Temporary and Permanent Residents Entering Mexico as “Tourists”: Don’t …

August 17, 2013

There is a lot of advice given on the internet, especially on web-chat forums, but in the midst of all the chatter, a few voices are broadly recognized to give advice that stands rises above the crowd.     Rolly Brook is one.      Spencer McMullen is another.

Rolly?    He has just announced his retirement: ~  It’s time to say good-bye ~

Spencer McMullen, the talented and well-respected attorney, offers the following very good advice to Residente Temporal and Residente Permamente card holders:

“The only people that should enter Mexico as tourists are those who want to leave in 180 days. Using their nationwide computer databases, Immigration is now checking and cross referencing the entrances of foreigners with Residente Permanente and Residente Temporal visas.       The law states that if you enter or exit as a tourist then you will have your temporal or permanente visa canceled.

Why would people who have one of these documents risk losing everything including all the time and money spent?

Here are some commons reasons:
Ignorance about having to show their travel letter (or needing one when traveling while papers in process). Continue reading here.
You can read the full article at:   Temporary and Permanent Residents Entering Mexico as “Tourists”: Don’t …

* * * *
Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
<em>© Steven M. Fry</em>

Read on, MacDuff.

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27 Responses to Temporary and Permanent Residents Entering Mexico as “Tourists”: Don’t …

  1. Dave_in_Ont says:

    Hi Steve….Thanks for linking Rolly’s retirement info. He was always “The Bible” of reliable information for me!

    As far as temorary or permanent visa holders exiting or entering on a tourist visa…Just plain stupid to me. If one takes the time, research and money to obtain a “residency” visa then why be silly enough to fill out a “tourist” card on an airplane????

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Dave,
      Unfortunately, there are some folks who have either lost their cards, or traveled out of Mexico while their renewal application is being processed (without getting or paying for the $300 pesos for the exit-reentry permit letter), or they forgot to fill out an FMM when they exited….

      All in all, they have likely done something wrong, and they think: “What the heck, I’ll just come in on a tourist visa”…. a strategy that worked back in the old-school day of paper-only INM records. Now that we have an INM with a nationwide computerized data base of our information, there is no sliding-by for residents – slipping in on tourist visas. *grin*

      Did you notice that I have edited the article (No longer UNDER CONSTRUCTION) to make these things more clear???
      (clear as mud? )

      • Cass says:

        My ‘FM2’ expired on Jan. 16, 2013 and I am now living in the U.S. I plan to visit MX in October. I have not been back since my visa expired. I am assuming that I MUST enter as a tourist and I do plan to stay a maximum of 180 days. Can you please confirm and respond to me at my email?

        Thank you for your time,

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Cass,
        You have several options. Get a shiny new Residente Permanente, or a beautiful new Residente Temporal (each by applying at your local Mexican Consulate), or come in directly getting a Visitante visa when you enter Mexico (driving or flying).

        Read about the details at: New Rules and Procedures for Immigration, Visiting, and Staying in Mexico https://yucalandia.com/answers-to-common-questions/new-rules-and-procedures-for-immigration-visiting-and-staying-in-mexico/

        Happy Trails,

      • Bob says:

        Not sure if this is the correct way to ask a question on this forum. I appreciate your reply.

        I have a couple questions about getting permanent resident card I Mexico:
        What are the benefits for having my permanent resident card in Mexico? I would be interested in retiring there and live between the US and there through out the year with possible part time work? I do own a condo there now.

        From what I understand:
        Once I get my card, no more applying for visas or showing proof of income/savings.
        No more fees in the future
        Possible ability to work in Mexico?

        But what other benefits do I have?
        Can I enter both the US and Mexico with this Card?
        Use as identification for travel through out Mexico, by air/land/sea?
        Are there any tax benefits?
        Capital gains benefits when I sell my property?
        Do I still need to own my property through a bank trust?
        Health and Medical benefits? National coverage, etc.

        And any detriments?
        Any restrictions with my US residency?
        Car restrictions?

        Thanks for your help.

        One other question on Bank Trust? Has there been any more word on owning property outright with out the need for the Bank Trust?

        Can you reply to my email ?
        Thank you Bob

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Bob,
        Yes, I’ll be glad to send you an email.

        For readers who want details on the answers, I believe that all of Bob’s questions are answered in our main articles on immigration … and importing cars at:


        Happy Holidays,

  2. Laura Kelley says:

    Thank you for the information you post, and in particular, this most recent post. Query- or clarification- I am in the processes of renewing my FM3 for two years. We are at the end of the process (paperwork done,finger-printing done, etc.) and we are just waiting for the card. However, I have to leave Wednesday for the USA for 90 days. I have gotten a travel letter before in similar past situations, however, I was always out of Mexico for less than 60 days. If I understand your post correctly, even though my travel letter will expire within 60 days- I still have an extra 55 days to enter Mexico using this document and then going to retrieve my FM3? Just want to be extra clear on the matter as I do not want to negate my temporary residence status. Thank You!

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Laura,
      Your understandings are really close to being correct: The 55 day grace-period thing is for people whose existing FM2’s, FM3’s, or Residente Temporale permits expire while they are out of Mexico…. which is different than applying to renew the Temporary Residency and doing travel while INM processes the renewal application.

      Hint: People whose Mexican residency permits expire while they are outside Mexico, and return within 55 days, do avoid $$ penalties, but they LOSE all prior years of credit towards advancing to Residente Permanente….

      • Laura Kelley says:

        Thanks Steve. So to be clear- the 55 day grace period (post expiration of the letter) does not apply while traveling on a permission letter to leave/enter the country during the renewal process?
        If so, what happens or what do you suggest? Short of flying back to Mexico for a couple of days before the 60 days are up?- A rather expensive option I rather not take!

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Laura,
        Correct on the 55 day grace period (as applied by our local INM office).

        Options if you cannot return in 60 days:
        ~ Have someone pick up your card for you and Fed Ex it to you: Since you have finished all payments on your INM permit, and since you have been fingerprinted, you can give a friend a Carta de Poder (Power of Attorney letter) that identifies them as your agent on these matters and authorizes the INM to give your new Residency card to your agent. This agent then takes the letter and picks up your new Residency card and sends it to you by Fed Ex. When your return to Mexico, show both the exit-reentry permit letter and your new card to INM at the INM entry-point.

        ~ Abandon the current renewal and start over. (Residency cards cost less than most flights??)

      • Laura Kelley says:

        Thanks Steve. Off to the notary’s office this morning to get a power of attorney letter- that is a great solution for me- appreciate it.

  3. Cindy says:

    I’m here on a permanent resident visa. I’ve come and gone twice and never had a travel letter. I just showed my passport and permanent resident visa green card. What the heck is a travel letter and if I need one, where do I get it? Is it a one-time letter or do you need a new one each time you exit?

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Cindy,
      Since you wrote this good post, I have edited Spencer’s text to show that he is talking about a special exit/reentry travel permit letter that Residente TEMPORAL permit holders must get and use if they travel while INM is processing their fresh Residente Temporal application.

      Residente Permanentes need NO such letter, and can come and go at will – just filling out and submitting FMMs when they leave.

  4. Laura Kelley says:

    Hi Cindy, A travel letter is needed when immigration is processing your FM3 or FM2 renewal. Since they take your FM3 while doing the paperwork technically you need a travel letter to come and go from Mexico (permission to leave and enter again) to retain your status and not become a “tourist” once more. If you are in possession of your permanent resident card then you do not need a travel letter.

  5. W S Richardson says:

    We entered Mexico by car using my wife’s temporary residence card. I have a permanent resident card. We purchased Mexican insurance but I have a concern related to whether I am eligible to drive our car. Normally a spouse and siblings are eligible but I am concerned because I have a permanent resident card. I am a US citizen. Does anybody know whether this is something I should be concerned with?

  6. Gregory Jonski says:

    I have a temp residency visa issued in June. When I crossed the border my passport got stamped as a180 day tourist visa. My problem, I know that.

    Can I go back to the border, turn in my 180 day visa, and have them stamp my temporary visa even though it’s now more than 30 days since it was first issued? If not can I turn in my temporary visa at the airport before flying back to the US to start this process again, and how long do I need to wait before I can reenter on a temporary visa? Thank you!

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Gregory,
      Do you have ½ of the FMM form that you mistakenly filled out as a “tourist” ?

      Did you forget to fill in the box with your RT visa number ?

      If you filled-in the RT visa number … then I would forget about it. Let that sleeping dog lie – because you do not want INM to charge you with attempting to fraudulently have 2 INM visas.

      NEXT TIME: Be sure to fill out your FMM EVERY TIME YOU LEAVE Mexico … to properly follow Mexican law. BOLDLY WRITE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS: “RESIDENTE TEMPORAL” across the top of EVERY FMM.

      When you leave Mexico, fill out the FMM correctly, and have INM take their ½ of the form for “exiting Mexico” – and you keep the other ½ and USE it to re-enter Mexico.

      You should be fine with all of this, by just doing it right … next time you leave.

      Happy Trails,

      • Gregory says:

        Hi Steve, thank you for your comment but I think I did not explain it clearly. I entered Mexico on a 100 temporary residency visa but it got checked as a 180 day visa and I did not notice that. Now I am being told it is impossible to process the residency visa, and that I must return to the United States and initiate the entire process all over again. What I am wondering is how soon after I return the 180 day tourist visa can I try to run to Mexico with a temporary residency visa? Thanks for all you do!

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Gregory,
        A few clarifications.
        It sounds like you do not, and did not have a Residente Temporal visa.

        It sounds like you do not, and did not have a temporary residency visa for Mexico.

        When we apply at a Mexican Consulate, then we have only started the Residente Temporal visa application process at our Mexican Consulate, … which means you were given a “canje” stamp in your passport that allows you to enter Mexico, one time, for 30 days – to complete your Residente Temporal visa application process at your local Mexican INM office.

        By not using the “canje” – and by instead entering as a 180 day tourist, your local INM office is likely correct that you may have to go back to a Mexican Consulate and start again.

        Does that more-accurately describe your situation?

        If possible, I would try to check with a supervisor or manager or delegado at your local INM office, and explain that the INM agent at the border did not understand your special status, that INM made a mistake at the border, and request that your local INM office continue your process … an experienced Mexican immigration attorney may be able to help.

        INM managers may say: “No” … but it seems worth asking.

        Otherwise, yes, other people who mistakenly entered using a 180 day tourist visa have had to restart the process at a Mexican Consulate, and then re-enter Mexico with just a 30 day visa to complete your Residente Temporal visa process at INM.

        You can read more about how to do this correctly in our main article on immigrating to Mexico at:


      • Gregory says:

        Yes. Exactly. Because I did not pay attention to details, I entered Mexico on 180 day tourist visa. So my temporary residency visa is not valid. That is why I guess I need to go back to the United States and begin the process over again. I’m hoping I can turn my tourist back in as i leave Mexico and then gentes 3 days later with a newly issued temporary residency visa visa.

        I am guessing that the officials at the border will not be receptive to taking my tourist visa and then just Stamp in my current temporary residency visa. That’s why I think I need to go back and start all over again.

      • yucalandia says:

        Talk with an INM supervisor, and explain the INM mistake made at the border.
        They may allow you to just go to any border, surrender the current visitors visa, and use your canje to re-enter Mexico – with a 30 day expiration date – to complete your Residente Temporal process. … ???

        Your current visitor’s visa is fully legal, so there’s no problem in going to a border to surrender it.

        Further: As explained in our main immigration article, foreigners with visitor’s visas are prohibited from changing visa status while in Mexico … So, in any case, you must exit Mexico (go to a border) and surrender that visitor’s visa.

        Please return here and tell us how it worked,

  7. Lucy Dean says:

    Hi Steve,

    I have got a temporary resident visa but i have left my job and not currently in mexico. However I want to return to mexico and do some travelling there from july – september, but my visa runs out at the end of august. I don’t mind losing my visa so I would like to enter as a tourist and leave as a tourist even though when I enter I can enter as a temporary resident.

    When I arrive in mexico can I explain to them that I want to be counted as a tourist so I can leave like one, instead of being registered under my visa and it then running out.

    What is my best option? Again I don’t mind losing my temporary resident status at all.

    Thank you!!

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Lucy,
      Since your Residente Temporal visa will expire while you are in Mexico, it seems you would be best off surrendering the RT visa to INM at the border when you enter Mexico, and instead enter Mexico on a 180 day Visitante Visa as a tourist. … So, your proposed plan seems good.

      Happy Trails,

  8. Lucy Dean says:

    Great thank you! If I leave Mexico the day before it expires it is then valid to come in as a resident temporal and leave like one; even if it expires the day I leave.

    Thank you for this great page.

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