.....and everything in between. Life, the soul, jobs, hardly any politics, animals and anima.........
Saturday, July 24, 2010
The FM Renewal: Part 1
I've done it! I made it through the new resident visa renewal process with Mexican Immigration. I was renewing an FM3, a green booklet usually reviewed, restamped and renewed for another year....but on April 30, 2010, the process for legal residence changed. I'd been advised in advance that to begin the renewal process you had to complete an application online one month before your visa's expiration date. I went online exactly one month before my FM3 expired and stumbled my way through the application form....got it half right, and took what information I could to the immigration office the following morning.
I worried all year long about this renewal. I am financially challenged, and the INM always asks for 3 copies of 3 months of every utility bill, bank account, and document you have. I had all my copies ready, even the bank statements, that would show I am depositing enough to survive, but wouldn't reflect that pension they expect that I, a "pensionada" am receiving. The fact is, I won't qualify for my retirement pension OR Social Security until 2015.
The other worry I had was after all the horrible news I've heard and seen about the treatment of Mexican immigrants in the US, mostly Arizona of course whose governor has gone mad, I was afraid that Mexican Immigration would retaliate by making it impossible for us gringos to renew our residency. In fact they went the opposite way and made it as easier.
This year you don't need the excessive copies. I didn't need any copies at all. The system is amazingly streamlined for renewals. If a person is applying for a new resident visa I believe they still require all the documentation mentioned above and probably more, and go through the same rigamarole we all used to go through every year at renewal time. But for the rest of us, it's just a matter of getting through that online application.
Here's how it went for me. I went to the link online, opted to read it in English, and that opened to a Power Point type picture book of the new wallet sized laminated visas with arrows and nice visual effects. But I don't remember seeing anything actually written in English there. That was the beginning and end of the English help! When it comes to filling out the form, you are on your own in Spanish! They give you options, but they are very similar....I tried a few until I processed something. I don't recommend going about it that way, so I am going to post a second blog that walks you through the renewal process. A few of my friends seem intimidated by the new system, but with a little help and patience....it can be easy.
I entered the website from Mozilla Firefox, and the INS system is only set up to print out the required forms if you go in through Internet Explorer. That is one of the things that tripped me up. I filled out the form, clicked "save", got a message in a little box with a confirmation number and I wrote that down. It told me to print out the "solicitud" I'd just completed as well as the "letter". I X'd out of that little box, couldn't ask the printer to work with that up there, and all I had on my screen was a new empty application!
So, what do I do? Try again? I was afraid that if I put myself in there twice it would jam things up in the system, so I completed the app again up UNTIL the save part...and printed that. I went to INS the next day with my thick file of copies, my FM3 and my Passport, copies of everything I got off their website, and signed in...#41. When #41 was called, I was given a new yellow number because I HAD been online! As I waited my turn I watched many people wait for their number to be called only to be given a little piece of paper sending them home to get on the computer and start the process. Because so many people got little white slips, my number came up quickly and I went inside the 'yellow number room', where there were two ladies helping customers. The gal that helped me told me about the Internet Explorer problem, AND that many people have had trouble getting through the process online. There are still a few bugs in the system. So she took my confirmation number and printed out the solicitud AND the letter.....I gave her my FM3, the solicitud and letters signed, and was given another weblink to check in a week to see if my paperwork was ready. She was knowledgeable, friendly and efficient. I was impressed.
I waited one week and checked, and lo and behold my visa was ready the day after I applied! I called and made my appointment, went in on the 21st for an 11am appointment and got a little GREEN number...was sent straight to the green-number room!.... got the paper to take to the bank, paid my dues, and returned to INS where my green number got me right back into the 'pink and green number room'. (I have no idea what pink numbers were....I'm on a need to know basis....don't need to know that.) They took my infant sized photos and fingerprints and in a few minutes I walked out with my new resident visa card. It says I am a Non-Immigrant, Non-Lucrative Rentista, Visitor.....