Since the beginning of 2013, the rules for gringos in Mexico have been changing pretty thick and fast. Even our local gringo lawyer can’t keep up with them. When I moved down here in 2008, there were basically four kinds of visas for expats: tourist (FMM); FM3 (kinda permanent resident); FM2 (pretty much permanent resident); and immigrado (living here full time and wanting to be a Mexican citizen). And, yes, yes, my Mexican friends, both expats and locals, I know that I am simplifying!
But generally what it meant was that if you flew or drove down on vacation, you got a tourist visa that was good for six months. If you wanted to stay longer than that, you needed to apply for an FM3 or FM2 and pay for that for a year (proving that you had enough income or money in the bank to support yourself for a year) and then you renewed it locally annually. After a few years on an FM3, you could move to an FM2, and after a few years on that, you could move to immigrado.
(Don’t even get me started on why the United States couldn’t do this same type of thing instead of throwing up border walls and/or attempting to enact discriminatory laws. It might have made things a lot easier….and certainly more clear. But I refuse to discuss that.)
But enough about that. For five years, I had an FM3. While my monthly income (Social Security payments from 2010 on) did not actually meet the income requirements, my rather small IRA account was more than the annual income minimum, so I was allowed to remain in the country.
Additionally, we gringos were allowed to have US- or Canadian-plated vehicles here. We could drive them, get them insured, and as long as our visas were current, they were legal. Most expats opted to keep their registration current in the US or Canada, but there were some who drove around with plates that had expired years before because they could.
But this year (2013), everything changed. All of a sudden, we expats who live here all or most of the year were required to go to Permanente status (much like the immigrado status of old). Depending on how long we had lived here, we might be able to continue our temporary (FM3, FM2) status for a year or two, but generally if we had been living here for several years, we needed to change to Permanente.
The good news about this is that while it would cost us more for the change-over, we would never have to renew our visas again. And if we fell into a certain group, we got “grandfathered” in and didn’t have to prove we had enough annual income to stay here. Luckily enough, I fell into this category, so on 10 June (my visa expired on 18 June), I turned in my paperwork to the immigration office in Chapala. And now I sit and wait for them to call me in again for photographs, fingerprints, etc., so that I can become Permanente.
And as soon as that happens, I need to get my truck, Stormy, nationalized and get Mexican plates on him. This is where it starts to get into big money (i.e. maybe $3000 to $4000 US), so I don’t want to do it any earlier than need be…..just in case I get turned down for Permanente status.
But it was to search for the place where one gets one’s vehicle nationalized that sent my friend Kathi and I off on a spur-of-the-moment trip to Guadalajara yesterday (Sunday, 28 July). And that’s why this post is called “The Big Search.” Kathi and her husband now have their Permanente visas and their primary vehicle was purchased in Mexico so therefore does not have to be nationalized. But Kathi and Warner also own a classic Morgan that they DO need to nationalize. (That’s a photo of a Morgan kind of like Kathi’s at the top of this blog.)
And that’s what sent us out on our search yesterday. Both of us had heard and/or read horror stories about finding the place and the fact that people had to arrive at 0:dark:30 (7am or earlier) just to get in line to get a number so that their vehicle could be inspected. Then it supposedly would take 10-12 hours to get it done. So Kathi and I decided to take a run up to Tesistan to see if we could find the place so she would know where she was going.
Kathi’s internet was down, so she came over about 9:30am on Sunday to see if we could find an online map to the place before she had to go and/or before she had to borrow somebody’s Garmin. After about 20 minutes of searching online, we both threw up our hands and said, “Let’s just GO!” And off we set.
Kathi had a general idea of where Tesistan is and I was along to try to read/find street signs. (Streets are not generally well-marked in Guad, so a co-pilot is pretty much essential.) But we were lucky. We made two easily-correctable wrong turns and then I noticed some small writing on a big green road sign for the name of the street we were looking for and within a short while, there we were! I had seen the Mexican flag flying on our left in a walled and well-fenced area and was absolutely sure we had found Tesistan aduana (customs office) and so we had!
Right street; right number.
We also located a nearby no-tell motel if Kathi wants to stay the night and park Morgana the car in a safe spot, and an excellent restaurant very close thereto. So to celebrate our victorious discovery, we dined at Karne Garibaldi (http://karnegaribaldi.com.mx/) on delicious carne in su jugo and had a leisurely trip back to Joco.
It was a good, good day! First time in months that I’ve felt like myself!! That cancer stuff can do very, very bad things to your psyche!! But if you can conquer something else, it helps a lot!