I Am Temporal
Today I went into Chapala to pick up my newly approved Residente Temporal visa. This is a big milestone in the life of an expat. Mexico has officially welcomed me to be a temporary resident on their terms. It's like getting a green card in the US.
Because obtaining a visa as an expat is so important, I thought I'd dedicate this blog post to offering my story and some information to my readers on how this happens. It is a process, just as anything else is in choosing to live in another country.
My experience starts in Florida, where I moved from in May. I did a lot of research, which is my nature, into applying for the Temporal status visa and I chose Miami as the Mexican Consulate for my application. You can go to any Mexican Consulate in the world, outside of Mexico, to do this first step. There are two consulates in Florida, and I would have chosen Orlando for logistics, but each consulate is allowed a lot of latitude in setting their own requirements for the applications, as long as they meet or are above those set by Immigration Services. Miami had requirements I could meet so I contacted the consulate via email and received an appointment date. Their website tells you what to bring but you should bring more just in case you're asked for it. That saves a return trip.
I was applying on the basis of income so I brought the required bank statements, my drivers license for ID, my letter from Social Security showing the monthly amount I would receive for the current 12 months, and my passport. I also brought bank statements on my savings just in case there was any question about my monthly income. And, if you have more than one checking account where any monthly income is received, it should be in your hand too, even if only one account is enough. I was asked some off the wall questions but had sufficient documentation with me to satisfy the person scrutinizing my application.
After collecting everything he thought he needed, I was told to come back at 4pm for my stamp. With the consulate approval, you get a stamp in your passport that then gives you 6 months to enter Mexico and from that date of entry, another 30 days to begin the second part of your application within Mexico.
When you cross the border by land, or fly in, you have to make sure your documents are marked as a Temporal or Permenente visa holder instead of a tourist. That's critical to the process or you will have to start all over again if they make a mistake and mark you as a Tourist. If you are driving in (you can only be on a Temporal visa because Permenente visa holders can't drive US plated vehicles in Mexico) you will also get a TIP for your vehicle which is a temporary tax that is usually good for 180 days for tourists but will be good for only 30 days for visa holders. The purpose is to line the TIP date up with that of your visa. Once final approval for the visa is received, your TIP will also be extended to a year.
A Temporal visa can be renewed up to a total of four years and then, with no additional financial qualifying, can become a Permenente visa. If, at the end of your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year, you choose to change to Permenente, you will have to financially qualify.
Once you have lived in Mexico, with a Temporal or Permenente visa, for five years, you can apply for citizenship.
About three weeks after arriving, I went to a recommended attorney to complete my application process. A lovely woman who speaks excellent English took care of the rest for me and all I had to do was go into the Immigration Services at one point to give my fingerprints and then again to pick up the card when it was approved and sent back to the office. That entire process cost $80 USD to the attorney and the fee of about $190 USD to get the visa, and it took six weeks.
During the approval process in Mexico, you generally can't leave the country. Should some kind of emergency arise, there is a process for getting an exception but the reason and approval is up to the Mexican government.
That, in a nutshell, is what we have to do to become approved to live in Mexico on a regular long term basis. Like it or not, this is not our country and these are not our rules. Far too often I hear expats lamenting the "red tape" or the financial benchmarks required to get a Mexican visa. Well, my friends, it is FAR easier to get a visa for Mexico than it is to get a green card for the US!
If you're considering moving to Mexico, I highly recommend visiting first on a Tourist card. See a few different areas of the country which are predominantly Mexican (not Cancun or Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta). Experience some of the culture. If you can embrace the differences (see my blog post of this title), then making plans in this direction can be really rewarding.
Peace and blessings on your future, where ever it may take you.