Written by Michael K.
I read so much wonderful and helpful information on this forum and others that I thought I should at the very least post about my personal experiences getting my permanent residency card and “pay it forward”.
I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve purchased real estate and lived in several countries in South America. Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. When possible, I always like to get permanent residency status if it’s feasible and there aren’t major hurdles to cross.
I lived in South America for 8 years so I’m well aware of red tape, corruption, inefficiencies, etc. I’m totally conversational in Spanish (although not totally fluent).
I read a ton of posts online on this and other websites. I live in San Diego and started the process there at the Mexican Consulate office in San Diego. It took forever to get an appointment online. This office is so busy so it took a while to get an appointment online. But their website is really detailed and an option to read everything in English for those that don’t speak Spanish.
It outlined everything I needed to bring. Although I’m in my early 40’s, I applied under the category of Retired Income Holder “Rentista”. You can read all of the income requirements on the URL link above. But basically you only need to show a monthly average balance of $80,000 US dollars for 12 months. Or you can show that you get retirement income or cash deposits into your account of at least $2,000 US dollars each month for the past 12 months.
I met the criteria for both as I own several rental properties and have regular monthly deposits into my bank account each month. But when I presented my bank statements they didn’t care about the monthly deposits when they saw my bank balance easily exceeded the minimum thresholds. I printed off several bank statements with different banks I have because I wasn’t sure if they would hassle me about my age and if I’d need to show more savings. But I didn’t need to.
Just keep in mind they are VERY strict about the no PO Box on the bank statements. Now on that website link it specifically says not to have a PO Box on your bank statements but when I started the process it wasn’t so prominently listed and on several of my bank statements I didn’t have my home address on it. And they wouldn’t accept those statements. Fortunately, I brought statements from another bank that had my home address on it. They accepted those so fortunately I brought other statements!
They took my US passport and I paid $36 US dollars. They took a photo and then I had to wait there about 1 hour and voila! They put a visa in my passport and it had an expiration date when I had to finish the process in Mexico.
I totally forgot that I was going to Cabo with my family before I was going to finish the process with my permanent residency. I didn’t know that you can’t enter Mexico without finishing your process. I was going for a short 5-day vacation. I read that you could possibly get permission to leave but I didn’t have time to deal with this in Cabo. So unfortunately I had to start the process all over again! So if you’re starting the process make sure not to apply for the Visa until you can go to Mexico and finish it.
I tried again to get an appointment for the San Diego office (as I live in San Diego). But it was now booked several months out for an appointment. I started to investigate and noticed there was also an office in Santa Ana, California which wasn’t far from San Diego. And surprisingly there were tons of appointments. I sent an email and was surprised to get an email back right away with them offering for me to come in 2 days for an appointment.
I gladly accepted and went to their office with all my same documents and explained the situation where I was already approved but I couldn’t finish and that I entered Mexico already so I had to start again. They did require all my bank statements again but they issued another Visa within 30 minutes. That office in Santa Ana is fairly dead so I’d recommend if you live in the area to go to this one vs. San Diego which was a zoo.
At this point I had to enter Mexico and finish the process there. I purchased an apartment about 2 years ago in a development that was a totally new construction in a high rise tower in Guadalajara. They just finished it so I was moving down for the summer to get it all furnished.
I was just going to do it on my own as I speak Spanish but I’m always a fan of paying for assistance if it’s reasonable. I reached out to Spencer who I believe is in Chapala and I also reached out to Adriana from Yucatan Expatriate Services as I read some great articles from her website.
Both were really great and helpful but it just came down to Adriana being so quick with emails. I got back emails within minutes. Although she wasn’t located near Guadalajara, she said that for $105 US dollars she would basically fill out all the forms needed for the appointment, give me detailed instructions where I needed to go and what I needed to do along with a list of all the things I needed.
I thought that was a great deal and extremely helpful and a valuable savings of my time. So I paypal’d her $105 US dollars and she asked for a copy of my passport, the Visa Stamp in my passport and asked a few questions and she sent me PDF copies of all the forms I needed plus a requirement of the things I needed including “dwarf photos”. (special smaller photos that they use in Mexico for the Permanent Residency Card).
I can’t recommend Adriana enough. I sent her questions before the process and she always was quick to answer them. All her information was spot on target. Believe it or not the most difficult thing in the process was those darn dwarf photos. I took the measurements that she gave me and found a special studio in San Diego that took the photos. More on that later…….
So I went down to the IMF office – Avenida Alcalde 500, Centro, 44280 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico (Google Map location here). Go upstairs to the 2nd floor and go back to the left corner of the building as you come up the stairs. You wait in line in the center and tell them you’re there to get your permanent residency.
It was really interesting to see all the various people there. I saw several Americans as well as people from all over South America. Most of the Americans couldn’t speak Spanish and they had paid assistants with them. What was interesting is that almost none of them had filled out the forms ahead of time. They were going to the office to get the forms to fill out! So they were waiting in line a while only to get the forms.
Once the person saw that I already had all the forms filled out they sent me to another window. The person at the information booth basically finds out what you’re there for and they will give you a colored card with a # on it that tells you which # to go to. It’s a very efficient system.
I waited about 45 minutes and went to the window and gave them all my forms, showed them my Visa in my passport and they had me fill out some paperwork. They gave me a little ticket that I had to go pay at a bank for 4,828 pesos. There is a bank a few blocks away that I paid the 4,828 pesos and they gave me a receipt. Then I went back to the IMF office in the same line. The lady told me that I didn’t have to wait in line again. Just to bring her the receipt when I was done.
I waited for her to finish with the current client and then I gave her the receipt. Then she told me that I would get an email within 2 weeks (probably sooner) telling me that I was ready to pick up my card, get fingerprinted and I’d give them the pictures then.
She also gave me a paper with a website and a # that I could enter in and get my status of the application. I was AMAZED that within 15 minutes of leaving the IMF office that I got an email from them saying that the process has started. I was amazed with how efficient and quick they were!
About 8 days later I got the email and I was in Puerto Vallarta on vacation so I couldn’t go for a few days until I got back. But I went back, waited in the same center aisle information booth and they directed me to the window at the left of the booth. It was very quick to see the girl. The girl asked for my photos and here is where the problems were. She told me the photos I got although were the right dimensions, the position of my head wasn’t what they required. I asked her where I could go that knew exactly what they were doing. She said they weren’t allowed to recommend photo places.
I saw several photo places on the corner so I left and she said to go get it and I didn’t have to wait in line again to come back to the window. So I asked the first place and they said they didn’t do those dwarf type. I went to another place and they said they did. So I paid 150 pesos and was on my way. You can imagine my disappointment when I get to the window and the lady said these are wrong too! Then I think out of pity the lady at IMF wrote the address of a photo place. She said they aren’t allowed to recommend a place but she said after 2 wrong photo places screwed it up she said she knew this place knew how. So I went around the corner to Av. Hospital 496 upstairs and there is a professional photo studio. I think I paid 120 pesos for a few photos. Sure enough it WAS different. So success! I got fingerprinted with all my fingers in a black ink that was really difficult to get off your fingers and they just give you a piece of paper to clean your hands. I suggest that you bring in some wet wipes (they have mini packs) to clean your fingers after that.
The lady told me that within a week it would be ready to pick up. She told me to come back on Monday (I went on a Tuesday to get fingerprinted and turn in my photos). Sure enough by that Saturday I went to log into the website where it had status updates and it said my card was ready to be picked up. I was so amazed how efficient this was!
It took me 4 YEARS to get permanent residency in Argentina and this was so easy here in Mexico. I was amazed how efficient and tech advanced they are here at IMF office. I was easily able to get my CURP at the first meeting when I came here. They gave you a paper with it and it had a digital code you can scan with your Smartphone and goes right to the page where you can print out your CURP.
I went to the IMF office the following week and my card was ready. I was so happy that it was so efficient and easy. I was now able to open up a bank account which I did the following day easily with my new Permanent Residency card. They ordered me a check book (not sure if I’ll use that much) along with a Visa ATM/Debit card.
And just yesterday the electricity company asked me for an RFC # which I did NOT have. I didn’t know what the process for that was but a Google search easily showed that you can instantly get the RFC # if you have your CURP (which you will get when you get your permanent residency card from IMF). Just go here and go to RFC and type in your information and voila you can instantly print out your new RFC card.
Again, I was amazed with how easy they make this! Bravo Mexico.
I hope this is helpful to anyone that needs to apply for their permanent residency. I thought it was really simple with not a lot of hurdles to jump through and not major money requirements.
Thanks for this great, detailed explanation! I went through this process myself about a year and a half ago here in Guadalajara; and like you, I got tripped up by the photo requirement! I’d gone in to INM with my passport-sized photos, and they told me I needed “infantil” size. Fortunately there was a photo studio around the block that could do that size…but they needed a day to print them. Cue another trek back into the Centro…
So, I’ll add my own bit two bits of advice for anyone dealing with getting their permanent residency from within Mexico:
– Unless you speak fluent Spanish, bring help. I speak basic Spanish, but I would have been completely lost at INM without my Mexican friend there to me navigate the cranky fast-talking official at the front desk, the better-tempered person next to her who was her…supervisor? assistant?, and all the odd instructions they gave (“Take this plastic-laminated paper, go to the computer terminal over there, pull up form such-and-such, fill out the fields and hit Enter, and then go sit over there and you’ll be called to window such-and-such.” “Tramite, comprobante, [acronym]….” “Take this receipt, go outside and around the block to the BBVA bank and pay $XXXX at the window, and then come back with the receipt they give you.” “If everything’s OK you’ll come back next week and you’ll get a different plastic-laminated paper from me and you’ll sit in that *other* area over there and…”).
– Assume that every step of the process will take significantly longer than you would expect in the US. Photo shops may not have your photos ready the same day. The wait at INM (or at the bank to pay the fee, or at the photo shop) may be looong. Locations or hours may have changed but the website (or Google Maps) may not have been updated. The US is called the “land of convenience” for a reason; Mexico is…not.
Daniel, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and our readers!