|I mentioned that I would post a few basic guidelines.
1. First timer? Be humble. Bring a Bi-Lingual friend. But a smart, confident, bi-lingual friend who will ask thoughtful questions and seek clarification. Otherwise, it's blind leading the blind even if one of them happens to speak more than one language.
2. Always be polite. Exercise patience. This can be challenging.
3. Dress and Grooming are important. Foreigners, especially from the USA, have a reputation of letting their appearance go and being sloppy. It's a breath of fresh air in the immigration office when they encounter an American, well groomed, pants and shirts pressed, clean polished shoes, fresh breath, cologne, makeup, etc... This includes your paperwork, have it in order, no tears, no dog ears, etc.. (this one is tough for me because I've always had so much paperwork).
- I remember renewing my FM3 (version of the Temporary Residency back in the day) for the 3rd time (you had to have it 5 years in those days to move to FM2 the Permanent Residency back in the day) and getting annoyed because the process required 8 trips to the immigration office. Finally, I asked "Why don't you folks provide a list of all requirements on the very first visit, so that only 2 are necessary?" I had a tone and of course in those days my Spanish was very 'direct' to say the least. A few minutes later they responded, "Another trip won't be necessary, everything is in order for you". The following year, going for my 4th renewal I stated, "This has been an arduous process. Aren't you glad that next year, the 5th, will be my final year getting this renewed?" The woman responded.. "No, this card is only a year old, you have 4 renewals remaining." Unknown to me.. the year before.. for my impatience.. the FM3 was cancelled and reissued... nullifying 3 years. A very hard expensive lesson learned. Don't be fresh, don't have a tone, don't display any sign that you are annoyed or have run out of patience.
4. Be gracious, especially if it's been a difficult process requiring many visits. On that last visit, where you receive your card..... Leave.. Go buy a cake at Suspiros… Return to the immigration office... Express your appreciation and gift them the cake.
OK, so those were all pretty obvious. Now, I'd like to relate a few very specific details. I'm always willing to spend a few more dollars for expediency. I would rather arrive with too many documents than too few.
Here were some very specific things I encountered:
1. Get your name straight in the USA/Canada. This is soooo important. Make sure your passport, birth certificates, social security card, driver's licenses, bank accounts all coincide. Eventually, it will catch up to you if they don't... Especially on Mexican documents as you advance through the immigration and naturalization processes.
2. Anticipate a few core documents. Bring them along with 2 copies of each. You won't always need all of these, but man while you are there in front of your own copier or that of a Papeleria, why not just spend a few pesos and make sure it's your 1 and only visit that go-around. They might be:
- This was a major obstacle for me. As a younger man I changed my last night slightly... putting back the O' that my ancestors removed when they arrived to the US from Ireland so that they could avoid discrimination and find work. Computer systems hated the apostrophe, so I discontinued the apostrophe and just used ODwyer instead of O'Dwyer. I also disliked my middle name, so I often just used my middle initial W. But in fact, many forms only ask for your middle initial and not your entire middle name. Finally, I am a JR, but often there's no place for a title on Forms, so the JR often did not appear on documents (Mexico had no idea what to do with a Title as a Suffix to your name). I literally spent 1 year correcting all of my US Documentation to match, even requiring written testimony that I was the same person. I spent another 6 months correcting all of my MEX documents, again requiring written testimony from Mexican witnesses. I also needed additional paperwork from the US Consulate. I also was required to present all passports and their copies, as there were slight variations to my name on each. The amount of certified copies, apostilles, and translations needed to correct all of this was mind boggling. Because JR was added to my Mexican documents as my Apellido Maternal (2nd last name), it nullified my CURP (which previously had an 'X' to indicate the 2nd last name... and I had to take out a new CURP. I have yet to go through every single document at every gov't institution to correct every name/curp anamoly..... Whew, all of this over an O' , a W and a JR. Imagine if I had REALLY changed my name drastically! Lesson: Correct Your Name on Everything. Do it before you receive a single piece of Mexican Documentation that might not hold up later if it doesn't match.
3. Prepare a few core documents ahead of time. Somebody along the way is going to want to see your birth certificate and marriage license. Of course they want them translated too. By doing all of this well in advance, even years in advance, it removes pressure, as they are time consuming tasks. Get at least two because often when you submit the documents you don't get them back.. so get an extra for yourself. Do the following:
- 2 Recent Bills at your Mexican residency (electric, water, or phone, none older than 3 months),
- Current Tourist Card, Temp Residency Card, Perm Residency Card.
- 3 months of bank statements. (one time someone asked me to translate my bank statements... this was done informally by me... I did not need anything official)
- 4 foto infantiles each of your profile and front. ( I have an envelope full of them and I just pull out a few when needed... a little humorous as I've lost about 30 pounds since those fotos were taken).
4. If you've had your name changed (I'm not talking about through marriage):
- Get two certified copies from the state of origin. (talking a couple of dollars)
- Get an Apostille on those certified copies.
- Get a State of Sonora or Federally recognized Spanish translation of those documents (for immigration state level is ok, for naturalization you need federal level.. if you think you will go naturalization someday.. then just start with the more expensive Fed translation from the getgo.).
5. If you are applying for a work permit for a professional position. you might be required to show your College Degrees / Certificates. If so... Get them apostilled in the State or Providence and then later at the local Mexican Consulate. This prevents their authenticity from being questioned. Officials are cautious about blindly accepting your diplomas, degrees and certificates.
- Get two certified copies of the court order from the County of origin. YOu want to work with certified copies because you won't get this paperwork back from the Mexican Government.
- Get those certified copies notorized.
- Get an Apostille for those certified, notorized copies.
- Get a State of Sonora or Federally recognized spanish translation of those court orders (for immigration state level is ok, for naturalization you need federal level. if you think you will go naturalization someday.. then just start with the more expensive Fed translation from the getgo.).
6. When Exiting and Entering Mexico by car, have this documented on the Mexican Side..it just takes a few minutes in each direction. Unfortunately, border officials often do nothing, they enter nothing in the computer, stamp nothing in your passport, and then just hand things back. So, make sure the folks are doing this when you go through the trouble to stop and pop-in. Otherwise, your personal records won't match official records. You are asked to provide an accounting of your entries and exits. If they ever exceed 6 months in two years, you won't be eligible for citizenship. Don't leave the country while you have renewals in Tramite… It can nullify the process.
- I have never been asked for a Translation. However, I had my Degree Apostilled both in New York and then the Mexican Consulate In NYC... All before ever presenting them to anyone within Mexico. I even have a Certificate from a program that I participated in Canada. That Certificate has a Apostille from Ontario, and then again later from the Mexican Consulate in Toronto. I was given this advice by someone and am so glad I heeded it. It was a non-issue when asked to provide proof of academic credentials in the immigration office. No stress.. I had everything prepared well in advance. No one has ever asked about my high school diploma or my transcripts (high school or college).
7. How do you get a copy of your CURP? Head over to the Graphics place across the street from Immigation in Guaymas… For 20 pesos they will sign on to the government website and get you one... So much easier and quicker than trying to navigate the government website to get it yourself.
8. Don't hesistate to ask immigration to make a copy of the paperwork they are generating for you. They will tell you know... but just mention that you want it for reference because it has your signature... and that it will help you to keep the supporting documentation in order. They will never volunteer to give you copies of some of the internal documents they are submitting, but often will if you ask very nicely (and smell nice and are known to bring cake.. LOL).
My last and final advice is to think long and hard about your end game.
Once you get working papers, permanent residency or citizenship you start making decisions about car purchases, paying taxes, etc... The processes are very complex, time consuming and expensive.
If you are content to just rent in Mexico, and derive your income from Canada or the USA, and don't mind a shopping trip in Tucson every 6 months (I mean you're driving to KM21.... why not).. well then I can't think of one single good reason to have anything other than a Tourist Visa... Put Mexican Tourist Auto Insurance for your Vehicle for 1 year...but it from SanBorn in Nogales, AZ so that you can get the policy with higher limits... just seems safer. If saving additional money is important, then buy USA/Canada Auto Insurance that gives you the ability to put things on Hold while in Mexico (I could never be bothered with that.. GEICO is soo cheap). Every six months head up to KM21 and get a new tourist visa and car sticker... If it's an Arizona car.. do what you need to do with the registration (I think you can do 2 years in Arizona.. which means you are only troubled every 4th trip).
I hope this information helps some of you avoid a few frustrations. I have had a number of dealings because of my business as well. It's so important to keep all of your paperwork in order...