Dealing with Mexican Immigration

Last week we made the long trip to Nuevo Laredo and then to Laredo (Texas).

The purpose of the journey was two-fold: to apply for our temporary residence visas and to renew the permit for our U.S.-plated vehicle.

Up until now, we’ve been in Mexico using tourist visas. This allows a citizen of another country to be in Mexico for up to 180 days, where upon that person must exit. One can return immediately for another 180 days and some, if not many, expats use the tourist visas for living in Mexico.

However, with a U.S.-plated vehicle, its permit must be renewed every 180 days and this can only be done at the border. (The tourist visa must be renewed as well by exiting and re-entering Mexico.)

With a temporary residence visa, a person can bring in a foreign plated vehicle (by driving it into Mexico) and use it for the duration of the temporary residence visa–up to five years.

So we had a strong incentive to obtain temporary residence visas. Once we have them, we won’t have to drive to the border every 180 days.

The kicker is that the process of getting a temporary residence visa is that it must be originated outside Mexico. One cannot apply for the temporary residence visa while in Mexico.

So we did the usual searches online and found most of the information we needed. The forms, the requirements. What we could not figure out was how to actually make a appointment at a Mexican consulate in the U.S. (Neither of us are fluent in spoken or written Spanish.)

So we engaged an attorney (abrogado) here in Mexico. And are we ever glad we did. Without him, we would have been lost.

He made our appointments and instructed us what paperwork to bring to the consulate.

(For anyone needing his help: Alvaro Becerra. He has been a godsend for us. Providing free advice for legal, immigration and naturalization issues. New clients possible. 333-201-3123 (Number in Mexico). Alvaro speaks English along with Spanish.)

One important note: it is critical to turn in the tourist visa (called an FMM) when crossing the border. This is easy when you fly. The airline takes it as you board the plane. However, when driving out of Mexico, we’ve heard numerous stories from ex-pats that they tried to turn in the FMM when exiting and the officials at the road border crossing won’t take them.

From what we have heard, the FMM must be returned because one ends up in a bureaucratic nightmare if you are in Mexico with two different visas, which is what would happen if the FMM is not returned and you enter based on the visa you receive after successfully qualifying at the consulate.

We took another option to turn in our FMM. We went to the Immigration office in Mexico close to the border and turned ours in. No problem. We also turned in the permit for our vehicle.

Then we drove out of Mexico for the first time in ten months.

More to follow.

Note: please do not take what we say here as gospel on immigration to Mexico. Conditions and requirements change frequently and without notice. That’s why we so strongly suggesting Alvaro or a Mexican lawyer of your choice to help guide you.

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