Part One – Obtaining The Visa
It’s New Years and with that comes reflection. This weekend I have been reflecting on 2022 and the big events that shaped the year. One of those events was getting our Mexican residency. We were speaking with some new friends on New Year’s Eve that also recently went through the process of getting their Mexican residency that had a different experience than us. I’ve decided to share our experience to normalize the fact that there are many different experiences when getting residency.
Let me start by giving a little back story about why we decided to get our residency to begin with. We are planning extended stays in Mexico once we retire to enjoy the warm weather, friendly Mexican culture, and lower cost of living. Like others who are considering early retirement we turned to YouTube and online resources for information. A common concern or theme we heard was that the Mexican customs were stamping passports with various lengths of stay rather than the previously depended on six month tourist visas.
It was a late evening in February 2022 that Jeff and I decided to apply for Mexican residency. We had not seriously considered it so this was our first attempt. I remember looking up the Mexican Consulate website and printed a visa application then booked an appointment online. Because I had no idea what I was doing I had a feeling I didn’t do it correctly so the next day I called the consulate. The person I spoke to was great and helped me get the correct appointment for about two weeks later. She explained to me what to bring including copies of bank statements, copies of passports, application, and two passport photos.
The day of our appointment was filled with excitement and fear. For starters we were missing Jeff’s application and we forgot to get passport photos, so not a good start. Plus we had a couple hour drive to Raleigh. Once there we made our way through a short line to the receptionist that pointed us to the waiting area where we had a very brief wait.
The person that we were meeting with was friendly, in fact I forgot to make copies of our passports but she told us no worries, that she’d make them for us. She asked us why we were seeking permanent residency and we just simply said for retirement. This conversation was only about five minutes long then she instructed us to return to the waiting area while they reviewed everything.
That’s when the waiting began. We sat there for over two hours nervous that we would not be approved. We both sat there worrying that for some reason our application would be declined. But then someone came over to say that they were reviewing everything and that it looked good. So after hours of waiting and just thinking that the whole trip was a waste, we finally had some hope to hang on to while we continued to wait. After another hour that same lady came over and told us we were approved. Literally Jeff and I just starred at each other in disbelief.
After being told we were approved the next step was to pay for the visas, which at the time were $48.00 each. Then we were told we would have six months to physically go to Mexico to exchange (Canje) the visas for the actual resident cards. A process that we didn’t completely understand as we were not given any additional instructions on what that process would look like.
At 2pm that day we were walking out of the Mexican consulate with our permanent resident visa. I honestly could not believe it. I wish I could have bottled the excitement I felt. There was this excitement that one, we actually had the visas and two, that our plans for early retirement were no longer just wishful thinking but becoming reality.
This next part of the journey the exchanging the visa for the card was completely foreign to us as we were not familiar with this part of the process. When we left the Mexican Consulate we were on such a high it didn’t matter. We were now committed.
When we got home I sat down at the computer to research how to “canje” or exchange the visa for a card. I thought it was going to be a simple as getting the visa. All I knew was I had to make an appointment with the INM office. I went to the INM’s website but was unsure where to look. I was getting nervous thinking we’d come this far surely the next step can’t be more difficult. Boy, was I wrong.
Luckily I stumbled on a YouTube video that recommended a website called Immigration To Mexico. I reached out to them via email and Adriana responded very quickly. I explained where we were in the process and she said they’d be happy to help with the exchanging process. We happily accepted her help given the fact that we know very little Spanish and we are not familiar with Mexico either. We learned that you have to complete the FMM form a specific way, then complete some INM forms in Spanish, and make a cash deposit for the fees at a local bank. All of which stressed us out thinking about it.
Adriana asked when we would be available and this posed another issue for us. We only had a two week window because Jeff was still working and his business partner was about to have a baby and Jeff would need to be available after the baby came. So she searched the Yucatan for an appointment in our window and found one in Merida. Merida just so happened to be a city we were interested in because of Cafe Con Leche’s YouTube channel.
With the appointment booked and travel plans arranged we were on our way to Mexico! We were told to make sure we were in Mexico at least a week after our appointment just in case of an issue, as it is difficult to leave if you’ve started the process but an issue arises. We arrived in Merida on a Saturday and our appointment was on a Monday. Adriana connected us with her associate in Merida named Mariana.
The day of our appointment we met Mariana at a coffee shop to complete of forms, then she took us to a local bank to make the deposits and from there we went straight to the INM office. Just like when we were getting our visa’s I had extreme anxiety about the whole process, only because it was unfamiliar to me. The actual appointment was not eventful, except having patience while waiting. The INM official was professional and luckily for us spoke English well. They didn’t ask us anything unusual and then finger printed us. Then back to waiting for the card to be printed.
I am not sure we could’ve gotten through that appointment had we not hired Adriana’s services. The cost was $750 and for us it was worth every penny. Once we had our cards it was official. We were now Mexican residents.