Getting here - paperwork for people, animals, cars and things
The basic entrance immigration status for tourists is the FM-T. It is valid for a maximum of 180 days and is issued at your point of entry into Mexico-either at a border crossing or an airport. Visitors who drive a car into the country will be required to return the car to the border and turn in both their FM-T and car importation papers before the end of the six-month term.
FM-3 (Non-immigrant visitor)
- If any of the following apply to your situation, you may wish obtain an FM-3:
- " You plan to be in Mexico longer than six months
- " You own a house in Mexico and want to be exempt from Capital Gains Tax (Requires 2 years of house ownership as an FM-3)
- " You wish to bring your household goods into Mexico duty free
- " You want to keep a vehicle in Mexico
You may complete the FM-3 process at the Mexican Consulate nearest your home or convert your FM-T to an FM-3 while visiting or living in Mexico.
Each Mexican Consulate and Immigration Office operates somewhat independently and each interprets the rules for issuing immigration paperwork differently. While this can be a source of frustration, avoiding problems is simple. Ask the office where you will be applying what their requirements are and then comply with their rules.
Most offices will require the following:
- " Proof of monthly income. This figure is based on Mexican minimum wage. Not all offices require the same amount.
- " Certified copy of marriage certificate
- " Passport
- " Mexican immigration fee
- " Application form
- " Birth certificates or passports for minor children
- " FM-T (if application is made in Mexico)
- " Black and white photos, front and side of head
Some offices may require additional documents such as but not limited to:
- " Birth Certificate
- " Police Clearance
- " References from two Mexican nationals
- " Health Certificates
If you obtained your FM-3 outside of Mexico, you are required to register the document with an immigration office within 30 days of your arrival in Jalisco. You must register each change of address with immigration within 30 days of moving.
Fees are required to apply for, register and annually renew the FM-3. Holders of this Visa are allowed enter and exit Mexico as often as you wish during the five-year term of the document. A foreign-plated car owned and imported by an FM-3 holder may be kept in Mexico as long as your FM-3 is valid.
FM-2 (Becoming a Mexican Immigrant)
Once you complete five years with an FM-3 you can apply for an FM-2, which is the next step in the process of becoming an immigrant in Mexico. While the FM-3 is governed in the Immigration office in Guadalajara, the FM-2 and the follow-up status of FM-2 Immigrant are approved and administered by national offices located in Mexico City. The five years as an FM-2 requires proof of a higher level of income, and restricts the number of days you are allowed to be out of Mexico. Once approved as an Immigrant, you have most of the rights of a Mexican citizen, lacking only the right to vote, hold elected office, and a few other minor conditions. As an Immigrant, you are not allowed to drive a foreign-plated car. Permission from immigration is no longer needed to work, but you must still register your place of employment with immigration.
To work legally in Mexico, you must obtain permission from Immigration and have the permit attached to your FM-3 or FM-2 document. To obtain the permit, you will need to hire an immigration facilitator or attorney to expedite your papers. The process is complicated and requires a level of expertise to negotiate, as permission is not automatic.
Applications for work permits may require the following documents:
- Letter from company wishing to hire you
- A description of your qualifications and why you are needed for this position
- Certified and translated copies of degrees and licenses
- The corporation papers of the company
- The most recent tax return of the company
- A copy of your Mexican tax number seal (CEDULA - use an accountant to obtain this for you)
- A list of the company employees, listing names, ages, addresses and citizenship of each
- The required immigration form
- The additional taxes for immigration
- Other paperwork as may be required by Inmigracion
Bringing children into Mexico:
If you are traveling with children, you need their birth certificates or passports. If both parents are not traveling with a child, a notarized letter of permission from the absent parent(s) or notarized copies of guardianship papers will be necessary. Each child needs an FM-T tourist permission from immigration.
Bringing pets into Mexico and returning them to the United States:
Any veterinarian can provide the international shipping form and certification of health and vaccinations to allow your dog or cat to enter Mexico. The same paperwork from a Mexican vet will allow your pet's return north across the border. If you are flying into Mexico, check with the airlines for their pet requirements. Check with the Mexican consulate for special requirements for birds, reptiles and other pets before leaving home. Veterinarian care and pet grooming are readily available, excellent and modestly priced. Most brands of pet food and pet accessories are available in the Lake Chapala area.
Temporary importing of a foreign plated car into Mexico with an FM-T (Tourist), FM-3, or FM-2
At the border you must present these documents, all issued in your name:
- Title of vehicle or Lien holder letter
- Driver's License
- Passport or Birth Certificate
- Credit Card (If no credit Card, be prepared for a cash Bond of no less than $200 to $500 USD depending upon the age and class of your car.)
- FM-T, FM-3 or FM-2 2-4 copies of all documents
If you are driving a vehicle into Mexico, you must stop during the border crossing to obtain a temporary importation permit from Aduana (Customs). The registered owner of the vehicle must cross the border in the car and will be required to sign a document pledging not to sell the car in Mexico, and to return the car to the border before his immigration status expires. If you are still making payments on the vehicle, a notarized letter from the bank or lien holder is required, giving you permission to take the car across the Mexican border.
Your car's insurance policy from a company outside of Mexico will NOT be vailid in Mexico. You must obtain Mexican vehicle insurance before crosssing the border. Be certain the insurance company also provides Bonding insurance in case you are involved in an accident and are held in jail.)
A charge of approximately $22 USD will be made on your credit card during the process. A hologram sticker will be affixed to the windshield and the identification numbers of the vehicle recorded. You are allowed to import only one foreign plated vehicle per person.
It is your responsibility to turn in your FM-T and your car importation papers when you exit the country. If you do not, you could be forbidden entry on your next trip if customs records show you still have a car in the country.
Detailed directions for crossing the border are available on the following page: Driving Across the Mexican Border - Regulations and Guidelines.
Immigration and customs departments will require copies of your birth certificate, passport, driver's license, credit card, car title, registration, letters regarding children or liens of vehicles and other documentation. It is more convenient to make several copies of each document before leaving home. Keep them easy to locate in the car. Make copies of your importation papers, immigration papers, insurance policy, identification and immigration papers and keep them in the car at all times. Keep your original papers in a safe place.
Change some money into pesos before crossing the border. Few Mexican hotels, restaurants, gas stations or stores accept credit cards. In border towns there are a number of banks and money exchanges, but they are more visible on the U.S. side of the border. You may bring any amount of money into Mexico. The U.S. requires that you declare when you carry cash or documents that total more than $15,000 U.S. dollars. It is not a crime to transport the money, but it is illegal to not report it
Bringing your personal goods across the border:
When traveling by plane or ship, you are allowed to import (duty free) up to $300 US in merchandise per person. When you cross the border by car, you are allowed only $50 US in duty free merchandise. While you can pay the duty yourself on less than $1,000 US in merchandise, you will require the services of a customs broker if the merchandise exceeds that amount. Your own used clothing, shoes, personal items and some household goods are allowed across the border duty free.
Importation of household goods with Menaje de Casa
If you hire a company to move your household items, you will need to obtain a Menaje de Casa, a permit that allows you to bring your goods into Mexico duty free. This one-time move must be completed within six months of obtaining your FM-3 or FM-2 and within three months of obtaining the Menaje de Casa from the Mexican Consulate nearest your northern home.
To obtain the permit, you will need an FM-3 or FM-2 and an inventory of your goods, box by box. The inventory must list the contents of each box, typed single-spaced in Spanish and include serial numbers and model numbers for all electronics.
Check thispage for a list of items you may bring to Mexico duty free: Whatstuff?.
This article is reprinted with permission of Mexico Insights, publisher of Living at Lake Chapala,
a monthly Internet magazine covering all aspects of living in the Lake Chapala/Ajijic area.
Their web address is: www.mexico-insights.com.
For a free issue, click on "complimentary issue" located on the top bar.