Temporary residency has landed! I decided to pay a visit to Immigration today instead of calling like they had suggested. The office is just a 15 minute walk away, so I get a few steps towards my daily 10k by making a personal visit. And – shocking as it was, the card was ready!!!! So as promised, here is the saga of how to obtain Méxican residency using the Seattle consulate and Mazatlán’s immigration office! I’m assuming that people have done their research on the documents needed and fees involved. My saga is to detail the steps that I went through in Seattle and in Mazatlán, as other consulates and INM offices have different procedures (there seem to be many roads to the same destination).
Step 1 – 18 December, 2018: Make an appointment at a Méxican consulate in your home country
The Méxican consulate in Seattle makes it’s appointments via email (email@example.com). It took a couple of back and forth emails with them to finally get my appointment. I confirmed my appointment on December 18 for January 23.
Step 2 – 23 January, 2019: The Appointment
Be a boy scout. BE PREPARED. I brought originals and two copies of everything. I even brought an apostilled copy of the deed to my home in Seattle (they still wouldn’t consider it a retirement asset). Bank statements going back 12 months. Investment account statements going back 12 months. Required photos. If you own property in México worth a couple hundred thousand dollars US, bring copies of the deed – and the original. Bring it all, even the rainy day account that just has a little $$$ in it. There’s a residency application online that you will need to fill out and bring with you as well. You can find it here: https://www.gob.mx/cms/uploads/attachment/file/220491/Solicitud_de_visa_Espanol_CNTSE_julio_2015.pdf . DO NOT forget to bring your passport, and two black and white copies of it, and payment for the processing fees (currently $36 USD/$44 CAN).
The Seattle consulate is nice. They just moved, and things haven’t had a chance to get dirty yet. When you enter, talk to the clerk at the window. Tell them you have an appointment for residency. They’ll confirm, and then buzz you into the offices.
When you enter the offices, stop at the first desk on your right. The person there will again confirm your appointment, and will give you a ticket with a number. The desk number that you’ll be going to is also on the ticket. Make your way to the waiting area near your desk. Watch the monitors for your number to appear. Go to the desk that shows on the monitor – it’s like an airport, your original desk may have changed!
Answer all the questions (tell them you’re retiring). Give them ONE of the copies of your paperwork when asked for it. Sit and smile while they verify you qualify for either temporary or permanent residency. Once approved, they will put a visa in your passport, so you need to leave it with them. They refused to consider my house in Seattle as an retirement investment, so I was only able to obtain temporary residency. Temporary residency is issued for one year, and is renewable for three more years (total = 4 years), at which point you can exchange it for permanent residency – or start the process for temporary residency over again. There are reasons you may want to do it that way (keeping a foreign plated car is an option for temporary residents, but not permanent residents).
Step 3 – 29 January, 2019: Pick up passport with visa
Return to the Méxican consulate and retrieve your passport. You can now travel to México to complete the process.
Step 4 – 4 February, 2019: Fly to Mazatlán
This is very important. When you enter México you MUST show them the visa and make sure they issue your FMM (visitors permit) for 30 days AND mark it “CANJE”. If this doesn’t happen, you will need to return to your Méxican consulate and start the process over again! I should mention that once back in México, you have 30 days to start the process at the immigration office. Also, if you need to leave México for any reason before you get your residency card, you will need to have them issue you a travel letter giving you permission.
Step 5 – 6 February, 2019: INM in Mazatlán
Make your way to the immigration office (INM) in Mazatlán. The office is on Aquiles Serdán in the Playa Sur area. Their hours are Monday – Friday, 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. On your way there, stop at Holga’s and have her complete your paperwork and take your photos. Holga is one block away from immigration in a little tienda with a red awning. She currently charges $500 pesos. THIS IS CHEAP AND WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE EASY. It will also make the clerk in the immigration office happy. It will make Holga happy. In addition to the paperwork that Holga gives you, you will need your passport and the 30 day FMM that you received when entering México. I brought the second copies of everything I took to my consulate appointment, but they weren’t needed. The clerk from the immigration office will give you a piece of paper with information on it – you need to show this to her every time you return to their office. You will also receive a document you need to take to a local Bancomer bank to make the payment for the fees (there’s one in Olas Altas). When the bank completes the document, return to the INM office so they can complete your application. Yes, that means you have two visits to INM today.
Step 6 – Wait
This is the fun step! Once immigration has entered your information into their computers you’ll get an email with a web link and a password. I couldn’t figure out a way to get it to work on my phone, but it did on my laptop. You will want to watch this EVERY DAY. Do not be alarmed if your account disappears for a day – mine did! It was back the next day though. Do be alarmed if it’s gone for more than a day or two. Be patient. The clerk may have told you this part should take a week. It took almost three weeks for me. When the website says “Registre los datos para la expedición de su documento migratorio”, return to the immigration office for the final steps. Here’s the website: https://www.inm.gob.mx/tramites/publico/seguimiento-tramite.html
Step 7 – 26 February, 2019: Fingerprinting and signing documents
Return to immigration for fingerprinting and to sign a couple of documents. They told me fingerprinting only happens from 9:00 am to 11:00 am, so go early. Note that they want you to just press your fingers on the paper – don’t roll your fingers. Also, when they say to sign within a certain area, make sure NOTHING goes outside the area. When done, the clerk will hand you a few items – one of them is your CURP (like a US Social Security Number). Be sure to keep this in a secure location. You can also print it from this website: https://www.gob.mx/curp/. This is a fairly quick and painless visit, so treat yourself to lunch afterwards!
Step 8 – 11 March, 2019: Pick up card, attempt #1
They told me to come back in 10 days to pick up my residency card. The clerk also said that nothing would show on my online account when the card was ready. Of course, when I arrived at the office they told me the person who processes the cards was on vacation and to call at the end of the week!
Step 9 – 15 March, 2019: Pick up card, attempt #2
I only live a 15 minute walk away from the immigration office here, so I just put on my shoes and went in person. I’m glad I did, because …. MY CARD WAS READY!!!! I have temporary residency, so in less than a year I will need to start the renewal process – but hey! For now it’s over and I can travel outside México! By the way, the website DOES show that my card was ready today. I’m not sure if that was put in as a result of my going to the office, or if it was there prior – I didn’t check the website before I went!
So my journey to residency took from 18 December to 15 March. Almost exactly three months. Not a huge chunk of time out of my life, but a necessary one that now opens other doors. Currently, a residency card will get you enrolled in one of the insurance programs (may or may not change – México is making a lot of changes to it’s health care systems right now). It will also get you an IMAPAM card (senior discounts) – bus travel is often 50% off, so this is an option you may want to consider. Some say that since only a couple of seats on each bus can be discounted, you are taking the discount away from someone who may need it. I don’t feel that way, but if you do – by all means, don’t get the card, or only use it for other discounts offered.
There is some good information on this process at both: https://www.mexperience.com/lifestyle/living-in-mexico/visas-and-immigration/ and http://www.soniadiaz.mx/. Mexperience.com contains additional information on renewals, and Sonja Diaz also has information on many other things and is a very valuable resource. Here’s a link to the Méxican government’s website about temporary residency: https://www.gob.mx/tramites/ficha/visa-de-residencia-temporal/SRE260 . It also has a link to the initial application you need to fill out for the consulate, and a link to the reservation system for those consulates who use it.