Our Experience Renewing our Resident Visas in Mexico Without Legal Assistance


Last year, Linda and I had both applied for, and were granted, temporary resident visas to live in Mexico. We were told at the Mexican Consulate in Orlando that we would be able to choose the period of validity from 1-4 years; however, that was not the case once we arrived in Mexico.

The immigration officials in Playa del Carmen advised us that the first temporary resident visa would only be valid for one year. They said that after that time, we could apply to renew it for a period of up to three additional years.

We were a little disappointed, but I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to renew it in a year. I really expected that it would be as simple as renewing a driver’s license in the United States — it was not.

In order to renew my driver’s license in Florida, all I had to do was confirm that my information was the same as before and pay the fee for a new license. I wasn’t even required to take a new picture.

When you renew your resident visa in Mexico, it is a bit more complicated. You are required to submit a lot of the same paperwork you submitted earlier, including photographs and fingerprints.  Due to the amount of paperwork involved — and the fact that even the instructions are in Spanish — most of the expats that we know hired an attorney to handle their renewal.

In our case, we elected to do it all ourselves in order to save money. It was a multistage process that took about five weeks from start to finish, but we were successful. Yesterday, we picked up our new temporary resident cards that are valid for the next three years. In 2019, we will apply for permanent residency.

Since a lot of our readers are unfamiliar with the process, I thought that it was a “blog worthy” topic.

Step One: Paperwork

The first thing that we did was put our renewal packets together. Each one of us had to have a separate packet that contained all of the following:

  • Online application (formato para solicitar trámite migratorio de estancia)
  • Basic format form (formato básico)
  • Proof of economic solvency (bank and pension statements for 6 months)
  • Letter in Spanish requesting to renew the resident card for a period of 3 years. They give you the format but you have to type the letter and print it.
  • Photocopies of our current resident cards
  • Photocopies of our passports
  • Photocopies of our proof of residency (CFE bill)

Time required: 2 hours

Step Two: Submit the Paperwork

The government agency that handles immigration matters in Mexico is called Instituto Nacional de Inmigración (INM). We submitted our paperwork at the office located in Playa del Carmen.

The application requires three photos that meet very specific requirements. There is a private business located right outside the INM office that specializes in these photos — what a coincidence.  We had our photos taken for $40 pesos each. By the way, these photos were needed to replace the ones we submitted to INM only 11 months earlier.

We took the packet, together with our new photographs, over to an INM employee who then reviewed the packet page by page. When he got to Linda’s photographs, he said that the background had a slight bluish tinge and he rejected them. We went back to the business next door and they retook the photos for free.

With the new photos, the INM employee accepted the packet and issued us each tracking numbers to check on the status of our renewal applications. He also advised us that we would receive an email to notify us if the packet was accepted or rejected for some reason.

Time required: 2 hours (includes 1 hour for travel)

Step Three: Make an Appointment for Fingerprints

After about a week, we both received email notifications from INM that we had been approved for temporary resident cards that expire in 2019.

The next step was to make an appointment to come back for fingerprinting and to sign some documents. The only way to make the appointment is in person, so it required another trip back to Playa del Carmen. Our appointment was set for three weeks later.

Time required: 1 hour 15 minutes (includes 1 hour for travel)

Step Four: Pay the Fees

We paid the renewal fees just prior to our fingerprinting appointment (step five).

INM does not accept any money at their office, so we had to go to a nearby bank to make the payment of $6,825 pesos each ($368 USD) for a three year renewal. After we made the deposit into INM’s account, the bank gave us proof of the deposit.

INM requires additional copies of the proof of payment; however, the bank refused to make copies. We were able to get copies at a nearby copy store at a cost of $2 pesos a piece.

Just so you know, the INM office will not make any copies for you.

Time required: 20 minutes

Step Five: Fingerprinting

We arrived a little early for our appointments because if you are late, you have to reschedule.

They took our fingerprints (again), had us sign several documents, collected the proof of payment to the bank, and asked us a few general questions about our application. The whole process took about 10 minutes once they called our names.

Time required: 1 hour 30 minutes (includes one hour for travel)

Step Six: Pick Up the Resident Cards

They tell you that the cards will be ready within 8-10 days, but you never really know if they are ready until you get there. They only allow pick up of the cards between the hours of noon and 1 PM.

We went back 10 days later and our cards were ready. We only had to wait around 30 minutes before they issued them to us.

Time required: 1 hour 30 minutes (includes one hour for travel)

Let’s Wrap This Up

The whole process took four trips to the INM office and just over eight hours of our time (most of it spent traveling back and forth). Fortunately, we love Playa del Carmen, so it was a great excuse to go and eat at some of our favorite restaurants.

Admittedly, it would have been much easier if we had hired an attorney, but it came down to not wanting to spend the money. By doing it ourselves, we saved around $750 USD.

We don’t mind spending money to go out and eat or to do something fun. In fact, we are going to use some of the money we saved on the attorney to take a mini vacation at an all-inclusive resort later this week. It all comes down to priorities.

By the way, if you want to avoid the hassle and expense of renewing a temporary resident visa, you should push for a permanent resident visa when you begin the initial process at the Mexican Consulate in your home country.

If you want more information about the different visa options and requirements, check out Deciding Which Visa Option is Best for You.

Author: Qroo Paul

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32 Comments on "Our Experience Renewing our Resident Visas in Mexico Without Legal Assistance"

  1. Lol we are in the process of getting a temporary visa right now was at the consulate office a few days ago and had to get more info and make new appointment. We are applying for a temp card good for up to 4 years are you saying that once we get this we have to reapply after one year to get the extra 3 years when we get there?

    • Yes. When we arrived we tried to get the four year one right away and we were denied. Every expat that we know on a temporary resident visa had to renew after the first year.

      I think it will depend on who you deal with at INM on this end and which office you go to. There are a lot of inconsistencies here.

  2. Thanks for the info! Hubby is just applying for his Temporary visa on Monday and didn’t realize what happened for year two. We are only doing the Temporary Residency for the car issue. We live just outside of Merida (or at least will) in a condo just off the Gulf Coast. I am retired & hubby will retire next year and we are sick of Canadian winters (as u r from Florida – you know nothing of those things!) And want a cheaper aND less hectic life! Very few people hear understand why we are moving permanently tho! Hard to explain to them as they think Mexico is so “full of crime”! But it is our life not theirs! Thanks for the blog too! I have a little one I try to do when I am there mostly for friends to keep up with us while we are gone! Thanks again!!.

  3. Geri Anderson, author of "Oh Oaxaca," about my life as an expat. | August 20, 2016 at 11:26 am | Reply

    Besides, you experienced a slice of Mexican bureacracy that you would have missed if instead you had purchased the easy way out. I did my own renewal papers for more than 15 years and, believe it or not, it got easier each year, although each year procedures changed. In my opinion, the process has been streamlined. My annual visits to INM, provided many memories, some frustrating, but all interesting adventures. Contacts made during long waiting periods led to new friendships, and one even landed me an excellent rental. I knew no Spanish when I began and am still fumbling with the language.

    • Very true. It is all part of experiencing the new culture and getting used to how things are done here.

      Thanks for reading the blog and for taking the time to comment.

  4. We’ve gotten our 4 year permit out of the way and it’s very similar to your experience. I have a friend who is in Zihuatanejo on the pacific coast. He went through the process fairly quickly. I gather… the smaller the place, the faster the process. Where we live, Cuernavaca (pop. ~700,000), things take timesomply because they’re busy.

    When our 4 years are up and we apply for our permanent residency, we will have to show proof of income, etc. at that time… so keep all your documentation. {grin} You may need it.

    • We tried to get our four year permit out of the way — as did many of my neighbors — but the INM office in Playa said everyone has to start with one year. This is a country of inconsistencies 🙂

  5. Another great, informative, easy-to-understand, nuts and bolts type of post that I will share with my Los O’Gradys in Mexico readers! Thanks guys!

  6. We are in Chapala and our process was a little bit different, we renewed for one more Temporal year so no proof of solvency required because we brought the car from Canada, can’t go to permanent, until car returned . The lady at INM made copies for us for bank payment , also payment had to be made for second visit, 3rd visit fingerprints and photos ,waiting to hear, on second process ,2 weeks tomorrow, all is sent from here to GUADALAJARA,,maybe why longer time waiting,.
    All the forms are automatically translated to English on line.also if you have your number for renewal, the form download already filled with all your Infos, easy .
    Enjoy your blog ,some facts are a little different here in Lake Chapala Ajijic.

    • Thanks for reading the blog. There are a lot of inconsistencies when it comes to immigration here. You did not have to complete any letters in Spanish that they give you the format for? There is no mention of them on the INM web site but they are a requirement in PDC for some reason. Also, one of the forms was only available in a PDF format, so even google translator wouldn’t help with that one. I think I may go to your area when we go to permanent…haha.

    • I would like to connect with you Chantel. We are thinking of a retirement to Lake Chapala

  7. Thank you so much for sharing all of this useful information. Please keep it coming for us future expats. It’s helping me so much!

  8. I am a retired Canadian living in Chapala Lakeside. I very much appreciate your blog. I am a volunteer with the Lake Chapala Society, a non-profit society with about 3,000 expat members – Canadian, American and a few from other countries. LCS provides a no-cost information desk, six days a week, staffed by volunteers and providing information for members and non-members at no cost.. I am trying to get the information system into a computer database so that we can increase the scope of information, find information more quickly and keep it up to date easier. Your blog has at times contained information on issues relevant to living in our area of Mexico. With your permission I would like to extract and use some of the information that you provide. Would that be OK with you?

  9. That was incredibly well written, thank you for this valuable information! $750. Is a LOT of money that definitely can be spent in more fun ways!

  10. Hello Paul, I’m Miguel from México city and I love the way you told your adventure trying to obtain a mexican document. Welcome to reality, to live in paradise have a cost. Recently I renew my passport and my Mothers passport and it was an odissey. Yes, they want our photographs but finally they use his own cameras. Try to do ANY trámite (sorry, I don’t remember the word in english) as simple as a drivers license is an entire headache. The paradox in this situation: in the other hand is very easy and cheap to obtain fake documents as your “IFE” (the oficial identificacion for every mexican citizen).

    Theres a mexican chiste (a joke) very popular: when God creates México make a beautiful place full of charming beaches, mountains, volcanos, deserts, woods and ruins. When he finish he think “No, its imposible to create one place so perfect, this cowntry needs a flaw” So he create the mexican people…

    By fortune I am a native and was born in this esquizofrenic maze called México city. 2 years ago I travel to Japan and one guy told me “If you are rich (I’m not) why you dont move to other place, for example USA?” He made me laugh a lot and I answer: I dont move because I am a kind of roach very well adapted to my cowntry and my people.

    Still writing Paul because you are un Maestro de la Pluma (“a Master for writing”). I receive the messages of your blog with hapyness and emotion. We have to know face to face next year. When I saw your photos I feel surprised because both of you are very young to be and expats. How old are you? I have 48 years, single and straigth. Always travel with my mother and I really want to know the next year. I dont want hostage for free in your home, I want to travel to Cancun because we love this place and take advantage to know you.

    We stay in contact. Have a big hug.


    • Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to write that lengthy and funny response. I have already learned that getting anything done in a government office requires a lot of patience and time. We will be getting our local driver’s licenses soon, and I am sure that I will write a blog about that process too.

      To answer your question, I am 45 and my wife is 43. Let us know when you are down around Akumal and we can meet at one of our favorite restaurants. Take care.

  11. I wonder if you realize how “lucky” you are. Your process is under the new law. Previously we had to do through 5 years of FM3 then 5 years of FM 2 before we could apply for permanent residency. And at that time both the FM3 and FM2 were only good for one year. So that meant going through the process a lot more than you have been lucky enough to have escaped. Was it worth it, YES. Was it a pain and expensive, YES. Count your blessings.

  12. Hi Paul and Linda.
    Wanted you to know that we follow you religiously and appreciate every article you write.
    I have a quick question.
    Is it possible to get permanent residency rather than a temporary residency from the Mexican Consulate in our home country (Canada) and if we do get a permanent residency are we able to bring a vehicle for a certain amount of time.

  13. Helen McNamara | August 20, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Reply

    Super blog post. We had FM3 1999-2004. Renewable every year at immigration office at Huatulco Airport. Hayed having all the hassle every year, and the cost. Then we moved to Thailand for several years. The visa process there was terrible, time consuming and expensive Every 90 days! We moved back to Mexico For a few years. Now back in Canada for a few years but looking forward to once again returning to live in Mexico. Things are so streamlined now compared to “back in the day”!
    Loving the blog.

    • Thanks for reading the blog and sharing. I would dread having to go through an immigration process every 90 days! That must have been terrible.

  14. Hi,
    We live in the Yucatan and have used the services of a young woman who helps expats with immigration and probably any other issues we could come across here in Merida. She is fluent in English and Spanish (of course!) and we felt confident and more comfortable with help. In our circumstance I qualified for permanent residency and that is what I applied for. As soon as I finalized the paperwork here my husband could be brought in as a temporary resident without having to qualify financially because he was married to a now permanent resident. His temporary residency is for 3 years and then he can apply for permanent residency. This arrangement might appeal to people wanting to bring in their cars and also for shipping household goods to Mexico. Maybe things have changed but about a year ago temporary residents shipping household goods did not get charged as much as a permanent resident did. There were fees involved based I believe on the value of goods shipped. So, when considering the sort of residency most useful for you and if you are married this permanent/temporary arrangement might work for you.

    And thank you for such clearly written information and sharing the adventure and your love of Mexico!


  15. Such good info. a lady named Chantel commented on Chapala and that is the areas I would like more info. about/
    Are you able to connect us, so I can chat with her directly? It was Aug.20.

  16. Could you please recommend a good rental agency to contact for long term (year to year) rental?

    • No, sorry. What we did was contact short term renters through VRBO.com and then negotiate for a long term rate.

  17. Hello Paul,

    I am a semi retired widow living just down the highway from you! I have finished part one of my Permanent Resident journey in the States. I am coming down next week to start stage 2. Many people have warned me that this will not be an easy task!! I believe I have everything I need except this request letter. Is there a place on-line that I can locate a format for requesting Permanent Residency in Spanish? BTW, I have really enjoyed your blog. Just like Miguel I enjoy your blog with “hapyness and emotion” 🙂 One more question. Is there good parking near the immigration office? Look forward to running into you and your wife in a random place down in QRoo.


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