Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Monday, May 10, 2010

New Immigration Forms for Entering Mexico

I covered the new Immigration procedures in earlier posts (See Changes in Immigration Procedures in Mexico and A Heads Up on the New FMM Tourist Permit ) and that information was pretty accurate. Now I've got a bit more info, plus pictures of what the new forms and documents look like.

Note that there are two kinds of permits: Non-Immigrant and Immigrant:
  • Non Immigrant Permits are for people who intend to visit Mexico for a specific purpose and then depart;

  • Immigrant Permits are for people who wish to gain long term permanent residence in Mexico.
Note also that no visa is required to visit Puerto Penasco for 72 hours or less (that's 3 days for the math impaired), but you will still need to show your passport or passport card at the border, and you will definitely need proper documentation to get back into the USA.

To recap a little, Mexico’s National Migration Institute has instituted changes that are intended to clarify, streamline and simplify processing requirements for each immigration category. Those changes went into effect May 1, 2010. The changes affect actual immigration status, such as visitor, business, permanent residency, etc.

The former FMT tourist visa, a Non-immigrant visa, is now called an FMM (“Forma Migratoria MĂșltiple”), and it has been streamlined so that all tourists, business visitors and technical visitors with lucrative activities, who intend to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days, will use the same form. A picture of the new form is at the top of this post; click on it to see it bigger. Once it is filled out, you will keep the smaller half of it (the green part on the right), and the Mexican government will keep the bigger half (on the left).

Essentially an entry/exit permit, the FMM will serve as evidence of the foreign national’s immigration status while in Mexico and must be returned when you leave the country:
  • The business visitor criteria are clearly defined; This new FMM form has an option for choosing the purpose of the visit as business (negocios), which once the foreign national enters Mexico, the immigration officer will grant a 180 days stay.

  • There are 3 different options that the immigration officer might mark and that will grant the foreign national 180 days: a) Business (Visitante Persona de Negocios), b) Visitor with Lucrative Activities (Visitante con Actividades Lucrativas) and c) Visitor with Non Lucrative Activities (Visitante con Actividades No Lucrativas). Any of the previous allow the foreign national to visit Mexico for business, either for working purposes or only for meetings

  • In case the purpose of the business visit extends more than 180 days, the foreign national will have to file for a change of Immigration status to obtain the correspondent FM3.
I couldn't find any mention about multiple entries with an FMM, so it remains to be seen how the rules are enforced in practice at busy land borders, but the rules (section H 2.2) do state that it must be returned on exit.

And that leads us to the new FM3 card, a Long-Term Non-Immigrant Visa. The FM3 visa is a renewable long term (more than six months) permit which gives non-immigrant temporary residency status to the holder. This means that it gives a person the right to live in Mexico (under terms as set out in the visa) but it does not lead to, and cannot be converted to, a visa leading to permanent residency or Mexican Citizenship. Formerly, the FM3 was in the form of a booklet, with pages that had to be stamped for various reasons, and it was a bit of an inconvenience sometimes.

That booklet has now been replaced with a gray card, pictured here, with text in both Spanish and English (including in English on the back "the holder of this document is a temporary resident of Mexico") and room for a passport-type photo. There are two signatures on the back, one for the issuer and one for the holder, and on the front there is an NUE (immigration) number, and space for a CURP number.

To apply for an FM3 you must first have an FMM (showing you are legally in the country), and it must be applied for within Mexico. Consulates outside of Mexico can no longer provide these. Your US passport must be current, and it must have at least six (6) months left before it expires.

There are several categories under which FM3 visas are granted, depending on the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the FM3, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative, depending on the visa's classification. All of these are now covered by this single card, but the categories are noted on the paperwork submitted before the new card is granted.

Once applied for and granted, your FM3 may be renewed for an additional four years (for a total of five years). If you want to stay longer, you may apply for a new FM3 at the end of that period; if granted, the new FM3 will serve for another (max) five year period, renewable annually.

Now on to the FM2. This form, and the new card, are for people who intend to live in Mexico permanently and/or might want to apply for Mexican citizenship. The card is pretty much like the FM3, only it is kind of salmon-colored and states that it is an immigrant visa (as opposed to a "Non-Immigrant" visa like the FM3).

An FM2 is a one-year permit to reside in Mexico and must be renewed yearly for as long as you reside in Mexico. Unlike the FM-3, however, this document makes the holder an Imigrante (Immigrant).

After your fifth year of holding an FM2 you can apply to become an imigrado (immigrate permanently into the country). At that phase, if you are approved, you will get a blue card similar to the FM3/FM2 and you will essentially have all the rights of Mexican citizens except the right to vote.

An FM2 can generally be a good thing to have for retirees, people who own a business in Mexico (and other categories) if you desire truly permanent residence or to become a Mexican citizen. Each application is considered on a case by case basis.

You do not need to have an FM3 before applying for an FM2. If you intend to seek long-term residency in Mexico, or to become a Mexican Citizen, you should apply for FM2 status (or request a change of status from FM3 to FM2) as soon as possible so that your time starts counting towards the qualification period right away. The amount of time you've accrued with your FM3 does NOT count toward the qualification period of an FM2.

You have to apply for a FM2 visa while you are in Mexico, in the city/town where you intend to live, and you must possess either an FMM or an FM3 when you apply.

Note that once you hold an FM2, if you stay outside of Mexico for longer than 2 years in a 5-year period, or more than 3 consecutive years absence, or for a total of 5 years in any 10 year period, you will lose your permanent resident status in Mexico.

Note also that Mexico does NOT require you to relinquish your US passport or citizenship when you become a permanent resident or citizen of Mexico.

I hope you have found this helpful. If you have more information you'd like to add, please feel free to leave comments or to email me at