S/V Hello World's Travel Log

Mexican Visas? Expired.

Amongst our regular trips in and out of La Paz, we've also been making regular trips to our local immigration office to deal with some visa issues. You see, when we came into Mexico in November, we got 180 day tourist visas (along with paying a hefty bribe). Now that we've decided to do Dockwise, that puts us about a month past the expiration date of our visas. It's not the end of the world, there are lots of options:
a) Leave Mexico and get another tourist visa on our way back in (if we had been closer to a border town, this would be easy, but from La Paz, this is either a 15 hour bus ride or a fairly expensive flight)
b) Apply for an FM-3 visa (expensive and time consuming if we're only going to use it for a month)
c) Try to get an extension
d) Go to an immigration office and tell them we just arrived by boat (illegal, but easy to get away with considering they opt for paper filing systems rather than computers in these immigration offices)

Clearly, trying for an extension was the way to go. We'd heard through the grapevine that you could get up to a 45 day extension for free. We only needed about 30, so this would have been perfect.

Attempt #1: I arrive to immigration about a month before our visas expire. Thinking, of course, that if this extension doesn't pan out, we have time to book flights in and out of Mexico in a reasonable timeframe. I talk to Jose and he tells me that indeed, it's no problem, it's free and all I have to do is come back a week before our visas expire. So much for giving ourselves lots of time.

Attempt #2: I arrive 1 week before our visas expire, hoping to see Jose. Instead, I have to deal with Paulo. Paulo tells me that I can't get an extension, sorry. I'm attempting, in Spanish, to explain to Paulo that I talked to Jose a few weeks ago and he told me this was possible. This is all made a bit more challenging by the fact that I'm not only bad at Spanish, but I really can only speak in the present tense. Again, Paulo tells me this is a no-go. But as I'm insisting again, the other lady working the counter overhears us and tells him it's possible. After a few minutes in the back room, Paulo emerges and tells me to come back 1 day before our visas expire.

This is when I start to panic. 1 day before our visas expire? What happens when I go in there 1 day before and get turned down? But I keep my mouth shut and walk out.

Attempt #3: I arrive 6 days before our visas expire, hoping that I don't run into Paulo, or that he doesn't recognize me. My plan is to walk right out as if I forgot paperwork if I see him working the counter. Fortunately, I need no such tactics and I get to talk to Lula. Lula tells me this is no problem and hands me a letter in Spanish and asks me to sign it. As far as I can make out, the letter says I give her permission to cancel my visa. Another panic attack. Was my Spanish good enough to explain what I really wanted? What happens if they cancel our visas and then don't give us this extension? Again, biting my tongue, I do as she asks and hope for the best. She asks me to come back later in the day with Jason and pick up our extension. We do, everything is fine and we're set. For no money.

It turns out, that this is not an actual extension, but just a letter from immigration allowing us to stay an extra 40 days. I'm still not sure why they needed to cancel our visa, probably just to scare the crap out of me. But the letter is only good for 40 days from when they issue it, not the expiration date of your visa, hence the reason they wanted us to come back closer to the expiration date.

Lesson learned? If you don't get the answer you want, just keep going in until you do...

Right. Nothing to do with immigration. But the funniest poster we have EVER seen in La Paz.

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