Before the pandemic and before the current president- Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador or AMLO- immigration in Mexico was a bit outdated in its systems for lack of a better term. Then AMLO came into the presidency, updated the immigration electronic systems, and created some unintended consequences for a lot of tourists.
What do I mean?
If your passport is from Canada, the United States, Japan, the UK, or any of the countries in the Schengen Area, you used to come to Mexico and automatically receive up to 180 days on your FMM (which some people refer to as a tourist visa). But then the Haitian refugee crisis in 2020 happened. And a lot of refugees are forced to wait in Mexico for their process in the United States. So, Mexican immigration and AMLO decided to update their systems to better track who stayed and left the country.
Those systems also made it easier to track who was a perpetual tourist. And with the changes in the immigration system, another thing happened. Tourists are no longer automatically getting 180 days on their FMM. But no one knows why? And while there are no guarantees anyone can get 180 days to visit Mexico anymore, why not follow a few steps that could help your chances.
So, here are a few tips to help you have the best chances of getting 180 days on your FMM if you’re traveling to Mexico.
Have a return flight!
Immigration in any country wants to keep track of two things: who’s coming in and who’s leaving. No country in the world that I know of will allow you to stay indefinitely as a tourist.
Yet, I consistently get asked why it’s crucial to have a return flight. The simple answer- Mexico wants to ensure you’re leaving at some point. And having a return ticket is the fastest way for INM (Instituto Nacional de Migracion) in Mexico to ensure you have plans to leave.
But what if you want to explore Mexico for 3-6 months and don’t know when you’ll leave? In this case, I highly recommend booking a temporary flight through Onwardticket.com.
The platform allows you to book a ticket for $12 USD, and if you don’t move forward with the reservation, it’ll automatically cancel itself. In the meantime, you get proof of a return flight and don’t have to commit to booking anything in advance.
Dress to impress
Mexican authorities dress sharply, neatly, and cleanly. And although this isn’t a written rule within any law books, looks do matter.
You might be visiting a beach town in Mexico and want to come dressed, ready to hit the pool the minute you can. But my advice is if you’re trying to show a level of economic solvency, don’t show up at the airport in flip flops, a torn t-shirt, and unclean. Immigration might judge you quickly. And they might assume you can’t support yourself for a trip longer than a few days.
Instead- wear closed shoes, don’t wear a hat, be clean, and take off your sunglasses.
In Mexico, how you present yourself matters. Even in a coastal town. Women wear closed shoes, their hair neat, and clean clothes. Men wear dress shoes and dress pants. So, when you get to immigration, they might judge you if you look like a hippy.
I’m not saying it’s right, by the way- but that’s a big cultural difference you’ll have to make a small sacrifice on to help your odds. Don’t worry. As soon as you get your passport and FMM stamped, you can put on the comfy clothes, the flip flops, and the hat and hit the pool!
Have proof of lodging
There are more digital nomads in Mexico today than ever before! And there’s a lot of flexibility in being able to work wherever you want.
But that doesn’t mean immigration won’t ask you for proof of lodging. And you better be prepared to show them your reservations, especially if you want to get a greater amount of time on your tourist visa or FMM.
My advice is if you’re not ready to book 3-6 months in advance- look for Airbnb’s or hotels with a fully refundable policy. Booking.com has a great filter that allows you to see places with a fully refundable policy before you reserve. It’ll help you have proof but also helps you have flexibility.
And, if you do plan to stay put in a single place for a few months and need help finding a fully furnished rental in your budget- Check out our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide. We give you access to our recommended contacts including rental agents in various cities throughout Mexico.
It might be frustrating to arrive in a foreign country, not know the language, and communicate with an immigration agent in Spanish.
But never lose your cool!
Being loud, impolite, or rude are guaranteed ways to get on someone’s bad side in Mexico. And when an immigration agent is holding your visitor rights in their hands, you definitely don’t want to get on their bad side. Likewise, if you are perceived as being in a bad mood, this could also be seen as rude. In Mexico, smiling is a way of showing gratitude.
Here are a few words that will help you sound polite
- Buenos dias (good morning)
- Buenas tardes (good afternoon)
- Buenas noches (good evening)
- Como esta? (how are you- formal)
- Perdon? (excuse me?)
- Gracias (thank you)
- Muchas gracias (thank you very much)
Be formal but friendly. And don’t forget to smile.
It could seem small, but it might irk an immigration agent if they perceive that you’re not paying attention. It may seem rude when there are signs around saying no cellphones, and you’re on your cellphone. It could also be seen as disrespectful if they think that you have no regard for the systems they have in place.
Also, when you get to immigration, there are usually two lines
- Nationals and Residents (Mexicanos)
- Tourists (Extranjeros)
If you’re not a resident or national of Mexico, don’t get in that line unless an official asks you to. You’ll end up getting turned away and asked to get in the back of the tourist line. Don’t waste your time, pay attention, and put your cell phone away. Respect the rules.
Don’t Bother With An Electronic FMM
There’s an online FMM you can fill out ahead of time. When you do, it automatically fills in 180 days on the printout. But the validity of this online form isn’t good until an immigration agent stamps it. Another problem with the online version is a lot of airports aren’t accepting them.
My advice- don’t bother with the online version of an FMM if you’re flying.
The airline will give you a physical copy of the FMM before arriving in Mexico. You should fill it out on the plane. And make sure you fill out both the top and the bottom parts. Also, make sure you carry a pen on you. Most airlines will have a few loaners, but why bother when you could have your own.
Become A Resident
Mexico is one of the easiest countries in the world to obtain residency.
In most cases, you only need to prove $2,600/Month USD in income. And you don’t have to live here full time to remain a resident. In fact, if you become a permanent resident in Mexico you may never have to live here at all.
Residency also has a lot of benefits like
- Being able to import your household goods tax free
- Opening a bank account in Mexico- easier to pay for rent and goods
- You may be able to deduct up to $112,000 USD in income from your U.S. taxes!
- Residents only discounts
- Access to Mexico’s retiree discounts card
- Ability to join the social security healthcare system
- Being able to bring a foreign plated vehicle for up to 4 years (Temp resident)
- Avoid capital gains when selling a house in Mexico
- And getting a Mexican driver’s license
The process is pretty simple, it starts in your home country, and usually costs only a few hundred dollars. With a residency in Mexico, you’ll never have to worry about your tourist visa (FMM) again. You can travel throughout the country whenever you want and for as long as you want.
If you need help finding an immigration facilitator, visit our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide. We give you a full directory of recommended immigration contacts throughout Mexico.