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By Q-ROO Paul | Two Expats Mexico

Once you decide to live in Mexico, the next step is to determine what type of residency status best suits your needs.

Except for those folks who are of Mexican descent and can immediately apply for citizenship, you’re basically choosing between three options: 1) enter as a tourist, 2) apply for temporary residency, or 3) apply for a permanent residency.

Each option has its own advantages, disadvantages and requirements. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide:

Entering as a Tourist

If you’ve ever flown to Mexico on vacation, you’re already familiar with how this option works. When you entered the country, you filled out a form known as the FMM and you were told to retain the card attachment and turn it back in when you left the country. That card is commonly referred to as a tourist card and it allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days at a time.

If you entered by land, you may or may not have completed this form.

If you decide to reside in Mexico as a tourist, you’ll have to take a trip home or cross the border every six months. Fortunately, you can immediately reenter Mexico and the clock starts over.

One word of caution though. There are reports of Mexican immigration officials cracking down on people being perpetual tourists in Mexico — especially when entering by air — and there is always the remote possibility that they could deny you entry.

Advantages:

  1. No need to complete extra paperwork or hire an attorney.
  2. You can enter and leave the country as much as you want.
  3. You can bring your foreign plated car into the country.

Disadvantages:

  1. Many Mexican banks require either a temporary or permanent visa to open a bank account.
  2. You cannot get a Mexican driver’s license in many jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions will allow you to get a temporary license that expires when your tourist card does.
  3. You cannot register a car in many jurisdictions (which is bad if you want to buy one).
  4. You have to physically leave the country every six months.
  5. If you did temporarily import your vehicle into a part of Mexico requiring a temporary import permit (known as a TIP), you will have to renew the permit every six months.
  6. If you only book a one-way plane ticket, you can expect to be questioned by both airline and immigration personnel as to when you plan to leave the country.

Temporary Residency

You can apply for temporary residency status at a Mexican consulate. You have to meet the requirements and submit to an interview. If granted, you will have to go to Mexico within 180 days to complete the second part of the process, after which, you will be issued a temporary resident card that is valid for one to four years.

You are only allowed to have temporary resident status for up to four years. After that point, you will either have to apply for a permanent resident card or leave the country — at least temporarily.  Your then have two options: 1) enter as a tourist, or 2) let your temporary residency expire and then return to the Mexican Consulate to apply for a new one.

Advantages:

  1. You can open a Mexican bank account.
  2. You can buy and register a car in Mexico.
  3. You can get a Mexican driver’s license.
  4. You can bring your foreign plated car into the country.
  5. You don’t have to leave the country every 180 days.
  6. You can import your household items duty-free.
  7. You can obtain an INAPAM discount card.

Disadvantages:

  1. You will have to meet the financial requirements.
  2. You may need an attorney to assist you.
  3. You will have to pay fees.
  4. It is a two part process that begins at the Mexican consulate in your home country and ends in Mexico.
  5. You will have to renew it.

Permanent Residency

You apply for permanent residency the same way you would apply for temporary (see above).

The biggest difference between the two is that the financial requirements are more stringent for a permanent (if trying to obtain one without having spent four years as a temporary resident) and the card never expires.

Advantages:

  1. You can open a Mexican bank account.
  2. You can buy and register a car in Mexico.
  3. You can get a Mexican driver’s license.
  4. You do not have to renew it.
  5. You don’t have to leave the country every 180 days.
  6. You can permanently import your household items duty-free.
  7. You can obtain an INAPAM discount card.

Disadvantages:

  1. You will have to meet the financial requirements.
  2. You may need an attorney to assist you.
  3. You will have to pay fees.
  4. It is a two part process that begins at the Mexican consulate in your home country and ends in Mexico.
  5. You will have to nationalize your foreign plated vehicle or remove it from the country. This will not be an issue if you plan to stay on the free zone (within 25 KM of the border), specified parts of Sonora or in the states of Baja California or Baja California Sur.

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