The actual move process began on Friday, January 27th, when my dear wife and I had our appointments with the Mexican consulate in Washington DC to apply for our visas. You say you’ve never had to get a visa to visit Mexico? Well let me explain.
Mexico has three different kinds of visitor visas. The first and easiest is Tourist, which allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days, and its approval is automatic for US citizens. You do pay a small fee (I think around $35 USD) which is included in the price of your airfare or cruise cost if you travel either of those ways. The second is Temporal, which is designed for longer stays (1-4 years), costs around $170 USD, and requires you to show some form of secure resources (income or investments). The third is Permanente, which costs around $250 USD and requires proof of even greater financial resources.
I was applying for Temporal and Judy for Permanente for reasons of the different rights which apply to each. We had read horror stories from current expats who told of Mexican officials refusing to grant status “just because” or asking detailed questions and requiring extra proof. Well, the DC consulate was not at all like that. We arrived early for our “appointments” and there was no one else there. The young
lady behind the counter glanced at our paperwork, took it, told us to have a seat and we’d be done shortly! We had to be photographed, fingerprinted, and pay a small application fee, but we were both out of the building in under 30 minutes with our approval to cross the border.
On Saturday we started a round of goodbyes with friends and family, and then packed out the FJ. As it turns out, we still had about one and a quarter FJ loads, but only one FJ. We hastily repacked, decided on what we could leave behind until we come back to the States next August, and tried to get some sleep.
Come 6:00 AM on Sunday the 29th, we gunned the FJ down the southwest route via Chattanooga to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for our first night. We experienced heavy fog and light snow, maybe for the last time. We continued a torrid highway pace via Baton Rouge to stay the second night in San Antonio, Texas.
Day three (Tuesday) was the big enchilada: get up early and drive to cross the border at Nuevo Laredo. Just as we crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande, our Waze app conked out. Waze is absolutely the best way to get directions and real time traffic info, and we really needed it as we crossed the border because we had to go to a specific building and get our visa stamped and find out if our car was approved for entry. Lucky for us, the Mexican government must have gotten tired of gringos wandering around Nuevo Laredo lost, for there were good signs leading us straight to the admin building.
The parking lot was nearly empty when we arrived at 10:30. We had no lines and no trouble as we got our visas stamped, paid an entry fee, and got TIP approval to (finally) bring the FJ into Mexico. All very smooth. We left the building and headed on the bypass around Nuevo Laredo, knowing there was one more customs stop about 20 kms down the road. This too proved to be nothing more than a large facility where all traffic was routed into a single lane, passing by a bored-looking young man in a booth waving us on!
So all that worry about the car’s paperwork, the dog’s paperwork, our paperwork: for naught. We rolled on through the Mexican countryside on their Cuota (toll roads) to the small town of Matehuala, where we had hotel reservations for the night. As Judy & I sat down (with our dog at our feet) for dinner at the hotel restaurant, we knew how Andy Dufresne must have felt when he saw Zihuatanejo!