I got a 4-year temporary resident visa in Mexico under the new regularization law 2021
This temporary resident visa Mexico post is not only for American citizens but for all nationalities. The resident visa requirements do not vary by citizenship. As long as you are qualified, then you can definitely apply.
Reader Mail: Hi Trisha! I saw your post about a non-lucrative visa in Mexico but I also saw on Instagram that you were granted a 4-year visa? I don’t know what this new rule about the temporary resident visa Mexico about. Can you please explain further? I cannot find anything on the Internet about it. I am from Texas but currently in Mexico with a tourist visa. Thank you.
– Stephen Sanchez, USA
Sorry for sharing those Instagram stories without clarifying! And thanks for writing to me! This blog thrives on reader questions so it’s really great to hear from you. This visa program is new so bear in mind that the date on your entry card is really important.
Anyway, I will give you all the information you need together with my experience in applying for this visa type. If you have additional questions, feel free to send me a message on Instagram or better yet, e-mail me! Best of luck!
A little story about my months of resident visa application in Mexico: COVID happened
In 2018, like always, I came to Mexico without any plans of staying full-time. I always travel long-term but I never thought of living somewhere… Until COVID happened. I sort of panicked and found myself stuck in Mexico, which is not a bad country to be stuck in as everything is pretty normal here. Still, I didn’t think of applying for a temporary resident visa Mexico because I thought COVID will be yesterday’s subject in a few month’s time. But it didn’t… COVID, as it turns out, will be a part of us for a long time.
This is my first time applying for a residency visa anywhere. As a digital nomad for over 10 years who can go anywhere I like, I never had to think about these types of visas. I simply go in and out. That’s it. Mexico has a generous 180-tourist visa so that’s enough time for me to plan a border run. But times have changed and got in other countries has become more difficult. Believe me, it’s not that easy anymore. I needed to be stable somewhere and I feel so privileged that I am in Mexico at this time.
I have been living in Mexico since 2018 through a tourist visa. As my job requires me to travel a lot, it’s very easy for me to renew my tourist visa. They also don’t give you too much sht about going in and out. This country definitely loves tourists. In 2019, I decided to process my Mexico digital nomad visa also known as the non-lucrative visa. If you are not in Mexico yet, this is probably the better visa type for you. Anyway, this visa requires you to apply it in a Mexican consulate outside Mexico (either in your home country or anywhere, really). In my case, I booked an appointment in the Mexican Consulate in San Jose, Costa Rica. I got the confirmation right away since I hired a lawyer to process my visa.
My appointment was moved three times the same as my flight tickets to Costa Rica have been rebooked three times. I kept pushing to get it over with because my tourist visa is already expired for 7 months, meaning I was staying in Mexico illegally. My lawyer said that’s not really “illegal” since it’s COVID and it’s not only me who cannot go back to my country because of the pandemic. There were many of us and INM was pretty lenient about it. They know that there are lots of illegal tourists but they are not doing the sweep as they would normally do.
I was so uncomfortable to be illegal but my lawyer said that everything is fine and that I need to wait it out until my interview for the consulate has been approved 100%. That’s the thing – because of COVID, consulate offices all over the world kept opening and closing. As I need to leave Mexico in order to do my temporary resident visa, I need to be 100% that I will be interviewed. In 2020, that was really impossible to know ahead of time.
Introducing the new regularization program 2021
As my lawyer advised… sit it out. And that’s what I did. Not to mention I already paid a lot of lawyer fees but still no visa. On March 17, 2021, I received information from a friend in Mexico City about the new regularization program that the Mexican government launched. My tourist visa expired in June 2020 so this was good news to me. I needed to get rid of this discomfort that I have for being “illegal” even though my lawyer will take care of me when shit goes down.
This program was first offered in INM Queretaro
At the time, it was only available in INM Queretaro so I have to go there in order to investigate how to apply. I immediately booked a bus ticket to Queretaro which is a 10-hour ride from my home in Puerto Vallarta. They were only doing it weekly (every Friday) so I needed to act fast. Knowing Mexico, this new regularization program may be temporary – they can cancel this anytime.
I talked to friends in other states like Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, and Mexico. They told me that at the time, only INM Queretaro is doing that program so I had no choice to go all the way to Qro. So, I went for it. I speak fluent Spanish so there’s no harm in trying. The lawyer also wanted to meet in INM Queretaro so that’s pretty safe. If he asked me to meet in a sketchy area, then I will be very doubtful about the legitimacy of this visa processing.
Temporary resident visa Mexico: regularization requirements
When I first received the requirements, it was all too good to be true. They were only asking for the following:
- an expired tourist visa
- visa payment: $9,000+ MXN for a 4-year visa, $7,000 MXN for 3 years, $5,000 for 2 years, and $3,000 for one year
I was like, “that’s it?! Are you kidding me?! Even my housemate Claire (from the UK) who went through the traditional temporary resident visa processing last year was shocked as the normal/traditional one is super tedious and rather costly. Okay, this sounds sketchy and I don’t really know anyone who has actually done it. So what I did was investigate further and found out from friends, blogger groups, and Facebook groups that the 2021 regularization program of INM is legit.
The lawyer in Queretaro also asked me to deposit a downpayment and when I went to the bank, my bank certified that it is a real bank account of the INM. Meaning, everything is clean. Mexico has a lot of under-the-table transactions so I had to make sure this was legit. And it was for real.
You might also like: Living in Playa del Carmen as an American expat
Doubtful about the lawyer credentials?
In Mexico, there are many lawyers who have stellar profiles on Facebook but from living here, I learned that I should not trust those people especially if I have not met them in person. Another thing I did was to call my Mexican lawyer friends and do a little intel. I gave the lawyer’s name to my friend and he certified that this is a real lawyer. Thank God for Spanish-speaking skills!
2 days before I was about to go to Queretaro, my lawyer in Puerto Vallarta called and said they opened the regularization program in INM PV. I was like, are you kidding me?! I already bought my bus ticket to Queretaro which wasn’t really a lot ($60 USD) but I’d rather do my visa back home as opposed to traveling 10 hours for it. I immediately called the lawyer in Queretaro and said that the program is now open in Puerto Vallarta so I will not push through my travel.
After which, I talked to my lawyer in Puerto Vallarta and told her that I need to get this done ASAP.
How do I know if I am qualified in the 2021 regularization program?
Before anything else, please check if you are qualified for this program. Each INM has a different requirement so the first thing you need to do is to find out which INM offices in Mexico are doing the regularization program. When checking in each INM you are in, use the word “regularizacion” in Spanish and they will understand what you mean.
If you don’t speak Spanish, I can connect you to my lawyer so she can find out if the area you are in in Mexico is doing the program. I know for sure that INMs in Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, and Queretaro are doing it.
Not all INM offices in Mexico offer this program
So far, all my friends in Playa del Carmen and Tulum (Cancun INM) said that Cancun is not currently doing this program. Here are the requirements in each INMs that I know of:
- Puerto Vallarta: must have an expired tourist visa with proof that you entered Mexico before December 31, 2019. You also need to bring two witnesses to certify that you were already in Mexico on these dates.
- Nuevo Vallarta: must have an expired tourist visa with proof that you entered Mexico not later than June 2019. Which I feel is ridiculous because that was even before COVID. I think they are doing this for tourists who were here for 10 years and with an expired visa. Yes, I actually know many Americans who are here on an expired visa for decades!
- Queretaro INM: they are not very strict with dates there. As long as your visa is expired, you can apply for the regularization program. However, it’s very hard to find a lawyer there but write to me and I can recommend you a few.
If you are not qualified to apply for your visa through this program, you can read my post, how to apply for a temporary resident visa Mexico
If you are willing to fly to these three areas in order to obtain your visa, then feel free to do so. But you have to have an address in these areas which the lawyer can also provide for you. I live in PV so you can also use my address but let me check with my lawyer about the legalities of that.
It’s pretty hard to explain the equivalent in English as you will mostly see Spanish results about this type of visa but in easy saying, the regularization program is like a visa for humanitarian reasons – meaning, you are stuck in Mexico for a reason. In my case, that was COVID. If you have this expired tourist visa card, then you are good to go!
Should I hire a lawyer to process my Mexico residency visa?
Many people told me that hiring a lawyer is not necessary but it’s way easier to hire a lawyer since you don’t have to do anything. They will take care of it. Mexican immigration lawyers also don’t cost a lot. For the hassle and time, they will save me, I’d rather pay extra than do it all myself. Sometimes, if you don’t speak Spanish, it will definitely be more challenging even if all immigration officers can speak English. Some things are just not explained well.
Related: Life in Puerto Vallarta right now
Just to clarify, you can process your own visa in Mexico (any type) without the help of a lawyer — it is not required. INM will definitely accept your application if you do it on your own. It’s really up to you! I have three different lawyers in Mexico so if you want me to connect you with them, just send me an e-mail and I will give their contact details to you.
Timeline of applying for a temporary resident visa Mexico (under the new regularization program)
Because of COVID, the traditional visa application for temporary residency in Mexico can take up to 3 months. It’s not really a hassle once you are done with your interview outside of Mexico. You can definitely come here and wait until your residency card is ready. But it will take a while. Under the regularization program, everything was pretty fast. Here’s the timeline with exact dates:
March 21, 2021
My lawyer in Puerto Vallarta informed me that both Nuevo and Puerto Vallarta INMs opened the new regularization program. I searched for my expired tourist visa which took me hours! I thought I already put it in the bin or my dogs ate it. Thank God I found it in my docs folder. Make sure you have this as this is very essential in applying for your visa. The lawyer will ask you the following information as he/she needs it to lounge your application:
- Passport photo (sent via Whatsapp)
- Expired Residency Card/FMM photo (sent via Whatsapp)
- 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
- Your address in Puerto Vallarta
- Email address
The lawyer will need all of this to print the documents needed for your visa application. Make sure this is complete before you meet him/her for the signing.
March 23, 2021
I went to my lawyer’s office to give her my passport and my expired tourist card. She also asked for a downpayment of 1,400 MXN in cash which is $70 USD. I left all my documents to her and she asked me to sign a lot of paperwork. When I arrived, everything was already printed as I already gave her my information 2 days ago. My lawyer is really awesome and she is so diligent! It was a bit tiring to sign a lot of documents though. Your signature in your passport should match all the signatures in your application documents.
After I signed all the documents, I went home and that same day, my lawyer brought them to the INM in Puerto Vallarta to lounge the application. After the docs are received by the INM, they instantly gave my lawyer an interview date for me. My lawyer immediately informed me that my interview will be in a week and that I need to bring two witnesses to my interview.
March 30, 2021
I went to INM Puerto Vallarta for my interview, together with my two witnesses. The witnesses should be a Mexican resident or a foreigner who’s a permanent/temporary resident. I brought a Mexican friend and another friend from the UK who has a working visa. The reason why they are asking you to bring a witness is that these two people can certify that you were in the country on the date on your tourist card. Apparently, there are a lot of people buying fake tourist cards in order to qualify for the regularization program. It’s really way easier than the traditional application so I’m sure that many foreigners are currently looking to buy expired tourist visas.
My appointment was set at 12:00 pm and I was surprised that everything was on time. We were asked to wait a few minutes (COVID protocols) then one by one, we’re called inside to sign documents. We weren’t interviewed. I also asked my friends what the immigration officer asked them and they said nothing. They literally signed a (sworn) document and that’s it! We were free to go.
On this day, I was also asked to pay the visa fee of 9,000 MXN ($455 USD). I asked for a 4-year visa since I don’t want to think about it in the next few years. It’s better this way because, after this 4-year visa, you can automatically apply for a permanent visa that does not expire. Unfortunately, they only accept cash. In the INM, there is also a table that will compute your overstay fee. My visa expired on June 15, 2020, and I applied for the resident visa on March 30, 2021. They charged me a total of $3,899 MXN ($197 USD). This price will depend on the date and expiry of your tourist card. The lawyer fee will be paid when you pick up your visa after 7 working days.
April 11, 2021
My lawyer does not have an idea on the exact date of when my resident card will be available so I told her to just call me anytime and I will be there. She called me at 9:00 in the morning and said that my visa is available for pick-up at noon. I went, signed a few documents, and voila! I got my 4-year temporary residency visa just like that!
The immigration officer also told me that I need to submit a document every time I am changing my address or moving to another state in Mexico. The lawyer told me that it’s easy and I can do it with her. I was also informed that I need to sign a form at the INM in the airport if I am going out of the country. I will update this post when I get to experience going out of Mexico with a residency card. I am leaving for Turkey in 5 days!