When we lived in the Bahamas, technically we had residency because we had purchased $500,000.00 in real estate. As I mentioned before, back in 2006, that was the magic number. We never made our way down to the immigration office to officially process our paperwork because we had been discouraged by local friends. Apparently, the process was expensive, laborious, and not really necessary.
“Man, I love my country, but I fear my government.” My island pastor once said to me. He was a Conchy Joe, a white Bahamian, who could trace his island heritage for hundreds of years, a true local. He was educated and a bit of a renaissance man who painted, drank very expensive espresso from his vintage steampunk machine, and preached about social justice long before Berkeley college students added the word “warrior” to the term. I listened to his advice a lot. I trusted him.
“They aren’t going to hassle you. It’s not like they have the ‘passport police’ roaming the island.” He grinned and told me not to worry about paying the money and dealing with the lawyers and paperwork to get my residency. I took his advice but probably shouldn’t have.
Our son went to school with a lot of international kids. We made friends with some of the parents at soccer games and school functions. We became close with a couple from Canada who had two small boys. At a soccer game one day, they invited us to go for a boat ride.
“I just bought a nice boat. It’s a Mako, about thirty feet long. Plenty of room for all of us.” He said. He was right. The boat held the seven of us very comfortably and he had all of the necessary safety gear. Now, his boating skills…that’s a topic for another story. *One that has already been told. More on that later.
We joined them for a few rides on their boat, which was used but very nice. The kids had fun and we really enjoyed being on the water and visiting some of the smaller islands nearby. The water in the Bahamas is incredible and I felt fortunate every time we sped by our condo. Everything looked so different from the sea.
A few months into our friendship, Mr. Canada phoned me with a tone in his voice I will call “shaken.”
“Are you interested in buying my boat?” He asked.
“I hadn’t really considered it.” I replied. What was this all about?
“Look, we’ve been deported, kicked off the island.” He said in a low, controlled speech pattern. “We’re all back in Canada.”
“What happened?” I asked, and immediately felt a pit in my stomach. The Passport Police!
“My dumb-ass boss never processed my work permit. I’ve been working illegally without knowing it. Anyway, the police and some government officials came to my door and took us to jail! All four of us in a cell!” He became a bit agitated as he said this. “I’m sure someone turned me in. There’s a guy in my office who doesn’t like me. I’m pretty sure it was him.”
“Oh my god!” I said.
“We were there for hours and then they took us to our condo, gave us five minutes to pack and put us on the next flight out of the Bahamas.” He said. I heard him sigh.
“Can you come back?” I asked.
“It would be difficult, possibly..I don’t know. My wife won’t hear of it. She’s rattled and totally done with the place. I think we’re staying home.” He sounded defeated.
“Wow…I don’t even know what to say.” I said.
“Look, there is a key hidden near my front door. Go to my place and take everything you want, TV, PlayStation, DVD’s…there is a bicycle for your son, a Weber BBQ, some tools…lots of stuff. We can’t go back, so you might as well have it.” He said these things as if it was totally normal. I was shocked and confused.
“Dude…I don’t want to just go through your place…” I started but he cut me off.
“I need your help here, OK? There are a couple of things we forgot. Paperwork we need. We were in such a rush. I’ll email you detailed instructions, ship the stuff to me and you can keep the rest.” He said. “And the boat.”
“What about it?” I asked. “Can’t you use a broker and sell it? I’ll help.”
“No time. And it would be too hard from here. You like the boat, right?” He asked.
“Give me like ten grand or so and it’s yours, trailer too.” He said. I knew he had just paid over $20,000.00 and then put a lot of work into it, fitted it out with a lot of gear and electronics. He had spent a lot of money.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
And with that, I bought a boat that we kept for a couple of years and later sold for a profit, a feat I’m told has never before occurred in the known universe. Suffice to say, his loss was a huge gain for us, but I struggled with images of his family locked in a dirty, Bahamian jail. *All jails are dirty, but I have been told that the ones on our island were particularly nasty, perhaps as a deterrent.
So, the big question is: after all that, did I get our residency paperwork done in the Bahamas?
NO. I did not. Even with that awful occurrence, just one degree of separation from my own family, I never got our papers done. We were not working there anyway, pretty much just glorified visitors. Instead, we would with go to the immigration office to get an extension on our stay. When the grumpy female officer there warned us,
“Dis da lassssss time!” After that, we just left the island every couple of months (even for a day) to get our passport stamped, an easy loophole in their rules that worked just fine.
I bring all of this up because I do NOT plan to do the same thing in Mexico. I have been diligently researching this process and will share what I have learned with you.
Mexico offers different types of residency, depending on what you wish to do while in the country. You do not need anything beyond a passport to stay up to 6 months. For most people, that is more than enough time. But if you plan to work or live there, you will need a formal visa. I won’t bore you with the details here. My colleague, David Pierce, at Escape Artist has written a very good article on the process you may access here:
Suffice to say, there are two types of visas: temporary and permanent. I plan to live in Mexico indefinitely, I’m interested in the permanent visa, or the “Visa de Resident Permanente.”
Since the first step towards my visa requires me to apply at my local Mexican Consulate office, I decided to reach out to the two that are closest to my home: San Jose and San Francisco.
I called the Mexican Consulate in San Jose and the phone recording was in Spanish.
“Press 4 for English”
Their voicemail was full and there was no other option, so I called the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco.
“Press 9 for English. Press 5 for Visas. Need appointment, power of attorney, now call 1-877-639-4835…” And then more Spanish voicemail.
I called the 877 number.
Lots of silence…., still silence…., I pressed 4 again, silence…, then 5, then 9…jeez. I hung up and tried several times but got nowhere.
“Whoever designed this auto-reply phone system didn’t want me to get this visa!” I said to myself.
I tried again and was referred to a different number for Mexican citizen support. Then more silence. Hmm.
I decided to email the Consulate in SF at email@example.com
I am interested in obtaining Mexican residency. I own a home in Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico and would like to live there full time in about eleven months.
I have had difficulty navigating the voicemail prompts at your office to set an appointment. Can you assist me or direct me so that I may make an appointment, present my supporting documentation and application for my residency visa?
To my surprise, they got back to me that same day. A very nice lady informed me that I did not need an appointment, they were available to the public from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM and that the paperwork would be processed while I was there, and the visa would be sent to me within three days.
Perhaps I’m mistaken, but my research has told me that I begin the permanent residency visa process in California and then I complete that process in Mexico which may take 30 days.
Is this incorrect?
Thank you again for your help, Tom.”
“That is correct, the first one is for entry only, with that visa and your Migratory Form FMM, you have to apply in the ‘INSTITUTO NACIONAL DE MIGRACION’ in Mexico for the resident card. It can take up to 30 days to get your visa.
Regards and happy week end.”
My research was correct. The initial paperwork was simple. To complete the process, I would need to remain in Mexico for thirty days. When I was furnishing our first unit, I stayed in our house in Mexico alone for about ten days and that was a brutally lonely time for me. I’ve been married to Betty for almost twenty-five years. We have traveled apart many times, but not for very long. And when one of us had to leave for a while, the other was home with our son, pets, family, friends, and everything familiar. I was pretty sure I could not do thirty days alone.
Should I even begin this process now? Or should I wait until we move?
I think I’ll wait. I don’t really need my permanent residency right now and I really don’t want to spend thirty days in Mexico without my family. Our son has a few weeks left of summer and then he’ll be a senior in high school. I don’t want to miss a month of that. I think it would be a better idea for my wife and I to both get our residency together and I’m going to take David Pierce’s advice and get an attorney in Mexico when the time comes. I’ll hold off on this process for now.
If you choose to begin the process, the application and information pages I received from the Consulate may be found on the FORMS tab of my site:
Good luck and please submit your comments and experiences at my site so I may share them with the world.