Mexican Resident Cards: What Happens Once the Consulate Approves Your Application?

If you are a regular follower of the blog, then you already know that the majority of my article ideas come from emails from our readers. If enough people ask the same question, chances are pretty good that it will be answered in a post. Today’s post is one of those.

I get several emails from people asking about the second phase of getting either their temporary or permanent resident card. They are always – and I do mean always – under the impression that the only thing that they will have to do is swing by the local immigration office and pick it up. Spoiler alert….it isn’t that simple.

I’m going to back up a bit for those readers who have no idea at all what I’m talking about.

If you want either a Permanent or Temporary Resident Visa to live in Mexico, the process starts at the Mexican Consulate in your home country. You are required to submit a list of requested documents and be interviewed. If you are approved for the visa, a Mexican visa – which looks like a large sticker – is placed inside your passport.

Once we got ours, the woman helping us at the Consulate told us that we would pick up the actual resident cards at an immigration office (INM) in Mexico once we arrived. It sounded so simple at the time.

In fact, I thought it would be like getting a driver’s license once you passed all the tests. I would just walk up, show them my approval packet, and walk out a short time later with our card.

Why wouldn’t I think that? After all, I had already submitted all of the required paperwork, been interviewed and even supplied them with a photo. What else could there be left to do? The answer is…more paperwork, more photos and multiple trips to the immigration office.

Part Two of the Process (Mexico)

The list of required documents can vary slightly from each INM office but at a minimum, you will be required to submit the following for each person applying for the visa:

Online application (formato para solicitar trámite migratorio de estancia) LINK

Basic format form (formato básico) LINK

Photocopy of the Mexican Visa in your Passport

Photocopy of the identification section of your passport

Proof of address

Photos (front and side views)

Once you submit that packet, they will give you a tracking number to check the status of your request. This usually takes 2-4 weeks depending on how many applications they are processing.

They don’t accept money at the INM office, so you’ll have to go by a local bank to handle that part. Make sure you get extra copies of the receipt because they won’t make copies of anything at the INM office.

Once the packet is approved, you will receive an email notice to return to the office. At the Playa del Carmen office, the purpose of this visit is to schedule a future visit to be fingerprinted. Yep, you read that correctly – a visit to schedule another visit.

After they take your fingerprints, ask a few more questions and you sign a document, they will tell you to come back in a week or more to actually pick up the card.

Time from Start to Finish

I received my card in about 4 weeks. Unfortunately for Linda, her first application was rejected because there was a typo on the date of birth. That caused a considerable delay in the process and she got her card about 6 weeks after I did.

Let’s Wrap This Up

I know this may sound like a pain, but it’s a very small price to pay to be approved to live in such a wonderful country. Try to keep that in mind the next time you’re waiting in line at an INM office.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico ( to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

68 Comments on "Mexican Resident Cards: What Happens Once the Consulate Approves Your Application?"

  1. Another great post, Paul; thanks!
    Regarding visas in general, are you aware of any drawbacks to just doing repeats of the 180 day tourist visa if the car registration issue isn’t relevant (no car) and if you are able to open a Mexican bank account with only a tourist visa (which I was in PV)? Just curious, since this sounds like a bigger hassle than just making two quick trips to the States each year which I would be doing anyway.

  2. Wondering, is it any easier for a EU citizen to purchase property there and/or obtain a resident visa than a US citizen, or no real difference?

  3. Another point to remember, sign your signature to exactly match your passport. I left a bit too much space between my first and middle name. Sorry we’ll start again, come back next week to sign the new document. Hehe!

    • Yes, great point.

      • Paul, I have heard of facilitators to help you along in this process. We are going to apply in Playa in Dec ’17. Do you know of anyone who can help with this? Some people have said the facilitator does everything except the fingerprints. If it is not too expensive I would like to find someone that does this service. Thanks, Bob

  4. steve martinez | January 6, 2017 at 9:15 am |

    Muchas gracias, perfect timing as we will be at INM in Cancun Monday.
    I’m going to print out the forms ahead of time.
    Thanks again

  5. Jeff taylor | January 6, 2017 at 9:16 am |

    I’ll be at my Townhome in TAO Jan 21, lets have dinner 1 night that week
    Jeff taylor

  6. jack windham | January 6, 2017 at 9:24 am |

    Many thanks for the kind help you provide for others.

  7. Luanne Bauer | January 6, 2017 at 9:31 am |

    Thank you for such specific helpful information. We’re moving to Mexico in the spring and you’ve clarified so much of the process. I am thankful we don’t have to figure everything out ourselves. Luanne Bauer

  8. can you define “home Country”? we (USA expats) have permanent residency in Ecuador and have lived here for 3 years. I’m assuming that makes EC our home country, right? also, when we go to the embassy here, will they tell us which documents must be Apostilled?

    • You should be able to start the process there at the Mexican Consulate. You just can’t start it in Mexico itself.

  9. Are the forms in English? Are there English speaking agents at INM? Do they email you in English?

    • The forms are in Spanish and they had limited English skills. Most of the neighbors hired someone to assist with that part.

  10. Very informative post! Thanks for the information!

  11. What an eye opener. And I thought American bureaucracy was bad. Knowing this is the general process is very helpful. Thanks Paul.

  12. Paul,

    I’m curious about the initial consulate interview in one’s home country. I would imagine for you it was straightforward, as you’d decided to move and knew at least the general area where you’d be living. What was the substance of the interview? How far in advance were you required to make the appointment? I’m thinking I’ll be a bit nomadic for several months (more than six) before picking a place to settle down.

    As for working with IMN, beyond being slow and bureaucratic, was it perfunctory otherwise, or were there additional interviews?

    I want to be honest, but I don’t want to inadvertently phrase something the wrong way that would interrupt the process.

    Thanks again for the great info!

    • The original interview was short. Once I told them that I wanted to retire in Mexico, it was just a review of the paperwork including the financial statements to prove we could sustain ourselves.

      On the Mexico side, they only asked us specific questions related to weight, height, education, and address. You are required to report any address change to INM, so I’m not sure what their response would be to writing “at large”…lol.

  13. How about a blog on the benefits of obtaining a Permanent Resident card. Thanks.

  14. Are you experiencing the strong winds that we’re getting here about 25km East of Progreso? The weather has gone downhill all day. Thanks for your great blog and sound advise. We’re also Florida natives.
    Best Rick and Lucyna

  15. I Love reading your articles. We are retired in Baja Malibu, Tijuana, BC, Mx, for almost 12 yrs now Love it…and love all you wonderful and very informative..Thank You..Keep up the great work.
    Keith & Linda Bye

  16. Louise F Montgomery | January 10, 2017 at 4:45 pm |

    Thanks for this posting. I, like many, had the idea that the 2nd stage was more formality than providing more information. I have a couple of questions: I expect to live in a small hotel while I look for a good rental and plan to get a PO Box. May I apply for the permanent resident visa while living in a hotal? I thought in a quick reading of the forms that I should complete and submit them online. Yes?

    Keep up the good work. I’ve been reading expat forums for a few months and will move in 2 days to Xalapa.

    • Many expats that we have met lived in a hotel when they first arrived. They listed the hotel address and later returned to INM to file a change of address when they moved.

  17. Thanks Paul, as always I find your articles informative and amusing at the same time – and oh so true. Actually, the process doesn’t really surprise me much. In our most recent visit to Mexico we decided to open a bank account, which seemed a little like a chapter from “Catch 22”. You can’t have a bank account without proof of your residence, in order to get a residence you need money and prove you’re financially capable of paying. Solved that problem – we borrowed a utility bill and with off to our pre-arranged appointment. Day 1 visit to the Bank, to review the required papers. Day 2 returned to the bank with the paperwork and after a lovely visit with our banker (she was charming and very sweet) we were told to return in 2 days to sign paper work – Day 5 we returned to sign the paper work and was told it wasn’t ready – Day 6 – we signed paper work and were told to return in 2 days to get our check book and bank card, when we returned it wasn’t ready. Day 7 we returned to sign the paper work and which was the equivalent to buying a house on the number of documents that were signed (all in Spanish) plus we needed to signature exactly as it appears in your Passport and that took a few attempts to get it right. Day 8 we returned to meet with the man who taught us how to use the online banking (they give you a ID fob for security purpose)…. So after 2 weeks and 6 visits to the bank, we have an official Mexican bank account. Bring on Immigration office, I am ready for anything – I have a bank account – I can handle it. Actually, it’s all party of the Mexican experience that I find charming and sometimes a little frustrating, but its all part of the adventure. Thanks for your blog, always enlightening!

    • Hahaha, great story. Many banks wont even let you open one without your temporary or permanent card in hand. You were lucky.

  18. Hi Paul – While you were waiting for your card, were you allowed to travel back and forth to the US or were you stuck in Mexico until your card arrived? Did you receive it by mail or did you have to return to the INM office to obtain the card?

  19. We used a facilitator once we arrived in Mexico. She took care of EVERYTHING for us including filing all the paperwork, taking our pictures, and going to the bank. All we did was go to her office, fill out the forms with her help, and pay the fees. The only interaction we had with Immigration was to be fingerprinted. She even picked up our cards when they were ready and delivered them to us. It was easy & painless. She charged us a total of $800 MXN (about $40 USD) for everything including our photos. I think it was worth every peso!

    • Also, if you are living anywhere near the Mexican Consulate in Sacramento, CA, I highly recommend it! It is a new facility and everything went very smooth. We arrived around 8:30, waited a half hour or so to submit our paperwork, had a brief interview with the clerk, and were told our visa’s would be ready before 2pm and that we may need to have an interview with the Head Counsel. We went out for breakfast, came back around 11, and were told everything was a go. They took our pictures, and by 12pm we were on our way with our permanent residence application!

    • Betsye McDonald | July 4, 2017 at 11:04 am |

      Could you share the name and locationof facilator?

    • john, where did you get your residency card? we are applying in Playa del Carmen and if it was there I would like the name and contact info for your facilitator. Thanks, Bob

  20. Am I correct in understanding that during that 4-6 week waiting period that you have to stay in Mexico? That you can’t go back to the US?

  21. STEVEN LEGER | February 24, 2017 at 5:13 pm |

    I live in San Diego, Ca and want to get a Permanent Visa for Mexico before moving to Mexico. I want to retire in Lake Chapala area in 6 months or a year. Do I qualify with $110,000 in a 401k and $40,000 in a Roth? I can go to Tijuana to do paper work, but I don’t have an address in Mexico, do I need one? If I do need a Mexico Address any ideas?

  22. Jason morey | March 3, 2017 at 11:40 am |

    did you start at the orlando consulate…how was your experience. i’m debating either miami or orlando

  23. Well, if I had known that Sacramento was so fast, I would have flown there. I live in Denver, Colorado, and the Consulate there told me that the next interview appointment opening was in 6 weeks. I did end up getting my Visa in San Antonio, where they are much more efficient and responsive. Denver doesn’t even answer their phone. They just giving you one phone menu after the other. Necessitating a trip to their office for every question.

    But here’s my question: Household Goods. I understand that I must have a Temporary Residence Visa to have household goods shipped into Mexico. Mine are waiting in a warehouse in Denver for me to complete the process.
    San Antonio says they can process my Visa in one day. Is that good enough to get the household goods across the border? Or do I have to wait until I complete the Mexican part of this process, which you tell me will take 4-6 weeks????

    • Getting a visa can be very frustrating for all of the reasons that you described. I think that they do that on purpose in order to see if the applicant is truly ready to handle the bureaucracy south of the border…lol.

      I can’t answer the question about household goods. We came with all of our belongings in four suitcases and started anew.

      Generally speaking though, if a task requires a resident visa (e.g. register a car, open a bank account), then you are required to complete the process before you can do that task. We tried to get several things done while waiting for the cards and we were repeatedly denied. The reason that we were given is that there was still a possibility that the application could be denied by INM (immigration).

      Good luck!

  24. Thanks Paul! I didn’t realize there was so much paperwork on the Mexican side. We got our temp residency visas in Canada and are now on the way (slowly) thru the States to live just outside of Merida! We r going to contact our lawyer (also a friend ) when we get there to help us with this stuff but it was an eye opener for sure that we have so much left to do!!

    • It is much easier to use a professional who is familiar with the system to do it all for you. It can save you a lot of headaches.

  25. YES, I did get the one-year Temporary Residence Visa in Morelia. Contrary to the advise of three officials, who insisted I had to go to Guadalajara. It took four trips but, hey, you’re not really a “Real Mexican” until you have waited and waited and waited in the Waiting Room of the Visa Office and can throw your toilet paper in the trash basket.
    The clerks were impressed that I had all relevant information memorized: address, zip code, home phone number (yes, they want a home phone).
    “Well,” says I, “no disrespect intended. But I have had sufficient time in your Waiting Room to memorize all pertinent facts.”
    When I FINALLY completed the process, I got a High Five and an applause for perseverance.
    PS: a Visa Photo (They want three: one front and one right side of face, and one for, who knows what it’s for) are a different size than you Passport photos. So be sure to tell the photographer you want the Visa photos.

    • Haha, great story! Congratulations on getting your visa. I look forward to hearing how the renewal process goes in a year.

    • If I may ask, where exactly in Morelia, Michoacan, did you obtain a Temporary Residence Visa? Thank you.

  26. Hi Paul – While you were waiting for your card, were you allowed to travel back and forth to the US or were you stuck in Mexico until your card arrived?

    • You’re required to stay in Mexico. If you have to leave Mexico for any reason, you have to apply for special permission to deviate from this requirement.

  27. Question on the online form you listed above (formato para solicitar trámite migratorio de estancia). On the Nacionalidad Actual (current nationality) drop box, there is no option for USA (Estados Unidos) or American. What did you select for this? I may be overlooking something or translating incorrectly, but I’m just not seeing anything that relates to the USA in this drop box.

  28. HI all – can anyone comment on the source of monies required. I can find the “official” website that states an amount but also hear many stories about the many differences depending on where you are, what office you went to and who you spoke with. I can show enough money for the monthly requirement (I currently think around $2000/mth) but I’m not retired and it’s not a pension but from other incomes. I hear that they really want it to be a defined or Gov’t pension only – any ideas to help get me there without a true pension income? Many thanks

  29. Larry Anderson | February 2, 2018 at 9:13 am |

    As for the front and side photos how many of each and is there somewhere in Playa that you can have them taken

    • There is always a photo place right next to an immigration office. They know the specifications and the number of photos you’ll need. It is best to get them done there, so if INM rejects them for some reason, you can have them retaken at no cost.

  30. Gabriel Sebasitan | February 2, 2018 at 3:55 pm |

    Paul, quick question. I got my visa ready and have a travel date for Mexico. My concern is the timing of the residence papers. My work requires me to travel a lot, so my question is: while you are in the process of getting the Residente Card, do they take away your passport? Can you travel in and out of the country during those 4-6 weeks it takes to process?

    Many thanks

    • They don’t take away your passport but you have to file for special permission to leave during the process. If you have an attorney handle that for you, you’re looking at $2,400 pesos or about $129 USD.

      You can’t come and go though. You would have to file each time you needed to leave. The best thing might be to come down and start the process, request permission to leave, and then just stay away until it’s almost done.

      • Gabriel Sebastian | February 5, 2018 at 10:51 am |

        Thank you Paul! Do Lawyers have to do it or can I file alone? And how long would it take to get the permission?

        Thanks for your response!

        • You can do everything on your own, we did. The part in the US takes one day and the part in Mexico took 6 weeks.

  31. Brian Wilson | February 9, 2018 at 9:06 pm |

    I have a question, and received various answers. I have my temp residency, and it was one of the easiest things to do. Now, it expires April 14, 2018. All the paperwork is ready to submit for a 3 year extension. I have now been told by a credible source, that I can apply for permanent, instead of the 3 additional years waiting time. I haven’t been back to immigration to confirm that, but do you know if that is correct? I can’t seem to confirm it on searches.

    • You cannot jump to permanent even if you would qualify. We tried to do that. We were told that since we were in Mexico on a temporary, we would have to have that for four years. The other option would be to let it expire and go back to the U.S. and begin the process again, but this time we would request permanent.

  32. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for the info. I receive a print out to say my temporary residency visa is approved about 2 weeks ago and have not heard anything since. Do they email you to let you know whether to pick it up or do they send it in the post?

    I’m not sure if you are working or retired but did you have much info on working? Does this visa allow you to work in Mexico or do you have to apply for the work permit? I have been offered a job teaching English and they are telling me they will file for my work permit if I stay there for a year but I am unsure if my temporary residency visa covers this already?

    Thanks in advance

    Katie Hansen

    • You have to go to the INM office to pick it up. Unless you specifically applied for a work permit, your temporary resident card will not allow you to work in Mexico.

      If you’re in Riviera Maya, we have an immigration specialist that we can refer you to. Just send us a request via the contact form.

  33. Hello. I applied for my temporary visa with my Mexican husband back in January, January 10th to be exact. I still haven’t heard anything from them. I was told that it would be two to three weeks when I was to receive an email…still nada. I check the migration website and my status hasn’t changed. Do you know if others are experiencing an extra long wait. To be clear, I’m waiting on an email telling me to come get fingerprinted. I’m worried they may have my name wrong because it reads wrong on the online website page, but correct on my paperwork they handed back. So frustrating…any feedback would be appreciated.

    • Some of the offices are several weeks behind. You might want to stop by the INM office and inquire in person.

  34. Thank you for the great blog Paul , its extremely helpful. Question, Can foreigners with permanent residency purchase property in restricted zone without doing the 50 years bank trust or forming the Mexican corporation? in other word, does permanent resident visa allows you to purchase property like a Mexican citizen?

  35. Very helpful! I haven’t been able to find any information if there is a time limit on when you are approved for a temporary visa at the Mexican consulate in the US and when you need to finish the process at INM office in Mexico. Does it expire? We were thinking of applying earlier in the US, but didn’t know if there was a time limit.

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 16, 2018 at 6:18 am |

      Once you are approved in the U.S., you have 180 days to get to Mexico. Once you arrive in Mexico, you have to report to INM within 30 days.

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