January 20, 2011

Puzzling through Paperwork

 When Evan checked in with the Port Captain a week or so ago he thumbed through our passports and discovered that Maia’s US one (she’s a dual citizen) was due to expire somewhere around Fiji.

Keeping track of paperwork: credit cards, driver’s licenses, taxes and passport renewals is one of the more complex aspects of cruising. Most of us have a mailing address, somewhere. But the choreography of getting mail from that address to our boats means we don’t just wait for a new credit card or new passport to arrive. We have to plan, usually months in advance.

This summer, before we went home, we went through all our bank cards, licenses and passports and checked the expiry dates. We noted anything that was due to go before 2012 (when we’ll be in Australia and have a stable address for more than a few weeks) and began requesting new cards, scheduling appointments and filling out forms.

The problem with this, is many places are reluctant to provide new cards (or driver’s licences) when the expiry date is more than six months, and in some cases 12 months, out. So we need to explain our lifestyle to several levels of bureaucracy. And somehow these conversations always end up with us being asked if we’re worried about pirates…

Which brings us to Maia’s passport: We were told it would be possible to renew in Mexico if it was expiring within six months. But it expires in eight. And it also takes four-six weeks to process—which means we need to do it now. So I sent off a quick note to the US consulate in Puerto Vallarta explaining our travel plans and asking if they could make and exception. Two minutes later we got a note back, “yes”. Then I asked if we could schedule an appointment, expecting to wait several days as we had in Vancouver. We got back another immediate note telling us to come any day between 11:00am and 12:30.

So we gathered up the paperwork and headed for the consul office in Nuevo Vallarta, panicking a bit when we realized we wouldn’t arrive until noon, and that we still needed to get photocopies and passport photos. We did these across the hall from the office then ten minutes later headed in to the office expecting a long queue. There was none.

We were served immediately. Our travel plans and passport request seemed to make complete sense to the office staff (who have clearly encountered the issue before). We were out of the office in less than ten minutes, and no one even asked us about pirates.

5 comments:

Ramsay said...

A refreshing tale of sanity.

Diane, Evan and Maia said...

Oh,Ramsay... Isn't sanity a beautiful thing? Send us an update on your saga when you can.

Anonymous said...

You know, if certain politicians heard the staff there was so efficient...and there were no lines...I'm afraid they'd find a way to cut their budget.

Let's all just agree right here and now to not repeat this particular story. It's a nice story, really, but...you know.

Bob C.
SV Owe No

Diane, Evan and Maia said...

Too funny, Bob. But you're right!! It's our secret...

Behan said...

I live happy endings like this, where the usually faceless bureaucracy surprises us all by being humanly reasonable. We had a similar situation with Jamie last year and the office in N.V. was lovely to work with. Of course, it's all a little surreal, being in the mall that dispenses US$ so you can go to McD's or Subway....