Fifteenth Year Of Mexico Driving travel blog

That "Must Have" Hologram - Firmly Attached

All The Way To Chicago For This Beauty

My Receipt For The $400 (7948 pesos) Deposit - We Get It...

Yes, I know I usually begin the journal with the Norton family Christmas, but this year things were a bit different. You see, we are crazy enough to continue to drive our CR-V to Mexico. Long time readers may recall the importance of proper documentation for our vehicle once we’re south of the border. While we can get the needed permit at the border (an exhausting, very time consuming process), what I have done recently is spend about an hour of my time online some 30-60 days in advance of our planned departure. During that ordeal I’m required to fill out several Mexican government forms, first securing a temporary immigration card (not to be confused with the actual immigration card you get when you cross into Mexico), then a document confirming the VIN of the vehicle and the passport number of the driver / owner. All of this is pretty straight forward, until you get to the part where you have to supply an e-mail for contact purposes and also forward scans of your passport and your title.

Problem number one for me is that the Mexican program will not accept an e-mail that does not end in “.com”. Of course our e-mail ends in “.coop” (it is a co-op). I usually get around this by putting in an old no longer existent .com address, just to get the thing going. I have never had any problems with this obviously dumb idea in the past. Secondly, the government requires scanned copies of the passport and title to accompany the application. Again, not a big deal until you discover that the scans are limited to 1MB of data, about 1/2 of what our copier / scanner was generating. After far too long of yours truly attempting to “compress” the files (in a fashion that I’ll swear had worked in years past), I was able to send Mexico what they needed, along with my Visa information so they could charge us the $55 car fee and the $400 security deposit (refundable when the car safely leaves Mexico).

Of course this took most of two hours instead of one, but I successfully sent the stuff off electronically to Mexico City on November 13, over a month before our intended departure. When the charge for $455 showed up on Visa the next day, I knew I only had a day or two to wait for my Fed Ex packet containing my receipts, the vehicle paperwork and most importantly, the windshield “hologram” sticker which would prove the legality of the CR-V all the while we were driving it in Mexico. Well, I waited and waited and waited. Day after day, no packet - no hologram. Given that some dope had provided a non-existent e-mail for contact purposes, I had no idea what was going on - I just knew we weren’t going to Mexico till that darn hologram showed up.

Enter Molly, our Spanish speaking immigration attorney daughter. While I could not find out what had happened to our application, I did manage to find a Mexico City phone number to call with any questions. So the day after Thanksgiving Molly and her inept father made an international call - or rather three of them - bad connections you know. We finally got through to an “English speaking” assistant - who spoke only Spanish. Fortunately Molly could sort of understand her, but when we gave the woman my folio number the assistant kept using the word “borroso”, a word neither of us had ever heard of. While Molly tried to keep the woman on the line, I quickly looked up “borosso”. Turns out it means “fuzzy”. One of my compressed documents was apparently a bit too compressed and was not able to be read - thus no hologram was forthcoming, though they still had my money.

Since we were now just over two weeks from our planned departure, trying to redo the application online was out of the question. Fortunately that same dope who screwed the thing up in the first place was able to determine that the Mexican Consulate in Chicago could issue all the necessary vehicle importation forms (the hologram), and it was only a three hour drive (OK, 6+ hours roundtrip) away. I secured an appointment for 12:12P the following Tuesday, gathered up my passport, my title (with copies of both) and my temporary immigration form and off to Chicago I went - South Ashland Ave., just west of the loop to be exact.

The appointment website was quite specific - if you’re late for your appointment by even a few minutes, you are cancelled. Needless to say I was an hour and a half early - hoping to get in prior to my appointed time - but that would be totally unbureaucratic. At the Consulate, after passing through security, I was advised to sit in a large room and I would be called. I was quite literally the only white face in a sea of hispanic humanity. At 11:00 a security guard stood up front of the group calling one Mexican name after another - Fernandez, Alvarez, Garcia, Sanchez, Torres, Morales… - you get the idea. As each name was called, the guard motioned the respondent to some steps downstairs and they disappeared. So I sat and read my book for another hour. At noon, the same thing happened and after another 4 or 5 names he calls out “John Norton”. I scrambled to my feet, grabbed all my stuff, showed him my form and down the steps I went. After two more security checks I found myself waiting in another line outside the Banjercito office. This is the vehicle permit place all over Mexico. After another 5 minutes or so one of the young women at the counter called out “John Norton” again- it was almost exactly 12:12!!.

In perfect English (best of the day so far actually) she asked, “What can I do for you sir?” I explained my online fiasco. She asked for my folio number, went to a computer screen, came back and explained that one of my documents was “fuzzy” - so it had been rejected - just like the woman in Mexico City told Molly. But then my agent said, “don’t worry, we can fix it all up right here”. She took my title and passport (original and copies), my temporary immigration form, my Visa card, and in 5 minutes I had everything I needed. She explained she was charging me the $455 again, but that I’d be refunded my original amount in two days. I shoved everything in my folder, she wished me “buen viaje”, I thanked her for her terrific assistance and out the door I went. I was back in the car looking for a McDonald’s by 12:25. Obviously I was pleasantly stunned. I was even happier two days later when my Visa account showed up with a $455 credit from Banjercito. It may have cost me a full day’s driving, but the Mexican bureaucracy (at least in Chicago) had come through like a charm!

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