Ambassadors for all we America was. Apologists for all America is.

Transitioning from the ‘Visitante’ to the ‘Residencia Temporal’


We are on a sailing vessel named Spiritus.  We have been in Mexico for a year.  We have decided to stay longer.  Keep that in mind as you read what follows.  It is written for cruisers in Mexico and will vary if you have not already been here a while.

This writing will describe what happens when you are in Mexico on the 180 day or less ‘Visitante’ tourist ‘visa’ and decide that you want to stay longer.  You have two choices.  Both require a return to the US.

If you just want more time, you can just fly or drive or sail back to the US, turn in your old expiring ‘Visitante’, then turn around and reenter Mexico and get a new 180 day card.  Cost $20 approximate at the border or port of entry.  You can repeat this ad nauseam, every 180 days.  This time, 180 days goes by very quickly if you are doing much while you are in Mexico.

If you get tired of watching the calendar and know you are staying longer, there is another way.  More complex, it still requires a visit to the US.  In this case, it will require a visit to a Mexican Consulate.  We went to San Diego from La Paz to take this route.

This process will end up with you having what is called ‘Residencia Temporal’.  This is the modern equivalent of the old FMM2 status after  the 2012 changes in the law.  With it, you become a temporary resident of Mexico with a actual ‘visa’ in your passport and a ‘Residencia Temporal’ card in your wallet for immigration purposes.

The disadvantage to this process is that it can only be initiated at a Consulate outside Mexico.  So for most that means a return to the US or their country of origin.

The process involves (1) submission of a completed application for a ‘visa’ which you can get from the Mexican Consulates website or at the consulate, (2) copies of the documents listed in the next paragraph, (3) an interview, (4) payment of fees at the consulate. At which time your photo will be taken and you will be issued a temporary ‘visa’ with your photo on it on one of your passport pages. You then (5) return to Mexico where, after a short,while you will receive the ‘Residencia Temporal Card’ from the local Immigration office.  We were told less than a month for it to arrive was the expected time frame.

The following documents were required at the Mexican Consulate in the US: (a) the original to show (b) and a copy for each person’s file.  We are a couple so it went like this.  (1) The completed application for each of us, (2) copies of your passport picture page and signature page and all pages with visa stamps, (3)  original and copies of six months of bank statements showing ‘income’, in our case, retirement distributions and Social Security deposits ( Note: your name on the financial statements must exactly match the name on your passport), (4) a year’s worth of rent receipts showing your residence (in our case, certified receipts from a marina in Mexico where Spiritus had been in a slip), (5) passport-style photos for the application itself (even though they will take another for the actual ‘Residencia temporal’ visa. (6) A letter stating why you want to come to Mexico and stay for the time you are requesting.  The letter should be in your native tongue unless you have very good Spanish.  In other words, if you don’t speak as well as you Google Translate, you should write it in the language you are most comfortable with.  (7) No one tells you this but this is important, if you are returning from Mexico, to start this process.  You need a photo copy of the most recent ‘Visitante’, the 180 day tourist ‘visa’.  What is important here is that you know that the airport personnel in Mexico will take this from you as you leave the country.  I have found that this is not stated anywhere in anything we read.  Thus it is, make copies of the ‘Visitante’ and put them with your papers. So, now you know too.  (8)  This was also not written down anywhere.  If you are on a boat in Mexico, like us, they want a copy of your slip rental agreement, the contract with the marina.  We had to have Marina La Paz send this to us as we did not have it with us.  If you are anchored out in Mexico and not in a marina, I can only assume a receipt from the puerto capitania showing you have been paying the anchor-out port fees might suffice, but it would probably have to be an official copy with some form of government stamp on it.

If you are visually driven and need an actual list:

(1) completed application

(2) passport copies and passport

(3) copies of six-month’s bank statements

(4) copies one-year’s rent, slip rental receipts, or house payments

(5) passport style photos (at least two) (These are much smaller than the passport photos taken for American passports and must be of a size which fits the space provided on the upper-left side of the application.)

(6) letter of intention

(7) copy of most recent ‘Visitante’ visa (if you are returning from Mexico to the Consulate in the US)

(8) copy of marina slip rental agreement

And, (9) because we were a couple, even though applying separately, they required a copy of our marriage certificate.  In our case, it was the original marriage license.  It did not have to be an apostille copy, which some friends had told us we would need.  Ditto, we did not need the birth certificates we carried. (Note: This may change when we get to the interview process in La Paz–Be aware that  since all these Immigration changes are so brand new, the requirements can change based upon which interviewer is interpreting the change.  In other words, the Mexican Consulate in San Diego accepted copies of our original marriage license, BUT the interviewer in La Paz may demand a marriage license with apostille.  (If you don’t know what an apostille is this link will give you a quick idea:

Facts unique to us.  We claimed La Paz, Mexico as our residence.  We do not have a home in the US.  I think this is part of the reason that they asked for the copy of the recent ‘Visitante’.  They told us at the Consulate that this was to be sure we had entered Mexico legally.

The other documents we had, just in case.  We had the original USCG vessel papers along with insurance and a copy of our three year old survey.  These could be used to establish a value of property we had in Mexico since the boat had been ‘imported’ as we entered the country.  We had a copy of a statement of our retirement savings (402k etc) in case we needed to prove financial viability.  We had the tax forms showing that Social Security was making deposits to our checking accounts back home.

One final caveat.  Everything, and I mean everything, has to match name wise to your passport.  So if it says, Thomas Russell Harper, Jr., then Thomas R. Harper, Thomas R. Harper, Jr., Russ Harper, Thomas Harper will not suffice.  At lease, it will not suffice without a hassle.   We knew this going up, so we spent a couple of months making sure all the documents we used matched up.

If your are of the generation of women that uses a hyphenated maiden name-married name, you may find this challenging.  Look at your Social Security Card and account name, the name you gave on your passport application, the name you use on your savings, your checking, and your retirement accounts.  Look at the names you have on your boat papers, so they match your passport?

Many of these account names can be changed with a phone call or letter, some require a visit to the institution.  Some can be very difficult to change.  Bear that in mind as you start this process so that when you are applying, you have already done your prep and don’t get slowed down.

We spent a fair amount of time preparing for this trip to initiate the process for the ‘Residencia Temporal’.  When we made reservations back in San Diego, we knew that we would submit the application and have to wait a few days (usually less than a week) to have the interview appointment.

We went to the Consulate on a Friday morning.  In San Diego, the hours for the application process are 7 am to 11 am weekdays.  Interviews are apparently in the afternoon.

We got an appointment for the interview on the following Tuesday, at noon.

When you go in for the interview, expect to (1) have your picture taken again, (2) have your finger prints taken by scanner (both index fingers, right and left), (3) pay a fee.  In our case, this was $72 ($36 x 2) for the visa.

We got there at 15 minutes till 12:00 noon and we were finished by 12:45.

They do not accept US $100.00 bills for some reason.  Lots of signs tell you this but you will probably try to pay with one anyway, duh!

The above information is current as of 10/29/13.  We will add to it when the cards come in back in La Paz.  I also have a list of interview questions you can expect to have which i will post as soon as I get them typed up.  the consulate gave us the list in Spanish and English.

One last aid here,  I am posting a link to a presentation by a Mexican Attorney in La Paz which shows what these documents look like and discuss the generic application process.  We found it very helpful.  As you can see, it is located on the Club Cruceros website at Marina La Paz.

NOTE: As always, realize we are not experts.  So the information is offered to help and is not in any way a substitute for your own research and, maybe, the advice of a professional.


First, know that there is a form that you should fill our online before you go.  This form in pdf is submitted electronically and saved on your computer as a pdf which you print and take with you.  It is this form that introduces you to the local INM office, not the forms you have filled out in San Diego.  You will find it here(  )…  in Spanish so have a dictionary or Google Translate handy as you fill it out.  Fill out .. hit submit … save copy  and print.  You are now ready to do to INM

Went to the INM offices at 5th de Febrero and Flojoradores (just up from one of the Aramburo stores.  Arrived at 9:00 ish.  Hahaha …  tooo late … already filled with Americans waiting in line to do FMM stuff.  First lesson go at 7-8 am as office opens at 7 am.   Take a number and wait.  Wait is only 15 minutes or so.  Listen to others who have ‘visa process guides’.  These are people who charge $150 dollars (US) or so to help you get thru the process.  Mostly, they fill out your paperwork, check it, speak Spanish for you and ease the way.  We had decided to do this on our own.  So, here goes!

Number called.  Go to window.  Do you speak English … no!  Response (and this is a question on a form as well)  Habla Espanol?  Si, solo poco pero posiblimente suficiente.  Bueno.

At this point we feel pretty prepared.  We have with us :

(1) Passports  with San Diego visas

(2) San Jose del Cabo “visitante” forms marked ‘canje” plus copies of passport face page and visitante forms.

(3) Copys of the Solicitude de Estancia form

(4) $3130 pesos in cash each as this is the one year Residencia Temporal fee for the first year.

(5) A letter (in Spanish) to INM stating why we want the Residencia Temporal. (differs slightly from the letter for the San Diego Consulate)

(6) Passport style photos for attaching to the application (profile and frontal)

What we expected based on our readings and talks with others.  Some delay as we knew we would have to go to a bank to pay the money.  But, probably to hand in all supporting papers along with the Solicitude de Estancia form, get finger printed, maybe photographed again and be done.  Close, but no cigar.

We did not know there was another form (also online) that we needed called the Formato Basico Application Form  ( ).  The form I have pointed you to is not exactly what you need but it is very close and in English so use it to complete the one they will give you which is in Spanish.

The INM office will also then give you a form to take to a bank (any bank) and pay the fee. A clarification here is needed.  When you research this you will see fees for one-year thru four-years.  This leads you to look at then and go …hmmm it is cheaper to go two years (or what ever you choose).  The clerk you deal with will give you one good for a year (one-year).  That is you only initial choice evidently.

So now, it is ten o’clock or nearly.  We head out with all of our stuff and

(7) the paper Foramato Basico form to fill out

(8)  the paperwork for a bank.

Go to Aramburro and buy cookies and milk.  These are known forms of stress release.  Return to boat.  Fill out Formato Basico using the Link provided above.  Some of the questions have changed but it is still very close.  Go to a bank and get official receipt for paying fees.  Now after noon so we decide to wait till tomorrow am to ‘finish’ the application process.  We are close .  I can feel it …. look for PART TWO DAY TWO TOMORROW!

Oh, almost forgot.  We were also ask for a ‘map’ of where we live,  a map showing the address we had given.  We were using Marina de La Paz and when we told them we lived on a boat.  They still wanted a map.  So at the marina we got two copies of the marina diagram with slip designations and circled ours. This request was handwritten in by the clerk .  We could not find this anywhere in our research or conversations so now you know too!  So, add:

(9)  a map of where you live.


Show up at the INM office early.  Doors open at 8:00 am (we found this out cause we got there too early).  Take a number.  Go to first available clerk.

Checks everything you have.  All copies.  The receipts from the bank.  I CANNOT STRESS AGAIN TOO MUCH THAT YOU MUST CHECK YOUR NAME EVERY TIME IT IS PRINTED.  EVEN A SMALL SPELLING ERROR WILL ADD AT LEAST A DAY CORRECTING IT. Photos …. etc.  This time you end the encounter with a small piece of paper with number (NUE) on it, meaning you are finally in the system and process.  You get told to watch your email for a notice to come back (that will be day three) and get a Residencia Temporal card.  should be a couple of weeks.

Will keep you posted.

A note: everyone at INM had been great … working with us despite some language difficulties and our not fully understanding the process.  Please also note, this narrative is to help you. It is not some claim of expertise.  The process seems to differ for everyone who goes thru it in details.  Many who you talk with will tell you how bad it will be ,  how long it will take, how much trouble they had. Ignore it … be positive … and you will emerge from the other side with the piece of paper or card you need.  Try to remember how much hassle getting your first passport in your own country was … and the instructions there were in English … and it still took weeks to months.   Deep cleansing breaths … in with the good air ….. out with the bad!


Keep watching  … should be sometime this week, maybe, if all the paperwork was exact.  No news at this point is actually good news .. meaning no one has found any mistakes in the applications.


Some news.  We are about two weeks from leaving La Paz to sail other parts of Mexico.  We started this part of the process almost 7 weeks ago.  We checked the website for INM each week on a Friday to see if our paperwork had been accepted and where it was in the process.  Each week, we found the notation in Spanish, ” No change or resolution”.  No other comments.

Seven weeks ago we were told to (1) watch the site for any change and (2) wait for an email to let us know that we needed to return.

Today, we decided that we had waited long enough.  As always, trying not to seem to pressure anyone to move faster.  Turns out when we went back to the office and asked for the status of the file, we were told that “the website is not always updated”.  OK!  Then the clerk/case officer pulled the physical files out of a cabinet behind him and went thru my file, then Carolyn’s, and proclaimed all had been approved.

What this means in plainer language.  If we had not returned, the files would still be sitting there — approved, but going nowhere.  Since we went back, we were asked to wait a few minutes (about an hour and a quarter) and then had more pictures attached to new forms which were finger print forms.

This has a better ending.  We also found out that it is now more or less done and in about 5 working days (next week), they should receive our Residencia Temporal cards. The part of the process we are now trying to complete has to be started and finished in the same local office.  So once you start the ‘local’ process, you have to finish it there.   These initial cards will be good for a year and then can be renewed anywhere in Mexico for a further 1-3 years.


Lessons in this visit. (1) We should have gone back earlier (not sure that part was our fault), but in any case we should have (in this case) been less patient. (2) Be patient … yeah  … I still think it is the right technique.  (3) This step just meant that the forms had to be approved locally by the INM local manager.  Probably happened a week after we filed them. (4) I think the website part that tracks file progress is ‘not functional’.  We will check it over the next week and let you know if that is in error.  Lesson is not to rely on this as only method of follow-up.  Set some deadlines to return if you have not heard back from them in a relatively short period.

Most important.  I still remain convinced that you do not need a guide or representative to do this.  All that is needed is some Spanish language skills (minimal) and dogged patience.  On the first visit, we mostly worked in Spanish.  This time we got a clerk who was comfortable in English and once we proved we could speak sufficient Spanish, he graciously switched to English.  Funny how all the work to learn Spanish pays off when you least expect it.  It is a sign of respect for the culture.  Everyone will bend over backwards to help if you seem to like Mexico and genuinely want to stay and enjoy the communities and peoples.

Work well ahead of any deadlines.

Check back in about a week and we will describe any remaining tasks or trials we have not discovered, yet.  Wish us luck.

The La Paz part … the sage continues … no progress! (1/10/2014)

We are now 6 days out from a scheduled leaving or heading back to sea .. on way to mainland Mexico.  Checked the website for INM again today.  No change in status … same message as last seven weeks.  So, I will now hazard a guess that the site is actually not functional as a review of the status of your application.  Use that information as you will.  It is based only on our own observations.  So next steps.

(1) Monday, January 13 (three days from leaving date) we will go back to Immigration Office in La Paz and ask “que passa?”  the local version of what is up!

(2) Find out if we can travel on the 6 month Residencia Temporal visa stamp we got at the Mexican Embassy in San Diego?

(3) See if there is a solution to the problem of not being here.  The cards come to this office…. can we pick them up at another INM office in another part of Mexico.  My understanding,  at this point,  is that you have to pick up the card at the office you applied at.

The La Paz part … another morning at Immigration … no progress!  (1/13/2014)

Three days out.

Went back to Immigration because we had not heard back.  File checked … “why did you not check the online site to see if there had been any changes?”  Short version, it is not pretty obvious we are unlikely to be able to leave as planned on Thursday.  We were told, again, “Come back in a week.”

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