Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Security Renewing US Passport in Mexico

It was a seven hour bus ride Monday night to Monterrey to renew my US passport, arriving a 6AM. I wanted to do it in San Luis Potosi where there's a Consular Office and is two hours closer. The Consul General was in Zacatecas a few weeks ago and I asked him specifically if you could pay with a credit card in San Luis. He answered with an unequivocal yes. When I called San Luis to make an appointment, I was told that if I wanted to pay with a credit card, it had to be Monterrey and that I needed to take my old passport, two copies of the page the picture's on, my original birth certificate and two copies, another form of picture ID and two copies and two passport photos. Nothing was said about security and nothing about printed on the appointment slip.

I made my appointment for Monterrey.

I arrive at the consulate, walk up to the bullet-proof teller-type window and show my ID and he asks me if I have a cell phone. "You have to turn the cell phone off," he says. I do so. The he asks if I have any other electronic equipment. "Well sure, I have my laptop in my backpack." "Oh, you can't bring it into the consulate." Pause. . . "You'll have to find some place to store it." Pause. . . I turn and walk a few yards down the street and a Mexican says good morning in English as he passes. I notice he has a security badge, turn, say excuse me and explain my problem and ask if anything can be done. He asks me to wait and goes into the consulate. He comes back out saying that the guard knows where I can check my backpack. Back to the window and the guard tells me where to go. It's a block down and is a business that makes copies and helps people fill out US Consulate forms. 20 pesos ($1.60) for the checkroom service.

Back at the consulate, the guard buzzes me in to a security area. Stuff on the belt, walk through the arch, pat down which didn't even come close to my "package.' Another teller-type window to get a visitors badge and I'm allowed to enter the waiting room and take a number. There is only one person ahead of me and I get my turn in about 5 minutes. Another teller-type window where the lady wants only my old passport, application and photos. Then she runs my credit card for the $110 fee. So far, everyone has been Mexican and except for the minor ommission by the first guard, all have been professional, helpful and courteous. She askes me to take a seat while my documents are being checked. In about 5 minutes I'm called up to another window. Everything is fine and all I have to do is to take a form and my receipt to the courier service a block down to arrange to have my new passport delivered when it comes in. The only hitch there is that in Zacatecas, they don't deliver to your door; you have to pick it up at their office. That's not big deal either. Maybe six bucks in cab fare and it's close to where we do our main shopping so we can kill two birds with one stone. The new passport should arrive in about two weeks.

It would have been nice though if the appointment form that I printed off on my computer had included a complete and current list of security procedures and what the provess consisted of.

Actually, things went so quick, I caught an 11:30AM bus back to Zacatecas after arriving at the consulate around 9-9:30.

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