Renewing an Australian E3 Visa in Mexico City

The E3 visa (and any dependent visas such as the E3-D) will need to be renewed every two years. If you are currently living/working in the US, you will need to leave the country to complete this process. To my knowledge it is not possible to renew the E3 without leaving the US. There are already some great blogs posts out there that thoroughly cover off how this process works namely this one so instead I’ll focus on any gaps and explain how my experience went.

Sunday: Fly In

My wife and I flew in via United Air into Mexico City from San Francisco at around 7pm CST. Airport wise, everything is fairly usual in Mexico City and after about an hour(!) of waiting in lines for immigration we were cleared to pick up our bags and pass through customs. The phones carriers in Mexico are TelCel and Movistar, and after purchasing data roaming packs beforehand in the US and restarting our phones we connected to TelCel from the airport without any trouble.

Taxi To The Hotel

We had initially planned to get an Uber from the airport to the hotel, but in the end we got a Taxi anyway for about $12 USD / 280 Peso to the Sheriton Reforma, Mexico City. There will be several taxi companies with reps in small booths quite close to the awaiting/parked Taxi’s who will sell you a taxi ticket. They will call out to you and you should just pick one. You will need to buy a ticket anyway before anyone will let you get a ride. You can pay for the Taxi using a credit card and overall I actually liked the system because it solves several problems: 1) It’s nice and organized with no fighting or ride stealing and 2) It’s paid up front with no sneaky overcharging or hidden costs. Once you have your ticket, you can present it to the taxi coordinator guy and he’ll point you towards the taxi you should get into. We also tipped our taxi driver 20 Peso. I am unsure whether this was the correct amount but he was thankful anyway.

As an FYI, police cars drive with their lights on (the red/blue variety) when everything is ok. They’ll switch their siren on when they are in a hurry.

Hotel: Sheriton Reforma

The primary reason why staying at this hotel is preferred is because it is really close to both the ASC(Applicant Services Center) and the Consular Section. In fact, the ASC is about 400m away and the Consular Section is literally next door. Google maps locations are further below. There is a pool on the roof (little small, but the water was warm), and there is a restaurant and a Starbucks located on the ground floor. We stayed in the Corner Reforma Suite (1504) and had club access which meant we could wander in and grab breakfast or snacks and coffee whenever we wanted (there’s a Nespresso machine there :). The room was amazing with a fantastic view overlooking the Angel of Independence.

2016-01-18 11.28.11

The hotel was very clean and almost everyone spoke English and were very pleasant. I would highly recommend staying here.

There was also lots of bottled water in the room that got replenished each day with the room service. I wouldn’t recommend you drink the water from the tap here and to be careful about ordering salad’s or getting ice in your drinks as it’s probably been washed/made from tap water. Just be careful.

Also, the WiFi in the room was pretty reliable but would only allow us to connect up in one of bathrooms (something we eventually discovered) even though signal strength was perfectly fine which was a little odd. Data appeared to be unlimited at about 1mb/s.

Monday: ASC Appointment

The actual address is Hamburgo #213, Colonia Juarez, Cuauhtémoc but I have provided a street view of #206 which shows people waiting outside to enter the building.

There will be a CSC official who will check your paperwork while you wait in line (ASCappointment confirmation, DS-160 and passport). They tend to wear a red jacket/windbreaker and so are quite noticeable.

Reading from the DS-160 confirmation instructions page: “applicants under 7 years old or over 79 years old must provide two color photographs…” and “children under 7 years old and applicants over 79 years old DO NOT need to appear in person at the ASC…”. Basically, you’re here to get your photo and fingerprints taken if you fall within that age range.

Once your documents are checked, they will rubber band everything you need. Next, you will be security checked by an official with a metal detector wand and any bags will need to be opened ready for inspection. Eventually you will reach a counter where two officials will check your paperwork once more before forwarding you on. You can just see them in the Google street view image above. Next, another official will check your papers and make sure you aren’t wearing any jewellery (my wife had to take her earrings off) and are ready for your photo to be taken. Happy, he will then tell you a counter to line up at so that you can have your photo and fingerprints taken. My wife who was applying for her E3-D renewal, also needed my passport in addition to her documents when she had her photo and fingerprints taken. Your appointment for tomorrow at the Consular Section (which you will have already booked) should also be additionally confirmed. After your photo and fingerprints have been taken, you can exit stage left and enjoy the rest of your day.

Tuesday: Consular Appointment

Our appointment was for 8am so we at breakfast upstairs in the hotel and then headed next door to the Consular Section. The Google street view below has you looking straight at the building you will need to eventually enter. Where that closest fence is, is where you will need to line up. At the fence there will be a CSC official who will check your papers and forward you along. Your passport and papers bundle at this next stage will be collected from you. Don’t freak out, it will be returned to you shortly after you are seated inside.

You will need to remove any jackets and metal items like belts before you enter. It’s quite an orderly process. Tip: I has happy that I didn’t bring my phone along. Electrical items are collected by an official while you are waiting in line before you enter the building and placed into individual clear zip lock bags. You are then given a number to later to collect your items. Whilst I am sure the process is legit and works, I would have been very nervous having my phone in a crate with tens of others.

Once inside, there will be another security check much like airport security. You will need to place your belongings into a bucket and slide it through a metal detector before stepping through a full body scanner yourself.

Moving along, there was a little confusion around which area to send us to but once we were seated there was an official who basically had charge of an area and directed us around where we needed to go. People with different visa types seemed to be grouped in the same area. Finding someone who spoke English here would have been a challenge.

After about 20mins of being seated, our passports and paperwork bundles were handed back to us and we were directed to have our photo and fingerprints taken… again. There was apparently a computer problem the previous day and none of the ASC data made it through to their systems. Same process as before at the ASC. No jewelry allowed for the photos.

Once our photos were taken we were directed back to our original seats and waited another 15min before being called up to line up at one of the tellers which lined the perimeter of the building. In line we waited another 10min before finally getting to a window to start our interview. The lady spoke English very well and we were able to exchange a couple of nervous jokes. She asked a couple questions about my job and then rescanned our fingerprints. Visa renewals approved. In return of taking our passports, we were handed a purple card with a number and some paperwork with the details of when we could pick up our passports. Processing normally takes 48 hours (but could be longer).

Thursday: Passport Pickup

The passport pickup location is at the same place you queue for the consular appointment (see Google street view image above). Our pickup time was for 3pm and we arrived 20mins early as per the instructions given to us. There were about 6 other people lined up, so all things considered it was pretty quiet. When 3pm ticked around, the security guard opened a gap in the blockade and let us through for security processing. This was exactly the same deal as per our previous visit. Phones and other electrical equipment such as smartwatches will need to be surrendered. Belts need to be taken off.

Past the security check, we were directed to one of the tellers where an English speaking official took our purple ticket and handed back our passports with their new visa pages. All done. Exit stage left. Interestingly, the old visa page cops a big black CANCELLED WITHOUTPREJUDICE stamp over the top. While you are still in the building make sure that everything is spelled correctly, as explaining “a spelling mistake” to Spanish speaking security guards once outside would be quite difficult.

Friday

Even though we received our passports back the previous day, I would still strongly suggest staying for the 5 days. If visa processing happens to take longer than the 2 days, then the Friday will serve as your buffer day.

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