Yet Another Visa: This Time For Mexico Temporary Residence

For most of our gentle readers, the following yarn will simply be a diversion while you are enjoying your beverage of choice or perhaps waiting for a loved one to finish a doctor’s appointment. For others, it might give you an idea of what it takes to get a Temporary Mexican Residence Visa. There is a caveat though, we have been told that the process is different at each consulate office in the US and at each immigration office in Mexico.

Use this information with caution and I hope you enjoy our tale.

Setting The Scene

Most folks can enjoy beachfront cocktails with the standard Mexican tourist visa, which is often given for 6 months. We chose to pursue the residence visa because we decided to buy a condo on the Riviera Maya and we believe it will be helpful to establish the necessary utility accounts to keep the lights on, so to speak.

For you intrepid souls who may yet yearn to follow us to Mexico, I hope this serves as an instructive if not cautionary tale about what it might take for you to achieve your Caviar Dreams south of the border. I should note we are not without experience in getting foreign residence visas, but, as you’ll see, every time is different.

Getting Started On Home Turf

The Mexican temporary residence visa process starts in your home country, the US in our case. You can initiate the process at any Mexican consulate in the US, except San Diego, which only takes nearby residents. Of course, there may be other consulates that place their own restrictions. The best course of action is to pick one from this list and contact them directly.

You’ll need to allow for slow proceedings in anything immigration-related. We chose to start in Phoenix because that is where we were when our condo purchase offer was accepted. It was also good since we knew we would be in town for 2 months following Diana’s surgery.

To begin, I sent an email requesting two appointments, one for each of us. After about 10 days, I received a response saying the appointment would be 10 days later and that we should each bring a small pile of copies of documents with us. Each person needs to bring their own set, even if they are duplicates.

I later learned the 10-day turn time was because there was only one person at the consulate processing the appointment requests as well as the applications themselves. Her mailbox was very full and she responded when she could. Had she been sick the day of our appointment, who knows when the next available one would have been?

Basic Requirements

The requirements for the Mexican Non-Earning Residence Visa are less than those we faced for our French Visas. For Mexico, they want to see each person has sufficient income or funds to support themselves since this visa precludes working in Mexico. That’s mostly it. In addition to proof of funds, there are other documents and copies of documents required.

These days, the amount of funds required is $2530 in deposits for each of the prior 6 months to a bank account for each person. If you are using a joint account, you’ll need a marriage certificate. If you are using a trust account, don’t. It’s easier to set up individual accounts than deal with the trust docs at the consulate.

We presented our documentation at our appointment, which fell on a Thursday. They were approved and we paid the $51pp visa fee. We left our passports and were told to come back Friday, the day all passports collected that week would be returned with the first temporary residence visa inside. The process could vary a lot at other consulates.

We’re good to go, right? Not so fast. This visa in our passport would only allow us one entry within the next 60 days to continue the process at the immigration office of our choice in Mexico. Moreover, once we entered Mexico, we had 30 days to complete the process. Otherwise, this visa would expire. We would not Pass GO and would Go Directly To Jail (more true than we thought). We would have to start the process anew in the US again.

Navigating Passport Control on Entry

Our next hurdle was actually getting through Immigration Control upon our arrival in Cancun. We were told to be sure to go to the Mexican national immigration line, not the tourist line. Additionally, with our visas in Phoenix, we had received instructions to be sure we got an FMM form showing them that we had registered as Temporary Residents with Immigration.

The thing is, Mexico is getting rid of FMM entry forms for tourists, so they don’t routinely hand them out anymore. When we asked for one, they told us they just needed to stamp and date our visa. Oy. Ok. I hope this really works.

Welcome To Mexico!

A side note: While I really like Mexico, there are definitely things that are done differently here than north of the border. When one is pointed out, the general response from local ex-pats is: “Welcome To Mexico!” After all, you chose to be here. You shouldn’t try to turn this place into another US territory. Embrace the differences and things will go better here.

One area I have trouble embracing is how slow services can be here unless you find a way to motivate the provider to speed things up. An incentive, shall we say. We will see more of this later in this post and I’m sure other posts as we slowly integrate into our new community.

Our First Visit to the Immigration Office

We were told in Phoenix that we should just take our passports and a few documents to the local immigration office and they would exchange the visa inside for our Visa card. As such, we didn’t think there was any rush. So, we went to the local Immigration Office (INM) about a week after we got to town. Everything we read said to arrive early, so we arrived before it opened because we were told it was first come, first served and there were no seats. The first person I met was a private security guard at the door. She had a small wad of cash in her hand (Welcome To Mexico!) and was handing out numbers like a butcher. I got fairly low one, #4. Happily, there were benches in front of the office, so we could at least sit.

For the next hour, I saw people go ahead of us and I thought about that wad of cash. We have a lot to learn about when a palm needs to be greased here. We finally got our number called so we could go into the office and sign into a list and were given another number. Again, we waited for our names to be called. Once we were called up, we presented our documents to an immigration clerk. She reviewed them and gave us appointments to come back in another 2 weeks, which happened to be the day before we planned to leave Playa for our next stop. We thought we would be done that day, so this was a bit of a surprise. But, here we were.

What? We Can’t Just Leave the Country?

Meanwhile, back at the condo, we had been interacting with a real estate attorney for our purchase. We also mentioned we were interested in getting help with immigration, but all of the back and forth with them didn’t yield much. We brought this up again went we went to close on our condo purchase. Only then and with less than 2 weeks to go, we were told we would be unable to leave Mexico until our actual (not initial) residence visa had been obtained.

Still, something could go wrong, like having forms not filled in properly, in Spanish! Worse, some days the internet is down (as it is the day I write this) or the printer is down or the office hasn’t received enough cards to print the new visas. If we didn’t get our visas at our scheduled appointment we would have to get another appointment (who knows when) to be able to try again and only after getting it right could we leave. This wasn’t even a matter of starting over. We could not leave the country!

Hiring Help Getting the Visas

Once we grasped the situation, we asked the attorney for help. After a couple of days, she said she could get us an earlier appointment, and she even guaranteed us getting our cards in time. All for the low, low price of $1500 each. Welcome To Mexico!

Unsatisfied with that path, I noted someone in a local Facebook group had recently asked for recommendations for immigration help. Several folks mentioned a woman named Milly, so we reached out. She seemed experienced and was willing to take us through the process using our existing appointment for $279 each. We decided to take that path and see how things went.

Going to Immigration the Second Time

Two days before our appointment, we went over our documents in person with Milly. There were some items that were missing, but she was able to get everything in place. We had high hopes for getting this done as planned.

We arrived at the INM office shortly before our appointments. Milly’s aide, Ellie, was helping us. I went first because my appointment was first. Ellie got me to an agent and then walked off to assist another client. Uh-oh, the agent is dissatisfied with one of the documents. Ellie! Where’s Ellie? Diana, find Ellie!

Panic Ensued (Only on My Part)

The agent didn’t like that the electric FMM that Milly’s office had filled out for us had an address that omitted our condo number, which didn’t match the address from the required utility statement, even though our name didn’t need to match on the statement.

Ellie and I ran back to their office around the corner to get new FMMs printed for me and Diana. All the while, I’m sweating bullets that the allotted time for my appointment will expire and I will not PASS GO. Armed with new forms, Ellie and I rush back into the agent.

This time, Ellie does all the talking. The next thing I know, I’m paying the visa fees for me and Diana, who never actually needs to come in for this step. We’re told to wait outside to be called back in again to have our mug shots and fingerprints taken. Finally, Diana and then I are brought in and processed. After the pictures, we are told to go outside and wait again for the cards to be printed. We are told these final steps could take 4 hours and we can’t leave until we get the cards. At least we see the finish line.

Not long after, we are presented with our Temporary Residence Visa cards. After being at the INM for roughly 2 hours, the deed is done. Time to celebrate.

Now What?

Our visa is good for 1 year. We have to go through the same process in Playa next year. But then we will be given a 3-year visa and the one after that will be our Permanent Visa. We plan to get assistance from Milly for these efforts, too.

Meanwhile, as Temporary Residents, we need to identify ourselves with Immigration whenever enter or leave the country. No automated kiosks for us. They say it’s not too time-consuming. We shall see.

What Did the Visa Cost?

Tax/fee in Phoenix = $51 pp

Cost of help = 5000 pesos or $279 pp

Cost of a visa in Mexico = 5186 pesos or $290 pp

For a grand total of $620 for each of us. Not including all of the cab rides to get back and forth.

Benefits of Having a Residence Visa

There are not a lot of benefits to the visa unless you plan to spend a lot of time in Mexico. Some local attractions near Playa will give us 50% discounts. We already got into a museum for free, saving us $4 each. Primarily, we will need this for bank accounts and possibly driver’s licenses going forward. I’m sure we will learn of some more reasons to have a visa in the future.

What’s the hardest government-related process you had to endure?

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