Immigration and Visas - Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico
Please note that this information is accurate as of October 9th, 2019. Immigration and Visa Policies can change at any given time. Please consult an immigration lawyer for up-to-date information
You have your heart set on the beautiful destination of Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico. But, unfortunately, you can’t just jump on a plane and settle in.
In this article, we are going to go over the Mexican immigration policy; you’ll learn the difference between the types of visas they offer, as well as how to go about obtaining one. Let’s get started. The first thing to know is that Mexico offers Tourist Visas to anyone with a valid United States, United Kingdom, or Canadian passport. This is not a permanent visa, it lasts for a maximum of 180 days, which provides ample opportunity for you to spend time vacationing in and adjusting to Mexico, to find out if it is worth it to purchase a visa.
Now, if you’re interested in getting a legitimate Visa, Mexico requires applications to be done in person. You do, however, have the additional option of hiring some form of legal representation to go through this process on your behalf. Here, you would be looking into an immigration lawyer, which could very well cost several hundred dollars at the least. If you choose to do this without the help of a lawyer, the process you’re looking at is not exceptionally complicated. You just have to fill out an application form, which is a simple 2-page form asking for some personal information. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to fill out. Once that’s filled out, you just have to schedule an appointment to complete the application in person.
Mexico offers a variety of visas, and these are split into two categories: Non Immigrant Visas and Immigrant Visas. The two main visas offered under the first category are Visitante and Visa de Residente Temporal (Temporary Resident).
The Visitante Visa is designed for those people who, for any variety of reasons including school or business, will be visiting’ Mexico for 6 months or less. You get this permit by completing the Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) forms, which are offered by airlines, as well as at all ports of entry into the country. This Visa is valid only for 180 days; once you reach 180 days, you will need to leave the country. The Visitante Visa cannot be renewed. Once it is expired, you’re done. The fee for obtaining this permit is $25 USD.
The Temporary Residency Visa is meant for people who will be living in Mexico for more than 6 months, but less than 4 years. Once obtained, it is issued for the duration of one year, and can then be renewed for a maximum of 3 more years. Holding this visa will give non-immigrant temporary residency status, and so will allow an unlimited amount of entries to and exits from Mexico. A pretty vital factor in deciding whether or not you will be granted this visa, is related to money. You, as the applicant, have to prove one of two things; either that you have enough money saved to live in Mexico, or that you have a steady income of high enough sufficiency to allow for sustenance in Mexico. The general amounts they will be looking for is either a monthly income derived from investments (an IRA account, for example) or a pension, of at least $1,600 USD, or savings of at least $27,000 USD. (These numbers are the result of calculations of 300 days’ minimum wage, and 5,000 days’ minimum wage for the latter). If you’re applying as a married couple, your monthly income or savings will have to be around $500 higher to qualify. This visa costs $36 in processing fees, and should take about two days until it’s ready.
The main Visa offered in the Immigrant Visa’ category is the Permanent Resident Visa, or the Visa de Residente Permanente. This is intended for people who will, indefinitely, be living in Mexico, and/or are intending to apply for Mexican citizenship at some point down the line.
The Residente Permanente Visa comes with a bunch of strict requirements; the applicant must have at least one of the following: close familial connections in Mexico, retirement status (monetary status of at least $2,000 per month, or $80,000 in savings is required for this), 4 consecutive years as a temporary resident, or residency granted on humanitarian grounds. Additionally, you will need to type a letter, addressed to the Consulate General of Mexico, explaining your purpose of entry in their country. This letter should include whether you receive payments from a pension or an investment account, where these accounts are located, and how much you can expect to be receiving in monthly income. This will be combined with documents that prove your economic independence. Additionally, if you are not a United States citizen, you must have and present a United States Alien Card (also known as a green card) or a valid United States Visa multiple entries (the original plus one copy). This Visa also costs $36. If your long-term goal is to live in Mexico permanently, and especially if your long-term goal is to apply for Mexican citizenship, this is the type of Visa you will want.
Retiree is the obvious applicant for a Permanent Mexican Visa, but there are a few other types of people who can be granted permanent residency status. A person who chooses to become an Investor in Mexican businesses can also be granted permanent resident status, they just have to meet the minimum investment requirement, which is currently at $100,000 U.S. dollars. Additionally, certain qualified professionals or scientists can be granted a permanent residency permit, as long as they are sponsored by a foreign company, which will serve to cover your specific expenses.
To learn more about Mexican Visas, click here.
If you seek Mexican Citizenship, (naturalization) you first must already have permanent resident status, although there are exceptions to this rule, including marriage to a Mexican National. Additionally, if you are between the ages of 18 and 60, you are required to pass a citizenship test.
Basically, it all comes down to this; the Visitante Visa is good for someone wishing to stay in Mexico for less than 6 months, the Temporal Visa is good for someone wishing to stay more than 6 months, but less than 4 years, and the Permanent Visa is perfect for someone who seeks permanent residence and eventual Mexican Citizenship.