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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Immigration Blues
Billy & Akaisha Kaderli

We’ve been through Immigration in foreign countries many times, and have been in and out of Mexico on well over 30 separate occasions. So we are familiar with the process.

This time was different.

Mexican Flag

Our travels took us from Phoenix, Arizona through Mexico City and finally on to Cancun, the beautiful beach resort of the Yucatan Peninsula. As usual, on our first leg of the trip and upon our entrance into Mexico City, the flight attendants handed out tourist cards and custom declarations. We filled ours out, but because our luggage had been checked on through to Cancun, we asked whether or not we were to clear Customs/Immigration in Mexico City or in Cancun.

Having a connecting flight, time is always of the essence.

After conferring with others who should be in-the-know, we were told to clear Immigration in Cancun. After disembarking in Mexico City, just to be on the safe side, we asked the gate agent the same question and he assured us we would certainly clear in Cancun. No problem, we had a reasonably early arrival time there.

Upon landing in Cancun everyone is directed to the baggage claim area. Looking around and flapping our Immigration cards, we could see no Immigration line or office. We did, however, go through Customs with nothing to claim and we were still gesturing with our Immigration tourist card trying to get some attention.

Very officially, the Customs Agent hands the unstamped tourist card back to us and waived us on through the line.

At this point, we were technically not in Mexico as there was no record of us arriving.

 

One thing we have learned about traveling is that there is always a surprise around the corner. However this being-waived-past-Immigration was a first and we didn’t think much of this until we arrived in our hotel and realized we were not really in Mexico. I mean we were, just not legally.

We have seen all kinds of unusual situations regarding Mexican Immigration and in other countries as well, so we just figured that upon leaving Mexico, the authorities would just take our unstamped cards and allow us to board our flights. After all, we were leaving their country, neither of us the worse for wear, and all of our paperwork had been filled out with proper dates, and addresses… we just didn’t get a stamp.

Enough with the Old Rocks

So we proceeded to enjoy our week in tropical Cancun and headed to the airport for the first leg heading back to the States. The ticket agent naturally requested our documentation, and upon seeing the unstamped form announced that we were illegally in the country. (Sounded awful!) Not unlike the millions of his people in our own nation… we noted...which he completely understood. Jokingly, he even offered to give us a tour of the best beaches, and perhaps help us build a house, if we wanted to take advantage of our illegal status!

Nevertheless, there are rules that needed to be followed, and we were willing to comply - or so we thought. Handing us our boarding passes for both legs of the flight he wrote on the Mexico-Phoenix leg that they were Pending FMT, or tourist cards.

He then instructed that once we landed in Mexico City, we were to go to Immigration and get stamped. No getting around it. It was something that should take 15 minutes to complete.

Our experience in Mexico has taught us that in the Land of Mananas, nothing gets done in 15 minutes - especially when you’re dealing with the government.

My gut reaction was to ignore his instructions and simply proceed to the ticketing gate. Why would they refuse us from leaving their country? So this was the plan.

We disembarked without a hitch in Mexico City. The airport signage is not very well marked, especially for someone who’s just passing through, and we ran around looking for our particular gate area. It was an hour and thirty minutes before our connection.

The Concourse finally appeared hallways and escalators later, and low and behold! There’s an Immigration Office just before entering. Perfect! At least now we can follow the agent’s instructions and get our much needed stamp.

What a Combination!

Pleading our case to the Immigration Officer, you would have thought that we were just caught for a major crime. Although he assures us ‘not to worry’ (why would we worry?) he proceeds to tell us that this is ‘No bueno’ and we must pay 300 Pesos each for the fine of not obtaining the crucial stamp; About sixty dollars for the both of us.

What started out casual became costly.

We did as we were told, followed instructions by those in-the-know, so why are we paying for the errors of others? Beaming, he shrugged his broad shoulders. Before we knew it, we were on the phone with his supervisor and reminded sternly that these are the rules and of course there is nothing she could do. The clock was ticking away, and it felt useless to argue with the Mexican government. We relented to the fact that we were going to have to pay. Like it or not.

The forms started appearing one by one. They had to be filled out, signed, dated and copied. He was quite proud of the stack of papers he was assembling; it all looked very official! Ok, so can we pay and get out of here now? Oh no, he cannot accept money in that office. We must take yet another form to a bank and pay there, bringing back the receipt so that it can be stamped by him, and then we can get on our way.

 

Where can we find a bank in the airport? Trying to gauge how far we must walk and how much time this is going to take, we are now beginning to get nervous. Getting our instructions to the bank’s whereabouts, we dash out of there, all our luggage in tow.

Our Room's View in Cancun

Of course the instructions were lacking in pointing out essential turns, so it took us three times as long to find the banks than was necessary. Then they were closed! All three of them. Holding the form up to the window so the people inside could see our plight, they simply pointed at their watches. Ayeeii Carumba!

Back upstairs to the Immigration Office we run, where the agent is now “helping” another unfortunate stampless creature. He instructs us to take a seat and he will be with us in 5 minutes. The clock is still ticking, louder now, and we have just 40 minutes until our plane leaves.

Reading our boarding passes it shows that it’s time to begin boarding the plane. Urgently we tell the officer that the banks are all closed. He doesn’t know what to think, but it is clear that this isn’t the answer he was expecting.

We have the correct change in Pesos and are willing to simply leave him the money if we could just get that necessary stamp. We begin counting out pesos to him…

Again refusing the money, he is still grinning, however a little less broadly, and he calls his supervisor telling her our woeful story. Although he is speaking in Spanish, we can understand him saying, ‘they leave in 35 minutes‘, on three different occasions. Now, we are considering our options if we miss the flight. What the ---??

Up on his computer he brings still another form in which he inserts our names and pertinent information. He’s going to give us a special ‘numero’ which will allow us to pass on through, but he needs the specific government sealed paper. Where is that paper?! Rifling through the bank of mostly empty filing cabinets he opens and shuts the same drawers several times. Stress is noticeable in his frenzied movements. He is finally feeling the pressure that we have carried with us since about mid-way through this loony ordeal.

The paper is found at last, the printer is loaded and out comes the government form. Again we fill out necessary information, signing each copy. He puts the magical ‘numero’ on our new tourist cards, hands them to us and tells us that because the banks are closed there will be no charge.

Unbelievable! What just happened?

All of us are cheerful now and shaking sweaty hands with a loud ‘Gracias!’ accompanying each hand shake.

Racing down to the gate with only minutes to go, we find that our plane has been delayed and hasn’t even started to board!

Mexico! You gotta love it!

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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