Temporary Non-Immigrant Residents of Mexico
Trip Start Jul 29, 2012
21Trip End Aug 01, 2013
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In my blog entry from Stillwater, Minnesota, I briefly described our multiple visits with the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul. I wrote about the hoops we jumped through so that we would have appropriate travel documents. When we left the Mexican Consulate, we were told that in order to make everything official, we needed to simply visit the immigration office in Oaxaca within 30 days after our arrival.
So, we showed up with all of our documentation expecting, it turns out na´vely, to walk out with a stamp of approval of some sort. Instead, we walked out with another list of things to document – proof that Leah had in fact been paid by Montana State University for the past three months, including pay stubs and bank statements showing the direct deposits; five official photos of all of us, front and side views; letters from Leah explaining what we were doing in Mexico; electronic applications filled out online; and … get ready … a copy of the passport or official identification card of the person who signed the letter that gave Leah an affiliation with a research institute (CIESAS) in Oaxaca. Hmmm. This left us wondering what the process in St. Paul had actually accomplished.
No worries. We tackled the list. The hardest part involved getting the copy of the identification of the letter-signer at CIESAS. The guy who had signed Leah’s letter lives in Mexico City and was out of town. With a lot of help from the local CIESAS folks, we got it done.
With everything on our list checked off, Leah and I returned to the immigration office … and left with another list of things to do. Fortunately for us, we were able to convince the immigration officials that their request for a copy of Leah’s PhD diploma from Boston College was a tall order. We took them to the MSU webpage and followed the links to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology where we pointed to Leah’s photo and bio. They agreed to accept a copy of Leah’s Curriculum Vitae instead of her PhD diploma (the framed copy of which is being stored in our garage in Bozeman).
Now, the immigration office is open M-F from 9am – 1pm. We left the office at 11:30am on Thursday and felt our 30-day window closing on us, so Leah and I decided that we needed to tackle a number of things then and there and return to the immigration office before it closed that day. What a riot. We ran to an internet hole-in-the-wall and got two computers side-by-side. Leah got to work on writing letters for Micah, Zola, and me, explaining that she would support us in every way while in Mexico. She wrote the letters in Spanish. Then, she printed out a copy of her nine-page CV. I, meanwhile, had pulled up copies of Leah’s pay stubs and our bank statements and was using Google Translate to help recreate Spanish versions of all of those documents. We printed copies of everything, paid about US$12, and raced back to the immigration office by 12:45pm.
The immigration official we had met with earlier in the morning was available and saw us again. He told us that immigration officials would review our files and we were to call a week later to find out the status of our applications. Oh, and for our final visit, we were to return with different photos of Micah, Zola, and Leah, because they had too much hair covering their foreheads in the photos we had brought earlier. We left the office marveling at the apparent arbitrariness of the whole process, a process that seemed to have more to do with the mood and perspective of the immigration officer we spoke with each time than any objective criteria. There are horror stories out there about the difficulty of navigating the immigration process. Leah, ever the scholar, reflected on how impossible the process has been for her research participants who've entered the United States without all of the documentation we were able to provide. I could tell she was writing lecture notes in her head as we walked to catch the bus.
When we called the immigration office the next week, they told us that our applications had been approved, so we took the kids out of school and headed back downtown to make ourselves official. Micah and Zola kind of liked being fingerprinted. When we left the immigration office with our immigration cards in hand, Leah and I let out a big sigh of relief. Then, with a smile on her face, Leah pointed out that my immigration card specifically states that I am “morally and financially dependent” on her for the next year. We got a good chuckle out of surmising exactly what that meant.
We hope to spend our weekends exploring Oaxaca. This past weekend, we visited a neat reading room for kids, funded by a wealthy patron from Oaxaca. The red beanbag pillows were a big hit with Micah and Zola. Leah read them a story in Spanish. The photos are below.
One final note: Leah is out of the conceptualization and outlining stage and has begun writing her book! I read her first five pages yesterday. Full speed ahead.