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Mexico’s New Immigration Laws Became Effective November 12, 2012

Mexico’s New Immigration Laws Impact Baja Visitors and Expat Residents

by Jack E. George

If you currently have a valid FM-2 or FM-3, you should understand that this will be the last time you will have one of these. This is because the new immigration laws in Mexico have replaced those documents with other visas. Now the three basic visas are the Visitante (valid for visitors to Mexico for 180 days; previously known as the FMM); the Residente Temporal (replaces the FM-2 and FM-3), and the Residente Permanente (which replaces the Immigrado). The visas are further broken down, depending on various situations, such as if you intend to work while in Mexico.

El Chaparral, Baja's New Port of Entry

If you are a visitor to Mexico, who will be staying more than 72  hours of it the visit is outside the limits of the border zone or tourist corridors established by the Mexican government (see chart at end of article), you must enter the country and report to an immigration office.  For example, if you cross the El Chaparral entry, you need to go to the secondary inspection area. After parking your car you will go to the immigration office. You must fill out a brief form, present your visa, and pay a fee (between U.S. $22 and $30). Although the Visitor visa is valid for 180 days, if you wish to extend your visit this is possible; you simply leave Mexico and return to the country and follow the same procedures in order to obtain a new Visitor visa.

If you presently have an FM-2 or an FM-3 you can no longer process all of your paperwork in Mexico. You must first visit a Mexico Consulate in the United States. You will be required to complete a questionnaire, present your passport, and proof of income.

When visiting Mexico, you will be required to complete a questionnaire, present a passport and proof of income.

It is important for anyone, possessing these  travel visas, to visit the US Consulate 30 days exactly, prior to the expiration date. Your case worker will review your documents, particularly your income, and determine if you qualify for the Temporal or Permanente. S/he will issue to you the necessary document to take to the Mexican immigration office. In Mexico you will be issued an FMM specifying the visa for which you are applying. You have 30 days to complete your paperwork and submit it to the Mexican governmental office. If you do not comply with this 30-day rule you will receive a fine. You will also need to begin the process from the beginning.

The income requirements have been significantly increased as have the fees for the Residente Temporal. The cost for one year is $254 U.S.; two years, $380 U.S.; three years, $481. U.S.; and four years is $571 U.S.  Depending on the exchange rate, this visa requires a monthly income of $2,835 for a single person. The new law also offers a “Point System.” If you do not meet the income requirements, then your case worker might use points so you financially qualify. You can receive points if you have attained a certain level of education; if you are fluent in Spanish, if you have investments in Mexico, or a variety of other criteria.
If your case worker determines you qualify for the Residente Permanente, you can also use points if you do not meet the income requirement. This requirement is $2,365 U.S., per month, for a single person (depending on the exchange rate). The cost of the visa is $299.57 U.S. (depending on the exchange rate).

There are many variations in the new immigration laws. This can be expected when considering the document is more than 400 pages without considering changes and updates. Some of the professional document processors believe the new requirements must almost be individualized in order to meet each person’s circumstances. Although the laws have been in effect since November 12, 2012 it should be noted that the Mexican government is still in a period of ‘transition.’ Since the inception of the law further clarity is still being considered in regards to interpretation as well as implementation.

If you are about to begin the process of obtaining a visa it is strongly recommended that you visit one of the numerous websites for answers to any questions you might have. One such site is: http://www.mymexicanlawyer.com/immigration-questions/changing-or-renewing-fm3fm2-to-temporary-or-permanent-resident-card.

Established border zone/tourist corridors:

The border zone varies slightly from one Mexican border state to another, but is an area south of the U.S. border down approximately 20 to 30 kilometers (12.4 to 18.6 miles) into Mexico.

The tourist corridors are as follows:

  • Tijuana – Ensenada
  • Sonoyta – Puerto Penasco
  • Cuidad Juarez – Paquime
  • Piedras Negras – Santarosa
  • Reynosa – China – Presa el Cuchillo

Bureaucracy can be daunting, but the rewards of visiting Mexico and Baja outweigh the challenges!  Find out what to do when you are in Mexico!  

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About Jack E. George

Jack E. George is a Baja writer as well as the author of A Broken Charity and The Autism Handbook (published in English, Spanish, and Chinese).

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