Getting residency in Mexico is a pretty simple process. Yet, I see so many people who either think Mexico’s immigration laws are non-existent. Or I see people who know they exist but don’t obey them. I’ve read reports that said as much as 91% of Americans living in Mexico, are there illegally.
I hear stories all the time about people either overstaying their visa or simply leaving the country every 6 months to avoid having to get a residency visa. Then they are surprised when they get caught, and get fined or turned away at the border. And the Mexican National Immigration Institute (aka INM) is starting to crack down on perpetual tourists.
If you are thinking about moving to Mexico, you should really understand that you can legally get residency. If you are coming in as a tourist to check it out before moving here, you should also know how long you’re allowed to stay. Either way, the following information should help you decide what to do to be here legally.
Learn how to get your residency in Mexico the right way. We cover the process for Temporary and Permanent Residency in our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide.
Tourist Visa or FMM
You might be coming to Mexico to check it out before making any big decisions. That’s a great idea! I suggest taking your time to explore this beautiful and large country before going through the process of getting a residency visa in Mexico.
And why not? You’re allowed to stay in the country for up to 180 days as a tourist if your passport is from one of the “no visa required” countries. Luckily, the U.S. and Canada are both on the list. Phew!
Basically, when you arrive in Mexico you’ll be given an FMM. This serves as your tourist visa, and you can travel all throughout the country for a maximum of 180 days. IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO KEEP THIS SLIP IN A SECURE PLACE AS YOU HAVE TO SURRENDER IT TO LEAVE MEXICO.
Flying Into Mexico
Some of you will be flying or sailing into Mexico to finish your residency visa process.
The fee of an FMM is usually included in your ticket. Most likely, an agent will give you this form to fill out before entering Mexico. You’ll need to fill out a declaration form before arriving in Mexico, and you only need to fill one out per family.
If you’re coming in as a tourist, an immigration officer will stamp your passport and issue you a slip with the amount of time you are allowed to stay in Mexico. If you’re coming in to finish your residency visa in Mexico, you’ll need to let an agent know they need to mark you as “canje.” It’s super important, and I cover that in detail further down.
You want to pay close attention to the stamp on your passport. Usually, an immigration agent will give you the maximum 180 days allowance. (Unless you are coming in as a resident to receive your resident card. I explain that later on.)
Driving Into Mexico
A lot of people moving to Mexico decide to drive across the border. Makes sense to me. You might have pets. You might have household goods. Or, this vehicle may be your transportation in Mexico. And if you decided to get your residency in Mexico, you might need a car.
If you decide to drive to Mexico, you’ll still need to get an FMM. An FMM costs 638 pesos or roughly USD 32. (as of Jan 1st, 2022)
You might read online that no one checks this while you’re driving in Mexico. It may be the case, but it’s required by law for you to get one upon arrival. If you get caught without one, it could cause trouble for you while you’re in the process of getting your residency visa in Mexico in the future. And no one at the border in Mexico enforces you to get an FMM. So it’s your responsibility to either buy one online ahead of time or get it at the border when you cross.
When you drive across the border, there is usually an INM office for you to get your FMM. They will need to see your passport, at least 6 months before it expires. Usually, an immigration officer will give you an FMM for up to 180 days if you are from one of the “no visa required countries”.
It’s extremely important that you let an agent know you are coming in as a resident and not a tourist if you are in the process of getting your residency in Mexico (also known as “canje”). If they mark your FMM as a tourist, your residency visa will no longer be valid, and you will have to start all over again. So don’t let an INM agent brush you off.
Make sure they mark it correctly.
Getting a TIP permit for your car
Assuming you are driving your own car across the border, you’ll also need to apply for a TIP. (Temporary Vehicle Permit) A TIP allows your foreign plated vehicle to be driven while you are in Mexico.
The cost of a TIP is MXN 1,130.65 or roughly USD 52.
You can ONLY apply through Banjercito, but I found the process on their website to be really easy!
And if you like to plan ahead you’ll be pleased to know that you can get your TIP permit from 7 and up to 60 days before travel. Usually, a TIP is good for up to 180 days
Stays Longer Than 180 Days
If you’re planning to stay in Mexico for more than 180 days you’re required to apply for a temporary or permanent residence visa. And yes, you can get deported if you’re caught overstaying your visa. If you only want to be in Mexico temporarily, you have to leave by the 6-month mark and surrender your FMM. You can come back to Mexico and get another FMM for an additional 180 days, but if you plan to stay for more than 6 months, you should probably look into a residence visa.
The most popular visas for ex-pats are either the temporary resident visa (residente temporal) or the permanent resident visa (residente permanente).
Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for one or both. I’ll explain how you can determine which one is right for you and how to apply.
Temporary Resident (Residente Temporal)
The most common visa in Mexico is a temporary resident visa. To qualify for a temporary residency visa you need to:
- Demonstrate monthly income of approximately USD $2,600 monthly for the past 6 months. You will need to provide at least the last 6 months of bank statements.
- Demonstrate a minimum balance in investments or savings of approx USD $43,000 for the last 12 months. You’ll need to provide at least the last 12 months’ bank statements.
- You can also submit official documents issued by Mexican Notary proving the ownership of a property/company/business and one photocopy with a minimum value of $320,000 USD
Permanent Resident (Residente Permanente)
A permanent resident visa is less common because to qualify; you need to prove a higher amount of savings or income. *In some cases, you also have to be of retirement age. I’ll go over that further down. To qualify for a permanent residency visa, you must:
- Demonstrate a minimum monthly income of approximately USD $4,350 for the last 6 months/
- Demonstrate a minimum balance in liquid assets of approximately USD $170,000 for the last 12 months with bank statements showing this minimum balance each month.
- *It is worth mentioning that some consulates require you to be a pensioner or of retirement age (over 60) to apply for the Permanent Resident VISA without having the Temporary Resident VISA first. However, different consulates in the USA have different rules. It is best to check with your immigration facilitator.
For most expats you’ll have to start the process for a permanent visa in the country you live in. Once you are granted a permanent resident visa you have to go to Mexico to finalize the process.
Same as the temporary visa, it is valid for up to 180 days and once you arrive in Mexico you have up to 30 DAYS to exchange it for a permanent resident card. This is known as CANJE.
Your permanent visa is valid indefinitely. You don’t have to renew it as you do with a temporary visa. You’re also allowed to work without having to apply for a work permit. However, you do need to tell INM if you have taken a job offer in Mexico.
Residency For Family Reunification
You may qualify to apply for residency without having to leave Mexico.
You qualify if you are the:
- Parent of a Mexican citizen/permanent resident
- Child of a Mexican citizen/permanent resident
- Sibling of a Mexican citizen/permanent resident
- Child of the spouse/common-law partner of a Mexican citizen/permanent resident
Instead of starting the process in a Mexican consulate/embassy near you, you would start the process at one of the immigration offices in Mexico.
Should You Hire An Immigration Lawyer?
Getting an appointment at the Mexican Consulate in your country of origin might be impossible these days. Appointments are scarce and you might have to dedicate a few days to calling and checking online every few minutes just to see if you can get one.
You also might not feel comfortable going to an immigration office in Mexico. Especially if your Spanish isn’t strong. Or you might not know if you are filling out the paperwork correctly. And trust me, you want to fill it out right the first time. It’ll save you multiple trips back and forth.
So hiring an immigration attorney or facilitator might be a good idea. We have a list of vetted and very affordable immigration lawyers and facilitators around the country. All of them speak Spanish and English. They have dedicated staff just for the sole purpose of making appointments at Mexican Consulates for your initial interview. They’ll prepare you with the right kind of paperwork. And most importantly, they’ll know the best immigration offices in Mexico where you can do your residency exchange in a day or so.
It’s worth every dime.
How To Decide Which Immigration Attorney Is Right?
Not all immigration attorneys are the same. They vary a lot in costs and services provided. And in some cases, they’ll never deliver what they promised to do. Leaving you unsatisfied and having to hire a different person.
When you hire an immigration attorney it’s a good idea to interview them to know what’s included. You should ask questions like:
- Will you translate the documents for me?
- Are government fees included in your price?
- Will you provide an official translator?
- How long can I expect the process to take?
- Will you schedule my Mexican Consulate appointment for me?
- If I process two resident permits, are your fees the same per person?
You can expect reputable and efficient immigration lawyer fees to be around $400-$600 USD per person. However, your final cost may depend based on your specific situation and the amount of paperwork they may need to arrange for you. But I’ve heard stories of expats being taken advantage of and paying thousands of dollars to scammer immigration lawyers who didn’t deliver. All because they didn’t do their research.
We only work with the best and most reputable immigration contacts around Mexico. And we only work with immigration lawyers whose fees are reasonable. Want to learn more about working with our recommended immigration lawyers.
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