Unlike their neighbor to the north, Mexico is an extremely welcoming country to immigrants. Within hours, you can be on the beach with a margarita in hand soaking up the sun or enjoying the view from one of the many mountain tops. The climate is perfect and the people are friendly. And, the cost of living is still much less than in many other countries and affordable. However, there is a price to enter paradise.
If you are staying in Mexico for six months or less, you only need a Mexican Tourist Permit, which is an FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple), which many incorrectly call a visa. If you want to stay longer, you can always return to your country of origin and return with another FMM. Although, the Mexican National Immigration Institute (INM) frowns on the use of the Mexican Tourist Card for extended stays, and prefers that you apply for either a Residente Temporal, formerly called FM2 or a Residente Permanente, formerly called FM3.
Mexico raised the minimum wage to 123.22 pesos per day on January 1, 2020. This is an increase of 20-percent from the previous minimum wage and was necessary to bring wages to match the cost of living. However, by law, the cost of immigration is tried to the minimum wage. While not much of a problem for those applying for a Mexican Tourist Permit, which increased to 575 pesos ($30.37 USD as of January 1, 2020), it greatly impacted those who want to emigrate for a year or longer. Let’s go through the different available forms.
Mexican Tourist Card
You can enter the country and stay as a tourist with the Mexican Tourist Permit, obtained at the port of entry for 575 pesos (about $30.37) and good for up to 180 days. The Mexican Tourist Permit is required for all foreign citizen travelers to Mexico. Tourist Permits may be valid for up to 180 days and allow the holder to remain in Mexico as a tourist for the allotted time. While the maximum is 180 days or 6 months, the time actually given is at the discretion of the immigration official (often only 30 to 60 days are granted initially), for longer stays, the tourist card would need to be extended at a National Immigration Institute office, found at all of the International airports in Mexico.
Be sure to hold on to your Tourist Permit and keep it in a safe place, as you will need to hand it in when you are departing the country. If you lose the Tourist Permit will have to purchase another Tourist Permit from the National Immigration Institute office at the airport.
The Foreign nationals who will be working in Mexico are required to obtain a separate Mexican Work Permit (Méxican Permiso de Trabajo) from the National Immigration Institute (INM).
In the past, travelers who were remaining within the border zone with the United States for up to 72 hours did not need a Tourist Permit. The border zone comprises an area roughly 20 km into Mexico from the U.S. border. However, now the Tourist Permit is required for all non-Mexican visitors to the country who will remain in Mexico for fewer than six months.
If you are traveling by air or on a cruise ship, the fee for your Tourist Permit is included in the cost of your trip, and you will be given the card to fill out. If you are traveling by land you can attain a Tourist Permit at your point of entry or from a Mexican consulate before your departure. In the case of arriving by land, you will need to pay for the Tourist Permit and have it stamped by an immigration official when you enter Mexico, otherwise, it is not valid. When traveling by land, there will be a check-point about 20 km into Mexico, and if your Tourist Permit is not stamped, you will be required to return to the border to have it stamped.
Mexico’s National Immigration Institute (INM) now allows travelers to apply for a tourist card online up to 7 days before entering Mexico. You can fill in the Tourist Permit and, if traveling by land, you may pay for the Tourist Permit online. Just remember that the tourist card must be stamped by an immigration official when you enter Mexico, otherwise, it is not valid. Apply for a Tourist Permit online on the website of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute: Online FMM Application.
Upon arrival in Mexico, you will present the filled-in Tourist Permit to the immigration official who will stamp it and write in the number of days that you are allowed to stay in the country.
As mention at the top of this article the minimum income requirements of immigration has increased as of January 1, 2020. Mexican law ties the proof of financial independence to the National Minimum Wage. Since the minimum wage increased by 20-percent on January 1, so did the minimum income requirements. This 20-percent hike puts immigration for many of those relying solely on USA Social Security income unable to immigrate. The average USA Social Security payment in 2020 is $1,503 a month. Disability benefit is $1,258, and aged widows even less. Only those who earned an average of $137,700 for at least 35 years of their working life and file at the full retirement age of 66 years can expect to collect the maximum benefit of $3,011 a month.
With the new minimum wage in Mexico, the minimum proof of financial independence to attain either Temporary or Permanent Residency has increased to $2,608 USD and $3,254.40 USD respectfully.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that the median income for a full-time wage or salary worker on a weekly basis was $900. For a 40-hour workweek, this translates to a yearly income of approximately $46,800. Of the approximately 178 million U.S. wage earners who paid Social Security taxes this year. Roughly 6 percent of workers earn more than the $137,700 USD, according to the US Social Security Administration. The other 94-percent do not earn enough to live out their lives in Mexico.
Temporary Mexican Residency
Residente Temporal, formerly called FM2, is for temporary residency of up to four years. The cost for the FM2 is currently 4,271 pesos (225.56 USD) for 1 year, with discounts offered for 2- and 3-years periods. This is for people who have a job offer in the country, a person who can prove financial independence or people with a marital link to a Mexican citizen or another resident. You will need to complete paperwork to prove financial independence. If you have a job offer or a pension you will need to show that you have income greater than 400 days of the Mexican minimum wage, currently $123.22 MXN (6.52 USD) daily as of January 1, 2020. That comes out to about ~ $2,608 USD given current exchange rates. People who have liquid assets may qualify to show that they have maintained an average balance of 5,000 times the minimum wage (for 2020 it is 123.22 pesos) or 616,100 pesos or $32,544.69 US dollars using the current exchange rate. You must prove it with 12 months of bank statements. You can hold a temporary visa for up to four years after which time you can either leave Mexico or switch to a permanent visa.
Permanent Mexican Residency
Residente Permanente, formerly called FM3, is a permanent resident status. The cost for the FM2 is currently 5,206 pesos (274.99 USD). This is ideal for a retired person, someone who owns property in Mexico, or a person with investments in Mexico. Again, as with the temporary resident visa, you will need to show financial stability by proving an income of 12 months of bank statements. This is an open-ended visa and you can hold it for as long as you continue to qualify.
To qualify for the permanent visa they must show a monthly income of 500 times the minimum wage (for 2020 it is 123.22 pesos) or 61,610 pesos or $3,254.40 USD using an exchange rate of 18.91 to 1 (using January 1, 2020 exchange rate). Present documents with 6 months of bank statements to prove your financial situation. Alternatively, you can show an average monthly account balance equivalent to 20,0000 times of the Mexican minimum wage, about $130,176.04 USD. You must provide 12 months of bank statements to the embassy as proof. These amounts are for a single person, those with a partner will need to increase the amounts by about 50%.
Whichever you choose to obtain, you must start the process at a Mexican Consulate in your home country. It is common for most people to start with the Residente Temporal for 4 years. Later some of them decide to get the Residente Permanente, and then possibly move on to Mexican citizenship. Both can be applied for on your own, or you can employ the help of an immigration specialist.