June 10, 2013

Breakin' the Law...

Seth and I are back in the US now! I'm excited, but I miss my beach home. Over the next few or so posts I'll let you all see our road logs, and what we saw along the way. But, first you must hear about our crazy car situation! We purchased a car from other expats when we arrived here. We did not really research the laws that much because our experience in Panama was that anyone can buy a car in Panama. But, not Mexico. Shame, shame on us for not doing our research ahead of time! Mexico is very strict about who can have foreign plated cars, and who can sell and purchase cars in Mexico.

We found out all about this when we realized our import sticker on our foreign plated car (Georgia plated) was expired by 2 months. In addition, we found out it was illegal for us to
purchase a car in Mexico on an FMM visa (tourist visa) so our car was REALLY illegal.

We found out that were supposed drive to Belize with the car owner, sign over the car there, and then drive back into Mexico to retrieve a new import sticker under the new owners passport. But since we didn't, we had a couple of options of what we could try to do.

  1. Go to the Belize border and try to bribe the Aduana (customs) to give us a new sticker and drive back.
  2. Go over to Belize, stay for a couple of days and hope they would let us back. 
  3. Find a shaddy lawyer that would bribe an aduana official and get us a new sticker in Cancun. 
None of these really jived with us, but we didn't worry about it because the police leave foreign plated cars alone in Playa. That's not the case with the rest of Mexico, and since we wanted to drive our car back, we were in a little bit of a pickle.

Every time you pass over to another state in Mexico, you go through the Aduana and take the chance that your paperwork will get checked. Also, if you get stopped by the federal police (which they are known to do in order to collect bribe money), they will check your paperwork. If your paperwork is expired or incorrect, then you take the chance of getting your car impounded costing you thousands of US dollars to retrieve. We didn't want any of these things to happen because our car would be packed, and we would have both our dogs with us.

I asked around on the different expat forums for advice, and finally came across an American lawyer who could help us. Solomon (My Mexican Lawyer) speaks English and Spanish fluently, is licensed to work in Mexico, and he's not shaddy. All the things we were looking for to get our paperwork. He immediately got us all set up for our paperwork so that when I arrived back from the US to drop of Taelyn, we just had to wait a couple of days and then presto! We had our paperwork. No worries! He took care of everything for us!

Solomon says that you can take care of this yourself if you're up to the challenge, but I say, "why bother?" Plan on sitting in the SAT office for a few hours to get your paperwork certified. Expect them to say you forgot something and then you have to come back the next day. Then expect them to add some stipulations or something that you don't really know how to explain in Spanish. For example, they wanted us to go back to the Belize border because that's where our original import sticker was issued even though we were exiting out of the Brownsville border. That took some serious explaining on Solomon's part as to why that didn't make sense.

Once everything got turned in ok, it took about 7 days for the paperwork to come back. We had to drive to Cancun to sign it and get it certified. Then it was all done! We had 5 business days to exit Mexico which was more than enough time since we were leaving on a Saturday. And let me tell, you, yes we did need that paperwork! We did get stopped by Aduana and a federal, and our paperwork basically played the role of a "get out of jail free" card. The federal clearly pulled us over to try to get a bribe, and he looked over our paperwork for 5 seconds, and said, "Ok, bye." When does that ever happen?

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