Countries all over the world struggle with how to deal with migrating populations. Folks are looking for a better life, job, spouse, opportunity, cultural experience or like us, a slower, more relaxed life. We met Max and Aliza who hooked up in Africa and have been traveling for three years. They are from Canada and the Netherlands and make a living photographing, building websites, waiting tables and whatever it takes to barter their way around the world. They came to Bacalar from Cuba where they had been living for the past month.
In the US, the issue is citizenship. If people come to the States to work, should they be given the opportunity to become citizens? To be clear, Lisa and I have no intentions of becoming Mexican citizens. Relinquishing US citizenship is a movement that we are not part of.
For many retirees in Mexico, acquiring residency has been long and complicated. Up until last year, a multi-tiered process was in place that took many years to complete. In an effort to streamline the Mexican government completely overhauled their system. As a former state employee, I am intimately familiar with legislators who write law, provide no additional funding and expect well meaning, short staffed and underpaid workers to seamlessly implement it.
The new system provides temporary and permanent residency and must be initiated in one’s home country. For vacationers, a 180-day visa is supplied at the boarder. Temporary residents (retirees/jubilados) must prove adequate income from outside of MX. No working is allowed. Residentes temporales may drive a US-plated vehicle and keep temporary status for four years. After that time, they must sell or pay high fees to keep their US cars and apply for permanent status. The whole car thing is to protect the Mexican auto industry.
Our trip to the Mexican Consulate in Austin provided visas which we presented at our local immigration office in Quitana Roo. The requirements to prove financial solvency are a vague formula and perusing the internet and talking to expats in Bacalar only contributed fear and confusion. We gathered what we thought were the supporting documents needed (bank statements, copies of our passports, and proof of domicile) and began our petition with a visit to INM (Instituto Nacional de Migracion). The advice we had been given was to arrive 30 minutes early to get in line and go when it’s raining because there will be fewer people. The weather cooperated and after three trips, our application was completed and submitted. My Spanish ability certainly enhanced and hindered the process. The alternative was an immigration lawyer or Spanish-speaking paralegal. I am stubborn enough that I thought I could figure it out and I did. The three trips were due to my inability to locate and understand the instructions, nothing more.
We were told that we would have to wait a month to get our residency card. Friends here smile at our naivety. It is true that nothing is timely in Mexico. Agreements are flimsy.
Lisa and I are extremely grateful for the opportunity to live in Bacalar, MX. We decided to remain happy and peaceful no matter what happens. Actually, that is pretty much the formula for our lives. If more is required of us, we will provide it. For now, we will wait. Our motto remains, “No Complaining in Paradise.”
If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace. – Thich Nhat Hanh