We've been planning a visa run to Texas for the last couple months. Mexico gives 6 month visas for every border crossing with no possibilities to extend it unless you leave the country. So now that we're approaching 6 months since the visa run from h***, we knew we'd need to do it again.
Originally, we had planned to make a visa run to Belize. Mostly because we didn't expect to be in San Miguel de Allende for 6 months. We thought we'd be here for 3 months. However we've again fallen in love with this city, and the health reasons we came here for originally are not yet solved. We gave it a good try, but after 6 months we need to be moving along. Outside of a house we rented for 9 months in Michigan this is the second longest we've stayed in one place in three years.
So there is a lot of talk about making San Miguel de Allende (SMA) our new homebase. There are some negatives (no close airports and no beach at all!) but in general it's an amazing place to live. Which is why 6 months here hasn't killed us.
However, we do have itchy feet, but more on that later.
Back to the visa run. When we realized we were going to be in SMA when our visa ran out we figured it would be smarter to do a visa run to Texas from here. It's only a 10 hour drive. And so we started making plans. Besides it's been years since I've taken Becky to San Antonio (one of my favorite places in the world!)
Becky is a gifted planner. She has lists and lists of things, as well as she thinks through what we need, what we will need and more. So this summer as she was planning Christmas activities and foods she realized there were a few things we wanted which were not available here in Mexico. Or at least it'd take an all day adventure to find. Like a 2,000+ piece puzzle... they just don't seem to have anything over 25 pieces (for small kids) and one of our family things that we enjoy doing for Christmas week is a big puzzle with no picture to guide us.
When we put two and two together we realized we could order stuff from Amazon, have it delivered to our mail answering service in San Antonio and then pick it up when we do the visa run. We have been in Mexico a full year (at the ned of this month) and need RV parts for Gracie (made in Mexico but only available for purchase in the US :D), special foods for Christmas, and some Amazon orders to pick up.
We may be living a location independent lifestyle, but we haven't gone the minimalist style. Actually in some people's perspective we are minimalists, yet in others (those who only have a backpack of stuff) see what we have as excessive. I'm struggling with figuring out what our level of minimalism should be. While we continue to shed and downsize, there are things that I need simply because we live in an RV, in fact an entire basement cupboard is dedicated to tools and parts.
But the funny thing is how many of the things we use every day have broken in the last year and we're living with them broken, until we replace them on our visa run. For example Becky and I sit on folding chairs around the table (kids are on benches). We've already broken a set of folding chairs before we left the US, and now we have broken and repaired the chairs until one dropped me on the floor (yes it has now happened three times and its about to happen with the remaining chair). Becky now sits on one of our outside lawn chairs at the table. It's funny because she has the table at her chin level.
And then there's my backpack which has been repaired multiple times, gets used nearly everyday and now the repairs aren't working anymore. So we're going to replace that. Just to name a few. We have quite a few things that we are replacing via Amazon.
While all of this has been going on, business, education, and life continues to march on. We have a 10 year old. Our youngest is now 4, and Becky and I are doing well. Just a bit of honesty here, Becky and I have faced various difficult times in our 13 years together, and while we have bumps here and there the last year has been really good for us.
One of the bumps was over a disagreement of having another child. I'm the only one in the family at the time who wasn't actively desiring another kid. Through much reflection it's all about costs and logistics. We hope to fly to other countries and stay in airbnbs etc again. With 4 kids we already face challenges renting cars (we need vans/SUVs which are always more expensive but thankfully, we came across SC Vehicle Hire), or airbnbs, or buying 6 plane tickets. So my push back on having a fifth child was all about money.
Through a lot of talking and some tears I realized that kids, life, and family are more important than money.
So then the question became how?
How do you add another child to the family?? No this isn't about the birds and the bees. Zander is adopted, Becky and I are passionate about adopting, and even more than that we're passionate about our family being multicultural (aka a transracial family). So we contemplated our options. Turns out if we want to adopt from Mexico as an American it's nearly impossible. It's also impossible to adopt a child in the US (domestic or international) while living in an RV, mostly for square footage reasons, but also because we don't have a permanent location.
We could of course have another bio kid, and while we spawn beautiful kiddos (no bias here!) they seem to come out white each time. Strange how that happens.
So we started researching adopting an embryo. While it's not a cheap process it is cheaper than a typical infant adoption in the States. However it's still a very new thing and while there's a large supply of white/caucasian embryos there are not a lot of african american or other ethnicities available for adoption.
Then randomly we posted a question to a few facebook groups we're a part of. Lo and behold there's a loophole to adopt a child in Mexico!
Being a permanent resident.
While we were falling in love with Mexico and deciding where to set up a homebase we knew in the back of our minds that we should pursue residency. Thing is Mexico has a "simple" 4 year process to permanent resident. During those four years we would be temporary residents. It would mean we could still drive a US plated vehicle and technically we're still residents of the US... it's basically you're legal to be here without a tourist visa but you're not (yet) residents. After four years you basically become permanent residents.
We were in no way wanting to wait four years. However, the person telling us about the loophole also told us about a loophole to skip the 4 year waiting process. While I don't want to give too much away it has to do with claiming to be retired (not involved in the day to day of the business or having any income made here in Mexico) and income verification. If that's all good then they typically grant permanent residency immediately. (If you ask for it!).
Funny part? The whole process of becoming a resident requires you to leave the country and apply from a Mexican consulate. We were already planning to leave the country. The Loophole requires you to apply at a certain consulate and we already happened to be crossing the border near that consulate.
So this coming Sunday Nov 13 we're celebrating Josiah's birthday (his 9th bday is on Monday the 14th) with friends here in SMA. Then we're driving part way and finishing our trip to Texas the next day. We have appointments with the Mexican Consulate in Laredo, Texas Tuesday morning.
We will all be very discouraged if we do not receive permanent residency as it costs a couple hundred dollars a year during temporary status. And it will mean we cannot adopt locally for a long time.
So if you're the praying type, please pray that our consular appointments go well, that we have the right person on the other side of the desk and that our paperwork is sufficient.
As a permanent resident of Mexico we would not be allowed to have a US plated (registered) vehicle. Instead we'd have to pay $3k USD to import the van, or buy a different vehicle here (The van receives a 6 month tourist "visa" like us, and under temporary status would be allowed in Mexico without being imported. The Motorhome has a ten year permit, so we have no worries about that!). Since the minivan is only worth $1,500 USD by the blue book, it's not worth paying $3k to import it.
After receiving approval for permanent status, once we enter Mexico we cannot leave Mexico until we receive our permanent status cards (about 1-3 months later). In general this is no problem for us. But it is a problem for the van. So we have to leave (sell or donate) the van in the US. We cannot take it back into Mexico.
If however we are only given temporary status we can have the van in Mexico and it would save us a lot of capital (which we don't have) to keep it.
So we've thought about a lot of possibilities... if we only get temporary it's no big deal, we drive the van back to SMA and we're just like we were before. If we receive permanent status things get more complicated.
We could of course walk into Mexico and take a bus to SMA (buses in Mexico are great and really affordable, unlike Greyhound!!!). However we are getting tons of packages including two windshields for Gracie (at ~200 pounds a piece). Not exactly something we can walk across the border with.
For the same reason flying isn't really feasible either, if for nothing else at $200 a pop it's $1,200 to fly us to near SMA, and that is excluding the luggage prices of our windshields etc.
So what about vehicle rentals? Could we rent a vehicle in the US and drive it to SMA? On one hand, yes we could, however we could not drive it back to the US. We're not allowed to leave the country for a minimum of a month (more like 2-3 months). And there are no car-rental companies that allow for a one way drive across the border (because they'd need to import/nationalize the vehicle... imagine paying $3k to rent a minivan for a week).
What we've come up with is renting a vehicle in Mexico, driving it into the US (some rental companies allow this) and then drive it back to Mexico (near SMA, since SMA doesn't have minivan/SUV rentals here). The negative with this option? We have to drive two separate vehicles to Mexico. While not awful, its no fun for Becky who'd rather be in the car with me (that's what makes road trips fun, right?!). The other issue is what happens if we receive temporary status? In that case we're not leaving/selling our van in the US and will drive it back to SMA. In that case we'll be driving two vans both ways (for nothing) paying double the fuel, double the tolls, and double the drivetime separately.
As it is, if we do receive permanent (even if we only have temporary) the rental is due back the day we arrive "home" to Gracie in SMA. So if we have permanente (happy thing) I'll have to drive the rental an extra hour to Queretaro, drop it off and ride a bus home to SMA.
And. this is how you turn a simple visa run into a potential life changing/altering experience with a lot of moving parts and tons of potential for things to go wrong. We seem to have a knack for crazy impossible visa runs!
While the US (and the world) await the decision made on Tuesday (Nov. 8) of this week, our family is way more concerned about a decision which will be made following Tuesday (Nov. 15).
Here's to the future!