Thursday, August 2, 2012

Out-Running Our Visa

Americans (among others) who drive to the southern state of Baja (Baja Sur) must have a visitor's visa which is obtained when you cross the border.  The visitor visa is only good for 6 months and cannot be renewed in ANY WAY other than crossing the Mexican border.  We crossed into Baja on November 4th, 2011.  That meant that our visa expired on May 4th, 2012.  Consequently we overstayed our visa by almost 3 months.  Our experience, and what we have been told by others, is that the immigration officials only check for your visa in one place:  AS YOU ARE DRIVING SOUTH at the state border between Baja and Baja Sur (Guerrero Negro).

Back in March, while we were near the southern tip of Baja, we knew we would be overstaying our visa so we had a bit of a backup plan.  It wasn't fool proof but it gave us a little more leverage to play dumb if we got caught.  I won't go into details here, but we did in fact have a new visitor visa that we paid for and had sent to us.  Although it was paid in full, it did not have the required official stamp that you recieve when you cross the border.  That was where we had planned on playing dumb if necessary.  "No stamp?  Ohhh, we didn't know we needed to get a stamp.  There was no one in the immigration office at the Tecate border when we crossed."  I know, weak.

So, as we were heading north, we started to get a little nervous that maybe the immigration official at the Baja Sur border would stop us (even though we've never heard of this happening).  We had been told about a route around the immigration checkpoint that many people take if they don't have their visitor visa.  We hemmed and hawed about whether we should go around the checkpoint.  The night before, we even went for a run and checked out the route beforehand.  It seemed really easy, so after spending the night in a hotel parking lot before the checkpoint, the following day we drove around the checkpoint.

Sat image of the checkpoint

Since this story is part of our blog, you probably expect that something interesting might have happened, right?  Well, fortunately, everything went according to plan.  We drove through the wide-open, salt-flat, desert within sight of the checkpoint and went on our way, without a hitch.  The checkpoint station was a few hundred yards from the road. We could see the checkpoint, just as they could see our conspicuous camper truck rumbling along the desert road.  Gotta love Baja.

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