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Mexico Immigration Laws 2012

Julie Vargas Intermex explains new rules and regsEditor’s Note: The following two articles appeared in successive issues of The Guadalajara Reporter. Hopefully, this will explain some if not all of the new immigration laws. As expatriates, all of us are learning and trying to understand what this means for us. Julie Vargas, Intermex, Focus immigration expert, will have all the up-to-date rules and regulations in the seminars during our Focus on Mexico 8-Day Learning Adventures.  

For the Dec 2012 Focus Program, Julie arranged to have Chapala’s National Immigration Institute (INM) office chief Juan Carlos Galvan, as our Guest Speaker.  Focus Alumni were invited to attend and we had more than 30 people at the meeting. Once we have all the facts, Focus will be writing a full report with all the changes and sending out to Focus Alumni.


Immigration chief opens up on confusing new rules

by Dale Hoyt Palfrey
Guadalajara Reporter, Friday, November 23 2012

The full implementation of Mexico’s Ley de Migracion (immigration law) has caused quite a stir among many of the foreign nationals to whom it pertains. While some are downright furious about modified requirements, the majority seem to be quite befuddled over the personal implications. A precious few are just taking it all in stride and waiting for the dust to settle.

As promised, Chapala’s National Immigration Institute (INM) office chief Juan Carlos Galvan sat down late last week for a Reporter interview to help clarify key points of confusion.

“It’s understandable that many people are very disconcerted,” he said for openers. “At the end of the day, it’s basically all about modernizing the law and improving procedures to put Mexico on a par with international immigration standards.”

Getting down to brass tacks, Galvan honed in on several recommendations that probably won’t do much to soothe those who are most agitated and addled.

“I want to underscore that every foreigner should read the law and its regulations. It’s an obligation to have knowledge of the content—not interpret it, but be familiar with what it says.”

(For reference, pertinent website sources are listed below.)

Additional advice: At this early stage don’t bother asking about what the changes mean for people who have foreign-plated vehicles admitted under temporary import permits. New guidelines from Aduana (Customs) have not yet been defined.  Standing rules apply until that happens and no dire consequences should emerge due to the void.

The same goes for the point system mentioned in the new law as a pathway to permanent residency. It will remain irrelevant until fully spelled out in procedural guidelines.

Galvan’s final recommendation is to erase obsolete terminology from your vocabulary. This particularly refers to familiar terms for different kinds of Mexican immigration documents.

He points out that all INM papers issued prior to November 9 that remain valid according to the given expiration are automatically categorized according to the Condiciones de Estancia (conditions of stay) laid out under the new system. It’s a done deal, so there’s no need to consult or deal with INM.New rules and regs for Expats 

Comparing new permit labels (in bold face) versus the previous ones, the conversion works out as follows:

  • Residente Temporal (temporary resident): now equivalent to former status Inmigrante, No Inmigrante Visitante, Ministro de Culto  and Corresponsal for  a stay of one year.
  • Residente Temporal Estudiante (temporary student resident): equivalent to No Inmigrante Estudiante.
  • Residente Permanente (permanent resident): equivalent to Inmigrado and No Inmigrante Refugiado or Asilado.
  • Visitante sin permiso para realizar actividades remuneradas (visitor without permission to engage in paid activities: equivalent to No Inmigrante Turista, Transmigrante, Persona de Negocios, Visitante Distinguido and FMM documents valid for up to 180 days.
  • Visitante con permiso para realizar actividades remuneradas (visitor with permission to engage in paid activities): equivalent to Visitante con actividad lucrativa with FMM documents valid for up to 180 days.

(Particular nuances for each condition will be covered in a follow-up story in next week’s Reporter.)

Income requirements

At this point, the stickiest issue for most expats concerns steep hikes in income requirements that have come into effect for persons wishing to qualify for temporary or permanent residency as retirees or pensioners.

The rates are based on current minimum wage (SM) figures: average monthly income of 400 times SM (around $1,900 USD) for temporary status and 500 times SM (around $2,400 USD) for permanent status. (Today’s SM is set at 62.33 pesos)

Alternately, proof of sufficient personal investments calculated over the previous year is acceptable. Doing the math, at the moment it works out to an average worth of around $96,000 USD for temporary status and $120,000 USD for permanent status.

“There’s logic to this,” Galvan explains. “People who want to live here under either condition need to have the means to do so.”

The good news is that ownership of real property may be factored into investment holdings. Also, individuals who were square with INM before November 9 as temporary residents won’t have to meet higher income brackets until the four year period they qualified for runs out. Permanent residents are totally off the hook.

On the down side, he says new guidelines do not specify considerations to lower the bar for spouses or other immediate family members. That aspect might be contemplated as policies evolve.

For the time being, local attorneys specializing in immigration matters appear to be reserving judgment on how business with INM will eventually pan out. New questions arising day to day will be answered as decisions on individual cases are resolved. Stay tuned.

INM information on line 


Deciphering INM rules: What immigration status suits your lifestyle?

by Dale Hoyt Palfrey
Guadalajara Reporter, Friday, November 30 2012

Following up on the Reporter’s ongoing consultations with Chapala immigration office chief Juan Carlos Galvan, this week we delve into the different permit categories, referred to in the law as Condiciones de Estancia.

But first, let’s reiterate the official’s admonition to scrap outdated terminology. Once the Ley de Migracion went on the books in May 2011, the National Immigration Institute (INM) eliminated no-inmigrante, inmigrante, inmigrado status as we know them. The FM2, FM3 and FMT permits of yesteryear no longer exist.

Galvan gave the following run down of the new document scheme:


Like the former tourist visa, the Visitante permit is appropriate for anyone wanting to visit or reside in Mexico for a maximum period of 180 days. The permit cannot be renewed or extended beyond the allowed six-month period.

There are six different classes of Visitante permits, issued depending upon the purpose for coming to Mexico: non-working visits (tourists), working visits, short-term non-working visits in the border zone, working visits in the border zone, visits permitted for humanitarian reasons and visits to carry out adoptions.

Citizens and permanent residents of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Japan and most European nations do have to obtain a visa prior to coming into Mexico as tourists. In general they are only required to present a valid passport and completed visitor form at any port of entry. (See for complete list of nationalities exempt from pre-approved visa requirement.)

Galvan underlines one significant difference in the new law: persons entering as visitors are no longer allowed to apply for a switch to resident status from inside the country, except under special circumstances cited in the statutes. They must leave before the permit expires and start the procedure for a new condition at a Mexican consulate located abroad.


Temporary Resident is the status of choice for people who want to remain in Mexico for up to four years, with permission to travel in and out of the country as often as they like.

After that time lapse the holder must leave the country, with the option of initiating application for a new temporary resident or permanent resident permit through a consulate abroad.  (Again, exceptions may apply under special circumstances.)

Temporary residents have the right to apply for work permits, obtain the same status for immediate family members, and bring a load of household belongings into the country.

Retirees and pensioners who will live by their own means are required to prove economic solvency.

First-time applicants are required to initiate the permit procedure outside the country through a Mexican consulate. Those who meet requirements will be issued a visa to enter Mexico under the stipulation that they appear at an INM office within 30 days of crossing the border to obtain their immigration status cards.

Galvan says that individuals who already live in Mexico with legal status as temporary residents (i.e. admitted prior to November 9 under no-inmigrante or inmigrante documents) do not immediately start from square one. They are allowed to apply for renewals at the Chapala office without leaving the country until the full four-year period of the original permit ends.

He also points out that higher income requirements now in effect are only taken into consideration in reviewing cases of individuals whose status is irregular, such as those whose documents have expired within the previous 60 days.

There is a separate temporary resident category for persons who intend to pursue academic studies, research and training in Mexico.New rules for immigration to Mexico 


The permanent resident permit is geared for persons who want to settle in Mexico indefinitely. It has the advantages of freeing the holder from renewal procedures.  Permanent residents are granted rights to freely engage in lucrative activities, obtain the same status for immediate family members and bring in a household load. They are allowed to leave and return to Mexico at will and the new law does not put limitations on the length of their absences.  They are required to notify INM of any change of address, marital status, employment or nationality.

Since there is no expiration date for persons previously granted inmigrado status, they are automatically in the door as permanent residents. They will eventually have to exchange their original IMN booklets or identity cards for new ones, but no deadline has been set for that as yet.

Family ties 

One important aspect of the Ley de Migracion is its focus on guarantees for family unity.  Galvan observes that while a specific status for dependents no longer exists, the new law allows anyone whose residency permits are in order to request papers for his or her spouse or common law mate, children and parents without each one of the applicants needing to meet individual income requirements. Foreigners who are spouses or parents of Mexican nationals also enjoy certain privileges, including ability to initiate application for temporary or permanent residency condition inside Mexico’s borders.


The specific requirements and allowances to qualify for each type of IMN visa or permit are spelled out in the Ley de Migración, the complementary Reglamento (rules) and Lineamientos (procedural guidelines) published in the Diario Oficial de la Federacion (federal diary). See last week’s Reporter for web links to those documents.

Some online sources to find relatively concise, reliable and updated information in English on dealing with INM:



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