The journey to obtain either a temporary or permanent resident card begins outside of Mexico, normally in your home country, at a Mexican embassy or consulate. If they approve your application, they will place a visa inside your passport that will allow you to enter Mexico to begin the second part of the process at immigration.
The friendly folks at the Mexican consulate often tell future expats that the second part of the process shouldn’t take more than 30 days. That is a very encouraging number, but don’t count on it. The fastest we have ever seen in our area (Quintana Roo) has been five weeks and the longest six months.
Yep, you read that correctly — six months.
Another common complaint that we hear from people involved in the process is that they know someone who started the process after they did; however, they received their resident card first. How is that even possible?
Well, I had a couple of rainy days in a row so I set out in search of answers. I spoke with Adriana Vela, an immigration specialist out of Playa del Carmen. She provided some insight into what causes delays and why some people get their cards before others.
1. INM Work Systems
For those readers who are unfamiliar with the abbreviation INM, it comes from Instituto Nacional de Migración — the agency that handles immigration matters in Mexico.
According to Adriana, the speed at which your application is processed will depend a lot on the workload of the individual office and which employees are handling your particular case. Just like with any office, there are employees who work quickly and ones that work slowly. If your case has been assigned to the latter, it can cause a significant delay in getting your card.
It’s also important to note that the offices are only working on processing the numerous applications that they receive a few hours a day. They attend to the public from 9 am to 1 pm and then spend the remaining part of their shift on administrative duties.
She added that there is nothing that your immigration specialist — if you have one — can do to expedite the process.
2. Wrong Box Checked on FMM
The FMM is the form that you filled out when you entered Mexico. When you have been approved for a resident card, the immigration officer at the airport or your point of entry should check the canje box on the FMM which authorizes you to stay in the country for 30 days.
Don’t worry, it really just means that you have 30 days to get to immigration to start the second process. Once you do, that will extend your permission to be in the country automatically.
If the immigration official checks the wrong box — most commonly one that allows you to stay in the country for 180 days — the form has to be physically returned by INM to the point of entry to be corrected before the application can be processed.
You can avoid this problem by paying close attention to which box the immigration official checks. If it’s the wrong one, you will be in a position to address it immediately.
3. 180 Day Visa Period Expires
When the Mexican embassy or consulate approves your application to obtain a temporary or permanent resident card, you have 180 days to get to Mexico to complete the second part of the process.
According to Adriana, some people arrive too close to the 180 day cutoff date and the application is actually expired by the time an INM official gets around to reviewing it. In those cases, the documentation has to be forwarded to Mexico City for validation before it can be processed, resulting in a long delay.
To avoid this from happening, she recommends arriving in Mexico at least 60 days from the expiration of the 180 day visa period.
Let’s Wrap This Up
For those readers who are unaware of this fact, when INM is processing your paperwork to get your resident card, you are required to stay in the country. That’s why it’s a good idea not to book that return flight home because you might be down here longer than you anticipated.
If you absolutely need to leave the country for a valid reason, you can can get permission from INM to leave. To learn more about that, check out Getting Permission to Leave Mexico While Your Resident Card is Being Processed.
I was planning on ending the post right here, but upon reviewing it, I realized that I might get some emails from readers requesting Adriana Vela’s contact information — so, here it is:
Adriana Vela, Immigration Specialist
Business site: migrationtomexico.com
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org