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Visa? What Visa?

I arrived at Guadalajara airport after a 22 hour flight, from Birmingham via Frankfurt (flying straight back over Birmingham) and Mexico City, and went straight to baggage reclaim. Waiting for my baggage is always a nerve-wracking experience; in the past my bag has ALWAYS been one of the last, or it hasn’t turned up at all (like the time before this one). To my pleasant surprise, my bag appeared on the conveyor belt second…relief! The Mexican who had been sitting next to me on my last, internal Mexico, leg of the journey exclaimed “rapido!”. I was happily trolleying my luggage in the logical direction, which, I presumed would lead me to Immigration, when a frantic Mexican man stopped me by waving a customs form in my face. I’d filled in out already, between Frankfurt and Mexico City, so I had it ready to give him. He took it and started shepherding me towards what looked like a miniature set of traffic lights and was telling me to do something that I couldn’t understand. I have very little Spanish, it didn’t help that I was dazed and confused after my long journey…I didn’t know what he wanted me to do! But what about my Visa form? I kept showing it to him, “What about this?”, “Visa”, “Visa”, “Immigration”??? He shook his head in reply, “no”, “no”, “no”, the traffic light, it’s all about the traffic light.

I had been quite the curiosity on my final plane. The majority of the other passengers were Mexican businessmen travelling back from the Capital to the second city, some of them gathered around and tried to help: “push the button”, “push the green button!”. So I did, to everybody’s relief- but what about my Visa?

My Visa…Hola!? It’s usually quite important. I asked the airport porter who insisted on pushing my baggage trolley (I later found out, in order to get the expected fat tip) “What about this?, My Visa? Immigration?”…”Do I just keep it?”, surely he must know? “Yes” he answered, so I just kept it.

As it turned out, I was effectively an illegal immigrant in Mexico for a few days. I had to go to the Immigration Office in Guadalajara to sort it out- “My Visa hasn’t been stamped, I think it’s quite important!?” I tried again. The man behind the desk didn’t bat an eyelid, partly because he hadn’t understood what I’d said, and partly because he just wasn’t surprised to see my blank visa there in front of him. I couldn’t sort it out there and then though, oh no! Mañana, Mañana, Mañana! I had to return precisely 24 hours later, this time was needed for my paperwork to be looked over and for my Visa to be stamped.

All’s well that ends well though. The amount of days given for Visa’s seems totally random, but I managed to get a full 150, just what I needed. Anyone I’ve met since have only managed to get 30 or 90 days from the Immigration desk I never saw at the airport and are having to pay to have them extended…so by default I’ve managed to save 15-30 British pounds! (Dependent on how many attempts it would have taken me to get the amount of days I needed).

I’ve read in guidebooks that Mexican bureaucracy is…err.. difficult!? I, luckily(!?) found this out the second I stepped off the aeroplane. “Push the green button!!!”, pheww! I managed to finally do what they all wanted me to do…I felt like I’d won some sort of race.

“But what about my Visa? I’m sure it’s supposed to be important!?”.

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