If you are an expat who is already living in Mexico on a long term or most of the time, or you're seeking to do so, your immigration residency process should be a priority for you and I'm going to explain why and give you some tips of how to put it on practice.
In my immigration practice I have found that for a lot of expats the immigration process is something that they want to do only if is cheap and easy , if not, then they rather to remain tourists and leave every 6 months.
Don't get me wrong, I know there are expats on a budget that don't qualify for residency using financial requirements so they don't have (apparently) another choice (note: there are other ways to qualify besides economic solvency and family bond but are not widely known).
But let's talk about when you do qualify on economic solvency, then the responsible way to go is to get residency. Let me explain some of the benefits:
- It allows you to get CURP. The CURP (Population registration unique code) is like the holy grial of paperwork in Mexico, it will be requested for pretty much everything, but what I think is its best benefit is it gives you access to mexican systems (healthcare, schooling,transit, etc) and believe me, if you're actually living in Mexico no matter with how much money, you will need this for safety reasons.
- You will be able to get health care insurance (or any other type of insurance). You probably have fellow mexicans who say to you "we don't do insurance, you don't use that in Mexico" but truth is we do have healthcare insurance (at least for accidents or emergencies) without be aware of that benefit. The public healthcare insurance is something you can access just with the CURP and $100 pesos, if a mexican "without insurance" has an accident, it is taken to a public hospital and get attention asap, if hasn't "hire" the public health care insurance (named INSABI btw) just with the CURP the family is able to do a quick paperwork so that person get the insurance and don't have to pay the hospital bills. You as resident will be able to get this public insurance at same price as a mexican or if you want to hire private insurance you are allowed too. Fun fact: in Mexico you can't hire any type of insurance , even if you can pay it, without CURP.
- You can open a mexican bank account. For some this is not 100% necessary, I agree but I think is convenient. Imagine don't have to pay atm fees or high currency convertion fees, sounds great, right? Also a benefit of the CURP (at this point some banks are asking RFC to open the bank account, I just will say on this that to get the RFC you only need the CURP and the right guidance).
- Own the car you drive. A common practice when expats are on "long term " tourist visas is to buy a car and put it on a friend's name. I strongly recommend to not do this for obvious reasons. Again, with the CURP, you can put it on your name and avoid future problems.
- Get a mexican drivers license.
- Work eventually (if you like). This could be a topic for another post, but I will only say you can request a work permit if you already qualified by economic solvency, or be allowed to work without permit once you have permanent residency (what you will eventually get if you do your renewals on time)
- Stay as longer as you like. You don't have to worry for leaving every six months if you don't have to but still can leave whenever is more convenient for you.
Also I have found there are 2 major groups of expats: (1)who rather do their processes by themselves without hiring help and (2) who want a stress free process and are willing to hire help.
I think both are valid and welcome.
In this order of ideas, I have named them the team DIY (Do it yourself) and team IWH (I want help), and either is fine, but there are things that both teams must consider.
- You need to be willing to do in site research (not only online research). Mexico is not an online country, the information you will find on INM (national institute of immigration aka immigration office) website will be never complete , so you need to get there in person and ask. Consulates websites have better information, but can have some contradictions among them, so be careful on that.
- Be aware in most immigration offices in Mexico there isn't english speaking staff . Be ready for practicing your spanish.
- Be ready for going multiple times to immigration office. Government staff very often point out errors on paperwork 1 by 1. This means they will send you to correct 1 thing and then when you come back again they will point out the next error , and so on.
- Make your immigration process your priority: in your case , since you won't be investing money you will need to invest time, effort and tons of patience. This can be frustrating but it pays off at the end (and you always can change of team and ask for a little help if needed)
- Check references or reviews of the adviser(s) you wiĺl hire.
- Don't put your immigration process in non experienced hands just because is cheap. Is my own experience that peole who is learning the processes very often have lower rates since they're experimenting with you. The problem with this is most of them won't tell you that so you will believe you are getting a better price but really you're putting on risk your process without knowing (note: If they tell you and you agree then is fine) I'm not saying that good advisers are expensive, but expertise is a valuable feature. You want someone who knows the process, who have done it several times, who knows the immigration staff and have good relationship with them. You want someone who will be able to handle worst case scenario with the right approach.
- Make your immigration process your priority: In your case, your adviser will do as much as he/she can to avoid you get involved (will save you time, effort, stress and frustration and will give you the result you ) so if the rate seems "high" is because all of this and because the rate is not only about the work we do, but because of what we know. We charge the same in case the paperwork goes smoothly or if gets complicated, we have ability to response. To assess if a rate is fair you can ask yourself this questions: is this person/company experienced? Is well recommended? The paperwork I'm going to perform , they're the only ones in town able to get it done? Depending on all these factors their rate could be go low or high. In our case we have different rates for regular procedures than for special paperwork (some paperwork are limited on time, or that simply are not the regular ones). A final note on this for you to consider: I have known people who spends a lot of money going to restaurants in every meal , everyday. People who rents luxury condos with monthly rent of $1000 USD. Which is fine, no judgements but when it comes to immigration paperwork $1000 USD seems a little too much for them. Again, it depends on the paperwork and benefits you will get. A regular paperwork, an "easy" one, won't cost you $1000 USD but some extraordinary paperwork (with extraordinary benefits) could , and then is when I mean your immigration process should be your priority. Meals in restaurants and luxury condos can wait when it comes to get long term, safety related benefits in a country where you aren't a national and where you face more risks than in your home country for the very same reason.
I think the residency in Mexico either the temporary or the permanent give you very valuable benefits so it totally worths to spend either your money or time, effort and patience on get it. Immigration residency process won't last forever, if you do it right it will take only four years. If you have the opportunity of getting one of the extraordinary paperwork (instead of regular ones) you could be done in even less than 4 years. If you qualify for permanent, well will be a 1 time process.
Remember this is an opinion article based on my experience as an immigration consultant, please don't take it personal and know that what I'm writing I'm doing with the purpose of put on perspective the importance of getting residency if you're living in Mexico (or thinking on doing it). Of course everyone of us is free to live as we wish, and it's just fine. Is my hope when you read this article it will serve you to meditate about the options I'm suggesting.
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