The Mexican government, through its Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM), grants nine different types of immigration documents to foreign nationals--all of which begin with the initials FM, for "forma migratoria." While some of these documents apply to specific programs or groups, such as agricultural workers entering through the state of Chiapas, others are available to more broadly defined groups, such as tourists, foreigners who work in Mexico or permanent residents.
The FMT is the immigration document granted to tourists at points of entry allowing them up to 180 days in the country. There is a small fee for the FMT of approximately US$25, but the fee is included in your airline ticket if arriving by air. Tourists entering at a land crossing must go to a bank at some point during their stay to pay the fee.
The Mexican government requires 135 nationalities to obtain an entry visa at a Mexican consulate prior to obtaining the FMT (A list of those countries is available at inm.gob.mx/index.php?page/Paises_visa. Citizens of the United States, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom and Australia, among others, do not need an entry visa.
The FM3 is the immigration document for people who are working or residing in Mexico, but not permanently. This includes foreigners who are:
Living in Mexico off income/savings from another country (for example, retirees).
Working in Mexico as a skilled professional.
Living in Mexico as an investor in the Mexican economy.
Living in Mexico with a Mexican family member.
Working in Mexico as an athlete or artist.
Because the FM3 holder is not considered a permanent resident of Mexico, the visa is classified as a "documento migratorio del no inmigrante," or nonimmigrant immigration document. It must be renewed each year.
To apply for an FM3, applicants must present the following documents to the INM:
Completed form known as the Solicitud de Trámite Migratorio, or Application for Immigration Procedure.
Copies of every page (even blank ones) of the applicant's passport.
Proof of payment of the application fee (approximately US$150 for a first-time application, approximately US$40 for a renewal).
Copy of the FMT tourist card, if the applicant is already in Mexico.
A proof of residency, known as the "comprobante de domicilio," if the applicant is already in Mexico. This requirement is usually satisfied with a utility bill with the applicant's address in Mexico, even if the applicant's name is not on the bill.
Five 4x4 cm photographs of the applicant's face, three taken from straight on and two of the right profile.
Applicants also will be asked to present additional documents depending on the motive for their application. For example, someone applying for an FM3 to work as a professional in Mexico will need a letter from their prospective employer confirming that they have a job offer. In addition, the applicant will have to present a copy of their academic degree along with a translation and apostille (an internationally recognized notarization done in his home country) of the degree. Retirees will have to produce financial documents proving a monthly income of US$1,500, plus an additional US$750 for each person accompanying them.
To learn which additional documents are required for each specific FM3 application, interested parties should check with the nearest Mexican consulate.
After five years of holding an FM3 visa, a foreigner in Mexico can be considered a full-fledged immigrant by applying for and obtaining an FM2 visa. The FM2 application process is essentially the same as that of the FM3, and like the FM2, the FM3 must be renewed. The advantage of the FM2 is that it does not tie the holder to a specific employer or profession, and after five years, the holder can apply for citizenship. Essentially, the FM2 is the Mexican equivalent to the U.S. "green card" and grants the holder most of the same civil and employment rights as a Mexican citizen (exceptions include such rights as voting and holding public office).
Foreigners With Mexican Parents
The Mexican Constitution grants Mexican citizenship to people born abroad to at least one Mexican parent, and so these individuals do not need immigration paperwork. To work, study or live permanently in Mexico, they only need to obtain a Mexican birth certificate from a Registro Civil, or Civil Registry. This requires a copy of their foreign birth certificate translated into Spanish by an officially certified translator, along with an apostille of that document, as well as proof of a parent's Mexican citizenship.
For Spanish-speakers, the process of applying for the FM3 or FM2 visa in Mexico can be somewhat cumbersome but not overwhelmingly so. Therefore, applicants can save on attorney fees by doing it themselves. The process from start to finish takes about a month, barring any major snafus. A good immigration lawyer can often get it done even quicker and will save the applicant the hassle of filling out paperwork and making repeated trips to the local INM office. Applicants who can obtain all the necessary paperwork while still in their home country are advised to apply for the visa at their local Mexican consulate, since the consulates have a reputation of being easier to deal with than the INM.
- Photo Credit Alexander Steffler: Flickr.com
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