Ventanas Mexico

Resources for full- or part-time life in Mexico

Provides a blog promoting living in Mexico and promotes books on learning Spanish and how to rent in Mexico.

VISAS and Your Life as a Legal Expat in Mexico

 

Updated 2018

One of the great features about being single is more freedom to come and go.

For most part-time expats, the 180-day stay restriction on a touristVisa is fine, but what if on Day 175 you finally meet someone who really knows Mexico City, wants to visit Roma, the hip district west of the city's historic downtown and will take you? 

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Mexico City

What if your friend calls from the States and wants you to go watch whales in Baja with her (because she is not as comfortable in Mexico) as you are and her vacation falls on Day 185-190 of your stay? 

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Baja

You might decide early on that you want to go back and forth on your schedule, rather than the one dictated by the immigration office.

Visas. Snore, snore, snore….right?  But consider the following.

Many people harbor the idea of Mexico as a "last resort," should they completely run out of money.  Changes in 2012 increased the income requirements necessary for temporary resident’s status in Mexico by 60%, permanent resident status by 25%. 

To meet solvency requirements for a Temporary Visa,  a single person you must prove investments or bank accounts with a monthly balance equal to 20,000 days of minimum wage in Mexico City, or approximately $99,500 U.S. or prove income of almost $2,500/month. According to online forums, the threshold differs from U.S. state to state.

The average social security payment is $1,180 and by itself will not meet the monthly income requirement for a Temporary Resident visa, eliminating Mexico as an option for those romantics for whom the bottom really did fall out and expected to live in Mexico on that alone legally.

If you are in any danger of falling below the income/investment threshold in the next few years, you may want to apply sooner, while your account exceeds the benchmark. 

People are also surprised at times what is not allowed as income, or by how capricious the decision can be. A person in California may be allowed to include rental income in their estimate to the local Mexican consulate,  person in Kansas told not.  That's why it's very important to keep careful notes and records of who you talked to.

I've been told conflicting information from one year to the next in the Denver consulate. You may expect everyone there to be completely bilingual. They are not, although on the surface they may appear to be. Misunderstandings still occur. Knowing what I know now about Mexico, they may not have passed a standardized merit test to get the job.

Who knows what Mexico might do as the number or applicants from the U.S. continues to boom?  Income requirements and visa fees go up every year. They went up from $90 to $200 in Mazatlan in a year.

There are other reasons to apply for a Visa Temporal.  If you are 60 or older, you can apply for a Curp card, which gives you sizable discounts on luxury bus (private) fares, air fares and many other discounts. With a Visa Temporal, you can apply for private or IMSS health insurance (Mexico's govenment health insurance.)

To get started, find your nearest Mexican Consulate. You will have an interview to review the documents to qualify you for the Temporary Resident visa (unlimited entries into Mexico for four years, renewed yearly but non-renewable after four years). 

(Copied word for word from paperwork provided by Denver Mexican consulate.

You will need

1. A letter requesting temporary residence to live in Mexico as a Retiree or Rentista, indicating the city/town where you will live, an address in Mexico and a travel date.

2. Two front and  (and perhaps one right-profile) passport size photos, with visible face and without glasses, color with white background

3. Documents proving economic solvency.

4. Original and one copy of proof of investments or bank accounts (notarized) with a monthly average balance equal to twenty thousand days of general minimum wage in Mexico City (DF) during the last six months.  ($99,630) or

Original and one copy of documents showing employment and monthly income or pension greater than the equivalent of five hundred days of general minimum wage in Mexico City (DF) over the past six months (bank statements) and

5. (If you have property in Mexico) An original and one copy of public deed before a notary public attesting if the alien is in possession of real property in Mexico with a value in excess of forty thousand days of general minimum wage in Mexico City (DF) (64.76 Mexican pesos per/hour) (approximately $2,500 US)

6. Filled out application form provided by Consulate

Payment of consular fees for the issuance of VISA in accordance with the Provisions of Mexican Federal Law, $36.00 (as of 05/2015)

Once you have had your interview and have your paperwork approved, you will return to the consulate and get a green card, like a identification card, that pasted into your American passport. You will receive a physical separate card in Mexico.

Your next trip to Mexico after receiving the green card stamped into your passport must be within 180 days. You cannot leave while they process the paperwork, which includes separate trips to give your fingerprints and receive your card. 

You have anywhere from two to six weeks (depending on your state) once you arrive to Mexico to check in with the Immigration Office of your chosen city.

My process

Once I arrived to Mazatlán, I went to the Immigration Office with my passport and new card pasted inside. I received a document that I took to a local bank in order to pay the $200 processing fee for the new Visa.  The bank gave me a receipt to present back at the Immigration Office in order for to complete the next step: setting an appointment for fingerprinting. 

The Immigration Office sent me an email (in Spanish) a few days later letting me know when they were ready for me to come back for fingerprints. I returned that morning (There are specific hours for this type of tramite.) and had fingerprints taken from all ten fingers. 

Two weeks later, I went in and received a physical card, very similar to the one pasted into my passport.  This is really where the fun begins, as you try to keep straight what you have to do every time you cross the border in order to keep that new VISA.

The FMM is a separate form from the customs sheet (forma aduana), the one that you're given on an airplane before you land to declare the value of what you are bringing in.

When you have a Visa Temporal, you are in essence a "temporary Mexican," no longer a tourist. Each time I go over the border in either direction, when I cross the border into Mexico I have to go to the immigration office (in my case the one at whatever airport I'm in),  and show them my green Visa Temporal card.

They give me the FMM card that tells them where I will be staying/living. You can also ask for a FMM form on the plane but you still have to turn the form in at the Mexican immigration office. They keep part of the form to enter that informtion into their system about my whereabouts. They track us just like we do our immigrants.

Whenever I go back to the United States, I have to hang on to the remaining part of the FMM document during my visit and get it stamped CANJE, at the border whenever I come back to Mexico.

The FMM must be stamped at the border by the Immigration Office. If you happen to be driving across the border and catching a domestic flight from Tijuana to points beyond like I did, you must stop at an Immigration Office either in the city of Tijuana or and have that document stamped at the Tijuana Immigration Office in the airport. 

Remember that or you may be looking at an 11-15 hour trip back to the border in order to keep your newly minted Visa Temporal.

Stamping your passport upon entry does not prove you're in Mexico, giving  them properly checked FMM does.  From now on, the box you check is NOT "tourist", but rather "resident.  I have to keep remembers that I am a temporary Mexican in Mexico's eyes, not an American tourist.  I have to tell them where I'm going in the U.S. as a temporary Mexican (Kind of makes me feel loved.)

Pay close attention to the date on the Visa Temporal when it's issued too. Even though the Temporary Visa, it has to be renewed yearly, at the place where you initially had it issued. 

If you happen to move to another city in Mexico, you need to go to that Immigration office and report your change of address. That will allow you to renew it in the new city when your renewal date comes around.

The requirement to go into the Immigration Office and renew the passport within the year tripped me up too. Once I had the card, I thought I was done. I had paid for two years.  I actually still had to renew it in person in Mexico a year later.

This happened not because I didn't understand Spanish, but because the personnel at the Denver Consulate did not explain it thoroughly in English. 

He showed me a customs form and told me it needed to be signed. He never showed me the FMM card, leading me to believe the custom form was enough. Complicating matters was that (I'd crossed the border in San Diego and taken a domestic flight on Volaris from Tijuana to Culiacan). It was in Tijuana that I was to fill out the FMM card and give it to immigration. I couldn't do it in Culiacan.

Take a friendly trip to a Mexico consulate if there's one in your city. Make it a tiny step toward beginning to think seriously about your journey. Take notes, including the names of people you talk to. Repeat back what you understand the process is. Assume nothing.

If you slept through all that, you can skip the whole Visa Temporal process and never stay over 180 days at a time as permitted by the Tourist visa, like millions of other happy part-time expats.  :)

Related link:  If you want to keep a domestic foot print, consider how to rent your place out at home.  Ventanas Mexico

An more thorough article by Yucalandia on immigration rules.

Next up: All the reasons to consider visiting your prospective Mexican city off-season.

Most recent: Researching Mexico?  What an online hot mess it is. Here's what you're doing wrong.
 

About the author:

Hola, I am Kerry Baker and I'm a partner with Ventanas Mexico and author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web, written especially for adults considering the expat life full or part-time.

At the very least, you'll need to rent first. Take a look at "If Only I Had a Place" for aspiring expats wanting to live luxuriously for less.