**This post has been updated with known 2022 requirements from the Mexican government, but still retains our 4 year experience getting both the temporary and permanent visa.**
For the past four years, I have shared our experiences of getting the temporary visa. This past December, we qualified for the permanent visa and are ecstatic that we never have to go through the process again (at least not in Mexico). If you are just moving to Mexico, the process has become easier. We share our present experience plus a lot of useful information for you to navigate the immigration process almost painlessly.
Why You Do Not Want to Rely On The Tourist Visa
Several expats have lived on a tourist visa in Mexico for years, but things have changed. Before you could stay in Mexico for up to 6 months. You would then leave the country for a day or two and come back and start the next 180 days on a new tourist visa.
Well, things have changed. With the United States putting pressure on Mexico to curb the influx of immigrants from Central America and Venezuela, Mexican immigration has cracked down on everyone coming into Mexico.
When you go through customs, you need to have proof of where are you staying and for how long. Many immigration agents are only giving tourists the number of days they have listed on their hotel or Airbnb reservation plus one day for travel in case there is a problem with the airlines. If you rent or own a home in Mexico, you may be able to avoid the lesser time limit… for a while. But if you do plan on living in Mexico, it just makes sense to get legal residency, whether it’s temporary or permanent.
As we’ve seen over the past 4 years, the Mexican government can change the policies at any time.
Temporary vs Permanent Residency in Mexico
To qualify for either temporary or permanent residency in Mexico, you must show that you can financially support yourself. These financial requirements increase every year. The requirements for permanent residency are a lot more, but after four years of temporary residency you automatically qualify for a permanent visa.
The minimum daily wage in Mexico, now known as Unidad de Medida y Actualización or UMA, increases every year and they use this formula to determine the financial requirements of foreigners entering the country.
In 2018, 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.
When we first arrived n 2018, we needed to show that we made a minimum of $1800 a month for a year (or two) for a temporary visa. The financial requirement for 2022 is now $2730 per month for the last six months or a savings balance of $45,500 for the last 12 months.
For 2022, the Mexican government requires a monthly income of $4550 or greater, or $182,000 USD in savings for the past 12 months.
Some consulates will require 12 months of financial statements, so be prepared. Income can be wages, a pension, or investment profits or a combination of these. Balances in cryptocurrency will not be accepted for either residency visa.
Immigration updated to a more digitized system in late 2020. It still took a year or two for immigration to work out the kinks between the paperwork and computer program, but it has improved greatly. What once took a month to get your visa card now only takes a day if all your paperwork is correct.
The following is based on our experience at the Mexican Consulate in Orlando and Queretaro Immigration.
#1- Applying for a Visa in Your Home Country
The first thing you need to know and do is 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 (they will give you a list of requirements) 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 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, but now I hear it’s just one year of financials required). We needed to show that we have enough money to support ourselves while we are in Mexico.
- Original marriage certificate
For our appointment, we printed out two years of financial statements 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. We 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 (back in 2018) that the visa process in Mexico takes about a month. Now it takes a day or two depending on if you can get an appointment.
The pre-approved visa from the Mexican Consulate is valid for six months.
You must enter Mexico within those six months to complete the process at immigration for your temporary or permanent visa. If you do not enter Mexico within those six months, you will need to go back to the consulate and restart the process.
Immigration Building in Queretaro
The Immigration building in Queretaro moved to a new location in 2020. Even though the outside of the building is visually stunning, it’s in a rundown neighborhood decorated with barbed wire and electrical fencing.
The inside of the building is very stark with white walls. While you wait for your name or number to be called, you sit on round slatted metal benches that are ridiculously uncomfortable. Cushioned chairs are at each window where the immigration officers process your paperwork.
During this COVID era, Immigration has very strict social distancing rules. They have reduced the number of people allowed in during the day to 50 or less (we know this because of what numbers we received over a 3-day period in 2021). They will tell you where to stand in line and where to sit on the benches to observe social distancing practices. Even couples are not allowed to stand or sit next to each other.
You will be given sanitizing hand gel when you enter, and face masks must be worn at all times except when your picture is taken.
FYI: If you hire a lawyer, they will not be allowed to come in to help you. What they can do is take your paperwork in at 9am, check it over with an immigration officer, leave, and then when you are called, you can finish signing and fingerprinting. There are one or two immigration officers that know some English.
In addition, you cannot use your cell phone in the immigration building. This is to “protect” individuals and maybe even their lack of organization. If you planned to play games, scroll social media or read a saved book on Kindle on your cell phone, it is forbidden. Bring a book as there isn’t much to look at.
#2- The Official Visa Process in Mexico
Visa renewals have become easier, and you can get the paperwork processed, fingerprinted, pictures taken and your new card back all in one day.
If you are getting your visa for the first time, you will still need to submit physical photos for their paper records.
We have used a lawyer every year we renewed mostly because our Spanish is fine for a restaurant, but not for government procedures. You can choose to do the paperwork yourself. We just felt more at ease having someone else do it who is familiar with the process. But finding the right lawyer is crucial.
All The Documents Are Online
There are basic forms to fill out about your height, hair color and occupation, etc. You must type in the answers into the website and print the forms.
- Print out 3 copies of each page.
- Sign with blue ink.
- Make three copies of your passport and your visa card if you are renewing.
- Reserve an appointment with immigration and take your documents with you.
You can work in Mexico with a permanent visa, but not with a temporary visa unless you are working for a company that sponsors you or you apply for a work permit. You can apply for the work permit stating exactly what you would be doing for work (ex. wedding photography, engineering consulting, etc), but that’s a long process. It’s best to say that you are making passive income (commissions) from the your original country, or not working at all.
**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.**
Residency Visa Payment Form
There is a payment form that also needs to be printed and taken to the bank to be paid. This needs to be paid in cash. The bank will keep the form and give you back a half sheet receipt. Make at least 3 copies of this. If this is your first year getting the visa, usually the price of the visa is included in your lawyer’s fees. This is because the form requires a bank account number, but you can’t open an account until you show proof of residency.
You can ask your lawyer to take care of the visa payment if you prefer.
For your first year, you will need a letter from your landlord or realtor stating you live at that address. Having the rental agreement and some type of bill with the address on it, is also very helpful.
If you renew and change addresses, there is a form you need to fill out stating the former and current address. Make 3 copies of this. Also bring some type of electric, water or cable bill for proof of address. Make copies of these, too.
* Note: If you change your address more than 3 months ago and did not inform immigration, you could be subject to a hefty fine. This pertains to both temporary and permanent residency.
It’s really unclear how many months of bank statements you have to bring to show proof that you can support yourself. The Mexican Consulate in Orlando asked us for two years of statements. For our first-year visa, it was one year of statements. Even our second year they asked for one year of statements when we were told they weren’t going to ask for them at all. Many expats in Facebook groups argued with me on what’s required, but this was our experience.
In January 2021, our last year of temporary, they only asked for 3 months of bank statements. We applied for our permanent visa in December 2021 and they only asked for one bank statement.
***Make sure to print out copies for each person getting a visa.***
Be prepared with at least a year’s worth of statements. Immigration reserves the right to make your life difficult, so don’t give them an opportunity.
Immigration now takes digitized photos like the ones you are used to at the DMV. And the pictures come out just as horrible.
Ladies (and gents) with long hair, bring a hairband. You will need your hair pulled back to show your ears. Also, if your eyes are below the level of the camera, fold your legs under your butt to sit up higher so you don’t look like a troll in your picture. (Yes, it happened to me.)
Fingerprinting is now digitized as well. This is fantastic because we used to leave immigration with our fingertips covered in ink. You will put 4 fingers down at a time, right, left, then both thumbs at once.
Should You Hire a Lawyer?
When we arrived in 2018, we did not know enough Spanish to feel comfortable dealing with immigration. We hired a lawyer to help us. The process seemed rather chaotic and confusing. We have used a lawyer every year, though we did consider doing the paperwork for our permanent by ourselves.
Choosing a lawyer can be complicated. You want a lawyer that has good relations with immigration, otherwise, they can make your experience absolutely miserable.
We have used three different lawyers:
Lawyer #1- Our first lawyer liked to use fear tactics. She told us if we didn’t have our paperwork right for importing our dog, customs would kill her right there in the airport. Obviously, we fired her. You don’t mess with our dog.
Lawyer #2- Our second lawyer had her assistants do the paperwork, but we still had to make all the additional copies and go to the bank and pay the fees ourselves. For two years (and two assistants), they never had the paperwork right. Immigration sent us away countless times because we didn’t have a certain document or enough copies.
Lawyer #3- Third time’s the charm! She gathered all our past paperwork, filled out the new forms, checked over the paperwork with us, made an appointment at immigration, and checked all the documents with immigration BEFORE we went in. Our appointment was at 10am. We arrived at 9:30, went in at 9:45am (you can only enter the building 15 minutes before your appointment), and we were called up to the immigration officer’s desks by 10:10am. They went over our paperwork, made their own copies, took our pictures and fingerprints, and we were out of there before 11:30am. If you need a lawyer in Queretaro, we would certainly recommend ours.
I have heard that getting a visa in San Miguel de Allende and Cancun is a much easier process. There are more lawyers and officials there that speak English. Be aware that you need to apply for your visa in the Mexican state you will reside.
If you need to leave the immigration building to make copies, there are businesses to the left that will make copies and have immigration counselors to help you.
What If I Am Married to a Mexican?
If you are married to a Mexican and move to Mexico, you will receive a temporary visa for the first year. The second year you will receive your permanent visa. We know this from two of our neighbors. Their spouses had to wait a year for a permanent visa.
Can I Choose Which Temporary Visa I Want?
Wouldn’t that be nice! No, you have to buy the temporary visa for the first year. After that, you can apply for the 2- or 3-year visa so you don’t have to go back to immigration as often. We were able to get a 1-year, 2-year, 1-year temporary visa before we attained our permanent visa. You might want to have a lawyer help you with this.
2022 Updated Visa Costs
- Temporary resident card, up to one year 4739.00 pesos
- Temporary resident card for two years 7100.00 pesos
- Temporary resident card for three years 8993.00 pesos
- Temporary resident card for four years 10,658.00 pesos
- Permanent resident status authorization 5776.00 pesos
Checklist for Your Temporary or Permanent Visa
- Visit a Mexican Consulate in your home country first. Get the pre-approved visa sticker in your passport.
- Come to Mexico within 6 months of receiving your pre-approved visa.
- Hire a lawyer or visit these websites to fill out the paperwork: www.inm.gob.mx or www.inami.gob.mx
- If this is your first time, get physical pictures.
- Make an appointment at Immigration. People with appointments are taken first, then company sponsored workers and students, then walk-ins.
- Bring a book to immigration.
One more thing…Smile. A lot. This will test your patience, but it will be worth it!
***Did You Find This Information Helpful?***
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Do you have questions on prices, neighborhoods, and expectations about starting your new life in Mexico? Ask us directly! We can set up an hour long video conference call on Whatsapp and help answer questions that pertain to you and your lifestyle. Our consultations are $60 USD for an hour. If we go over the allotted time, no worries. We won’t charge you extra. We want you to get the answers you need to make the best decision for a new life.