This area of our informational site for retirement in Mexico will cover what is needed for legal entry to Mexico, long-stay visits or permanent residency. This also covers the area of needed documentation for vehicles and pets for immigration purposes.
The first thing you will need is a valid passport from your country of residency. This is required for everyone including infants. The only exception is if you are visiting one of the border towns (20 – 30 kilometers from the U.S./Mexican border) and staying for less than 72 hours and have entered Mexico by land and plan to depart on land. If you are traveling by cruise ship to Mexico, check with your cruise line for the required documents needed.
Visits of 6 months or less:
If you are visiting Mexico for 6 months or less, make certain your passport is up to date and not expiring before you try to return home from Mexico. You certainly can visit a U.S. Embassy anywhere in Mexico if your passport does expire, but it is much easier to have all your papers up to date before entering the country of Mexico. If your passport is valid for only a 6 month period, make certain your stay is scheduled for less than the 6 months or you may be denied entry to Mexico.
Additionally, if staying in Mexico 6 months or less, you will need a form called an FMM and you will not need a visa. This form can be obtained through your local Mexican Consulate, customs office or port of entry.
The 3 basic immigration forms:
For foreigners wishing to stay in Mexico, there are three basic migratory forms:
- The FMT is a tourist visa. This is for short term visits for business or other activities that do not include long term residency.
- The FM3 is a visa for those who will live in Mexico but do not qualify as a long term immigrant. Generally, these are exchange students, working professionals and non working visitors.
- The FM2 is for longer term immigrants (immigrante rentista). This class is very similar to the United States Permanent Resident card. This class will permit you to open a business, get credit cards and other permanent resident benefits. Economic activities are limited to this class only.
Regardless of which class you fall into, you will need to visit your local Mexican Consulate office to register for any one of these immigration status. You will have to bring proof of your status to the Consulate, i.e., student enrollment forms, executive orders from your employer or proof of retirement. Again, whichever you status, you must provide proof.
If your intention is to live in Mexico long term, you must prove that you have an income. You must bring a letter confirming your income, such as a yearend tax statement, or three most recent paystubs. Additionally, you will need the following:
- Three months of utility bills with proof of payment.
- Passport and three copies of each page.
- Thee copies of your proof of income or student status.
- Proof of residence in the country from which you are presently living.
The requirements change fairly often as the Mexican government is attempting to make the process less complicated, but the items listed are most definitely required. You can find out more when you visit your local Mexican Consulate. Most of the consulates offer at least one employee that speaks English. Simply request una persona que puede hablar Ingles (a person who can speak English)
Remember to be patient. This is not a one day process. The process could take anywhere from 3 to 7 visits before you get your FMT, FM3 or FM2 card. Give yourself at least 6 – 8 weeks before your intended departure to Mexico.
DOCUMENT PHOTO REQUIREMENTS:
You will be instructed on what size photos you will need and how many you will need for your Mexican documents. One thing is for certain, you must have absolutely no hair covering your face and no jewelry whatsoever on your face or in your ears. Your hair must be pulled back or combed straight back (for men).
DRIVING INTO MEXICO
If you are planning to drive across the border there are several things you must do once you cross. First of all, you must have with you the title to your car. You cannot bring a car into Mexico unless you own it outright and you must show that all registration is up to date. As auto insurance from your home country is not valid in Mexico, you must purchase Mexican Auto Insurance before you depart your country. Have the insurance forms with you to present to the immigration office. Make certain you have enough coverage for all incidences such as collision, medical, etc.
- STOP into the immigration building on the Mexico side as soon as you cross the border.
- Make certain you get your passport stamped upon entry into Mexico.
- Make certain to get the “sticker” for your car. You will have to pay for the sticker. Credit cards, debit cards or cash is accepted. (Every time you renew your visa status, your car sticker is automatically renewed) **IMPORTANT: Keep the receipt from your vehicle payment at the border. If you permanently leave the country, you are entitled to a reimbursement of that fee.
NOTE: If your car is not purchased in Mexico or not yet 10 years of age, you cannot obtain Mexican license plates. You must keep your country’s license plates until the car reached 10 years of age for Mexican Registration and plates. Your driver’s license will remain valid until the date of expiration on your driver’s license. Approximately one month prior to the expiration date of your license, you will need to take a driving test, written and driving, for a new Mexican driver’s license. According to the American Embassy, there is no need to renew your auto registration from the country in which you purchased the car. Your Mexican sticker is all you need for the validity until a Mexican Registration is obtained.
You are permitted to bring your pets into Mexico but you must find a Veterinarian in your hometown that has the immigration forms to fill out for your pet entry before you enter Mexico. Not all Veterinarians have these forms.
The Vet will have to make certain that all the pet vaccinations and other shots or treatments are up-to-date. All of this information will be documented on the immigration form.
The pet immigration form is only valid for a limited time, approximately 10 days. Therefore, if you have your departure date set, make certain to have the papers filled out either one day prior to your departure or the day of your departure. The Veterinarian cannot pre-date the document, so you must have the documents filled out on the same day you will take the document with you.
If your pet is anxious or ill from car or plane rides, you can obtain medication for your pet to calm it for the journey. Your Veterinarian will know the dosage and strength of the medication by the weight of the animal and any allergies the animal may have.
Once you have settled in Mexico, you must visit a Veterinarian to request the required booklet needed for your pets. That booklet will be a record of yearly required shots / vaccinations and it must have a photo of your pet on the front of the booklet. The Veterinarian in Mexico knows the procedure and will take the photo and properly fill out the booklet which you must maintain for the security of your pets.
RENEWAL OF DOCUMENTS
Your FM3 and FM2 must be renewed annually and accompanied by the same proof of income, passport, utility bill etc. As the laws are updated regularly, you must check with your local Mexican Consulate annually. The best time to begin the renewal process is at least one month in advance of the expiration date on your Mexican documents.
Pet documentation will be in the booklets provided by your Veterinarian in Mexico. To keep your pet records in order, you must be diligent in keeping up with the required vaccinations when they are scheduled.