Our first priority for our time in Atlanta was to get our temporary resident visas for Mexico. We tried to do this in Chicago and Indianapolis but the consulate in Chicago says to email for appointments, but only responded to one of our emails. Weeks went by. We started calling the consulate in Indy and as I worked through the push-4-for-non-tourist-visas-menu, I kept getting transferred to the Milwaukee office. Finally a live person came on to tell me that Indy's voice mail is broken.
Fine, we'll do it in Atlanta - their consulate doesn't make appointments for temporary resident visas, so we could just walk in. We read conflicting accounts of what we'd need to bring but the hours were clear - 8-4:30. Our friend who is an immigration attorney in Atlanta said "Think of all the red tape you expect, then multiply by 10." So our first weekday in Atlanta we went to three different places to get the proper photos of ourselves (passport-type photos, but not the photos from our passports) and finally got to the consulate early afternoon, only to find out that visas can only be discussed between 9 and 12.
So we came back the next day, annoyed we'd paid $30 for photos we could've done for much cheaper if we hadn't been rushing, waited in the special upstairs waiting room full of anticipation, and finally it was our turn...
a friendly staff person welcomed us into her office and asked us about our plans. She asked for our papers (including proof of assets) and as we apologized that we had monthly bank statements for Phillip and quarterly pension statements for me, and the duplicates were mixed in, and she said, "Don't worry, I'll put them in order." We reviewed dates and plans and dogs and after 10 minutes of conversation and typing she sent us downstairs to pay $36 per person for the visa application and we came back up to find out our passports would be stamped and ready that afternoon. That's it?! That's it. Either this was way simpler than we'd expected or it was a clever scheme to steal our passports.
We had plans with our friends that afternoon so we came back the next day and by now the security guards smiled and ushered us up to the visa office without sending us through the metal detector. We found the visa waiting area busier than ever, but the next time that friendly staff person peeked out of her office she smiled when she saw us and waved us in, handing us our passports.
Actually we're not done, what's in our passports is just the approval, and we'll get actual visa cards in Mexico and pay more money there. And crossing the border could be a simple as a glance at some papers and welcoming us in, or sending us back for more paperwork (esp about dogs), searching every inch of the van, etc.
I am grateful that we've navigated this process relatively smoothly and realize that in part we're benefiting from US privilege, stable wealth, and weren't rushing to get to a sick relative's bedside. Many people have much greater need to be in another country, and find many more obstacles. And still I pause to celebrate the friendly people we met at the consulate, the time we got to spend exploring Atlanta and enjoying our friends rather than dealing with more paperwork, and we're getting excited to be one week from Mexico!