saw that the back wall was glass and everyone and their brother could observe the proceedings from the food court.

U.S. consulate privacy wall in San Miguel de Allende.

U.S. consulate privacy wall in San Miguel de Allende.

We were number 9 (so much for making an appointment) and waited about an hour. During that period, we were surprised to see Stifler’s mother and the world’s oldest fairy princess, complete with flowered crown, in the waiting room. But I suppose, everyone needs a passport these days.

Then it was our turn. We entered and swore that the information on the application for my son’s passport was correct. I swore in English and my husband swore in Spanish. We were told that our passports would be sent to us through DHL but that we could pay at the office in Moroleón. If there were any problems, the embassy in Mexico City would call me.

Taking the scenic route through San Miguel de Allende

Taking the scenic route through San Miguel de Allende

And that was that. We left the food court and the parking lot, but leaving SMA was a bit more difficult. We must have missed the road we came in on when we went around the caballo statue because we ended up taking the historic tour of SMA. Then we went one further and got lost yet again in Celaya, adding an additional hour to our travel time.

A typical yonke (junk yard)

A typical yonke (junk yard)

We stopped a a yonke (junk yard) or two in search of parts for Myrtle and even had a little cash left to eat at our favorite roadside buffet in San Pedro. Chiliquiles, nopales, frijolitos y arroz! YUM!

One of the delights in traveling is eating at little roadside stands like this one.

One of the delights in traveling is eating at little roadside stands like this one.

We went to the DHL office in Moroleón and paid the special discount rate of $200 per package a few days later. To our relief, we could pick up the documents at the DHL office since we have no address out in La Yacata. In order to pick up my son’s passport, we would need to bring his birth certificate and photo identification of the parent. I panicked a moment since I would not have my passport but then read further that I could use my driver’s license as id. Whew! Now nothing to do but sit back and wait.

But of course, things are never so easy here in Mexico.

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Getting Legal–Trip 5 and Residency at last

This is how I imagine I look with my new Mexican residency.

This is how I imagine I look with my new Mexican residency.

Although the SEGOB website told me that I should report to the office on the 10th of the month, we had to delay this trip. First, we had to get a new battery for the truck (see Getting Legal–Trip 3). Then we had to repair the piece of the undercarriage that was damaged on the last trip (See Getting Legal–Trip 4) and we also had to obtain another verification sticker (See Getting Legal–Trip 1) to avoid multas (fines) or mordidas (bribes). But finally, on the 18th of the month, we were ready to go.

My husband began his marching about very early the next morning and shooed us out of the house before my son and I were quite awake. We said our prayers or crossed ourselves asking for a safe and successful journey there and back and started out.

We arrived in San Miguel de Allende very early, it was just after 8 a.m. As the office didn’t open until 9 a.m. and there wasn’t a soul in sight, we parked and walked a block to the Bodega for a second breakfast. We were only gone about 10 minutes, but when we returned, there was a line from the door to the street. I got in line with the rest and waited. I felt a little odd next to the gringos with their carrot juice and granola bars with my canned coffee and a huge chocolate doughnut bigger than my hand, but what can I say? The doughnut ended up being more than I could comfortably eat, but I didn’t want to risk my place in line to throw it in the trash, so I choked it down.

Being experienced at this, my husband and I opted for the divide and conquer approach when the doors finally opened and the stampede entered. He went to the main counter and got a number, I went to the little window and got a number. The main counter number came up first, so I went to ask about what I needed to do to legally work in México now that I was about to receive my permanent residency. It’s surprisingly easy considering all the hoops I had to jump through to get to this point. (See Getting Legal–Working Papers).

Then I waiting for the window ticket. It wasn’t exceptionally long, under an hour. I got to the counter, my husband right there with me in case he had to soothe my nerves (See Getting Legal–Trip 3) and the clerk asked what I was there for. I said, hopefully, to pick up my residency. He asked what the website said, and when I said just to come and present myself at the office, he said then my residency probably wasn’t ready yet, but that he’d look anyway. So for a heart lurching moment, I waited, fingers crossed, but it was there after all. I signed saying that I received my document and at my husband’s urging, checked it right then, to make sure it was in the envelope. Ironically, or perhaps intentionally, the card for Mexican permanent residency is green. So now I have my “green card”–get it? Even my photo (no bangs, no glasses, no earrings) wasn’t too bad. I floated out to the truck.

We were stopped in Celaya even with our two verification stickers prominently displayed on the windshield. The transito (traffic cop) asked to see my husband’s driver’s license and permiso de circular (permission to circulate the vehicle). He had both documents, so there was no problem and we continued on down the road.

We stopped in Yuriria for lunch and had tacos de tripa (tripe tacos) to celebrate a successful conclusion to this process.

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