Playing the Visa Game

One of the joys of long term overseas assignments is playing the Visa game.  Getting our Mexican residence permits was no exception.  I am happy to say after a few months of paperwork, phone calls, and consulate visits Chris and I are legal residents of Mexico. Fortunately, Chris’ company provided lawyers help us which made the paperwork submission a little simpler, but I’m glad the consulate visits are over.  (At least for a year) Here’s how we went about this whole process. 

Step One: Assembling the paperwork
I’m not the most organized of people, but I have found keeping a big white binder of important paperwork is a HUGE help for this process. (I have to give credit to our friend Dan for this idea. He used this in China and hardly had any paperwork hang ups.)   I highly recommend getting copies of the following and placing them in a portable pouch or binder with page protectors.
  • Official Copies of Birth Certificate (Make sure it’s an official copy. Unofficial copies won’t be accepted.)
  • Official Copies of Marriage License (If needed) (Again, it needs to be an official copy.)
  • Three Months of Bank Statements
  • Letter from the Company Stating invitation to work in Mexico (This is really important.)
  • Letter from INM (Instituto Nacional de Migracion) stating you can get a visa
  • Passport Photos (We usually get extra photos in case more are needed for later times.)
  • Copies of Passport
  • Social Security Cards (Optional)
  • Copy of Chris’ Work Contract 

I also decided to put copies of professional licenses, driver’s licenses, insurance cards, letters of recommendation, dog health certificate information, a copy of my health records, and any other important papers in the binder.  This way in case of emergency, I can grab it and go. BTW, this binder is currently hidden at an undisclosed, secure location.  I have found that gathering all of the paperwork is half the battle of getting a visa.

My paperwork is currently being guarded by a ferocious dachshund.

Step Two:  The Mexican Consulate Visit in the US
After we got the magic emails from the Mexico City Lawyers and the HR department stating we were greenlit for visas, Chris and I headed to the Mexican Consulate in Indianapolis to get Visa stickers placed in our passports.  We both thought this appointment would last about 15-30 minutes.  We thought we would breeze through our appointment, grab lunch, and head back to Kentucky in time for Chris’ 3:00 meeting.  We were WRONG! Bring a book, a magazine, a tablet, or something to do because each visa appointment lasted one hour.

We thought we would be in, out, and fed in an hour.  We were wrong!
Chris’ interview was first.  The man at the DMV like counter asked him for his passport photos, passport, letter of invitation to work in Mexico, birth certificate, marriage license, bank records, and the money for the visa.  He was then asked about his position in Mexico and how long we were planning on living there. This interview took 10 minutes.  Then we waited about 50 minutes for the workers to process the paperwork.  (Mind you, the HR department had already provided most of this info to the consulate prior to the appointment.)  Finally, Chris had a non-smiling picture taken, and his visa process was finished.

In the meantime, I was getting a bit hangry and was VERY ready for this process to be over. (Bring a snack to the consulate if you are going right before lunch!!)  I had been sitting in the consulate for 75 minutes and nothing was happening for my visa.  My name was finally called and I was asked why I was going to Mexico, what was I going to do there (my answer of being a housewife killed me), and how long I planned to live in the country.  Then I was sent back to the DMV chairs and I waited for about 30 minutes.  Finally, they called me back up to the counter and I got my Mexican mug shot.  

This is the best visa picture ever. I was so hangry and was told not to smile.

I finally got my passport and all of our paperwork returned, and we were told we had 30 days to report to INM after we entered Mexico.

Step Three: The Lawyer’s Office
Since Chris may have to return to the US in less than a month to attend a training, we had to make a visa run to our Lawyer’s offices in Mexico City two days after we landed in the country.  (We were told that processing of the TR cards could take up to a month.)  I had no problem with this because I wanted to take a long sightseeing weekend in the capitol.  We would meet with the lawyers, give them a copy of our passports, fill out some paperwork, then finally enjoy some much-needed days of rest.

At 7:45 the night before we left for Mexico City, we received an email stating we needed

  • Our passports
  • Our original multiple migratory forms (the bottom half of the paper we completed to enter the country at the airport)
  • $3715 in Mexican Pesos per visa (It HAS to be Mexican Pesos, the INM does not take credit or debit cards.)
  • EIGHT passport pictures.  Five of the pictures need to be frontal mug shots, three of the pictures need to be right profile shots.  The pictures need to be in front of a white background; must show the neck, face, and ears uncovered; without makeup; and without glasses.
This is the attachment we got with our lawyer's email. It's a good thing I could read Spanish.

We had our passports and multiple migratory forms, but we weren’t carrying that much cash nor did we know about the passport picture requirement! I immediately started to panic.  All of the picture places were about to close, and we needed to visit an ATM.  (I was also very worried that we would go over our withdrawal limit when getting the visa money.)  The following day, Leia (our dog) was going to be picked up for a weekend trip to doggy camp at 8:30 AM, we were going to catch a 9:30 AM bus to Mexico City, arrive at 12:30, catch an Uber to Fotos by Charly to get our pictures taken, and hopefully make it to the Lawyer’s office by 2. The day was going to be a race, especially with Mexico City traffic.  I got very little sleep that night.

I am happy to report that thanks to an early morning Walmart ATM run, and a lot of hustle from our Uber driver and Charly, we made it to the office on time. 

These are my official Mexican mug shots.  Applicants need five front shots, three right profile shots.

Upon arriving to the lawyer’s office, we had to fill out more application paperwork…in Spanish. Some of the questions cracked me up:

  • ¿Puede Ud. hablar español? (Can you speak Spanish?  We were completing the forms in Spanish...)
  • What is your religion?
  • What is your skin color?
  • How much do you weigh (in KG)?  (Chris was copying all of my answers because the application was in Spanish. I waited until the very last minute to answer this one and wouldn’t let him see my response.)

We weren’t in the US anymore….

After completing this paperwork, we learned we would have to surrender our passports.  This was a big problem because we needed our passports to check in to our hotel.  (We were told we could keep them prior to the meeting.)  So…our lawyer called the hotel, and arranged for us to check in with our US driver’s licenses and had our passports couriered to the hotel the following day.   We also learned that we would need to make ANOTHER trip to Mexico City to provide our fingerprints the following Wednesday.  (No, they couldn’t use the same prints from Indy.)  We left the lawyers office with copies of our passports and multiple migratory forms in search of a fun weekend.

Step Four:  Fingerprint Time
We were almost done with our Visa process!! After getting an email from the lawyers stating our cards had been approved, we headed back to Mexico City the following Wednesday to the INM building to get printed at 11:30. At 12:15, I had messy fingers (the Mexican government still uses black ink to take prints), and the promise of a TR card!  (I was finally able to get the ink of with multiple vigorous hand washings.

Two days later, DHL delivered our cards!

It's official!  I'm legal!

I know this is a long post, but getting a visa can be a long process.  We were extremely fortunate to have many people help us through the process so we had very few difficulties.  Organization and patience are the two secrets to winning any visa battle!

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¡Viva México!