Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tramites Visa Extension In Guatemala


Here's a more professional description of this process if you prefer no vulgar words and less dramatizing of the steps.

Tramites is the general word for official paperwork so this will be a fictionalized account of my paperwork trials in Guatemala. Basically, Guatemala provides 3 months/90 days from when you enter at the border.  I pleaded with the official lady at El Carmen that I needed at least 4 years to complete my business but she was unmoved and said I could renew it if I returned to the border in 3 months. Well, time flies when you're practicing piano and learning Spanish and it came time to renew my visa and I'm trying not to procrastinate like I usually do and allow circumstances to determine my life rather than me actually determining my life. For instance, when I first tried to drive to Guatemala in 1991 I was rejected at the Mexican border because I lacked the Mexican vehicle permit and insurance...and everything, but all paperwork I could obtain for maybe $300. I was young and didn't really care so I turned around and went to California. Think about being so frivolous and aimless that you are trying to drive to Guatemala and then instead drive to San Francisco, CA based on the whim of a Mexican border official. And you don't really care either way. That's me in 1991. Well, fast forward to 2015 and just because my paperwork is about to expire does not necessarily mean I have to leave. In 1991 I'd just say, fuck it, and leave. or maybe overstay and suffer the consequences of smuggling myself out of the country. Crazy things like once I had to trek for miles around the Canadian/Alaskan border checkpoint in order to avoid the detection of a knife I was carrying that was as long as my arm...and an axe, and I generally distrusted officials and felt they could go fuck themselves since this land was made for you and me, etc... and I would carry everything I own for two days in some ridiculous and hazardous and illegal trek through 5ft of snow in late winter into the Yukon territory, on snowshoes, with a detached Achilles tendon, nearly drowning and dying and eating snow and pine needle soup to avoid detection. Insane. Well, today I loathe officialdom but they have broken my spirit somewhat and I now see the paperwork nightmare as a challenge, that I can both outsmart them and play by their rules and in the end I get what I want so fuck them.

A General Topographic Idea of where you're going

I want to make this a process that someone with a more geographic intelligence can navigate. I decided that the process of this shit does lend itself to verbalizing, step by step, recipe style directions a little, but this is not computer programming...actually, it's also mostly a physical/geographic/topographic process, with some paperwork thrown in, and people with an intelligence that involves physical movement will be best served with a physical representation of the process. The process is probably 80% physical and 18% Paperwork and 2% charm/savvy. If I could reenact the whole thing with hand puppets then I would do that. OR write a song about it. You know there are at least 7 different styles of intelligence and it's very important to find your mix and to translate everything into those models. This would be stressed in public schools if public school were not worthless socializing factories for future disabled veterans.

So study this map. It's a screenshot, not a link to a google map. Zone 4 in Guatemala City. It's in the north end. 6th ave is one way traffic to the south so you'll need to find a way going south on ave 6 and find that turn off on Via 2 to that parqueo. 20Q all day. The parqueo on the east side (the top of the map is north) was not big enough for my van but a normal car would work...but AVE 6 has a split barrier so you have to be on the east side or else you won't be able to get in that driveway. Then a block south is The Extranjeria Office. There's a shopping mall around here that has a bunch of shit.

EXTRANJERIA MAP. Park means Parqueo...for your car

EXTRANJERIA in Zona 4 6th ave. Looking south across via 3. 6th Ave is to the right. Note how 6th ave is divided but all lanes go south.

High tech map of Giving Passport and paperwork. The first step should start at the security portal and go get the #. That horizontal line is a floor. Banrural is on the 1st floor. Migra on the 2nd floor.

So, you left your guns and knives at home, right? Because this is a secure building. I was still able to smuggle my multi-tool knife through by pretending I had a steel pin in my elbow but I recommend leaving all weaponry at home. Then go up and get a number. Wait for 2 or 3 hours while nuns and Jehovah Witness and Menonites extend their religious missionary visas...then go to the window and give all your paperwork.

Prorroga form

copy of passport

copy of credit card

Don't be dumb like me and get a color passport photo because it will be a worthless reminder of your age and lack of charisma. They want a black and white on matte textured photo the size of a passport. Bring the Prorroga instructions to the photo shop and they will know what to give you. Mine makes me look like a vampire.

Give all this over.

Nod like you understand everything and keep your receipt for your passport. They will take your passport from you for 5 business days and all you will have is the receipt and maybe a copy of your passport if you were smart enough to make one. Remember your mama isn't nearby to vouch for your character. with no proof of identity you could easily be sold into a human trafficking cartel and eventually get beheaded by ISIS.

High Tech map of Getting passport back. Note the info window is not visited.

So here's another map of your second visit to the extranjeria. The first time I went I literally parked somewhere near zone 2 because the frustration was very high. No navigation, legless beggers taunting me, the sun, the traffic, I kept getting lost and the van was overheating and I needed to eat and at that time I thought I was going to stay a few days in Guatemala City so I parked near some hotels and walked for 40 minutes to the office. Then I went back and learned all the hotels cater to prostitutes. Blonde prostitutes, I was informed, are not women, but they give the same quality of blow job. Good to know. Whore Hotels were priced 80Q/$10 for the night, and the same for the day. Everyone was smoking and it felt horribly wrong and uninviting. Only a Honduran prostitute would stay at some of these hotels. There were more expensive hotels but none had parking for El Conquistador and it was the same price 80Q to park for the night...and I didn't feel safe leaving my van without someone sleeping in it overnight. The safest way to guard the van is to sleep in it. Also, I feel strongly that George Harrison got a much better reception while wearing his wide stripe bell bottom pants in London in 1968

 than I got wearing almost the same pants in 2015 Guatemala City. 
Dylan or Harrison?

So I left that area and went to Antigua for 6 days.

But on the return trip I did manage, at great personal loss due to traffic and strife, to park near the Liquado shop. The parking was abundant....and then walked to the Extranjeria office, this time leaving my knife back in the van. 

I only had the one piece of paper, the receipt they had given me 7 days earlier. God knows what would happen if I had lost that piece of paper. I should've made a copy of it because it would've been chaos to have lost it.

So I gave that paper to the lady in Window #2. Initially I tried to pay at the Banrural office but I didn't have the right form yet. So lady #2 gave me some paperwork that was actually all the original paperwork I had submitted 7 days earlier plus a cover sheet. I went to window #11 and gave that paperwork to her. She printed me an invoice for $15...and I took that invoice and all my paperwork to the Banrural office downstairs...paid the 115Q...got a copy of the proof of payment....after waiting for the clerk to write a notarized novel for a selfish Mennonite nun...and took that copy and everything back to Window #2. She let me keep the original proof of payment and the original Prorroga invoice and took everything else and went back to some room where my passport had probably been for 5 days and then she called me "Oggy Augustus! OGGY AUGUSTUS" But my name is Oggy Bleacher. Oh, they don't use last names in Latin America and prefer to use the middle name. Oggy Augustus Bleacher.... So I picked the passport up and checked it was good now for another 3 months...from the date I had dropped it off 7 days earlier.

I left, ate some mango and an egg desayuno and a banano liquado, gave some centavo change to the legless beggar, avoided some passport scam, got my van out of the parking lot.

And now I had to use this new passport to get my vehicle passport extended at the only in-country option at the airport, where I guess vehicles are shipped in by airplane and then processed/imported...so they allow vehicles that drove in from Mexico to do the same thing.


The vehicle visa is slightly simpler because there's only one window. 

You need copies of your title, registration, passport bio data and stamp page...original Guatemala vehicle paperwork. And it doesn't hurt to have all the original paperwork too. 

The SAT office is on the north side of the road and a parking lot is on the south side. The parking nazis didn't let me in the SAT parking lot until the official inside dealing with my paperwork let me through so I paid 5Q in the opposite parking lot. I also didn't have copies of my title on the off chance they would make them for me and I had to walk a block west where there was an unmarked computer store with copy machines inside. I also needed copies of my passport and registration.

I want to stress that getting around Guate City is hellish. Its a city where motorcycles should be the only motor vehicle allowed on the street. Awful. And it's doubly awful if you have no navigator and have never been there and it's Monday morning or Friday afternoon and the corrupt U.S. Vice President happens to be in town. I think I'm the only person who could drive my van around that city and probably the only 1969 Ford Econoline to ever drive through it. Getting out of the airport and pointed toward Quetzaltenango was horrible because the road in did not lead back to a west-bound road, so I went east and then all of the U-turn options were blockaded so I drove east for miles and could not find a way back west until I was swearing vociferously at the world. This whole process was not bad but my van's idle is having problems and I am haunted to the point of torture by memories of gold-haired women and I can't make progress on my novel, etc. etc. All this desperation and angst would erupt from time to time in traffic and I would practice my swear Spanish which is currently "Chinga-a-la-pinche-fucking-mera-verga-de-la-gran-puta"...which I think means "fucking to the fucking fucking total cock of the big whore"

Finally I found a u-turn nearly in El Salvador. But if I had chosen a slightly different route leaving the airport, like taking any left/west turn then I would've definitely had more option for getting in the direction of Mixco instead of El Salvador.

But it was all accomplished. My visa and vehicle could legally remain in Guatemala for 3 more months. I asked the SAT woman if I could do this again in 3 months and she seemed to suggest in very rapid Spanish that I could do this as many times as needed, as long as my passport was good for a period of time then my vehicle would be permitted for the same period of time. So as long as I can keep the passport legit then I can drive back to the Guatemala City airport and renew the vehicle permit. The alternative could cause problems as once the van leaves Guatemala then the officials at the border could require it to be out of the country for 90 days. Obviously, if I have everything I own in an apartment in Xela and I am not allowed to drive back in and I have to leave my vehicle in Tapachula, Mexico and probably never see it again that would be unacceptable. So this buys some more time while I research a trip to Costa Rica.


*Senor R. Polanco saved me great grief with his previous research and description. If not for him I could easily have given up and gone back to Mexico or maybe Panama. I meant to thank him in person while in Antigua but I can only get myself motivated for so many things at one time.

Also, Tom over at xelapages  was the one who pointed out that my plan to leave Guatemala for a few days in Mexico with my vehicle to extend my visa the traditional way might not work out. And that got me started looking for alternatives which led me to Polanco's site. So it was a collaborative effort. 

I also saw two Gaby Moreno & Friends concerts in Guatemala City and enjoyed some time in Antigua....so with some coordination and lack of responsibility one can have an enjoyable vacation. 

A tourist to Guatemala who drove into the country 6 months ago and hasn't driven out of the country can take a shuttle to Mexico (San Cristobal, in my case) and then return by shuttle, then drive to the Aurora Airport with their new passport stamp and give them copies of the passport, title, registration and copies of the original vehicle permit, plus the originals, and they will extend the vehicle permit to match the passport stamp without charge.
Cost for me was Q240 to the awesome city of San Cristobal De Las Casas, Mexico (shuttle leaves at 8am can be arranged through many travel agencies picks you up at your door, with a change of shuttle at cuatro caminos and the frontera at La Mesilla, arrives around 3 with an time change gaining an hour), 3 nights at hostel: 80 Pesos each night, 340 pesos return to Xela....(return shuttle leaves at 7am arrives around 3 with another time change losing an hour. I'd recommend a tour of the nearby Sumidero Canyon if you have time, but if you are in Mexico for more than 7 days then there is a rather large 350peso fee to get your passport exit stamped. This was a surprise to many of us on the return shuttle as I didn't have to pay that when I left Mexico 6 months ago after spending 6 months in Puebla, so it may be a new fee. There are signs in the immigration office so it wasn't an invented fee. As I stayed in Mexico only 3 days I didn't have to pay anything for the exit stamp.
Then 600Q for my gas hog van to go from Xela, to Guatemala City Airport, return through Antigua because of the Paddy's BBQ pulled pork sandwich and brownies at the Choco Museo, and then through Solola and Panajachel up from the lake back to Xela.
It cost me around 1000Q which is roughly $130 but it's basically unavoidable unless I want to move to Costa Rica, which would cost much more.

The main point is that the van can stay in the country for another 3 months and has not left the country in 6 months. There is a Prorroga extension available through the Guate city extranjeria ONCE for your passport, but I already used that 3 months ago so I had to personally leave the country for three days...but if I drove myself out then the van would have to stay OUT of the country for 90 days. So I had to take a bus...and then come back and drive to the airport because they inspect the van at the Aduana. Now I have the correct paperwork for the next three months in Central America.

There may be other manners of sorting this out but this is the manner that worked for me.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.