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Sea Star 7

1998 Bayliner LeClercq

We are allowed to leave the country!

Unlike the good ‘ol US of A, Mexican residents and citizens have to ask permission to leave the country.  Well, that might not be entirely fair.  They have to fill out paperwork and get it stamped.  Not clear anyone would be refused permission or if this is just a way to keep people employed rubber stamping papers all day long.  Problem is we ended up in no where land on our Mexican residency and it wasn’t clear whether we would get our rubber stamps or not.  Let me back up…

The whole reason we came back to Mexico before our trip to Africa was that our Mexican residency needed to be renewed.  Should have been no big deal.  Make an appointment at immigration and go down and fill out some forms and pay some money.  Same as last year when we were issued our first year of residency here in Mexico.  Alas the Nayarit branch of immigration decided (for reasons utterly unclear) to do away with the appointment system.  Its now first come, first served. The problem with that is that there are many horror stories prior to when the appointment system existed of having to show up at immigration at 4am to get in line to have any chance of being seen that day.

Fearing the worst, we tried to hire someone to stand in line for us.  Yes, this is a thing.  Experts on immigration paperwork stand in line for you and have all your paperwork ready when you get there and take your place in line.  We tried first to contract with a referral we were given by the Bellamar attorney.  Melissa struggled and struggled to get clarity because that contact claimed they could get an appointment.  This of course made no sense unless there was some under the table greasing of palms that allowed us to pay for an appointment when the public appointment system had been shut down.  But the whole thing seemed pretty unlikely and the contact kept going quiet for weeks at a time.  Ultimately we determined that they had made an appointment in Guadalajara not Nayarit!   Setting aside that Guadalajara is a 5 hour drive from here, only the office in the state you live in will process your paperwork.  After that the contact just wouldn’t respond at all.

Desperate, we asked our building manager for other options.  She recommended a guy she knows and sure enough Enrique came through on short notice!  We were able to go to the office at 8am knowing Enrique had been in line for us for hours.  He had all the paperwork together.  Because we were 5th in line the whole process only took half the day instead of all day.  But there was a catch.  The office couldn’t print our residency cards because they had run out of the plastic they print them on.  Apparently they haven’t been printing the cards for weeks now.

So here’s the problem – with no residency cards – we can’t depart the country as Mexican residents.  We can of course leave on our American passports.  They can’t keep us prisoner here.  But if we fly out without doing the proper check out procedures, it invalidates our Mexican residency and we have to start the process over from scratch and apply at the Mexican consulate in Seattle.  There isn’t even a way to fix it here in Mexico after the fact.

There is process for this whole fiasco – which is called an exit permission letter.  Essentially our dude Enrique had to go back to immigration and get a letter that says we have permission to leave the country without our residency cards.  We can be gone up to 60 days and then get our cards upon our return.  The catch – the hurricane headed right for us.  So on Friday night we get in the car and drive the hour into Puerto Vallarta to get our photos taken and printed (like the ones you send in to get your passport).  Why they needed our pictures is a puzzle since they already had digital photos of us for our residency cards.  But bureaucracy runs rampant here and apparently no one has connected those dots.  So we get our photos taken, and then Saturday (remember by then the winds and rain are starting) one of the staff brings us all the forms to sign.  The catch – they have to take our passports.  Betty, our building manager assures us that the passports will stay in her sole possession until she knows that immigration offices actually open on Monday and then, and only then, will she give the paperwork and passports to Enrique to go get them processed.

So by the time the hurricane rolled in Saturday night, we were not only scared of the storm, but also fretting about whether we would see our passports again in time to depart for Africa.  Saturday we finished packing all the bags for Africa in the car believing it entirely plausible that we would have to evacuate and might not be able to get back to the condo before we departed on our trip.  Figuring we might have to track Betty down at her home to retrieve the passports and just leave the country without our exit letter.

As it turns out, Enrique was able to get the exit letter without any problem on Monday and it was delivered to us on Tuesday in time for our departure tomorrow.  Whoo hoo!  Its off to Africa we go!

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