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Mexico’s Innovative Amnesty Visa

Many expats are drawn to Mexico for the beautiful weather, low cost of living and friendly people. But, during Covid times, freedom-lovers were drawn to Mexico for a much different reason. While many of us dealt with draconian restrictions in our home countries, Mexico always remained open to visitors. It was like a beacon of hope across a distant sea; a bastion of freedom that seemed so close but, yet, so far.

Covid travel restrictions between countries were really a mixed bag. Some people were locked out of their country at times (Australia), some people were locked into their country at times (Canada) and some people were mostly free to travel throughout the pandemic.

But with constantly changing rules and testing requirements, traveling, for those granted this great privilege by their benevolent government, wasn’t much of a joy anymore anyway. And, even if you did manage to get on a plane to escape your home country, many countries were closed to foreigners. Whomp whomp!

But, Mexico never jumped on the bandwagon with these insane travel restrictions. And many of us, watching from afar in our open-air prisons, took great note of this fact. It showed us the kind of country Mexico is – a country that understood the value of personal freedoms (or at the very least wasn’t willing to tank its entire economy by shutting everything down) and was not afraid to stand against the mob of governments doing the exact opposite and pressuring them to do the same.

If you are reading this article, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how rare that is these days!

The other great thing about Mexico, for Americans and Canadians in particular, is how easy it is to get to. We can hop on a direct flight and get there easily, which is not only a bonus but also a necessity when making your Plan B. Many Canadians found out how essential this was when they were not even permitted to catch a connecting flight through the US due to travel restrictions.

To recap, Mexico has:

  • Beautiful weather
  • Friendly people
  • Low cost of living
  • Great accessibility via direct flights
  • No Covid-era travel restrictions

Yep, sounds like a great place to plant a flag for your Plan B!

Now, to start your planning process, you need to first understand your visa options.

Mexico offers all the standard visa types: tourist, temporary residency, and permanent residency. Let’s get into the “Coles notes” version of each one below.

Tourist Visa

The tourist visa is pretty standard fare for tourists, business travelers, etc. who intend to stay in the country for 180 days or less. Simply fill out the FMM form on the airplane and show it to the official at your port of entry and you are good to go. Make sure you get approved for enough days to cover your trip though, as you can’t renew this permit and must leave the country once it’s expired.

Temporary Residency Visa

If you want to remain in Mexico for more than 180 days, this is the visa for you! Take note that there are economic solvency requirements in order to qualify. These requirements are based on the Mexican minimum wage which, as with many other countries, has gone up substantially in the past couple of years. Every year the economic solvency requirements are updated to reflect the increase in minimum wage so, if you are looking to make a Mexican residency part of your Plan B, it’s better to start sooner than later, if you can.

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To start the process, you must get an appointment with a Mexican consulate in your home country. In that appointment, you will bring with you all the required documentation and they will process and pre-approve your application. Then you head down to Mexico to complete the process.

And tadaaaa! You are now a temporary resident of Mexico and can come and go as often as you like! Keep in mind that you can only obtain a temporary residency for 1 year initially, which you can then renew for another 1, 2 or 3 years. But the great news is you don’t need to requalify and you can complete the whole renewal process right in Mexico.

And – this is my personal favorite part – after you’ve held temporary residency for 4 years, you can then graduate to a permanent residency visa. Wahoo!

Permanent Residency Visa

A permanent residency visa allows you many of the same rights as Mexican citizens, besides the right to vote. You can come and go as you please and live in the country indefinitely.

While one way to qualify for permanent residency is by first completing 4 years of temporary residency as mentioned above, there are a few other circumstances where you may be able to qualify for permanent residency such as family unification and retirement status.

If you meet the requirements to apply for permanent residency the process will be pretty much identical to the temporary residency process.

Pro tip: When in doubt over which residency visa to apply for, start off by applying for temporary residency as your chances of approval are greater than with permanent. The last thing you want is to go for your appointment at the Mexican Consulate and have your application rejected!

Amnesty visa

Now, this is where things get a little twisty, but in a really great way. Something amazing Mexico did in 2021 was to offer a special regularization procedure dubbed the Amnesty Visa.

Whether the individual was unable to travel, couldn’t get the required documents or an appointment due to office closures, or any other myriad of issues, the Mexican government understood that a lot of tourists were unable to follow the standard procedure to extend their stay in Mexico and were, essentially, stuck.

They had to decide whether they were going to make it an enforcement issue and try to get rid of all these people OR (and it’s hard to even believe I’m writing this as it’s still surreal that all this even happened) to provide these people amnesty and allow them to stay.

So, they made the decision to allow these people to apply for residency at an immigration office in Mexico, without having to return to their home country to initiate the procedure. And, thus, the Amnesty Visa was born!

You read about the standard temporary and permanent residency visa procedures above so you can see how big of a deal this is, and how important it was to offer this solution at such an uncertain time.

Interestingly, the amnesty visa is still available today, in 2023, for those with an expired tourist visa (FMM). The requirements are pretty specific:

  1. You are currently in Mexico and in possession of a FMM that expired before January 1, 2020.
  2. You are currently in Mexico and in possession of a FMM that expired after January 1, 2020 AND you have entered Mexico as a visitor at least TWICE prior to January 1, 2020.

(Note: As is the case when applying for any residency in Mexico, your approval is always up to the discretion of the particular immigration office (INM) you visit and the agent dealing with your application. So, given that this was a Covid-era special procedure, be aware that the success rate with this approach is not 100% and that the Mexican government can rescind this offer at any time.)

My thoughts? It can sometimes take months to get an appointment at a consulate in your home country. So, if you are already in Mexico and meet the criteria to qualify, why not give it a go?

Need more details about Mexico and its Amnesty Visa program?

If all this sounds really appealing to you and you want to learn more about life in Mexico and get more specific details about the various visa options, including the Amnesty Visa, you need to check out our Mexico Amnesty Visa Program e-book. It shares some amazing information from our Escape Artist editor, Charlotte Tweed, about her experience living in Mexico and how she successfully went through this process herself after finding herself on an accidentally expired visa.

Mexico is an amazing country and definitely one that checks all the boxes for an awesome Plan B so give the Mexico Amnesty Visa Program e-book a read and start planning your own escape. Just remember, when you take the plunge, we want to hear all about it!

LisaLisa is an aspiring expat from Canada who is working to put together her Plan B with a young family in tow. She is excited to pair her lifelong love of writing with her passion for offshore strategies and outside-the box investments in her weekly articles for Escape Artist readers. Follow this “rebel with a cause” as she walks the path less traveled and shares her experiences along the way.
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