Sometimes people use bribes to cut through what they see as unnecessary red tape south of the border. The Mexican government acknowledges this is a problem, and as part of a campaign to improve government efficiency they are holding a contest to identify the most useless bureaucratic process.
My own experiences with Mexican bureaucracy came from working as a reporter in Tijuana for The San Diego Union-Tribune. As such, I signed up for a foreign journalist FM3 visa that had to be renewed each year. I probably would have been fine without one, to be honest, but it didn’t hurt to have an FM3 when visiting military bases and proving my identity to skeptics.
So each year there was the usual angst of getting together certified paperwork, thumb-sized photos, and figuring out how to pay for the renewal (one time I was told to put the money into a special bank account, the next year I was told that was absolutely not the way to do it). The system wasn’t really set up to handle correspondents outside of Mexico City so my request got handed off to various agencies. Sometimes it was the Mexican Consulate in San Diego, and other times it was immigration or press agencies in Mexico.
The last year I did this, I was told to send my visa to Mexico City where it lingered for more than a month until I called to ask what was going on. I was then told I had to submit the visa through Tijuana immigration and THEY would send it to the corresponding official in Mexico City.
That was the year my visa did more travelling than I did with two round-trip flights to Mexico City (and it took almost six months to get my itinerant visa back). I never considered using a bribe, but I certainly could understand the frustration some people here must feel. For more background on attempts to combat corruption and bribery in Mexico you can read this dated but still relevant story by The Washington Post. For a story in English about “The most useless bureaucratic process” contest, go here.
Photo of my FM3 with certain details blurred