Applying for an FM-3/a piece of cake today

Baja Bernie - 8-17-2007 at 01:40 PM

This story will definitely make you appreciate how easy this process is today-vs-the '90's. No! I do not mean the 1890's

Illegal Aliens in Mexico

I had been straddling the border between Mexico and the United States for over thirty-five years when I found myself confronting a true Catch-22 situation. For more years than I care to remember I have gone through the “dance” of getting and renewing my FM-3. I call it a dance because everyone who has gone through the process will either say it was a piece of cake (they are delusional) OR it was the most confusing and time consuming activity they were ever involved with. If you are fool enough to do it yourself you ‘might’ find that you can breeze through the process in four to six days. Much more normal time will involve twenty-one (21) plus days and numerous trips from your home in the States to the Officina de Migration in Baja. This is after you have visited the Consulado de Mexico that is closest to your home in the States. If this happens to be Los Angeles they will be much to busy helping their own people to worry about a gringo wishing to become legal in Mexico. San Diego is becoming even worse. Hope for San Francisco or anywhere away from the border or large populations of Native Mexicans within Estados Unidos Americano. Your first visit to the Consulate in the States will require proof of income, certified by a Mexican Notario, and a letter from the Chief of Police/Sheriff stating that you have no criminal record. Then you will have to pay a fee to cover the paper work to this point. Next you will have to journey to the Officina de Migracion in the County in which you’re (Mexican property) is situated.

Once there you will stand in line until at last you stand in front of a clerk who will require that you submit all of the papers that you paid for at the Consulate in the States. You must also provide a copy of your current lease and it must be in Spanish. She will then require that you fill out numerous other forms. Normally, they will just give you the form numbers; tell you how many of each is required (on this day). She will then direct you to a stationary store where you must purchase the ‘government forms.’ You must also provide passport photographs, black and white only—although once in a while they will accept color. When you have completed them you will, must, return them to the clerk. She will then check them for accuracy and return them to you so that you may take these forms to the Bank where they must be properly stamped after they allow you to pay the Government. Sometimes they will only accept pesos occasionally dollars might be ok. Once you get ‘all’ of the forms stamped—and you pay a fee—you return them to the clerk where you started. She will shuffle your precious, stamped, forms and then she will remember that you must take this ‘new’ form to a Notario for validating. This news may occur the same day or it may occur after you have traveled another 150-200 miles to pick up your completed FM-3. They honestly believe that retired gringo’s have nothing better to do with their time. If you are lucky you get to wait around for the Notario, pay him and then return the stamped forms to the Immigration clerk. She will tell you that they must review your application to date! So you get to drive home and come back down in a couple of weeks!!!

It is a cat and mouse game and they love to make you dance! You can almost hear the music in the background as you leave the office.

Now you’re asking why bother with all of this stuff. Well, if you have a lease on bare land in Mexico you may need to have an FM-3 to be legal (most of us gringo’s don’t think of ourselves as being illegal aliens) in Mexico. If you own a house for sure you are supposed to have one. Having an FM-3 gives you ‘legal status’ in Mexico. Without one you may be denied access to the Mexican Court System. Most landlords are not hot for you to possess one. If you don’t have one then you are at their mercy! Reality is that a high percentage of Americans do not have the proper documents. Just as a high percentage of Undocumented Mexicans in the States do not have the proper papers.

A lot of gringo’s are willing to apply for the proper papers but the ‘dance’ defeats them. This dance is like no other for there are many standard steps and then as the mood strikes them these clerks invent many ‘new’ steps just to see if you can stay on the floor and swing with them to these variations. Early on one clerk required that my wife and I submit ‘certified’ copies of our marriage license. No, a certificate from the Catholic Church was ‘no good.’ It must be from a civil authority, i.e., The County Recorders Office.

After we complied with this she then insisted that we bring two of our Mexican friends to stand in front of the Notario, swear and sign that we were, in fact, married and good people! Yep! We had to pay the notary.

Listen to those guys who say it was easy and realize that they have not been dancing long enough.

I mentioned my Catch-22 situation. Well, after many years of maintaining a bank account in Mexico (one of the dance steps) in my name I presented a copy of my latest bank statement, to prove we had the required $1500.00 in the bank, to a young female at the Officina de Migration. She shuffled my and my wives papers several times before she told me that my bank statement had to be dated within the past 30 days. Ok! Back to the bank to get a statement that was ‘30 days’ new. Back to the clerk, lucky only an hour wait at the bank and she called my name after a mere 45 minutes. She, again, shuffled our papers. Finally she advised me that my papers were in order—BUT—that she could not renew my wives FM-3 because she was not on my bank account. Back to the Bank—where the guy took pity on me and took me out of the line to help me. What did I need, he asked. When I told him that I needed to add my wife to my account he said, No problema, just give me her FM-3 and I can do it in dos minutos (a couple of minutes). When I told him that was the problem he rolled his eyes to the sky, threw up his hands and said, “I am so sorry señor.”

I lost my cool when I returned to discuss this with my friendly clerk. I started by addressing her as “senora”(she was a young senorita). I explained that I had been a guest of her gracious Country for many more years than she had been alive. I went on to call her a ‘gringa.’ I explained that no true Mexican would deal with a ‘guest’ the way she was behaving toward my wife and me. I thought I had blown it when she stalked off. But no! She returned and handing me our FM-3’s she said that she would overlook the problem—‘this time.’

I definitely do not recommend that anyone follow my lead in this ‘dance.’ If you are really serious about being legal in Mexico—pay the middle man the money and let them process your papers—don’t dance, just relax and have a drink!

It’s true that the cost of renewing your FM-3 goes up each and every year. The good news is that you are ‘allowed’ to start the entire process over every five years forever or until you opt for trying to get an FM-2. I’ll not even go there because now all of the paperwork must go through Mexico City. It normally requires an Abogardo (an attorney) and a few thousand dollars, U.S. The upside of an FM-2 is that you ‘are allowed to work’ (who wants to) in Mexico and after five years of renewals it then may be good for the rest of your life. Just think! No more dancing. Oh! Yes. The FM-2 gives you all of the rights of a natural citizen except that you may not vote nor may you serve in the Mexican military!

Now you ask: What is an FM-3?
Well, here goes—it is issued by Estados Unidos Mexicanos Secretaria de Gobernacion as a Documento Migratorio del No Immigrante! What does that mean I’m really not sure! The United States de Mexico by the Secretary of the Government issues it. It is a Document of Migration but not of Immigration It is good for five years—if you renew each year. It basically allows you to live within Mexico legally for a given period of time. I am fairly sure that it allows you access to the Court System within Mexico. Without it you are surely toast if you think you can fight your Mexican Landlord.
If you were paying attention you will understand why Mexicans get very upset when we refer to “America” as the “States.” Sure you got it! They are the United States of Mexico but they do not have the hubris to refer to themselves as the “States.”

Viva de Baile!

Eli - 8-17-2007 at 03:35 PM

Bernie, Your vision of how it works is pretty right on, of course, it's been years since I dealt with Immigration and FM2's and 3's. Only thing I could think of to add is the way I remember it; yes an FM2 or even an FM3 is required in order to obtain permission to work, but it must state on your FM what your job description is and you cannot work at another job other than the one you have reported and the company that you registered with and received permission from Immigration to work at.

When I got my Imigrant status, they told me I had all rights except voting, owning property and being in the military. If I was to change jobs or even do volunteer work, I still had to give a written report of my plans to Immigration in order for them to file it.

When I took the final step to be a citizen, they assured me that I am done with immigration. I can sell tamales in the street if I want to. If in fact I do something stupid say like have an accident drunk driving, (I don't drive much anyway and get drunk even less), still, my status as a Mexican gives me the right to go stright to jail, no deportaion.

DENNIS - 8-17-2007 at 04:24 PM

Originally posted by Baja Bernie

If you were paying attention you will understand why Mexicans get very upset when we refer to “America” as the “States.” Sure you got it! They are the United States of Mexico but they do not have the hubris to refer to themselves as the “States.”

Again, Bernie, you are an embarrasment to my presence in Mexico. Your reference to "States" is ours. It isn't exclusive nor is it meant to be. It's our reference used with one another.
Mexicans don't get upset with our conversations when the word "States" is used. They couldn't care less.
Actually Bernie, I'm surprised that you didn't take it to the next level and I've heard some racist Mexicans say that we, North Americans, have no word for our country. As you said, Mexico also has her United States and we are all in the Americas. So, our reference to ourselves is meaningless. Do you want to buy that, Bernie? I doubt it. So why give away our identy and the pride we have for it?

You're a hoar, Bernie. When you cant sell yourself, you give it away. Good. Give yourself away but, leave me out of it.
There's some hubris for you.

roundtuit - 8-17-2007 at 05:30 PM

Got mine in Santa Rosalia 2-1/2 hrs immigration, bank, and photos. Then 2wks later, 1 hr or less to finish paper work an get passport:
I have to confess I went one time before I started and asked what I needed. They had a form that walked me through it. Prepared me with every thing I needed. Wife and I did every thing ourselfs without help except for the pepole in immigration.
Iwas told by bank that now you can't have a bank account in Mexico unless you have a fm3


Baja Bernie - 8-17-2007 at 07:38 PM

Your comments sadden me. You first came to this board with an attack on me. We discussed things and things seemed to smooth out for a while and then you, as someone mentioned, failed to take your medications in the proper dosage.

I seem to remember coming to your rescue when you became very close to being labeled as of pedophile.

After that painful episode you calmed down for a while and let you intellect shine through. Apparently that is severely eroded when you do not take your meds or you replace them with something that does not bring out the best in you.

I must say that if I am forced to wear a label I would much prefer hoar to the one some wished to affix to your sorry a$$.

I have know many folks who used Baja as a sanctuary only to find that they were trapped in a culture that they seem unable to embrace and instead go to war with it.

I do hope that one day you will be able to return to the “United States of America” because your anger at everything Mexican seems to be driving you to positions that I do not believe in another culture that you would be angered by.

In ending I will only say that I never invited you in and I, sadly, have no control over your leaving.

I do believe that the embarrassment is all yours and of your own making.


DENNIS - 8-17-2007 at 07:47 PM

Originally posted by Baja Bernie

I seem to remember coming to your rescue when you became very close to being labeled as of pedophile.

I must say that if I am forced to wear a label I would much prefer hoar to the one some wished to affix to your sorry a$$.

This is recorded, Bernie, and you had best be careful what you say.

[Edited on 8-18-2007 by DENNIS]


Baja Bernie - 8-17-2007 at 08:13 PM

Is that some form of a vacant threat?

Eli - 8-18-2007 at 12:06 PM

Well, ah gee.........hum.

I think I will step back to the lighter side......... I went to Bancomer yesterday after my last posting. Irony being, I wanted to do a simple extange of DLLs. to pesos. The cleak was already to do business and asked for my Passport which I was prepared to present. When he realized that I have a Mexican Passport, he informed me that I couldn't extange the DLLs., only depoist them if I had an account with Bancomer, jejeje, who would have thought. Anyway, slipped over to HSBC and they didn't even require i.d., about 20 centavos less on the dollar, but that's alright.

gnukid - 8-18-2007 at 12:10 PM

Anyway, back on topic, one time I went to the immigraccion office 60 days in a row. I somehow got myself in a catch-22, el pollo antes los huevos, but I never lose my cool. I know that patience wins, slowly.

I had defined an activity in my FM-3, but they lost my apostile demonstrating my qualification, so on renewel I had to change my activity in order to proceed. That cost another 100 dollars or something. Then, of course it was late, I paid a fine.

The bank statement thing is a joke because mexican statements often arrive late or not at all, so of course its nearly impossible to have a 30 day old statement.

The really funny part is the mail for the head abogado of the immigraccion office, well his mail comes to my house (I have a mailbox so I get lots of peoples mail in the area and hand it out), so I collect it to bring to him in the office. The other immigraccion officers just look at me, no one understand why I deliver the mail? Neither do I! I have no explanation. I'm probably not far away from being charged with illegally delivering mail.

Keeps me occupied!

Que bien chistes


Baja Bernie - 8-18-2007 at 12:43 PM

If you look real close one of the included activities in an FM-3 is drinking adult beverages :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin: