Thursday, March 31, 2005
Master of the slow burn...the Mexican Bureaucracy
I could spit bullets.
It all began last summer, when the Fulbright program began processing my immigration paperwork. First, Migration sent my visa authorization to consulate in El Paso, instead of Austin. And of course, consulates cannot transfer paperwork, it has to go back to Mexico City.
So we wait, in Austin. A week. Ten days. Finally, the Fulbright office says come across the border and just get a tourist permit (good for 6 mos.) and we'll change it once you're here. By then, I had missed the first week of class.
First week in September: I submit my visa paperwork again.
Eight months later: I still do not have my visa.
Since Migration has already taken away my tourist visa in order to process my new visa, I have no migration paper work. To leave the country next week, I have to file a request with immigration and pay $20.
The Fulbright officer tells me this is no problem. You do it at the airport, the day of your flight. Or, you go to the main Migration offices where it takes 48 hours. The same day sounds better, but just to be certain, I decide to call the Migration office at the airport.
As soon as I receive this information today at 1pm, I look the number up on the internet to call airport Migration. The helpful page has 9 numbers listed, all of which are disconnected.
So I look up the number for airport information. They give me the number for Migration.
A young woman (and damnit, I didn't get her name) insists that they no longer process permits to leave and return at the airport. Only permits to leave for good, wherre you turn in all your visa paperwork. She is quite clear about this. She says I must process the request with the Migration office in Polanco (the other side of town).
I ask: Is this a new policy? Yes. Since when? A long time. When? January.
I look up the number for the Polanco Office. I call. A woman there tells me that I have two options. I can go to Polanco where the process takes 48 hours. Or..... I can go to the airport. Hmmmm.... I explain that someone at the airport just told me that they no longer process the permits to leave and return. Just to leave for good. This is a new policy since January. This woman asks me to wait. She leaves. She comes back. She says the other person must have been mistaken.
I call the same number that I called earlier for the airport Migration office. A man answers. I explain my situation and what I need. How do I get a permit to leave and return?
He says, you come here with a copy of your visa application, your passport, and flight coupon and $20 and we process the permit. Do I need to bring copies of the passport and flight coupon or just the originals? Just the originals. How long does this take? A couple of hours, but it's always best to come sooner rather than later. During what hours does the office process the requests? Between 9am and 6pm.
Then, I ask him: Why did a young woman tell me just 30 mintues ago that your office no longer processes permits to leave and return? She was quite clear that you only process permits to leave for good. Really? Hold on, maybe our policy has changed.
He transfers me to another young woman. I ask her: Do you process permits to leave and return? Yes. What do I need to bring? a copy of your visa application, your passport, and flight coupon and $20. Do I need to bring copies of my passport and airline ticket? No. How long does it take? Not long. When can I come? Between 9am and 6pm.
Fine. I decide that I should do this today, just to be sure there are no snafoos.
I go print my copy of my visa application with all the government stamps, etc. and drive across town to the airport.
I find the tiny office hidden in the bowels of the airport where 3 sunburned Argentines are getting their tourist permits extended. Three young women are in the next room doing apparently nothing except chatting and twirling their hair around their fingers. It's everything you imagine a backwater immigration office to be. I wait.
The nice guy looks at my paperwork, has me fill out two forms with carbon paper between to make extra copies, and then starts to tell me that I need to make copies of my passport and plane ticket, go pay the money and come back. I say, no. I was told I did not need to make photocopies. Raquel specifically told me that I did not need to make copies. Ok, he says, I'll make the copies.
Then he sends me off to the bank. He says we're almost done and by the time I get back, my permission will be ready. It is now 3:20. He says I can go to any bank in the airport to pay the $20 to the government's checking account. Every bank but one has a line of 50 people with only 2 tellers working. I go to the bank with no line, which also happens to be the bank that once charged me $2 to pay my water bill even though the bill clearly says that I can pay at that bank without paying a commission. They don't accept these deposits.
I go back to one of the other banks and wait in line for 30 minutes. I deposit the $20 and go back to the Migration office.
Of course, the nice guy is gone and has been replaced by someone with a really ugly eyebrow piercing (those are my pet peeve). I smile, and hand him all my paperwork and my receipt for the deposit. He says, ok, I'll see you tomorrow.
What?? Yes, he says, the paperwork takes 24 hours. In Polanco it takes 48. I ask, then why have several people told me that it would only take a few hours? He doesn't know. He claims he's the only one that processes these types of requests and it always takes 24 hours. He has to call Polanco to make sure I'm not trying to escape the country. [more about this in a minute]
Ok. Well, can I wait until before my flight on Wednesday to pick it up? Yes. You only process this paperwork 9am-6pm, even though the office opens at 7am. Can I come at 7am to get my permit? Yes, but really the office opens sometime between 7 and 7:30am. But I can pick up my permit then? Yes, assuming it is approved when I call Polanco. Well, can I call first to find out if it has been approved? Why certainly, after 6pm tomorrow. Ask for me.
The irony is that if I got in the car and drove for Texas, I would have none of these problems. They would not check for my tourist permit at the border. They would not stamp my passport. In August, when we came to Mexico, they did not stamp our passports. At Christmas, we drove back to Texas, they did not stamp our passports or ask for our tourist cards back. When we drove back in January, they did not stamp our passports again. According to our passports, we were never in Mexico last fall. And now, they want to micromanage my departure for a five day trip and make sure that I don't owe any immigration fines? How ridulous.
Ok. So this is really too long for a blog post, but I just had to put it out there.
I still don't know if I should waste 2 hours and another $5 parking (not to mention the stress of driving in the City) to go back and get my permit before Wednesday.
posted by Michelle @ 5:49 PM,
- At 3/31/2005 7:10 PM, said...
"How about a little something for a coca?"
- At 3/31/2005 9:21 PM, Michelle said...
You're right. I should have asked if I could pay a "fee" to have my permit expedited. Erggggg. Ruined my whole afternoon. Now I can't concentrate. I *hate* eyebrow piercings.