Tag Archives: Migracion

Walter Visits Migracion

Waking up early just to stand in line with 30 other morning-challenged individuals was not Walter’s idea of a good time, but it was one of those necessary evils required for any foreigner that wanted to live in Merida or Mexico in general. It was just before opening hours at the Immigration office in Merida and Walter was renewing his visa.

Ahead of him, Walter tried, in an effort to make the wait a little more interesting, to guess at the different types of nationalities and occupations of the various people ahead of him in the lineup. There were several what appeared to be Cubans judging from their complexion and who spoke in the rapid fire Spanish unique to them, almost unintelligible to Walter seeing as his Spanish was at the primary-school level and the fact that these people had an aversion to clear pronunciation and zero tolerance for the letter “s”. It’s as if they have marbles in their mouth when they talk, thought Walter bemusedly.

Several older couples, probably Americans or Canadians like him, waiting patiently and with a slightly amused expression on their faces, exchanged glances and soft greetings, unlike their more rambunctious Latino counterparts who either spoke loudly or not at all, the latter not making even the slightest eye contact with those around them. A young Chinese – or perhaps Korean, Walter couldn’t tell – woman stood out among the other nationalities, poking at her smart phone.

It was 8 AM and the office was about to open.

A scruffy young security guard with a LavaGuard uniform finally came out to where the lineup began and opened the gate of what was once a stately colonial home on the Avenida Colon, now a government office. Most of the houses in the area were now offices or banks; none or at least very few, had regular citizens living in them anymore, what with property taxes being what they were and the fact that corporations and wealthy folks from other parts of the country and world were snapping up anything that looked remotely colonial. Sensually round arches, colorful plaster tile floors, hammock hooks in the walls, stately columns; these were all selling points for smooth-talking real estate agents who breathlessly described even the lowliest of the old homes as dream homes for their hopelessly romantic and innocent newly arrived victims.

The line moved abruptly into the driveway and up the stairs to the entrance of the immigration office where each person proceeded to sign in and was then given a number, written in felt pen on a little square of what had once been a more dignified manila folder; the number indicated that persons’ position in the process to follow. A single digit number meant you were first up and was your reward for skipping that second cup of coffee at home. Everyone shuffled off to a place in the driveway area: the bird excrement-splashed broken plastic chairs under a giant ramon tree were the first choice for those who wanted to sit, followed by standing room only in any place that offered shade from the morning sun. Those people with small children succumbed to the persistent urgings of their offspring who insisted that they were hungry and the only thing that would make them happy was a processed food snack from the vending machine conveniently placed at the foot of the stairs of the former residence.

While waiting, one could admire the large fenced in area near the back of the property, complete with a security guard and barbed wire, where it was rumored that an illegal Cuban was being held in true Guantanamo style. However, unlike his Arab Guantanamo counterparts, this Cuban was waiting for deportation, and not being held indefinitely in a hellish limbo that held no predictable future, indicating that Mexico was, at least in this particular case, more concerned with a semblance of lawful procedure than its neighbor to the north.

When Walters’ number was called, he again climbed the stairs and gave the receptionist a quick overview of what he was doing, which was then confirmed on the computer and a second, colored bit of paper was handed to him and he was waved inside. There, another waiting room, already packed with the people that had been ahead of him in the morning lineup, awaited him complete with the relief of cool air conditioning and a television showing the most inane of Televisas’ programming. Walter gritted his teeth and found an empty spot next to the Asian woman, who didn’t look up as he sat next to her, completely absorbed as she was in her phone, paper-filled folder and backpack at her feet.

Every few minutes, an official in khaki pants and navy blue polo shirt with the white embroidered logo of the INM (Instituto Nacional de Migracion) would come in through a second door and everyone would look up hopefully like a group of puppies in a pet store kennel. A number was called and another foreigner disappeared with the official into an interior office.

Walter watched the television, frustrated that he didn’t have his iPhone or at least something to read with him. Televisa’s morning show was on and several European looking Barbie & Ken-like television hosts played off each other and did silly dance moves to some norteño music, while a secondary character, dark-skinned, dressed in mismatched clothing, sporting several blacked out teeth and unkempt hair provided the humor quotient – he represented the indigenous Mexican man on the street. His ridiculous slang and apparent ignorance made him the butt of any and all jokes from the rest of the cast.

In any case, even with the inane television, it was a good thing to be in this air conditioned waiting room and not out in the heat of a Merida summer looking for yet another comprobante of some sort. On a previous attempt the week before, Walter had shown up at the office with all the papers requested on the photocopied list given to him by the receptionist, only to be told that there was a document missing.

“But it’s not even on the list” said Walter in his best Tarzan Spanish, trying somewhat successfully to control his frustration and knowing he was utterly powerless before the whims of Mexican officialdom.

Si, pero es necesario que lo tenga” replied the receptionist curtly and, with a shrug and a dismissive wave, motioned for the next person in line to come forward, an indication to Walter that the discussion had come to an end.

So he endured the pseudo-comedy on the television and was grateful for the air conditioning. It could be worse. The oficina de migracion had been in a building downtown before, which was a pain as far as parking went and there certainly was no air-conditioned room with a TV to distract him as he waited.

Again the door to the interior office opened and an older, resigned-looking female immigration official stood there, looking at a number in her hand.

Treinta y cuatro” she called out, and looked up to see who would be next.

Walter looked at his number – 41. “Just a little bit longer” he thought. The Asian woman next to him gathered her things from the floor and stood up, giving Walter a quick smile before heading into the office behind the blue-clad woman.


Will Walter get his paperwork sorted out? Will the Asian woman show up in a future installment?  Will that colonial ever get sold and the immigration office moved somewhere with actual parking and a real filing system? Stay tuned!

Migracion – Comments on FM2 Permit Renewal

There are, as you know, other sites out there, such as YES (Yucatan Expat Services) that will take you through the FM3 or FM2 renewal process step by step, so this article won’t be about the actual process itself, but rather just a few comments by me on my experience this past week.

Yesterday, I spent the good part of the morning (all of it actually) sitting in the Migracion office here in sunny Merida. Migracion, for those of you new to the word, is the term used to generically describe the Immigration office here. It is located in a former private home or rather mansion; not an actual office built for the purpose, and so is a series of rooms in a house that some wealthy family has given up in rent to this branch of the federal government. In their rental clause, we can assume that a stipulation was made that nothing be changed architecturally since many furnishings are still there that have absolutely nothing to do in a federal immigration office. Like that giant chandelier in the room where you get your application looked at. Crammed in what I am guessing was a dining room at one point are many desks and shelves of the Office Depot particle board variety, along with a double row of black seating for the applicants as they wait their turn, each holding either a little green or orange square of laminated paper with a number on it.

This is a very official little paper and measures about 3/4 of an inch square, so don’t lose it. I recommend gripping it tightly between thumb and forefinger, although your thumb will probably render it invisible; that’s how big it is.

As you sit there, clutching that piece of paper, you can’t help but notice the huge art-deco-ish chandelier hanging above you, now retrofitted with ghastly energy saving blue-white light bulbs. The photo I took of it for yesterdays trivia game “Where in the Yucatan am I?” (played on Twitter – stay tuned for another game real soon) prompted one player to remark that he thought I was somewhere under a rocket being launched. This gives you an idea of what this chandelier looks like. I will post the photo of the lamp, along with the other two photo-clues, below.

Also, a second clue I posted on Twitter was of the floor. As in most houses built in the 1800’s this mansion has beautiful pasta tile floors that form a kind of carpet on the floor of each room; very pretty.

The walls, you will notice, have remnants of that brown packing tape that is used to stick notices and papers to the walls, and once those papers and notices have been removed, the tape leaves a sticky brown residue that is impossible to remove and pretty well ruins the once white walls. Notice also the doors, beautifully made back in the day and never designed for multiple per-minute openings and closings – they are suffering terribly and special hinges and latches have been installed to enable them to close properly.

The personnel in the office is, for the most part, aloof and there are many people walking about – some uniformed, some not – usually holding a bunch of papers. Their instructions apparently are not to make eye contact with the victims or applicants until the applicants turn comes up. The friendlier ones are the ladies that have been in Migracion since the Ice Age and who have labored under the many delegados that have come and gone during their tenure. The delegados, you see, are the ones who head up the branch of this and any office run by the federal government (Immigration, IMSS, INFONAVIT, Tourism etc) and they are appointed by friends in high places and do not necessarily have a clue about the job involved in their new prestigious position. And so, the actual work is done by the sub-delegado and the previously-mentioned ladies who are all very nice, know everyone and how to get things done.

I spent the morning there, as I mentioned earlier and had plenty of time to observe the office and all of us applicants there. Some read books, others chatted amongst themselves, bored children jumped and screamed delightedly on the stairs. There was plenty to see and time passed quickly, from 10 AM to noon. Once at the desk, I found that my FM2 renewal was pretty well on its way and that I was to hand in a copy of my last tax payment, which I did, and then received a payment form to pay for the renewal at a bank. If you are unfamiliar with this process, most government offices distrust their employees or have no control systems in place to handle money and so one must always pay the fee, cuota, fine, whatever – at a bank.

Once I paid, I rushed back to be in the office before the gates close at 1:00 PM and was helped about an hour later. My bank receipt was collected and I was given a cita – an appointment – to come back next week to receive the actual renewal, which, it was explained to me, would be in the form of a credit card size visa, much like the ones issued by the US of A and the little gray booklet would become obsolete.

Once next week comes along, I will write about the exciting denouement to this adventure!