By Tom O’Malley, former SW Bell Director in Mexico
Forwarded by Howard Rien, U.S. Navy (Ret)

I spent five years working in Mexico. I worked under a tourist Visa for three months and could legally renew it for three more months, but technically illegal for three weeks waiting on the FM3 approval

During that six months our Mexican and US Attorneys were working to secure a permanent work visa called a FM3. It was in addition to my US passport that I had to show each time I entered and left the country. Barbara's was the same, except that hers did not permit her to work.

To apply for the FM3 I needed to submit the following notarized originals (not copies):

  • Birth certificate for Barbara and I.
  • Marriage certificate.
  • High school transcripts and proof of graduation.
  • College transcripts for every college I attended and proof of graduation.
  • Two letters of recommendation from supervisors I had worked for at least one year.
  • A letter from The St. Louis Chief of Police, indicating that I had no arrest record in the US and no outstanding warrants, and was “a citizen in good standing.”
  • Finally; I had to write a letter about myself that clearly stated why there was no Mexican Citizen with my skills and why my skills were important to Mexico. We called it our “I am the greatest person on Earth” letter. It was fun to write.

All of the above were in English that had to be translated into Spanish, and certified as legal translations, and our signatures notarized. It produced a folder about 1.5 inches thick with English on the left side and Spanish on the right.

Once they were completed, Barbara and I spent about five hours accompanied by a Mexican Attorney touring Mexican Government office locations, and being photographed and fingerprinted at least three times. At each location, and we remember at least four locations, we were instructed on Mexican tax, labor, housing, and criminal law, and that we were required to obey their laws or face the consequences. We could not protest any of the Governments actions or we would be committing a felony. We paid out four thousand dollars in fees and bribes to complete the process.

When this was done we could legally bring in our household goods that were held by US customs in Laredo Texas. We had rented furniture in Mexico while awaiting our goods. There were extensive fees involved here that the company paid.

We could not buy a home, and were required to rent - at very high rates and under contract and compliance with Mexican law.

We were required to get a Mexican drivers license. This was an amazing process. The company arranged for the licensing agency to come to our headquarters location with their photography, finger print equipment, and laminating machine. We showed our US license, were photographed and fingerprinted again and issued the license instantly after paying out a six dollar fee.

We did not take a written or driving test and never received instructions on the rules of the road. Our only instruction was never give a policeman your license, if stopped and asked. We were instructed to hold it against the inside window away from his grasp. If he got his hands on it you would have to pay ransom to get it back.

We then had to pay and file Mexican income tax annually using the number of our FM3 as our ID number. The companies Mexican accountants did this for us and we just signed what they prepared. I was about twenty legal size pages annually. The FM 3 was good for three years and renewable for two more after paying more fees.

Leaving the country meant turning in the FM# and certifying we were leaving no debts behind, and no outstanding legal affairs (warrants, tickets or liens), before our household goods were released to customs.

It was a real adventure. If any of our senators or congressman went through it once, they would have a different attitude toward Mexico.

The Mexican Government uses its vast military and police forces to keep its citizens intimidated and compliant. They never protest at their White house or government offices, but do protest daily in front of the United States embassy. These are never shown on US or Mexican TV. There is a large public park across the street where they do their protesting. Anything can cause a protest, such as proposed law changes in California or Texas.

The US embassy looks like a strongly reinforced fortress and during most protests the Mexican Military surround the block with their men standing shoulder to shoulder in full riot gear to protect the embassy.