27 October, 2019

Finally home from my trip to México City and Puerto Vallarta!!! After spending June in México City, it was like slipping back into a comfortable pair of shoes. The only downside was that my favorite quesadilla joint, Quesadillas Doña Mary, has closed! I’m very sad! Puerto Vallarta was rainy for the first few days, then sunny and hot for the rest of the week. October is usually a hit or miss situation with the weather, but there aren’t the crowds that there are later – so I suck it up and just limit my activities!

I’m still organizing the photos from the trip to Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, and Budapest – but hope to get a post up sometime this week before I run away again on my trip to Beijing.

Speaking of Beijing, the purpose of going to México City was to get my visa for China. As a citizen of the USA I need a visa *before* traveling to China. There is no option for a visa during entry. I thought I’d take a few minutes to describe the process for anyone who is contemplating a visit to China! Here goes …

  1. Things you need: Passport; Residency Card (if you’re applying in México City as a USA Citizen and have residency in México); Application.
  2. Find, and complete, the application. It’s online. I’m not going to link to it, as when I do something changes and I don’t want anyone using an old application form. Google the application process and read two or three posts about how to complete the form. Tips: The consulate will want everything filled out, and in UPPER CASE. If something doesn’t apply – Put “N/A” or “NOT APPLICABLE” in the box.
  3. Picture. You need one. It’s NOT 2 inches x 2 inches like you’ll see described in some places. It needs to fit into the box on the application form. Passport rules apply – no glasses or hats. In color, with a white background.
  4. As part of your application, you need to have proof of plane tickets to/from China, and either an invitation letter – or proof of a hotel reservation that covers your stay.
  5. GLUE THE PICTURE TO THE APPLICATION FORM IN THE APPROPRIATE BOX. This cost me an extra day and 4 1/2 hours in line. The consulate is a consulate, not an office supply store (that’s what they told me when I asked if they had a little glue).
  6. Arrive to the consulate early – if there’s only one consulate in a city of about 22 million people, get there VERY early. Get there VERY early if the consulate has just been closed for several days because of a Chinese holiday. On my first, and fateful, visit I arrived at 9:00 am. The line was huge. When I finally got inside at 1:30 pm, my ticket said I was visitor number 150 (they normally shut the doors at 1:00 pm, but had opened a half hour late – I was one of the last allowed in). I arrived at 7:00 am the second time around, and I was still way back in line (I think #63).
  7. At the México City consulate, you are allowed to bring in yourself, your passport, your identification, and your application. No phones. No backpacks. No metal (ditch the coins). No bulky jackets. No apple watches. You, your passport, and your application. Period. At this consulate there is a little magazine stand across the street that will watch your stuff for 20 pesos. Sometimes the people outside who are waiting for friends will do it too – and for free!
  8. Don’t fold or wrinkle your application. They want it to look pretty. Use a file folder – they’ll let you bring that in!
  9. When you get inside, you’ll be given a ticket based on what you’re there for. One type for submitting your paperwork, and one for picking up your passport. When your number is called, GET TO THE APPROPRIATE WINDOW QUICKLY.
  10. Spanish, Mandarin, and English are spoken, but not all by everyone. If you need a particular language and the person at the window you were called to doesn’t speak it, ask them to reassign you to someone who does. They’ll put your ticket number at the top of the queue – assigned to the correct window.
  11. If your application is approved, and once they’ve entered information into their computer, they’ll print out a page with information. DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING – Type of visa (L is for tourism), number of entries (M means multiple), Maximum length of stay each entry (mine is 60 days). I didn’t see where it indicated 10 years on this page, so I asked the clerk.
  12. Now they’ll take your passport, and give you a payment form. They’ll direct you to a particular bank (HSBC in my case), and will tell you when to return with proof of payment and to pick up your passport with the visa. Before you leave, ask them where they want the bank receipt attached to the payment form. They’re VERY picky. At the México City consulate, they want the proof of payment receipt attached to the front side upper right corner of the bank form.
  13. Go to the appropriate bank, make your payment, get the receipt, attach it to the proper location on the bank form.
  14. Go BACK to the consulate on the day they indicated you should return. This is usually within 5 business days from when you submitted the application. At the México City consulate there is a separate line for people coming to pick up their passport/visa. You don’t need to get there as early, and this line moves fairly quickly.
  15. When you get to the window give them the bank form. When they give you your passport, open it to where the visa is attached and again, VERIFY THE INFORMATION. Type of visa, number of entries, maximum length of stay each visit, and this time you’ll see the date range that the visa is good for. TELL THEM IF SOMETHING IS WRONG.

So, there is a lot of time, a four page application, a picture, hassle finding a place for your phone and backpack, etc. You can avoid all this and hire an intermediary to do everything for you. If you’re local they may even take the photo. When I was researching the process, I found several places that would do it for between $100 and $200 USD. My problem was that I was in Mazatlán and would have to mail my passport to them, then they’d have to mail it back. In less than 2 weeks. I was traveling to Puerto Vallarta by bus, and sometimes the checkpoints want to see your passport. Plus, I’m retired and standing in line for a few hours doesn’t cost me anything. BUT, keep in mind that a LOT of people DO use an intermediary, and they will be in the same line with you – but with a stack of 20 or more applications to be processed. ARRIVE EARLY! They do!

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