VISAS and Your Life as a Legal Expat in Mexico
One of the great features about being single is more freedom to come and go.
For many 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 historic downtown and will take you?
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?
You might decide that you want to go back and forth on your schedule, rather than the one dictated by the immigration office.
I try to limit “how-tos” articles to the things you’ll need to know the first year, since you probably have not even taken your test-drive extended stay yet.
Planning which visa you want to apply for falls into that category. You may want to obtain a visa for longer term stays (Temporary Resident visa) sooner rather than later for many reasons that I’ll cover in later articles.
Visas. Snore, snore, snore….right? But consider the following.
I have a dear and crazy friend in San Diego. He always joked that if the bottom fell out financially (his bottom I would presume because once I saw his pants slide right off of him while walking across a street), he would move to Mexico.
I had to break the news to him recently that that window has closed. Changes in 2012 increased the income requirements necessary for temporary resident’s status in Mexico by 60%, permanent resident status by 25%.
Who knows what they might do as the number or applicants from the U.S. continues to boom?
To meet solvency requirements for 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.
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.
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). 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 receive a form to accompany your passport. Your next trip to Mexico must be within 180 days and you cannot leave while they process the paperwork, which includes separate trips to give your fingerprints and receive your card.
You must get your FMM, stamped CANJE, at the border. Do not forget that. I misunderstood this part and have a very special story saved for you later.
The important thing for you to know is that it must be stamped at the border. If you happen to drive across the border, perhaps even catching a domestic flight from Tijuana to points beyond to save money, you must stop at an immigration office and have that document stamped.
This is the form that you are used to seeing as a customs declaration sheet, the one that you're given on an airplane before you land to declare the value of what you are bringing in.
Stamping your passport upon entry does not prove you're in Mexico, that custom form does. Remember that or you may be looking at an 11-15 hour trip back to the border.
Then once you reach your Mexican destination, you register at a local immigration office in Mexico to begin this process within 30 days of arrival, which includes figure printing and the issuance of a card the paste into your passport.
Pay close attention to the date. Even though the Temporary Visa is good for several years, it has to be renewed yearly. That tripped me up too.
Once I had the card, I thought I was done because I had paid for two years when I actually still had to renew it in Mexico by a certain date. That caused me to have start the process all over again the following year.
This happened not because I didn't understand Spanish, but because I didn't completely understand the English of the personnel at the Denver Consulate.
They showed me the declaration document and made clear it needed to be signed. I missed the part that it had to be at the border and couldn't wait until I arrived at my destination.
I copied these requirements (except for my fuck-up confessions) word for word from the form I received from the Mexican Consulate in Denver.
The income calculations are already at odds with some on-line sources. Exchange rates and minimum wages fluctuate too. The biggest reason for the contradictions is the general ambiguity surrounding many Mexican “tramites,” or bureaucratic processes. Sometimes you feel as if nothing is set in stone here.
Take a friendly trip to a Mexico consulate if convenient, a tiny step toward beginning to think seriously about your journey. You may want to go straight for the Visa Temporal, which is required for basic government health insurance in Mexico.
Or, if you just slept through all that, you can skip the whole process and never stay over 180 days at a time, 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.
Most recent: Researching Mexico? What an online hot mess it is. Here's what you're doing wrong.
Hola, I am 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.