A lot of friends back in the U.S. are always asking how processes are different here in comparison to back home. I was recently asked about getting a driver’s license. Although my U.S. license if valid here, I thought I would be a true king of the Mexican road by obtaining my own Mexican license and stowing my U.S. one for trips back there. Each state is different with regulations and I hear that it can be easier in Yucatán than in other states.
First, let me discuss what surprised me and what did not. Surprise: It was a very quick process compared to many other processes that one may encounter in Mexico. Surprise: It is actually pretty expensive compared to some U.S. license costs. A two-year license (Yucatán) costs around what would be $35 USD. In Indiana, our license is valid for six years and costs around $25 (if my memory serves me well). Not a surprise: PAPERWORK!!!! If you have read our post about the obsession with paperwork here, the requirement of paperwork to get things done and the ever so holy CFE bill, water bill or other official ‘comprobante de domicilio’, you are not surprised, either.
So, here in Yucatán this how it’s done:
1) Before you arrive at one of the two locations in Mérida gather your passport, residency card, official bill with your name and address. Bring a photocopy of each! (Note: This was the requirement TODAY. We have heard of other agents wanting to see birth certificates and fideicomisos. We brought both, just in case. Today only the first three mentioned documents were requested.
2) You will arrive at a reception desk and an employee for the SSP (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública), the entity that issues licenses and runs the Yucatan State Police Department, will verify your documents. You will then proceed inside the processing area.
3) An employee will look at the documents and return your originals and keep the copies. She will enter information- address, marital status, emergency contact info, etc. She will print off an application with this for you to check to verify the information.
4) You then move to the doctor on duty with this newly formed stacked of paper. He will ask you about allergies, medical conditions and you will take an eye exam. If you do not know your blood type, you will be given a blood test right there to determine that.
5) Test time! You take your paperwork to the exam area. They assign a computer. You can choose to take the test in English or Spanish. I had heard that the English translations were horrible and confusing, so I opted for the Spanish test. There are ten questions. You are allowed to miss two. Some questions are pretty difficult as they pertain to very minute laws that most people probably do not know. Others are simple. For example, a blue sign of a palm tree in sand appeared on the screen. The question: What does this sign represent? A) a park B) a beach C) a school zone. Pretty obvious. If you have a good grasp of Spanish you should be able to pass with success.
6) Now, after the test prints out, it is added to the growing stack of paperwork with stamps, seals, signatures, etc. You are off to the parking lot to meet with a state police officer for a driving test. I use the term driving test loosely because it is simply a parallel parking task in between cones. Passed that first try. The folks in front of me were allowed numerous attempts until they succeeded. I assume that you could parallel park all day until you do it correctly.
7) The friendly officer gives you a thumbs up and tells you to return to pay. He gives the “book” of papers to another officer who takes them away. Once inside the original waiting area, you await your name to be called to enter the processing center. You pay and receive a fancy receipt with signatures and stamps and then head next to the booth with cameras. They take the book of information. They take your photo and you give a digital signature. The card is printed within a minute!
There you have it !!!! All of this in less than an hour! Very easy! Very friendly staff! Back home, people would rather take a needle to the eye than to visit the license branch. Also, even if you plan on taking the test in English, I recommend taking a Spanish speaker if your Spanish is not beyond a basic level. You will be asked several questions and directed to many locations. It may take the stress away if you have some language support. My friend took advantage of this outing to come along to obtain his license and was less stressed with the language assistance I gave him.
I would love to hear of other experiences in other states! I have already heard of some humorous experiences in Morelia and in Guanajuato. Please share your experiences with us!