If You Do This, the Mexican Government Will Cancel Your Resident Card

Obtaining a Mexican resident card is not a simple one day task; rather, it is a multi-step process that begins at a Mexican Consulate in your home country and ends (sometimes months later) when you finally pick up your resident card at an immigration office in Mexico.

Once you finally get your resident card (temporary or permanent), life in Mexico gets much easier. You can open a bank account, register a car, and obtain government services and that are not available to non-residents. In other words, life is good.

But then one day it happens — you make a simple mistake and the resident card that you worked so hard to obtain is suddenly cancelled.

The worst part is that the only way to get it back is to leave Mexico and start the process all over again from scratch.

The Mistake

The fastest way to lose your resident card is to enter Mexico under as a tourist because Mexican immigration law prohibits a person from holding two immigration classifications simultaneously (Artículo 61 de La Ley de Migración).

Immigration (known as INM for short) rectifies the situation by cancelling the first one (i.e. your resident card).

Normally, this is only a problem for people who are entering or leaving Mexico by air because all non-citizens are required to complete an immigration form called an FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple). If this paperwork is completed incorrectly, it can result in the resident being incorrectly classified as a tourist.

If you’re entering or leaving by land with a resident card, no one will ask you for this form.

The Procedure You Should Follow

Before leaving the country by air, report to INM with your resident card and passport in hand. There should be an INM desk or kiosk near the ticket counter (international airports):

1. Pick up an FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple) 

This is actually the same form that you would use if you were coming into the country as a tourist, but this time, you’ll be submitting the sections in the reverse order.

2. Fill out boxes 1-8 of Section One and 1-10 of Section Two

Section One is for your return to Mexico and Section Two is for your departure.

That means that your departing flight information will be in Section Two only. You don’t have to worry about filling in the flight information in Section One — at least for now.

3. Present the completed form along with your passport and resident card to the INM agent

He or she will process it and write either temporary or permanent resident on the top of Sections One and Two (in the white margin). If they don’t write it in, I recommend you do it yourself.

The agent will hand you back both sections of the form. Give Section Two to the airline representative when they ask for it. This is normally done at the ticket counter.

4. Store Section One in a safe place 

Seriously, don’t lose it. You’re going to need it in the future.

5. Upon returning to Mexico, complete the remaining boxes on the form (Section One) and give it to INM

Piece of cake!

Let’s Wrap This Up

If you fly in and out of Mexico on a regular basis, it pays to pick up a stack of these forms and fill them out ahead of time.

If you still feel like reading more about this topic, check out A Few Comments About Yesterday’s Article.

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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 (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

96 Comments on "If You Do This, the Mexican Government Will Cancel Your Resident Card"

  1. Sharon Lesley | February 1, 2018 at 6:48 am |

    Good warning, we were lucky and a friend mentioned that we needed to do this, but the form is a bit confusing when you’re effectively filling it out in reverse , and I wonder what you do if you haven’t pre arranged your flight back?

    • You don’t have to prearrange your flight back, you just don’t fill in the boxes related to your return flight on Section One until you actually return.

  2. Question. Can you have a U.S. issued passport and a Mexican temporary residence card?

    • Yes,of course. The passport allows me to travel internationally, the temporary resident card just says that I am allowed to live (and possibly work) in Mexico.

  3. Paul, your email arrived at 6:34am. I hope you did not wake Linda.

    Being another linear person, I love, love, love your step-by-step instructions for the airport — with the process overview that explains the “why.” Just what I need. I am a satisfied blog reader. :))

    • Hahaha, she is sleeping away. The blog keeps me busy for a few hours in the morning until she wakes up.

      Thanks for following the blog and feel free to share the posts. That really helps us out 🙂

  4. Elinore Craig | February 1, 2018 at 7:49 am |

    Perfect! I am flying today for the first time with my temporary residency card. An hour of online research last night to confirm the process didn’t tell me as much as this 5-minute read did! Pictures were mist helpful.

    Thanks – as always- for your clear and practical information.

  5. Frank Napolitano | February 1, 2018 at 8:11 am |

    Paul, Thanks for your great blog posts. So, on that first arrival to Mexico to go pick up your new resident card do you enter with a tourist card or present your resident card paperwork?

    • You fill out the FMM (both sections), write CANJE on the top and present that and your passport with the Mexican Visa inside to the INM agent in immigration.

  6. Question: if you have applied for but not yet received your temporary residency card, what do you do? My stepdaughter graduates High School about 2 months after we will have moved to Mexico and I am worried about the long waits some people are reporting to obtain their cards! Are you required to remain in the country during the entire process?

    • You are required to remain in the country; however, you can file for permission to leave and pay a processing fee. My recommendation is to have an immigration attorney handle that for you.

      • Before Mexico started the Permanente and Temporal system and we were on the annual renewable FM3 system we had an instance where we had to fly back to Canada while they had our FM3 cards and were working on the renewal. We told inmigration in Manzanillo about the problem and they gave us a letter which we presented to the inmigration people on departure and on our return and there was no difficulty.
        David Edgar

      • Thanks! You are the best!

  7. I will be flying to Miami in a week to get my stamp from the Mexican consulate to come back and receive my temp residency card. Question 1. I entered on a tourist visa. I will turn this in when I leave this time correct? 2. When re-entering Mexico I will have the stamp in my passport for the temp residency which I will need to exchange for the card. What do I do coming back to Mexico when going through Immigration? 3. #9 on the INM form , do you check other? As always your articles are most helpful.

    • Yes, you turn in your tourist visa card (Section Two) when you leave. When you come back, you fill out the FMM (both sections), write CANJE on the top and present that and your passport with the Mexican Visa inside to the INM agent in immigration.

      Once you arrive in Mexico, you have to report to INM within 30 days to initiate part two of the process. I would recommend using an immigration attorney. It is well worth the added expense and makes the process hassle-free.

      if you need a recommendation for a good one in the Riviera Maya, just send me a request via our contact form and I’ll send you the information.

  8. Thanks for this post, we’ll be going to get fingerprinted for our residente temporal cards in a few weeks. So when leaving Mexico, INM is BEFORE security, correct?

  9. We have a neighbor who travels back and forth by land fairly regularly. He checks in with INM at the border crossings to do the forms.

    • not at the California/Mexico borders. There really is no logistical way you can check in with INM at these land borders. the nature of the border is that permanent and temporary residents drive across monthly, weekly, even daily and INM knows. Even if they did care, their staffing shortage limits them to enforcements of immigration violations brought to their attention.

      • William Thomas | February 2, 2018 at 9:05 am |

        I was thinking the same thing! We live in Rosarito, are permanent residents, and cross the border at least two or three times a week and have never done any paperwork or had any problems. It would be impossible for Immigration to process the thousands that cross daily!

        • People cross back and forth for the day, so INM doesn’t say much. They have no idea if your intention is to stay in the border area or enter the interior of the country.

          People get into trouble when they drive in, never complete anything and then try to fly out. INM then asks for their FMM and then uh-oh.

          I’ve know of several cases where this happened.

        • Americans don’t require a visa to stay in the border zone (an defined area 20-30 kilometers from the border) and can stay up to 72 hours. Again, the INM agents don’t know what your intentions are when you cross. That responsibility falls on the individual.

          In your area, it is probably not an issue, but it has jammed up some people who live further from the border.

  10. Our resident attorney here in Ajijic, Mx also suggests that you yourself write in permanente residente or temporal residente in the blank spaces at the top of both forms in block letters. Just an added safety measure. It’s what we do and causes no problems for us.

  11. Charles Benfante | February 1, 2018 at 10:15 am |

    I always write Residente Permanate on the top of the return form

    • They usually do that for us when we they process the form when we leave Mexico, but if they don’t for some reason, we write it in too.

  12. GREAT article Paul, Thank you! We will be coming to the Riviera Maya in a few weeks for several months, and plan on becoming either temporary or permanent residents within a year. Should we go ahead and apply for Temporary Residency Visa in Los Angeles before our trip or wait and hire an attorney in Mexico, or ???

    • You should start the process in Los Angeles. The attorney in Mexico will only be assisting with the second part of the process.

  13. I am glad you are informing people of this procedure. When my friend and I (both of us Residente Permenente) flew from Mexico City to San Jose, Costa Rica, no one told us we needed an FMM to depart. We thought “that makes no sense.” So, we missed our flights, which caused all our flights to be cancelled, and we had to rebook at current flight costs – around $1000 USD. We spent the night in the Mexico City airport. Fortunately, the rest of the trip was great. BTW – The INM representative in Mexico City did not write Residente Permanente on the top of our forms. But, we did have our cards as proof when we returned.

  14. Thanks for saving us from a potential heap of trouble, Paul and Linda.

  15. Great article & advice. Thank you!

  16. Jennifer Amann | February 1, 2018 at 12:06 pm |

    Paul, thank you so much for this timely info!!! We will be leaving for our Honeymoon in April and i did not know about this step. Thank you so much for the heads uo notice so we will not make this mistake.
    Great article!!
    Jennie y Nico in Chiapas

  17. Great info as usual! Thanks for all your hard & detail oriented work. It is greatly appreciated. We just got our sticker in our passports for Residente Temporal Visas 2 days ago! We’re on our way next month with our 2 goldens a Mini Cooper & Thule rack….sounds like a good name for a blog. 🙂 Just hope we survive all the topes.

  18. Thanks for the Cancel Residency Card. Sounds exactly like the stupid mistake I would make because I just didn’t know better. Now, thanks to you, I know.
    Did it take you and Linda three months to get the Residency ID card after you had completed and been approved for one. I was approved last October. Is it time to worry yet?

    • Hi Susan, you should have heard something by now on the card. Have you been checking your email and the NUT number they gave you? Are you using an attorney or doing it yourself?

  19. Paul, Thank you for taking the time to explain this. I can see myself possibly making one of those mistakes. Just getting to a plane on time is major for me, let alone having the proper documentation with me. Thanks for pointing this out.

  20. Paul, I totally know how this can get screwed up. As a Residente Permanente just got back from the US yesterday and I wasn’t paying attention to the process (seriously wasn’t drinking), did not go to INM in advance. At the Merida airport INM wanted my section 2 when I was departing, I attempted to explain (with Green Card in hand) that it was taken by INM. He sent me back to complete the form, he took section 2, gave me back section 1 that I tossed in my backpack. When I returned yesterday, I completed the entire FMM. He asked me for Section 1, which I was able to produce – he then scanned my Green Card, stamped my passport. Do I need to be concerned?

    • You shouldn’t have any problem if you eventually presented him with Section One and he saw your card.

  21. Thank you Paul, great info!

  22. Once again Paul, most solid information based on actual experience, rather than typical blogger speculation and hearsay.

    BTW, is there a post on your blog about the quickest, simplest way to obtain MX residency? You say the process starts here in the states. I’m sill here. Maybe I should start the process now before heading to MX on a tourist visa. And, if I did start the process now, here in the US, should I remain here while it’s being processed, or could I make my way to MX and wait for the residency process there?

    • Thanks, Jim.

      As far as your residency, that has to start in your home country. If you’re a retiree looking to move down, it’s not difficult to do. You just have to prove financial solvency (I’ll be discussing that one in a future post).

      The U.S. side only takes one day (if you have all your paperwork in order); however, the Mexico side takes 4-6 weeks on average.

  23. Angela and James Saunders | February 1, 2018 at 1:33 pm |

    thanks for the step by step. I have been wondering. Don’t have plans yet to visit US, but I am prepared when the time comes!!!

  24. Paul, I haven’t seen this question yet, so I am asking. I have a work permit visa that is expiring. I have decided to retire and work no more to enjoy the Mexico life. Since I am not working anymore I cannot renew my work permit visa so I must go back to the states to a consulate to start the process over. When I go back I will do as you mentioned and get the proper form. My question is this: When I return, I will still have a valid temporary visa as it doesn’t expire until next month, but I will also have the temporary visa in my passport. Which one do I follow the rules for? One requires the firm I got when I left Mexico and the other requires I fill out the tourist visa.

  25. Michael Holmes | February 1, 2018 at 2:23 pm |

    A person with only a tourist card can buy a car and register it in their own name. I know there is popular myth that this is not true, but tourists do this all the time. And in Playa del Carmen you can even open a bank account with a tourist card, but only select banks will do that.

    • Mexico is a country of inconsistencies. They have a lot of rules, but they aren’t always followed. We know some people who tried to register a car with a tourist visa in Playa del Carmen last week and were denied.

  26. Thanks so much-great info!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Also, when it comes time to renew your temporary resident card, the local immigration office will take your “green” card from you and submit it with the renewal paperwork. This means that for 2-3 weeks you will not be in possession of your card while your renewal application is being processed. My suggestion is that you make a copy of the card and of the renewal application. This will be important when you cross the border into Mexico and when you are asked to show your “permit”. Rather than having to get a tourist visa, the “permit”, on the spot, which is what we’re learning would create a problem here, you can simply show your renewal paperwork, along with a copy of the old green card being processed by Mexico, and the border authorities will okay your passage into Mexico. This happened to me recently and I’m glad I was prepared with proof of my existing resident status.

  28. Paul, I understand that anyone with a Mexican passport or Residente Permanente can’t drive a vehicle with US or Canadian plates. Does this mean you have to import your vehicle at the border?

  29. The big reason this happens is flight attendant ignorance. They pass out the tourist forms and often insist strongly that you have to fill it out no matter what. I know two different families who had never traveled before on the residency visas, were unsure of what to do, and had flight attendants insist on what to do. One of them even showed both sets to the INM official asking what to do. He glanced at the residency cards, processed the tourist visa, and canceled their residency on the spot. Just smile and nod if a flight attendant insists you take the form. And then throw it away.

  30. Courtney Currin | February 1, 2018 at 5:14 pm |

    This is awfully complicated! I have not expatriated (yet), but, before even leaving the States, I seem to have trouble finding my driver’s license, much less medical or pharmacy cards. My passport is what I make an active effort to never lose. I need a “keeper”! Lol.

  31. Kelly Roscoe | February 1, 2018 at 8:32 pm |

    LMBO! Awesome article and so thankful you take the time to share your wealth of information! I suspect I will keep this at the top of my emails as I can totally see us making this faux pas.

    By the way, feeling a rush of adrenaline-put my notice of intent to RETIRE today! OMG, it’s happening!

  32. Such a helpful and clear explanation. Thank you so much! I have saved this post for future reference. We have our perm res visa and will be coming to Mexico and doing the canje in March. We plan to do the application in Cancun since they have a main INM office there and are looking at using MexLaw. Does that sound like a good plan to you? We have allotted 7 weeks to complete the process in Mexico to get our perm res cards. Do you think that is enough time? Thank you for providing such helpful and accurate info. You are helping so many people!

  33. Terésa Cerveza | February 2, 2018 at 1:10 am |

    Hey, man, thanks for simplifying this for my dumbarse

  34. INM agents work at multiple border crossing locations.

    Here is a list of entry locations with INM personnel:


  35. Hey Paul! Im in US (Central Florida) for the first-time since I got my residency. We did get the INM form done correctly. When we fly back to MX do we use the regular immigration line or the Mexican line? To complicate it, we have my infant granddaughter who is a Mexican citizen with a Mexican passport.

  36. Carlos Serna | February 2, 2018 at 9:50 am |

    What does CANJE stand for?

    • In this context, it refers to the temporary visa in your passport that will be replaced later by an actual resident card. It’s a Spanish word.

  37. Nelson La Rocca | February 2, 2018 at 12:30 pm |

    Hi Paul and thanks for sharing.
    In your article you mentioned that opening a bank account is easy.
    In my case I couldn’t even get an Oxxo card ! Tried to get a debit card at Bancomer and they said that was not possible cause the condition of “temporary” resident.

    Thanks again for your article

    • Nelson La Rocca | February 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm |

      oh ! I forgot to ask if there’s any tip for doing that

    • You should talk to someone else there. I checked with their customer center and they confirmed that an account can be opened with a temporary or permanent resident card.

      Here is the common problem: the bank employees rely on old bank guidelines that use terms like FM2 and FM3. The average employee probably doesn’t know that these old terms were replaced and actually refer to temporary and permanent resident cards.

  38. HI Paul,
    Question about how to complete box 9 in section One on your return to your home in Mexico. If you have a US Passport but a Permanent or Temporary Resident Visa for Mexico. Is your trip to visit the US tourism or other?

  39. Gabriela Osorio | February 4, 2018 at 6:48 pm |

    If you fly from Us To Mexico, we should also fill out this form?

  40. I wanted to give your readers a heads-up about a problem I had when I returned to my home on Lake Chapala from the States last year.

    As we had been instructed to do by the Chapala INM office, I had written RESIDENTE TEMPORAL across the top of both halves of my FMM. I used a black Sharpie so it would be very visible. When I arrived at the Guadalajara airport I handed the INM agent my form AND my green card (Visa), and said “Yo soy Residente Temporal” (I am a Temporary Resident). He took my form and my card, then promptly marked me as a 180-day tourist. Fortunately I was watching and called him on it, and he made a correction.

    The morale of this story is even if you take every precaution you could still find yourself marked as a tourist and risk losing your RT or RP. You need to be vigilant – don’t assume the agent will mark your form correctly.

    As a side note when my wife and I renewed our RT last November the INM office required us to sign a waiver acknowledging that we know we can lose our Visa if we are processed as tourists when we return to MX. The assumption appears to be that any mistake is the fault of the Visa holder, not the INM agent.

  41. A new wrinkle: I have a Residente Permanente and travel from Oaxaca to the US twice a year and the procedure is as you described until this last trip. 3+ weeks ago I went to the INM desk at the Oaxaca airport, showed my Res. Perm. card, filled out the FMM form (both parts), the agent took it, but didn’t return the bottom portion to me. I didn’t realize it until I was about to board. Aaagh!!! When I got to the US, I called the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco and was told I didn’t need the bottom portion and that when I returned to Mexico, all I needed was to show my Res. Perm. card and US passport. However, when I returned, at the Oaxaca airport the INM agent made me fill out the FMM form (again) and returned the bottom portion — with the “length of stay” boxes x-ed out in red. And, so the confusion continues…

  42. What if I hold dual citizenship (Mex/American) and I enter Mexico with a Visa? Then you fly out of the country and overstayed this Visa?

  43. Shelley fletcher | February 22, 2018 at 10:11 pm |

    Hi I have a question I am a permanent resident and I am taking a trip back to canada driving but will return to Mexico by air what do I do about exit visas stamps ect…..what do I need to do when I fly back into Mexico?

  44. I have been living and working visa (2 years) in Mexico as a temporary resident and my visa will expire in 2019 (3rd year.) I have another job offer for 1- 2 year in another country and then return to Mexico. I want to apply for Permanent residence in 2020. If I leave Mexico, will I lose my 2 years that I have already invested or can I return and renew in 2019?

    • I don’t have a good answer for that one. Sorry Constance. You should probably check with an immigration expert to find out for sure.

  45. Thanks for that info. That probably needs to be at the top of the priority list when moving in and out of Mexico.

  46. How far out should you start the process for the visa be it temporary or permanent?

  47. Hey Paul
    FYI for other Canadians. I applied for my residency card in mid November and received it last week. Finally done. what a relief. My question is? I understand your steps in filling out section one and two. on the return flight to Mexico when filling out section one, what do you write for country of residence and nationality? is there anything else in section one that should be filled out differently.
    Great blog

    • Q-Roo Paul | April 1, 2018 at 6:00 am |

      Your nationality is still the same. Under country of residence, we write Mexico and we put our resident card number in Section #8.

  48. Thank you for your valuable information. What can be done for someone with temporary residency that did not go to the INS office before leaving Mexico by plane?

    • Q-Roo Paul | April 3, 2018 at 7:10 am |

      According to the immigration specialist, the most important thing is to NOT enter as a tourist when you return. Tell the immigration officer what happened and ask for a “regularización de situación migratoria”.

  49. Paul,

    Thanks for the advice. Can I ask for your expert advice? I’m an American that applied for permanent residency permit for Mexico last year. I started in San Diego at the Mexican consulate office. My plan was to go to Mexico here next month to close on my apartment that I purchased in Guadalajara. Then I was going to stay 5 weeks to process all the paperwork for the residency visa.

    However, a sick relative was down in Cabo shortly after that and I had to enter Mexico. There wasn’t time to do anything as I was only there 3 days to visit my relative. So I assumed I would have to start all over in San Diego at the Consulate office. Is that correct?

    I already showed all my banking information and they approved the visa. But now do I need to make another appointment there and just explain the situation? And show my financial documents again? I’d appreciate any insight or advice on my situation.

    And just so I understand it correctly, once I enter Mexico on this permanent visa I need to stay in Mexico without leaving until all the paperwork is finished? Which sounds like it usually takes at least 4 weeks?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Q-Roo Paul | April 8, 2018 at 8:13 am |

      If you entered as a tourist to see your friend and it’s still within 180 days since you visited the Mexican Consulate and received your approval, you should be able to finish the process without any problem.

  50. Hi,
    I got a mexico temporal resident card when i came to Mexico in 2016.
    In Nov 2017 i went to my home country and when i returned via US, the INM officer allowed us an entry as tourist.
    I never noticed this until i filed an application to renew my temporal resident card last month.
    The renewal was denied saying you are on tourist visa.
    Now i am left with only one month that i can stay legally in Mexico.

    I was working in my company till now assuming that i was a temporal resident.
    Now the travel department are saying to go back to my home country and again file the application for temporal resident.
    Can you please guide me if this option will be ok in my case ? Is there any chance of denial
    Will it be approved now ? Please note the point that i was working for past 4-5 months assuming i am a resident.

    Should i sell up all my belongings here for now to avoid risk of not able to come again ?
    or should i keep everything (house, car, etc) as is as i will anyway come back ?

    Please guide. I need your advice desperately.

    • We’ve seen this a lot. In every case, the person to go to leave Mexico and reapply for their resident visa at a Mexican Consulate.

      You can always consult with an immigration attorney to see if there is another way around that.

      • Hi Paul,
        Thanks a lot for your reply…
        Can you please share contact details of any immigration attorney whom i can ask for advice ?
        I am ready to pay the fees if any.

  51. Scott Dalton | April 25, 2018 at 1:19 pm |

    After returning to the states my wife and I lost our returning Visa’s for re entry into Mexico.
    We are temporary residents and have been told to fill out the top portion of the FMM card and present
    it at the Mexican immigration line upon re entry. If this is not the process then what do I need to do?
    Scott Dalton

    • Yes, fill out the top of the FMM again and when you present it to the INM agent, explain what happened so you don’t enter as a tourist. That is the most important thing.

  52. Donna Rauch | April 26, 2018 at 9:08 am |

    Can you post an example of this form filled out correctly.? I am coming in on a temporary soon to complete it & am already confused. lol

    • You’re coming for the first time after receiving your temporary visa at the Mexican Consulate?

Comments are closed.