It’s been almost four years since Linda and I stepped off of a plane at the Cancun airport with 99% of our belongings packed neatly in four suitcases. We had either sold, donated or given away everything else we owned before heading to Mexico in search of a laid-back Caribbean lifestyle on a budget.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know that things turned out very well for us. We live a debt-free active lifestyle on about 1/3 of the income that we had when we were both working, and most importantly, we’re very happy.
Still, readers of the blog often ask us if there is anything we wish we had done differently. To be honest, there’s only one thing that either of us can think of…
[Cue the drum roll]
We wish we had applied for permanent residency at the Mexican Consulate instead of temporary.
“So, why didn’t you?” You may ask. That’s a good question because we actually qualified for both.
The answer is simple. We received incorrect information from the consulate employee processing our application.
She said that the major downside of applying for permanent residency is that we would only be allowed to be outside of Mexico for a limited amount of time each year.
Just to be clear, this is not true, but that was apparently her understanding of how it worked.
When we pressed her for details, she couldn’t tell us the exact time limits. We both attempted to Google the answer, but neither of us had a connection inside the consulate.
Linda was worried that she wouldn’t be able to visit her family in the States as much as she wanted, so we opted for temporary — but not before asking if we would be able to change our mind and switch to permanent later.
The same employee assured us that we would be able to change our status with immigration officials once we arrived in Mexico.
Also not true.
Once we arrived in Mexico, we learned that there were no in-country time limits placed upon holders of Permanent Resident Cards, so we attempted to amend our application from temporary to permanent.
We were informed by immigration officials that since we were approved for temporary residency by the consulate, that was the track we were stuck on.
They added that the only way for us to switch to permanent residency at that point, would be to do one of the following:
- Keep temporary residency for four years and then apply for permanent (which is the route we chose)
- Let our temporary residency expire after the first year, return to the U.S. and apply for permanent residency at the Mexican Consulate.
We later found out that this wasn’t exactly true either, but we accepted them at their word. The funny thing is that we contacted a couple of immigration specialists in the area and they gave us similar answers.
What’s Wrong with Temporary?
The biggest problem with a Temporary Resident Card is that it has to be renewed and that requires time and money. Two things that I hate to waste.
Renewing a Temporary Resident Card in Mexico is not as simple as paying a fee and receiving the new card. It requires additional paperwork and time. If you don’t hire anyone to assist, you can expect to make a few trips to INM during the process.
Once you begin the renewal process, you might have to wait months to get your card (it’s currently taking up to four months in Playa del Carmen), and during that time, you can’t leave the country without first obtaining written permission from the Mexican government. Which, of course, comes with a fee.
Speaking of fees, Temporary Resident Cards cost more than a Permanent Resident Cards. And here’s the kicker, after four years, you’ll have to pay to get a Permanent Resident Card anyway.
To see the fee schedule, click HERE.
Let’s Wrap This Up
Looking back at the all the things that could have possibly gone wrong while moving to a foreign country and buying property there, this is really pretty minor. I guess that’s why I’ve never mentioned it on the blog before today.
One good thing that did come out of that experience is that it motivated me to learn as much about Mexico’s laws, regulations and procedures as I could.
I later started sharing what I learned with others via this blog — and here we are.