“Hmm, this is interesting…  I don’t understand what happened.  Hold on a moment”, says our friendly neighborhood bilingual immigration officer.

About 20 minutes later he returns with a small stack of documents

“Normally”, he begins, “all US passport holders and green card holders are automatically given a 180 day visa when they enter the country.  For some reason, you were only granted 30 days.  But we can process your extension application here.”

“All you have to do is….”

– Fill out Form A, in Spanish. Provide an additional photocopy
– Fill out Form B, also in Spanish. Also provide a photocopy
– Provide duplicate copies of your passports and green card
– Write a letter, in Spanish, explaining that you want to extend your visa
– Pay the visa extension application fee at a local bank using Form C (400 pesos each)
– Sign the receipt that you receive from the bank, and make a photocopy
– Return to the Immigration Office with all of the above
– Wait a month (“or so”) while we send everything, including your passports, to Mexico City for processing. They will probably approve the extension

Ah, bureaucracy…  one of man’s best inventions.  We can’t wait around for a month or two hoping our passports come back with an extension, and we are only 1 week into a 4 week Spanish immersion course and can’t just get up and leave the country

After careful consideration of the work involved, the hassle factor, and various potential consequences, we decided to do what every reasonable person in the same situation would do:  Absolutely nothing

Flashing back to our entry into the country, we did feel like something strange was happening with the woman processing our entry.

“How long will you stay in Mexico?”, she asked.

“60 days.  We are going to Spanish school for a month and then we will visit a few monuments before leaving for Guatemala.”

She processed things very slowly, and several times looked at us for long periods with a look of expectation.  Various long time Mexico expats suggested she was looking for a bribe, a fairly common occurrence or so I hear, although we either continue to be oblivious or it isn’t that common

Without a word, she passed our passports back to us.  It wasn’t until a couple weeks later that we noticed that she had beautiful handwriting, and that she had written a big fat 30 in the box indicating maximum stay

Welcome to Mexico.  30 Days

Welcome to Mexico. 30 Days

I have no idea why we were given a visa with a shorter stay than is “normal”, and never will.  It seems odd that our request for a 60 day visa was not only denied, but completely  ignored.  We made an effort to comply with the rules and regulations presented to us, in their full ridiculousness, but ridiculousness won over sanity.

Our plans evolved as we studied and then explored the country.  We did our part to boost the local economies by frequenting various hotels, restaurants and coffee shops, and the numerous transportation companies, and we helped to build international relations by being good people, and developing friendships with the wonderful people we met.

With all of the hubbub about illegal immigrants in the United States, it felt a little strange to be one in Mexico.  It was also a good topic of debate over drinks with friends.  Why are some people forbidden to enter other countries and some are not?  Why do many Americans think and act as if their ancestors weren’t immigrants themselves?  Aren’t we all citizens of the world?  Don’t we all hope for a healthy and successful life and a better world and future for our children and our children’s children?

4.5 months after we entered the country, we made our way to the border with a minor modification to our FMM…  the same modification our entry officer would have made had we coughed up a few pesos

Minor Modification

Minor Modification

The border crossing was uneventful.  Nobody even looked at our FMM.  Arm-in-arm with several other citizens of the world, we paid our exit tax, got our passport stamps, and crossed into Guatemala.