**This post has been updated with 2020 requirements from the Mexican government, but still retains our experience getting a visa the first and second year.**
Getting a visa to live full-time in Mexico takes time and some exhausting work. Many people live in Mexico part time especially from the Northern states to escape winter. This is because the regular tourist visa you receive when entering Mexico is good for 6 months compared to the 90 day visa you receive in most other countries. Part-time living is fine if you want a winter home in warm weather and spend your summers with family after the snow has melted. But we went “all-in”.
The following is just what we had to go through, though after talking to several people, we all seem to have very similar experiences.
#1- Applying for a Visa in Your Home Country
First thing you need to know is that you need to apply for the temporary or permanent visa in your home country. Visit the Mexican Consulate closest to you to find out the requirements you need to apply for the visa. Make an appointment to present all your paperwork and get the visa sticker in your passport.
Visit www.mexonline.com for a list of Mexican consulates in the United States and Canada.
**The Mexican Consulates across the United States have similar, but different requirements. What may be required in Chicago could be very different then what is required for Dallas or New York.**
At the Orlando Mexican Consulate office, we could only make an appointment on Wednesdays to apply for our Mexican visa. The following is what the Orlando Mexican Consulate office required from us: (please check with the consulate closest to you for their specific requirements):
- A record of all income, stocks, 401K, and any other investments for a year or two (they changed it from a year to two years just before our appointment). We needed to show that we have enough money to support ourselves while we are in Mexico.
- Original marriage certificate
For a temporary visa, we needed to show that we make a minimum of $1800 a month for a year (or two). This was in 2018. The current requirement is $1945 USD per month. We had enough income to apply for the temporary visa, but until our house sold, we did not have enough money for the permanent visa. The temporary visa has to be renewed each year up to 4 years, then we will receive a permanent visa. There are lawyer fees each year until you acquire the permanent visa.
For a permanent visa, we needed to show that we have $129,000 (in 2018) consistently in the bank for a year. We could also apply for the permanent visa if we bought a house and showed that the value of the house met or exceeded this monetary value. In 2020, the Mexican governmemt raised the minimum wage and consequently also raised the financial requirement for foreigners. Currently, the Mexican government requires at least $32,450 USD in savings for the last 12 months, or an income equivalent of $1945 USD per month for a temporary visa. For permanent residency the visa requirements are $129,700 USD in savings or income equivalent of $3245 USD month. (Income can be wages, a pension, or investment profits.)
If you plan to invest in real estate in Mexico as a way to get permanent residency, your house must be valued at $260,000 USD to qualify.
For our appointment, we printed out two years of each month’s revenue, plus copies of our passports. The marriage certificate needed to be an original. The packet we presented was over an inch thick. Their computer system was not working well that day, but we did get all the necessary paperwork in, had our pictures taken, and paid the necessary amount for the visa sticker in our passports. This temporary visa was valid for up to 6 months. The next time we entered Mexico, we would have to go to immigration to get the “real” temporary visa. We were told by the Mexican Consulate that the visa process in Mexico takes about a month. We were about to find out why.
#2- Beginning the Official Visa Process in Mexico
We hired an international relocation lawyer to help us with the official paperwork needed for our visas. We began the paperwork process on our second day in Querétaro.
Some of the paperwork questions were very basic like how tall we were, how much did each of us weigh and what color our eyes are. Other questions dealt with occupation, if we plan on working in Mexico, etc. WIth a permanent visa, you can work in Mexico, but not with a temporary visa unless you apply for the work visa stating exactly ehat you would be doing for work (ex. wedding photography, engineering consulting, etc).
**If you plan on working online or have a business back in your home country, tell them you will NOT be working especially for the temporary visa. If you try to be as truthful as possible, it confuses them and there’s more paperwork involved. We told them we are “living off of commissions” from our businesses.**
The only thing we did not have was a home address in Querétaro. Luckily, our house hunting didn’t take long. Three days later we presented a document from our realtor stating we would be renting at such-n-such address for a year.
On that day, our lawyers’ assistant picked us up at our Airbnb and took us to Santa Rosa to get our visa pictures taken. They were very specific about this. A passport picture was not good enough. It needed to be a specific size and show our ears. Ladies, you need to put your hair back in a ponytail if it’s long.
The store we went to was incredibly small and super busy. The man in front was making copies for the crowd (there was no organized queue). The lawyers’ assistant, a small petite woman, pushed her way to the front to arrange our special photos. Five minutes later a woman came out from the back and ushered us inside. She had a photo studio set up in the dimly lit room. We each took our turn sitting on the small stool for two pictures: front and side-view. Once the pictures were printed, we were on our way to immigration.
Immigration Office- Visit 1
The immigration office was downtown near the historic area. Our lawyer and another assistant had been waiting in line since 7:30am. They pushed us past the crowd waiting outside and sat us down in the waiting room. It is recommended to bring a book since the wait can be many hours. Many Asians and Northern Europeans filled the seats. Because of the major influx of international businesses, it truly was a melting pot of nationalities.
A few hours later, and two visits to the window with our paperwork, we left the immigration office with an official document that said we were in the “process” of getting our temporary visas. We still needed to be fingerprinted, but they did not have the visa cards in stock that day. The lawyer told us it will probably only take one or two more visits. I was thinking, that’s not too bad. We would have our visas in a week or two, and then I could go back for our dog Hayley. Wishful thinking.
Immigration Office- Visit 2
Ten days later, we had another appointment at the immigration office. This time we were fingerprinted, but again, they did not have the visa cards in stock. They were waiting on a shipment from Mexico City. This time the waiting room was mostly filled with Venezuelans and people from India.
The good news is our lawyer said that she could come and pick up the cards for us. Another 10 days later, and they were ready. Just in time, because we were having some major issues without that “proof” that we lived here.
I have heard that getting a visa in San Miguel de Allende and Cancun is much easier, and there are more lawyers and officials that speak English. Because of the major international businesses setting up headquarters in Querétaro, they are having a hard time keeping up with the influx of immigrants.
This post is just what we had to go through. In all, it took us almost exactly a month to receive our visa cards. We met some friends in San Miguel who were applying for their permanent visas in Mexico City. Their process took 4 days, but everything took place in the same week.
Year Two of Our Temporary Visa (and updated 2020 Prices)
We switched lawyers for our second year renewal because we were getting misinformation from our lawyer. To renew for the second year, you can only start the process exactly one month before your visa expires. We applied for a three year renewal, but were onlyable to renew for two years. Still, this was helpful because our renewal time period was over Christmas and New Year’s when the immigration office has extremely limited hours.
The process was very similar to what I described in the first year. We were told we didn’t have to show financial records after we received our temporary visas the first time, but the immigration office did require it again.
TIP: Bring everything again.
The processing time wasn’t any quicker. We still had one appointment for paperwork, another for fingerprinting, and yet another to pick up our visas. In total, the process for the 2nd-3rd year visa took just over a month.
If you decide to go all-in and get a visa, just know that it will take time and a lawyer will be very helpful.
One more thing…Smile a lot. This will test your patience, but it will be worth it!