This week we tackled the next step of our legal residency and while it was eventually successful, it was not without the expected challenges. As our first year of Temporary Residency comes to an end, it is time to renew our residence status for 3 more years and renew our Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for our truck. The good news is that there is lots of information online as to how to do both of those things. The bad news is that absolutely none of it is accurate. Rules change here often, and online advice has not kept up. We decided to start by heading directly to the Immigration Office to get the correct papers and procedures. The process is pretty simple, even though it will mean 5 trips to the office in Nuevo Vallarta: One to get the correct papers and instructions; two to deliver the papers and photos and many copies of everything and to get the form that must go to the bank; three to take the financial paper to the bank and return with the receipt and again many copies; four to get our fingerprints taken when the application has been approved and; five to pick up our new Residency card. The clerks at the Immigration Office are friendly and helpful and although it is time consuming and really poorly organized, it is not difficult and hopefully we will get an email next week saying we are approved for 3 more years and can come to give our fingerprints (which we just did a year ago and …. uhhh… they haven’t changed).
The vehicle was a little trickier. There were so many different opinions online as to how to renew its TIP. We asked the Immigration officer and she said we needed to go to the Customs office (Aduana) in Puerto Vallarta – across from Costco, beside the wine store. Okay that works – I need groceries, I need wine, we can make a day of it. When we walked into the Aduana office I stood in shock – there were DOZENS of people waiting for an appointment – maybe HUNDREDS. It was a huge building with SO MANY PEOPLE and none of them appeared to be speaking any English. The first woman we talked to told us we would have to take the truck back to the border. Ah no. Another person please. Finally the English-speaking supervisor appeared, gave me the form we needed and told us she couldn’t help us. We needed to go to the Aduana office at the airport. They could help. Sigh. Every post I had read online said the office at the airport was absolutely NOT the place to go. But I was more than happy to get out of that madhouse – the airport was the next stop.
When we got to the airport, we wandered around for a while looking for the Customs office. We found the Immigration counter – but no Aduana office. We approached the Information Desk and a Spanish clerk directed us to the office we were looking for. “Go outside and turn left. Go to the end of the building, go around the corner and walk until you find the only grey door. Knock on the door until someone comes and then tell them you want the Aduana office.” Okay – sounds easy. Even in Spanish, I thought I understood.
We eventually found a grey door, but there was literally nothing on it indicating it was an Aduana office. In fact, as I stared at the door, I notice a tiny slot in the door with two brown eyes staring at me. After jumping out of my skin, I told the eyes that I was looking for the Aduana office. “Uno momento”. And the slot slid shut – was I at a government office or a rent-by-the-hour motel? After waiting for 5 or 10 minutes, a Customs officer opened the door, and we explained what we wanted. He took our papers and began looking through them. And I mean ALL of our papers. Papers in our file folder that had absolutely nothing to do with this process were inspected. “Okay, let me get someone to help you.” Big grey door slam. After we waited in the tiniest triangle of shade for 15 or 20 minutes, another Customs Officer came to the door and we told her our story again. She looked over our papers and told us we needed 2 copies of these papers, 3 copies of those. Again, the copies. “There is a copier in the middle of the airport.” Okay we will be back with our copies. But the desk in the center of the airport said “No Copies. Maybe at the nearby business mall.” Which meant leaving the airport parking lot. We had, of course, parked in the absolute last stall of the parking lot, and when we got to our car we realized we had forgotten to pay for our parking at the machine – INSIDE THE TERMINAL, at the furthest spot from where we were now standing. We trekked back to the Arrivals area of the airport, paid to get out and drove a mile or two to the mall where we indeed found a copy store. After getting our copies, we headed back to the grey door. We knocked on the door, spoke to the eyes, waited 10 or 15 more minutes in the blazing sun and eventually another Customs Officer – now our 3rd – came to the door, inspected the papers, shuffled the copies around and told us to wait a few minutes. It was now 2:00 – we had left home at 9:00 – and we were hot, thirsty and hungry. But in another 10 or 15 minutes the grey door pushed open and the Officer handed us our papers – with the needed stamp. Our truck is in – again. For 3 more years. And I am considering taking donations, so Customs at the Airport can have a sign, maybe even a desk and a chair, to help weary travelers who don’t want to stand outside in the parking lot while papers are being shuffled.
3 times waiting – at least – and we’re all fighting for that one triangle of shade
As we have worked through all the steps to live in this country, I have been frustrated but I am also super excited. No one would ever go through all of this craziness unless they knew they were meant to be here, unless they were already rooted in the soil and breathing the air. We have been grumpy, we have been angry, we have laughed, we have cried – but we have never doubted. And that makes me happy.