The Mexican Consulate

Also known as, Consulado de México. This is where you start the process of legally entering Mexico if you want to stay past the 180 day tourist visa. Obviously our intent is to stay for an undetermined amount of time. Could be a several years, could be forever. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is the only thing that is consist between consulates is that their Visa requirements are all different. Covid has restricted some consulates to only serving people in their geographical area, as determined by them. Portland, for example, is currently only serving Oregon and southern Washington state. Other consulates, like Las Vegas, are serving anyone. We chose Seattle because A) that’s our closest office. B) They were only asking for 6 months of financial documentation (which was still 35 pages) and C) They were conducting the initial interview via Zoom. All good things. In my last entry, I had just been notified that we had been processed and they had offered us an interview date!

Fast forward several weeks, our Zoom interview went very well. We were asked questions surrounding why we chose México, what ties we had there, and other basic questions. While I was nervous about the interview, I knew our intentions were solid and reflected what they wanted to see in someone seeking permanent residency. It helped that we are homeowners there and had already established solid ties to friends and our community, I’m on our HOA board and we had made several trips down over the last few years. It also helped that my wife lights up every time we talk about México and what she loves about the people, culture, and of course, the food. We were approved for our Visas and I can tell you that I genuinely felt welcomed to Mexico. Our agent was extremely helpful and kind throughout the process. This is not a new feeling, most Mexicans are extremely kind and welcoming to foreigners in their country so long as you show some respect and leave the entitlement at the border. We then needed to appear at the consulate in person to have our fingerprints and photos taken. I returned the next day to pick up our actual visas. This is what it looks like, they place it in your passport. You have 6 months to enter México to finish the process at INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración/Immigration) and exchange your visa for your resident card. Once you enter, you have 30 days to start the process.

Visa that goes into your passport
Permanent resident card (RP/Residente Permanente)

Depending on your finances, age, and intentions, you may be approved for temporary or permanent residency. The only difference is that temporary needs to be renewed, sometimes annually, for up to 4 years at which time you will have to roll it over to permanent or leave the country. The one upside to temporary (TP/Temporal Residente) is that you could bring a foreign plated car into México via a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) for a long as your visa is valid. Qroo Paul has an excellent blog with endless information about moving to Mexico. You can read the article here for more information on the ends and outs of bringing your car.

If you are offered permanent residency and have no intention of bringing a car, take it. Nobody wants to spend their time, money, or patience having to deal with immigration in Mexico. Further, if you are not fluent in Spanish (reading and writing) and don’t have a bunch of time, money and patience, I highly recommend using an immigration specialist to help you complete the process in Mexico. There are several throughout the country, search the Facebook expat boards for recommendations.

That’s all for now folks! Happy fall and safe travels.

Mexico, here we come!

2020 is almost over, thank goodness! I realize it has been quite some time since I have written anything- I think we all got sucked into the COVID abyss. While the end is coming to a year, 2020 has been full of as many ups as there have been downs. Big news!!!! We bought a place in Mexico! That’s correct, a place to call our own in the Riviera Maya. We made a trip down in November to complete our PADI Advanced Open Water dives since our training was about to expire and to check out some locations we had narrowed down. I will post separately about my horrid, near death experience with Seth Drabinsky through Seth Dive Mexico though you can read my review on TripAdvisor and his completely inappropriate and unprofessional response to it until then. I did find out the hard way that the healthcare providers in Playa are pretty top notch (for a gringo with money and good insurance) and I received better care there than I have ever in the US. I was treated by Playa International Clinic– Dr. Denise and my nurse Paula were amazing. Lisa was able to stay the night with me at the clinic in my room and they kept an eye on her for decompression illness and even fed her for free.

After spending countless hours on the computer to research areas, we narrowed our search down to Playacar, Puerto Aventuras, and Akumal. All of these areas are within 30 minutes or so from Playa del Carmen. We looked at several properties and were torn between a home in Playacar and one in Puerto. It was a very difficult decision but we went with home in Puerto. While Playacar is absolutely lovely, Puerto has it beat when it comes to snorkeling and a marina and it is about half way between Akumal and PDC. The beaches in Playacar are stunning but there is nothing to see in the water there. Puerto also has a variety of shops, restaurants, etc and was designed as an expat neighborhood. Don’t read that as expats just from the US, Puerto is like a giant Epcot center and right across the highway is where most of the locals live. We wanted something safe and in a gated community but what we did not want was a community that is filled with Americans. A big motivator in moving out of the country is to experience different cultures, people, and places.

I can tell you that buying in Mexico is not for the faint of heart, obviously. There is something about having the right realtor and attorney that can ease your fears but standing in your bank, wiring your 10% earnest money to an escrow account in Mexico takes some serious nerve. We are working with Marieke Brown, a very respected, straight shooting realtor who has talked me down a few times so far. We will be using our attorney to sign closing papers for us, I can say as someone who trusts no one, this is quite the experience. We will be back down several times (COVID/Vaccine willing) before our final move in 2022.

Flying during COVID was also something that caused a great amount of distress. There are tons of articles and studies surrounding COVID and the risk of contagion on an airplane. The risk is extremely low. We put on our N95s and sanitized everything. Alaska Airlines did a phenomenal job and I did not see a single person wearing a mask incorrectly and they blocked out middle seats. We were disheartened to see so many tourists not respecting guidelines once we got to Mexico. My biggest fear was what if we gave it to some poor local. They do not have the resources or hospital infrastructure to handle the COVID crisis. Read, Why Mexico is failing to confront the COVID crisis. With that said, I felt way safer in Playa del Carmen that I do here in Washington state. It isn’t a political issue for locals, they take it seriously. I just wished more tourist would have as well. We tested for COVID before our trip and then 6 days after we returned home. Side note- Mexico, at least the state of Quintana Roo, is very LGBT friendly. We felt extremely comfortable working with realtors, attorneys, etc. and have never felt discriminated against during any of our trips down.

I am sure most of my 2021 blog will be filed with the ups and downs of buying internationally and obtaining permanent resident status. Until next time, Hanukkah Sameach!! Stay safe and healthy.

Decisions, Decisions


Where is my magic 8 ball?

When it was decided that our family needed to move from our state of origin (California) in 2011, it wasn’t all that hard to pick a location. We knew we wanted to stay on the west coast, we wanted a small city with plenty of things for the kids to do, we wanted good schools, good weather, and decent home prices. We were able to whittle our list down to one city in no time. We flew up to visit during the rainy season to ensure it was tolerable and then moved that following summer. From the time we decided to move to moving day was about 8 months. Pretty short considering we had never lived more than 2 hours from where we were both born and raised.

While you would think moving a family of 6 to another state knowing absolutely no one would be difficult, it was surprisingly easy, no 8 ball needed. If only identifying a country to retire in could be the same. If you Google, “best Countries to retire in,” or “best Countries for expats,” there are some really tough contenders. What I do know is, it needs to be affordable, it needs to be easily accessible from the States, It needs to offer good healthcare, people need to be friendly and welcoming , my marriage needs to be recognized (No countries like Malaysia that criminalize homosexual behavior-You can be sentenced to 20 years with or without fines and whippings.  ) but more important than all of that, It needs to call my name. We are talking about leaving all my family and friends, not only does it need to call, it needs to SING my name.

So who’s on the list? Colombia to start. Mexico is also in the running. Costa Rica is out and so is Panama. While both of those countries make the top 5 list according to International Living, they are too expensive and too far away to be worth it. Yes, Colombia is further but it is about half the cost of Panama and half as empty (this is a +!) as Costa Rica. While the Riviera Maya area of Mexico may be more expensive than the Caribbean side of Colombia, it has some real benefits. Most people that I have encountered in Mexico speak at least a little English.
The majority of people in Colombia do not speak English. Given that I only speak a little Spanish, this is a big plus for Mexico. Though I am dedicated to spending the next few years working on my Spanish. Since the majority of my top retirement contenders are in Latin America, this seems like a no brainer. I used to fantasize about retiring to Italy, and I might! Even in that situation, a good Latin base will be extremely beneficial.

Easy access to the States is essential. I have been playing with flight schedules over the last few months trying to figure out how to get to Colombia and back without wasting two days of travel each way. The issue is compounded by the fact that I am trying to travel on JetBlue because I have a hefty credit from when we decided to focus our time and money on early retirement instead of a lofty vacation in the Caribbean. This issue is further compounded by the desire to check out inland areas of Colombia, east of Medellin. You can’t just drive around Colombia, it would take days to get over the windy mountainous terrain so maybe that will have to be tabled for another trip. Most people can pop a sleeping aid and catch some zzzz’s on the plane. Not for the life of me do I fall into this category! I learned this the hard way on a red eye to Ireland. An Ambien and massive time change later, I was a mess for days. We will have a little over two weeks in November to explore Colombia-I don’t want to waste 4 of those days traveling with two of them sleep deprived. At least the time change is only a 2-3 hours,depending on our daylight savings, major bonus!

Traveling to and from Cancun or Cozumel is a piece of cake on just about any airline. It takes half as much time to get there than it does Cartagena. As you can tell from my previous post, Ahhhh the Riviera Maya there is much love for Mexico. That was my 3rd trip to the area. I have been to Cozumel, Cancun, Rivera Maya, and Progresso. Disclaimer, I have only been as a tourist. I think we are kicking ourselves now that we have returned for not checking out the local scene but what a better excuse do you need to return? I know the weather is warm and humid but tolerable. I fear that Colombia will be similar to Jamaica and I could hardly stand it there. The humidity is oppressive, even in the shade with a breeze. If we get to Colombia and it is similar, that part of the country gets a big red line through it on the list. There are much milder areas of Colombia, Medellin is actually named the city of eternal spring. Moving to a big city is not on my list though. I want the Caribbean Sea. I want to scuba dive frequently and do nothing while enjoying the white sand just as often.

Medical care in Mexico is not nearly as good as Colombia, touting a WHO ranking of 22. The US ranks 37 and Mexico claims the 61st spot. Interesting side note here. When we came back from Mexico, Lisa had a cold, then I got it. I have spent the last 9 days trying to fight off who knows what she caught on the flight down. I do take immunosuppressants for an autoimmune disorder so it may have been complicated by that. You can’t even assume you won’t catch measles anymore! Digression… Anyway, we picked up some cold medicine that worked really well in Mexico for about $1.50. I have some cold medicine that I had from Canada that works OK for about $5. Then I went out and bought somewhat similar (though not because of the regulations on pseudoephedrine) for $13 that didn’t work at all. $13 vs. $1.50- Works vs. Doesn’t. Hmmmm

As you can tell, it is all very much up in the air. One of the greatest benefits to writing is the ability to see things more clearly, however, If anyone see’s my magic 8 ball, let me know.