Immigration Visas & More at Lake Chapala – Part 1 of 2

December 7, 2011

The Mexican government makes it very easy, compared to many other countries, to immigrate to Mexico and take up residency—either part-time or full-time.
The first type of visa is tourist visa. As a tourist, you can visit for 180 days.
If you fly in, the airlines typically include about a $20 fee for your tourist permit within your ticket price. On flights into Mexico, they’ll hand out the forms and you just fill out the simple form.
 Of course, if you drive in, you’ll have to stop and fill out the tourist form at the border or you can get one at a Mexican consulate before you arrive at the border.
You should not have any trouble with the tourist visa because that’s very straightforward.
Now let’s talk about residency visas. The most common Visa is an FM3 Rentista, but it has nothing to do whether you rent or buy.
You’re a Rentista when you have an FM3. Most people get the FM3 because you can come and go as often as you like in and out of Mexico without any problem whatsoever.
FM 3 Requirements

1. A valid Passport and a photocopy of it.

Note: The passport must have at least 6 months of validity remaining.

2. You will need  6 months of bank statements from your bank that proves a minimum monthly deposit of One Thousand ($1,000) dollars per person, but a husband and wife together need only show ($1500).
Note: The exact amount that must be proved is based on 250 times the daily minimum wage in Mexico City in pesos
3. You will need (2) Passport type front view photos.

4. You also complete an application form.

5. One Hundred Thirty Two (132.00) dollars (U.S.) paid in cash only – no money orders, company, personal or cashier's checks are accepted.
6. You must also be fingerprinted.
If you’ve bought a home here (possible on a tourist permit), the amount of income you need to prove is cut in half.
It’s possible to do all the paper work yourself, but I highly recommend you use one of the private immigration services to help you.
I’ll mention three such services I’m personally familiar with and feel comfortable recommending later.
An FM3 is renewable for four additional years after the first year. You get it the first time, and then you can renew it four times.
After that, you have to reapply and qualify again.
But, you can keep doing serial FM3’s. Many people have lived here 25 to 30 years all on an FM3.
However, unless you plan on being out of Mexico for more than 180 days over 5 years I think an FM2 makes more sense.
For an FM2, you do need to be able to show more income. Currently that’s about $1,800, but if you own a home here in Mexico that amount is cut in half.
After you have a valid FM2  for 5 years you can apply for citizenship or opt for Immigrado status.
You will not lose your US or Canadian citizenship if you elect to apply for citizenship in Mexico.
If you do not want to learn enough Spanish and study to be able to pass the Citizenship Exam, you can opt at that point for Immigrado status.
This allows you to do almost everything a Mexican Citizen can do except vote. Only Citizens can vote or get a Mexican Passport.
The fee for an FM2, by the way, the first time is approximately $289 USD.
Watch for Part 2 soon,
Siempre tu amigo,


  • Jeannie

    Thank you Sid for this VERY CLEAR article……..I have lived in Mexico for 6 years but seem to have been caught in law changes. at the time no one mentioned I could just start with an FM2 so had the FM 3 for 3 years and am now completing 3 years with the FM2…….I really need the Naturalization status …….but seems the new law now says a person must have the FM2 for 5 years. There is still a chance……Immigration seems to be still interpreting the new law……but thank you so very much for the wonderful easy to understand information…….
    Keep warm in your cool country….we about froze in San Jose Iturbide Guanajuato last week………Ahhh back to my warm area.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    HI Jeannie, Wow, What nice words, You should come to Lake Chapala for a visit. Best climate on the planet. Thanks again. Tu amigo, Sid

  • Hon. Edmund IV DaHinten

    Hi Sid,

    Thanks a lot! I did not know that “a husband and wife together need only show ($1500)” for the FM3. Do you know what is the minimum income for the FM2 for a husband and wife?

    Thanks again,

  • Donna

    This article is great – looking forward to Part II. Thank you for making it clear!

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Friend, I think it’s $2,000 for an FM2, The amount is based on the wages of an average worker working in Mexico DF.

    In the past they accepted you for an FM3 or FM2 if you could not show the monthly income, but could deposit a large sum in a Mexican bank.

    Best to use one the Immigration services I’ve written about, Sometimes they can find a way for you to qualify when all else fails.

    Tu amigo, Sid

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Donna, Thanks for your kind words. I admit it’s a bit complicated. I do my best to answer accurately, but it’s always best to check with one of our local immigration specialists to be sure.

    This is especially true now while things are changing and even the Mexican consulates in the USA are confused.

    Tu amigo, Sid

  • Pat

    sid, very interesting. We have been in contact with Kevin Paulino, whom you recommended, and his instructions for a Temporal were much simpler. I think we will let Kevin handle it. Immigration has become so complicated w/rules changing daily. Pat

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