Category Archives: immigration

Updated Guide to Living in Mexico

A year ago my story An Insider’s Guide to Moving, Living, and Working in Mexico won Transitions Abroad’s Expatriate Writing Contest. Thanks again Transitions Abroad!

I have updated the story (July 2017). It’s now twice as long, with many more details about what it takes to live in Mexico, including:

  • Immigration requirements
  • Getting a job
  • Getting an apartment
  • Hooking up internet
  • Using cell phones
  • Medical care
  • Banking
  • Driving
  • Safety
  • Food and drinks
  • Dealing with authorities
  • Traveling around Mexico
  • Learning Spanish


Please click this link to read the article to learn all about living in Mexico as an expat. As always, I greatly appreciate your likes and comments. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.

How to Renew Your Mexican Residency with Permission to Work (Formerly the FM3)

In November of 2012 big changes were made to Mexican immigration law. The FM3 is no more, but if you have one it can roll over into the non-immigrant visa for work.

At the top of the card it says Residente Temporal and at the bottom Permiso Para Trabajar. This is what the foreigner needs to legally work in Mexico. Fortunately, the renewal process is much simpler than getting the visa in the first place.

You must apply to renew the visa 30 days before your visa expires, and in most cases it will last a year.

In the State of Mexico, where I live, there were massive lines all summer at the Instituto Nacional de Migracion (the National Institute of Migration, or INM). Just getting information took hours. When I went back in November to pick up the card, the long lines were gone.

In your part of Mexico the office may still be busy. I recommend going early in the morning.

Here is the process I recommend you follow to renew your immigration status in Mexico.


1. Visit the INM office

You need to visit the office at least twice, before and after you pay. Among other things, pick up the payment form on the first visit. Once you have the payment form you can pay in cash at any bank with your passport.

Ask for a list of requirements too. Get specifics on the different types of residency, necessary documents and photo specs. Remember that things change without notice.

At the time of writing (Dec. 2013), what you need to apply are:

1. Your old card and passport.

2. A form called formato basico that they will give you at the office. It is simple personal information and you can fill it out there. Make sure you know your height and weight in metric.

3. A letter from your employer stating that you will continue working under the same contract. They should also give you the form they have from the government to hire foreign workers. Unless you are their first foreign worker, they will know what to give you.

4. Copies of your last three pay stubs. On the official list of documents you need it says just one, but they asked me for three. It is better to bring more than fewer documents.

5. A letter from you stating that nothing has changed in your employment situation. Here, you can use mine:

Instituto Nacional de Migración

Subdelegación Local en xxx


Mi nombre es xxx, y mi nacionalidad es xxx. Solicito mi prorroga de calidad de no inmigrante y manifestó que subsisten las condiciones bajo las cuales me fue concedida la característica migratoria, así como confirmo las mismas actividades en las que me encuentra realizando. Soy xxx (your profession).

De antemano, agradezco puedan llevar a cabo mi solicitud de manera positiva.

Saludos cordiales.


6. Infantil (passport size) photographs. Get the form from the office. At the time of writing you need two from the front and one from the side. There should be a photo shop near the office, but it will probably be more expensive than one in another part of town.

Remember to dress nice, be polite, and make copies of everything. Never show impatience or anger. Don’t expect them to speak English either. If you bring someone to help you, they may not be allowed inside, so ask your friend to write down what you need: the payment form, the list of requirements, and the photo sheet.

2. Do the online application

Make sure that the dates on the application and your letters are from within 30 days of expiration, not before. For example, mine expires on May 31st, and if I brought in an application and letters dated in April it would be rejected.

Fill the application out online and print it. Careful with the dates! The day goes first and the moth second.

Here’s the link:

Under ¿Qué desea hacer? select Extender la estancia.

Under Especifique select Expedición de tarjeta de Residente por Renovación.

If you don’t understand Spanish, get some help.

3 chichen itza

3. Return to the office and submit your application

Make the payment at any bank (with your passport) and make two copies of the receipt.

Put all of your documents from the checklist in a manila folder, and put the checklist and all backup copies in another folder. It can’t hurt to bring more documents, like your diploma or the originals of your paystubs. Basically bring everything you have, such as extra photographs.

Then go back to the office, wait in line and hand over the manila folder.

Smile and say buenos dias or buenas tardes to everyone. Again, never get angry or complain. If you do, you will get nowhere.

Don’t be surprised if they ask for something that’s not on the list. Don’t get mad or insist that it’s not necessary. Just calmly get as much information as you can.

If you made a mistake on the application, go to a ciber (internet café) and start a whole new one. There should be a ciber nearby where you can print. Tell the immigration officer nicely that you’ll be right back so you don’t have to get back in line.

When they finally accept your application, they will give you a paper with the important numbers for your application (NUT and pieza), including the contraseña (password).  Save this paper and bring it and your passport to pick up your card once it’s ready.

4. Wait

Go to this page to check the status of your application:

Ask at the office for an estimated wait time. Then call around then.

Don’t rely on the website. Last time I kept checking see if there was any news, but nothing. Finally an office called. When I picked up the card, he asked why I hadn’t come earlier, implying that it had been ready for some time.

If you need to leave Mexico while your card is still being processed, then you need to apply for a departure and reentry permit (permiso de salida y regreso). I was told that it must be done three days before you leave, but I’d say do it a week early.

The fee was around 300 pesos.

Choose Obtener permiso de salida y regreso from the same page where you did your renewal application:

And that should be it. In my experience the officers were polite and patient, despite huge lines and many applicants who had no idea what they are doing. You can’t use your cell phone. Bring a book or the paper and chill.

pastor copy

How to Get a U.S. Tourist Visa

Si no entiendes ingles, no te preocupes – voy a traducir este articulo a espanol y subirla pronto. Saludos y suerte amigos…

Hello foreign friends. Don’t believe the hype.

Ignore the nonsense coming out of the U.S. media. Ignore the rude trolls on message boards and comment sections of immigration articles. We love you. We want you to visit our country. And we don’t mind if you spend a little money while you are here.

Popular opinion is that the U.S. government wants to make it hard for you. Immigration officers are stern. They are trained to intimidate liars, making it easier to detect their lies.

If you look at the application for a U.S. tourist visa, there are loads of questions like: Are you a terrorist? Are you a drug smuggler? Are you involved in human trafficking?

Laugh, roll your eyes or get offended, but answering these questions is one of the hoops you have to jump through. However you feel about terrorism – that it’s taken too seriously, that the U.S. deserves it, or whatever – it’s a fact that it exists and the U.S. government takes it quite seriously.

The bottom line is that if you want to take a vacation in the U.S. and you follow procedure (explicit and implied), then you have nothing to worry about.

Carefully Read and Fill Out the Application Online

Traveling to the U.S. begins with filling out the application form online. It’s in English, but if you can understand this article, then you can do the application.

Expect to spend between one and two hours reading the instructions and doing the application. Take your time, read everything and be sure you understand it all.

Start here to fill out the application. Notice how you must choose the country from which you will apply.

Depending on your country, you may have to go to one or two appointments. For example, in Mexico, first you have to go to one agency for your photographs and fingerprints, and then you go to the U.S. consulate for your interview.

Write down the application ID number that they give you on the first page. You will need it to retrieve your application in case something happens to your Internet connection.

A few pages of personal information follow. When you reach the page where it asks you for what type of visa, choose the B2 visa. It may say tourism/medical travel, or something with tourism in it. Just make sure it is the B2. The B1 is for business.

Some information you will need for the application are: Your parents’ full names and dates of birth; the address of your destination in the U.S. (if you don’t have one, just put in the name of any hotel. Having reservations isn’t necessary); and a contact person who lives in the U.S. If you don’t know anyone there, find someone. Ask family and friends for the name of a family or friend. You’ll find someone.

And you need a passport, of course.

Be certain that you have no mistakes. Check and double check.

You will submit the application online. Then you must follow the instructions for how to make an appointment at the U.S. consulate, if necessary. If not, you may have to mail them your passport.

Print Bank Statements

It may not be obvious on the list of requirements, but it is a good idea to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds for your stay. Print three or more months of bank statements. You should have 1,000 U.S. dollars for each month you plan to stay in the U.S.

If you don’t have enough money, print a relative’s bank statement and have that relative write a letter stating that they plan to support you financially during your trip.

Prove That You Have a Reason to Go Home

This is what the embassy websites won’t tell you – that your chances of acceptance improve greatly when you can demonstrate that you have ties back home that prevent you from overstaying.

The big four are a job, a school, a family, or property.

If you work, get a letter from your boss, on company letterhead, stating when you are expected back to work. If you are going to quit, try to get that letter anyway.

If you study, get a letter from the school on official letterhead stating when you will be returning to school.

If you don’t have a job or go to school, a deed of your house, a copy of a payment on a mortgage, or a rent certificate is helpful. Or write an official looking letter stating your family situation and that after your vacation you have a family to return to and take care of.

Don’t Lie in Your Interview

Even innocent people are intimidated by authority. They make you feel guilty, even when you are innocent.

Because of this, you may be tempted to lie about some small detail. You may do it accidentally. Don’t. Immigration officers are trained to detect liars and suspicious people.

That said – and of course I absolutely do not recommend lying for any reason – there may be something you feel you have to lie about. Perhaps you have a family member living in the U.S. illegally and you don’t want to mention that person. Maybe you don’t have specific travel plans, but you need to create some.

Be very careful. One lie will require more lies, and then finally your lies will run away from you. This is your biggest threat for being rejected. And your application won’t only be rejected, but you may be barred from entering the U.S. for 10 years or forever.

If you are nervous, if there is something you don’t want to mention, then practice with a friend. Get your story straight. Don’t lie about superfluous things.

And if you are a terrorist, reading this article as part of your insane research, why not go take a walk outside? Smell the flowers. Feel the sunshine. Do you really want to kill innocent people?

Please don’t.

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