It’s not a rumor. It’s definitely the real deal because we’ve tried it ourselves! The Instituto National de Migracion (INM) opened a new regularization program that allows foreigners and expats to get a residency visa for up to 4 years. This is kind of a big deal because the traditional way of getting a resident visa in Mexico is quite tedious, especially if it’s your first time. To give you a better idea on the process, this is how the normal application goes:
- Step 1: Schedule your appointment at an embassy in your home country (or anywhere outside Mexico). Appointments must be scheduled through the Mexitel website
- Step 2: Gather the requirements needed. If applying for a non-lucrativo visa, you only need a bank statement (6-months to 1 year). This should be apostilled in your home country. [read more here]
- Step 3: Go to your appointment. If approved, they will stamp the visa on your passport
- Step 4: Come to Mexico and process your residency card at the INM
- Step 5: Fingerprints at INM. You will get your residency card for one year.
- Costs: between $1,000 – $2,000 USD
Getting a resident visa in Mexico through the new regularization program
The traditional steps (above) is tedious and takes a lot of time. It’s also an extra cost because if you are already settled in Mexico, you need to do your appointment outside the country. Americans always loved going to the Embassy of Mexico in Miami (FL) as they are more lenient there. Please note that this program is not available in all INMs of Mexico. For now, we know they are doing it in Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, and Queretaro.
Regularization program costs
Depending on the number of years that you want, the costs vary. The estimates below are not exact but it really depends whether you want a lawyer or not. Here’s what we spent for a 4-year visa:
- Visa: $9,380 MXN ($467 USD for 4 years)
- Lawyer: $6,000 MXN ($298. USD)
- Another thing you have to pay for is your overstay. In INM, there will be a tabulation where they will compute how many days your visa is expired. In our case, it’s from June 2020 (to April 2021) and we paid about $3,600 MXN ($179 USD). This really depends on how long your visa is expired.
You can also opt to do one year, two years, or three year visas but we advice that you do four years right away since the visa fee difference for each year only differ by $2,000 MXN ($100 USD). For example, we paid $9,000+ MXN for a 4-year visa, a 3-year visa is $7,000 MXN, 2 years $5,000, and one year, $3,000. This is way cheaper than the traditional residency visa application in Mexico.
We don’t know until when this program is going to continue but to see the difference with the processes, here’s what you need to know:
Step 1: Check if you are qualified to apply to the regularization program
Unfortunately, this is not for everyone. The regularization program is sort of in a refugee visa category. Meaning, qualified applicants must be trapped here for a reason (i.e. can’t go home because of COVID). Apart from not all INMs offer this program, each INM in the country has different requirements on how to apply.
For example, in Puerto Vallarta, you need to prove that you entered Mexico not later than December 31, 2019. For Nuevo Vallarta, they only accept applicants who were here from June 2019. Queretaro is more lenient. According to our INM officer and lawyer contact there, you can apply to this program even if you entered Mexico in 2020. You have to go to Queretaro though.
Step 2: Hire a lawyer
You can definitely do this yourself but it is very tedious, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. Although all INM officers can speak English, hiring a lawyer is more convenient to avoid long lines and misunderstandings. If you don’t know a lawyer, we can recommend one who successfully helped us with our regularization application. Two of us got the 4-year visa easily! Get in touch with us and we’ll connect you to our lawyer in Nayarit and Jalisco.
Step 3: Gather the requirements and meet with your lawyer
When you already have a lawyer, you can send the following information to him/her via e-mail or Whatsapp. You can send this digitally and the lawyer will print them all for you.
- A photo of your passport (details, first and last page)
- A photo of your expired visa. Note that you also cannot apply to this program if your visa is not expired.
- In INM Puerto Vallarta, they require for you to bring two (2) witnesses who can testify that your tourist visa is real. You have to find people who can certify that you entered the country in their required dates. Your witness should be a Mexican national or a valid residency card holder (temporary or permanent)
- $1,400 MXN downpayment
Together with this, you also need to submit the following details to your lawyer:
- Number of children
- Marital status
- Maximum level of studies
- If you have any scars, tattoos or moles, only if those are very obvious.
- Residence country before México, state, county and city.
- Main activity on your residence country, as well as an estimated of your monthly income in mexican pesos. You don’t need to show proof of accounts. Just give an estimated number (we know. It’s weird).
- Your address in the state of Jalisco or Nayarit (Airbnb addresses also work but the lawyer can also provide an address for you if you don’t have any in these areas)
Once the lawyer has all this information, he/she will fill out all the documents and application forms the INM requires. You don’t need to do anything. When this is ready, you need to meet the lawyer and sign all these documents.
All of these are in Spanish so if you don’t understand what you are signing, ask your lawyer to explain it to you but they’re pretty easy to decipher. Get ready to sign at least 10 documents during this process – it’s going to be a lot of signing!
Once you sign, the lawyer will file the case in INM (Puerto or Nuevo Vallarta, wherever you are qualified to apply). Once INM receives your complete application, they will schedule your interview. This can take up to 7 days but the lawyer will always update you. Just be ready!
Step 4: Go to your interview
You need to bring your two (2) witnesses on your interview day. Your witnesses should bring their valid IDs (passport, INE, or residency card). Do not be late and arrive at the appointment time assigned to you. It’s better to arrive 30 minutes early. You don’t have to bring any documents as everything is already with your lawyer.
In our experience, we actually thought that we were going to be bombarded with questions but when it was our time to be interviewed, they did not ask us anything. They didn’t even talk to us. They just asked us to sign documents. The same goes for our witnesses – enter, sign, leave. No talking whatsoever. We were surprised how fast this “interview” was. Our lawyer is also very popular in INM Puerto Vallarta so she told us that they give her a little bit of special treatment. Really worth the lawyer fee we paid for!
Step 5: Biometrics and picture taking
After 24 hours, we were already called for an interview at INM Puerto Vallarta. You will again be assigned an appointment time to take your fingerprints and photo at the INM office. You don’t need to bring your witnesses anymore and the lawyer will be there to assist you. There are also lots of things to fill out online but we just sat there and the lawyer filled it out for us!
Step 6: Pick up your resident card after a week or two
Once your residency card is ready, the lawyer will call you as you need to pick this up in person. Once you have your residency card, you can apply for a Mexican driver’s license (we also did this!), get a bank account or credit card in Mexico, and enjoy all the privileges of a Mexican national. Please bear in mind that as a temporary resident holder, INM requires you to always be in the country. If you leave, it should not be in a period of more than 30 days. INM monitors temporary residents as they want you to live here and spend money here.
You can now also change the names of your bills (CFE or water bill) and move them to your name. This way, you can collect real records of you living in Mexico. This is necessary if you want to apply for a permanent visa (after 5 years) or a nationality (after 7 years).