Retiring in Mexico: Deciding Which Visa Option is Best For You.

Retiring in Mexico: Deciding Which Visa Option is Best For You

 

This post will only address visa options for retirees from the U.S. or Canada who do not plan to work in Mexico. If your goal is to work here, whether in your own business or for someone else, there will be additional requirements.
• Retirees with Income from Outside of Mexico
The majority of the expats that I know fall into this category. This group includes people living on income from investments, pensions, savings, and/or Social Security.
If you are thinking about retiring to Mexico, you will have to decide whether or not to apply for a resident visa or to simply live here under a tourist visa. I will go through each option and discuss the advantages, disadvantages and costs.

• Tourist Visa
If you have ever been to Mexico on vacation, you are already familiar with the tourist visa or FMM. This is what you were given at the airport when you entered the country and it allows you to stay for less than 180 days. If you decide to live in Mexico under a tourist visa, you will have to take a trip home or cross the border every six months. The good part is that you can immediately reenter Mexico and the clock starts over.
I actually have quite a few expat friends who have chosen this route.

Advantages:
No additional costs
No need to complete extra paperwork or hire an attorney.
You can enter and leave the country as much as you want.
You can bring your foreign plated car into the country.

Disadvantages:
Many Mexican banks require either a temporary or permanent visa to open a bank account.
You cannot get a Mexican driver’s license (except for a temporary license in some jurisdictions that expires when the tourist visa does)
You cannot register a car in Mexico.
You have to physically leave the country every six months.

• Temporary Resident Visa
This visa is valid for one to four years. The first temporary visa that you are issued is valid for one year and then you can choose to renew it for a period of up to three more years.  After that point, you will have to apply for a permanent resident visa, leave the country, or switch to a tourist visa.

Advantages:
You can open a Mexican bank account.
You can buy and register a car in Mexico.
You can get a Mexican driver’s license.
Many businesses will give you a local discount if you can present the temporary resident card.
You can bring your foreign plated car into the country.
You can enter and leave the country as much as you want.

Disadvantages:
You have to meet the requirements and show financial solvency.
You may need an attorney to assist you.
You will have to pay the fees.
It is a two-part process that begins at the Mexican consulate in your home country and ends in Mexico.
You will have to renew it.

Permanent Resident Visa
This visa is similar to the temporary resident visa, but it never expires. The other major difference is that if you have a foreign plated car, you will have to nationalize it or remove it from the country.

Advantages:
You can open a Mexican bank account.
You can buy and register a car in Mexico.
You can get a Mexican driver’s license.
Many businesses will give you a local discount if you can present the card.
You do not have to renew it.
You can enter and leave the country as much as you want.

Disadvantages:
You have to meet the requirements and show financial solvency.
You may need an attorney to assist you.
You will have to pay the fees.
It is a two part process that begins at the Mexican consulate in your home country and ends in Mexico.
You will have to nationalize your foreign plated vehicle or remove it from the country.

Let’s Wrap This Up
As you can see, the best option depends on your situation. If you plan to live in Mexico permanently and buy a car in Mexico, then the permanent resident visa is your best bet. You have to specify that you want the permanent visa during your appointment at the Mexican consulate in your home country. They may or may not grant it depending on your particular situation.
Anytime that I write a post like this, it is inevitable that I will receive messages from people who have managed to open a bank account or register a car with only a tourist visa. I have discovered that the rules in Mexico are not enforced uniformly, and some people do successfully slip through the cracks.
That being said, I can tell you that it has been much easier for us to live here since we obtained our temporary resident visas. Prior to getting them, we tried — and failed — to buy a car and open a bank account. In fact, the first question that every car dealer and banker would ask us was, “Do you already have your temporary or permanent resident card?”

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