If you’ve been following our Facebook Page or any expat groups on Facebook in Mexico, you’ve probably already heard that INM, aka Mexican immigration, is cracking down on the perpetual tourist. A perpetual tourist is a term used to describe those who come to Mexico on a 6-month tourist visa, leave for a day or two, and get another six months when they come back in.
It was an easy way to avoid getting residency in Mexico. Either because of lack of funds to prove financial solvency, not wanting to go through the process or the uncertainty of whether Mexico is a forever home. But that loophole in the system is quickly vanishing, and tourists are getting caught in the middle of it all.
For the most part, we recommend getting residency in Mexico. But not always.
Let me explain:
Who Should or Shouldn’t Get Residency
You may be in the beginning stages of your research into Mexico. You may have never set foot in this beautiful country before. So, in this instance, I don’t usually recommend you get residency without first determining if Mexico is suitable for you.
Mexico is not for everyone!
If this is your first time in Mexico, take your time to feel it out before jumping straight into a residency. Then, further on, I’ll explain what you can do to ensure INM gives you a long-term tourist visa when entering Mexico.
But for those who have done plenty of research, have visited a few times, watched all the YouTube videos their brain can handle, and are ready to take the next step, I highly recommend getting residency sooner rather than later. Back in 2012, the immigration laws in Mexico changed drastically, and what used to be an FM2 and FM3 became a temporary or permanent residency visa. And when INM made that change, they also changed how it qualified people to have enough economic means to sustain themselves in Mexico.
Because the formula uses Mexico’s minimum wage as a component, the income requirements for foreigners increase every year when the minimum wage increases. For example, in 2021, the income requirements for Temporary Residency in Mexico are around USD 2,200/month. Next year in 2022, they’ll probably increase.
The problem is, your social security, pension, or income may not increase next year. And if you qualify for residency this year, it doesn’t mean your income will be enough to qualify next year. That is why I urge you to run and not walk when securing your residency in Mexico if you’re currently eligible and are serious about moving.
How to Avoid Getting A Short-Term FMM
Traditionally, any foreigner coming into Mexico from a no-visa-required country would get up to 180 days on their FMM or tourist permit. And this was one of the reasons people would get away with being a perpetual tourists forever.
However, INM agents all over Mexico are cracking down, and it seems like they randomly pick the amount they’ll allow on tourists’ FMM. We’ve heard of people getting stamped for 7,10,15,30 days, and so on. But not 180.
This is a problem because many foreigners, whom like you, might be thinking of coming to Mexico on a 6-month scouting trip can no longer make plans to stay long-term!
So what do you do?
One of our recommended immigration experts in Mexico City and Guadalajara has made his observations and gives the following advice:
- Always have a return ticket. Not having a return ticket is an invitation for an immigration agent to assume that you have no plans to leave the country.
- Be pro-active!- Show your INM agent your hotel reservations, your return ticket, and any information that will help you make your case as to why you should get the maximum 180 days on your FMM.
- Bring financial proof of economic solvency. You can bring pay stubs from your current employer, a letter from your employer stating you are working full time, or bank statements showing you have enough to sustain yourself.
- Whatever you do, do not overstay your FMM. Many other “experts” online will give ill-advice and tell you that you can simply overstay your tourist permit and just pay a fine before you leave. While most of the time, this will probably be okay, there are several random INM checkpoints throughout Mexico. Even INM agents may be the culprit by telling you to simply pay a fine when you leave the country if you overstay your FMM! But I want to warn you that just because an INM agent may give you advice of this sorts doesn’t guarantee you won’t get in trouble if you are caught overstaying your FMM. If you are caught traveling without a valid FMM, you can go to jail until they can sort out your status. Keep in mind there are thousands of immigrants making their way to the U.S. through Mexico right now. You may be very last in line waiting to get processed in an immigration detention center. Always carry your original FMM and your passport.
- No, you cannot extend your FMM in Mexico. You have to leave Mexico and get a new one, or go to the nearest INM office or kiosk (usually inside international airports) and report it stolen so you can pay a fine and get a new one. But again, INM has a digital history of all this. If you are a repeat offender, you may get deported or denied entry.
Residency in Mexico in 4 Easy Steps
But the best way to avoid any conflict with INM is to obtain residency in Mexico. And I especially recommend it to those who have already visited and are serious about taking the next step. After all, Mexico has one of the easiest residency visa processes in the world! Here are the 4 steps to follow:
- Make an appointment with a Mexican Consulate near you. Most likely, you’ll have to do this through their online portal. But there have been cases where people can walk in, and be helped on the spot. This is probably the hardest step in the whole process. Mexican Consulates around the world have lost access to a lot of resources and funding, and the result is fewer and fewer appointments available online. To help you out and save you time, we recommend working with one of our recommended immigration experts. Their teams have dedicated people to help find appointments at Mexican Consulates.
- Your appointment at the Consulate and what to expect: Have all your paperwork in order, bring copies of everything, make sure if you are filling as a married couple that you have your marriage certificate apostilled, make sure you meet the income requirements, and write a nice letter in Spanish explaining your intent to move to Mexico. Show up on time, and make sure you are dressed business casual.
- Canje procedure. Once your residency is approved at your local Mexican consulate, you’ll be given a temporary stamp on your passport. From that date, you have up to 180 days to travel to Mexico to do what is called “canje”. Canje is the process in which you exchange your residency stamp for a residency card.
- Go to INM in Mexico. You have up to 180 days to travel to Mexico to exchange your stamp for a residenct card. But once you step foot in Mexico to do your canje, you have up to 30 days to make an appointment with INM, get your biometrics, and pay your immigration fees. If you don’t get this done within 30 days, you’ll have to start again.
And to make sure you can show proof of your legal status in Mexico, make sure you ALWAYS carry your resident card. It has both your picture and your name for INM to identify you and let you be on your way. Some people have been detained for showing a photocopy. Because in Mexico one thing you can count on is inconsistency. Some agents won’t check your residency card, some will. Some will accept a photocopy, some won’t. This is a great video from my friend Ernie, explaining the current situation.
Hire An Immigration Expert
This process isn’t very complicated. However, it is tedious, and there’s a good reason we recommend working with an immigration expert. Not only do they know exactly what documents you should bring to your appointment at the Mexican Consulate, but they can answer your questions to ensure you have the highest chance of successfully getting residency in Mexico.
A good immigration expert will also educate you as to important things like:
- What to do when you come to Mexico to do your canje
- What you need to do to leave Mexico as a resident
- When you should plan to renew your residency if you are temporary resident
- What you may want to say during your interview with the consulate
- Help you schedule your appointment at INM
- Where to pay your immigration fees
Questions like those are usually things an immigration expert will know, like the back of their hand. This will not only save you time, but it will save you money. But not all immigration experts are created equal. We’ve hand-picked the best ones in each region of Mexico and make it easy for you to get access to their contact information.
It’s all part of our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide. Here’s a video overview of what it includes!