Saturday, February 16, 2013

Updates on having your foreign-plated car in Mexico

The meeting this Wednesday in Nuevo Vallarta about immigration and how vehicles and FM3s and other visas are related stirred up a rather large dustup.

Here are some brief clarifications to the original blog, based on information from the powerpoint and Q & A that was just sent out by the Embassy following the meeting:

* First, according to the Question and Answer session information from the meeting:  “For a permanent importation according to this year’s NAFTA regulations the vehicle must be at least 6 years old (please contact your customs authorities).”

Earlier it was reported that the opposite was true. So, your vehicle must be six years or older, and cannot have the letter "J" as the first letter of your VIN number (because it was manufactured in Japan and not eligible for importation).

* Second, although several people reported that the new vehicle rules require that you get your vehicle imported within 60 days of getting your renewed FM3, the published Q & A does not have any time frame information included. So we're still researching how long we have to get our truck imported. Or get it out of the country. We did read that there will not be a 'grace period'. But not how long we have to resolve it legally. Stay tuned.

* Third, the question of “where” you can import your vehicle was answered this way: You must always contact a registered customs agent for any permanent importation at the northern border or maritime terminal if the vehicle came by sea into Manzanillo or Cancun.”

Reading all the documents so far, it sounds like we would have to drive our truck back to our point of origin when we first arrived in Mexico (Nogales, for us), have our current import sticker legally removed (the one that is currently attached to our FM3). Then we would have to start the importation process.

From the documents we've received, it definitely sounds like no foreign-plated cars will be allowed in Mexico for longer than 180-days without being imported, and importation has to happen at the border.

You can still get the 10-year importation for boats and RV's.

Perhaps the customs regulations will evolve to allow us to import without going back to the border since so many gringo vehicles will be impacted. Unfortunately, Michael and I are about to receive our new resident visa card and might have to drive the truck out just because we're renewing at the beginning of the process, before anyone knows quite how it will shake down.

We'll continue to update as we work on our specific case. Love to hear from anyone who is even earlier in the process than us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An informational meeting the new Mexican immigration laws

I attended a 'town hall' meeting today by the United States Consular Agency of Nuevo Vallarta  "intended to educate the public on the new Mexican laws regarding visa renewal and the temporary importation of a foreign plated car to Mexico."

700 plus expats for today's immigration meeting
It was apparently a pretty hot topic for expats. The Consulate expected 200 people. More than 700 people showed up.

They started with the caveat that these are the local immigration officials and not those that enacted the law and to please "not shoot the messenger."

My own caveat is that I'm NOT AN EXPERT and I'm just posting my notes from today's meeting. I'm not guaranteeing the accuracy on their part or on my part. To the best of my ability, I'm just relaying what I heard."

So with that, here goes a summary of my notes:

Let's start with the basics. If you're not already up to speed on the nuances of Mexican immigration, please look elsewhere online for info.

Here's the new time frame for the current application process since the law changed Nov. 7:
* You still renew 30 days prior to expiration.
* It should take 20 working days to process your application in order to take your fingerprints.
* After your fingerprinted, the completed applications are sent to Mexico City.
* Mexico City issues the final forms.
* There is a two to three week wait for the card to return to your office where you applied.

So, expect about 6 to 8 weeks for the application/renewal process.

They also said that the replacement cost for lost or stolen residency cards is quite a bit higher --- maybe $2000 pesos or more to replace the permanent card.

As to the types of visas, it sounds there are still four levels of visas --- temporary tourist visa, FM-3s, FM-2s, and the Permanent Resident.

I'm still not clear on the difference between the FM-3 and FM-2 at this point because although I have been hearing that they no longer exist, they were still referred to during the presentation. But it sounds like either one leads to the application process for Permanent Immigrant status six months before your visa expires in your fourth year.

We're waiting on our FM-something card to come back from Mexico City, so hopefully that will clear it up for us. 

For permanent status for those of us retired, you have to prove a monthly income of over $32,500 pesos per month or investments equal to over one million and something. I could find this number online but I didn't catch it today.

It also sounded like there might be exceptions but it was only briefly alluded to and it would take a trip to immigration for each case.

If you're out of the country when it's time to renew, you have 55 days to re-enter the country and five business days to renew. But the total number of days cannot exceed 60, regardless of the situation. It sounded like there wouldn't be any exceptions for that, and that might have to apply for an extension. That part wasn't clear.

They also said if you leave or return on a tourist visa while you have your resident visas, it will cancel your resident visas and you'll have to start over. Don't know how that would happen unless it is now all computerized. But apparently they really don't want any of us doing this (anymore?).

The big news which the local immigration specialists said they are already challenging is the change in the customs laws concerning foreign plated vehicles in the country.

An official announced.... drum roll, please.... that once you've received your new immigration card (all levels), you have 60 days to get your vehicle out of the country.

Sixty days?

I'm guessing that most ex-pats living in Mexico are hoping that they don't know what they're talking about on this issue. We talked to our immigration specialist after the meeting who said that they are already investigating this information and have not been told this. Nor has anyone read it in a law anywhere.

So ---hopefully this is a misinterpretation said to a mere, oh, 700 PLUS PEOPLE IN AN AUDITORIUM. Who probably all of have foreign-plated cars.

Hoo boy.

They also said that if it is a six year old vehicle or newer, it can be imported. Under this new change in customs, the only foreign plated cars in the country will be those coming down with people holding tourist visas, and must be taken out of the country within six months.

 I'll post whatever news I hear about cars as soon as I hear it, since we would part of a huge caravan of vehicles that would have to leave the country pronto.

In the meantime, I would encourage all of you reading this to follow our lead and just wait for more information to settle out before we all panic and head for the border.

Those of us who attended the meeting are supposed to receive the power point and Q & A's (which had to be submitted a week before the meeting) by email. When I do, I'll be glad to share the information. But it might take a while.

In the meantime, we'll all just Stay Tuned to 'As the Visas Renew'....

Monday, February 11, 2013

Beach chair hoarding doesn't bode well for humanity

 The palapa wars --- or chair hoarding --- on the beach here in Nuevo Vallarta has gone nuclear and it's  positively embarrassing for humankind.

 Here's what's happening in Mexico --- although Florida must have its identical stories about its Snow Birds and anyone who has stayed at a beach resort has probably witnessed it.

Stacking and hoarding beach chairs -- a Gringo sport?
When we first arrived in November in Nuevo Vallarta, people would slip down to the beach early in the morning and 'claim' their beach chairs and the shade of a palm-frond palapa by leaving a beach towel or a book or a personal item laying on a chaise lounge.

I thought that was silly enough, but okay.... if that chair and that palapa are that important to your happiness, go for it.

But now it's gotten to Palapa Insanity. As has our world.

Now people are stacking a half-dozen chaise lounges under one palapa, with another half dozen upright plastic chairs stacked nearby and a towel draped over all of it the night before!


Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the chairs were actually used?
What it means in this small expat community is that even the relatively sane people who don't want to be reduced to chair claiming (or chair hoarding) are finding themselves forced to play the game, or they won't have a place to sit --- even for an hour or two.

Worse, these reserved chairs sit empty for most of the afternoon, their possession-crazed owners likely up in their condos, not even on the beach, catching up with a little TV.

Last night while we were down watching yet another sunset,  a friend apologetically put her towel on a chaise lounge in the back row because she wanted to make sure she had a place to sit the next day.

But by the time we arrived on the beach at 8 this morning to do a little Zumba, her towel had been tossed aside and another set of towels were there to claim possession.

Really? How embarrassing for all of us.

It's stunning to watch adult humans reduced to this open warfare. But the hopelessness I feel is that it is simply a microcosm of what is going on in the human race --- the selfishness, the greed, the self-centeredness.

The big 'MINE' of resources, energy, land, money, food, stuff.

I have no idea how the Palapa Wars will get resolved on this beach, other than the season ending and the sport of chair hoarding will no longer be fodder for the daily amusement of the Mexican employees.

But it doesn't bode well for us as a species. If we can't even get it together to figure out how to cooperate on as simple an issue as beach chairs, how likely is it that we'll figure out how to share fuel, food, medicine?

It's a topic I'll try not to think about when I wander down to the beach later on this afternoon and look for a place to sit. I'm sure someone will offer to share....