Applying for the Mexico Regularization Program in 2024

If you are hoping to live in Mexico in the medium to longer term, then looking into the Mexico regularization program might well be worth your while. The program allows foreigners to easily obtain temporary residency in Mexico for periods of between 1 and 4 years, with very few requirements involved. 

After buying a house in the Yucatan, I applied for the Mexico regularization program in Merida in February 2024 and obtained my four-year “Residente Temporal” visa. I found the process surprisingly straightforward and painless so I wanted to create this guide to help others who are considering participating in the program. 

A Mexican flag in Parque a la Plancha, Merida

The Mexico Regularization Program in 2024

The Mexico regularization program is a temporary program that pops up periodically every year or so and makes it easy for foreigners to obtain temporary residency in Mexico. The government will always forewarn that it can be retracted at any given time, so if you see that this is an option and you want to apply, it is important to act quickly. 

The main prerequisite for qualifying is that you have a tourist stamp in your passport that demonstrates that you arrived in Mexico ahead of a certain date. For example, for the 2024 program, applicants needed to have passport entry stamps for Mexico that were issued prior to 2023. 

For the 2022 program, you needed to be able to show that you entered Mexico prior to 2020. 

You don’t need to meet any financial requirements, share any financial information or really meet any particular criteria at all, aside from demonstrating the previously mentioned stamps and having sufficient funds to pay the INM immigration fees, which vary depending on the length of the visa that you want. 

(You can choose from 1, 2, 3 and 4 year visas). 

Ways to apply for residency in Mexico 

As a foreigner, there are a couple of different ways that you can obtain residency in Mexico with the regularization program being one of the easiest if/when it is available. 

Applying for residency through familial ties/marriage allows you to organize your residency from within Mexico but obviously, that isn’t relevant to everyone which is why the regularization program is so great. 

If you are not married to a Mexican, planning an imminent marriage with a Mexican, or have given birth to a baby with a local then you can apply for temporary/permanent residency by financial means. However, a “quirk” of that process means that you currently cannot apply from within Mexico. 

Instead, you have to return to your home country to have an appointment with the Mexican consulate. Depending on where you are from, that can mean having to fly across the world which is less than ideal, especially since some consulates (like the Mexican consulate in London) only open their schedules for appointments a couple of times per year. 

This can make it very tricky to secure an interview date. 

If you are applying for residency by financial means, the exact financial requirements vary from country to country, consulate to consulate. However, the requirements are increasing year-on-year and may not be attainable for everyone. (They increased in January 2024).

Obtaining my “Resident Temporal” card in Mexico in 2024

Applying for the Mexico Regularization Program in 2024 

Considering all of the above, the Mexico regularization program is definitely one of the easiest ways for foreigners to obtain temporary residency in Mexico. The program is not really marketed and is not always available across the whole country. 

For example, the regularization program may be available in Merida, San Miguel de Allende and Puerto Vallarta but not in Mexico City or vice versa. If you are not sure whether INM (Instituto Nacional de Migracion) are currently offering this program in your city, you can ask around in local expat Facebook groups or call up immigration lawyers in your area. 

You will find businesses in most Mexican cities that offer “relocation assistance” to foreigners in helping them obtain residency permits, so you can also reach out to them and inquire. It helps if you are flexible and willing to travel to another part of Mexico if needs be.

Mexico Regularization Program fees 

As of February 2024, the cost for a four year temporary residency visa via the regularization program was 11,985 MXN pesos. (Circa $700 USD). There was then a regularization fee of 1702 MXN pesos ($99.45 USD) as well as an expired document fee for overstaying the tourist visa. (“Multa Documento Vencido”). 

Although you need to overstay on your tourist visa to be eligible for the regularization program, you will be charged a fee for overstaying. This can apparently vary and is determined on the day of your appointment. In my case, it was 2171 MXN pesos ($127 USD).

The fees are lower if you want to apply for a visa for only 1, 2 or 3 years. I personally preferred to apply for the maximum length visa so that I knew that I would be all set for the coming years and would not have to keep repeating the process. 

It is better to pay the fees by credit or debit card, where possible. Each of the three fees were processed separately and I was given three individual receipts. 

Your tourist visa must be expired 

An important caveat of applying for the Mexico regularization program is that you must wait until your current tourist visa expires before you can apply for residency. 

Since many tourists are given a 180 day visa on arrival in Mexico, this can mean a long wait. Most tourists will be given 180 days automatically on arrival in touristic parts of the country like Puerto Vallarta or Cancun. 

So, depending on how long you have left, you can consider waiting it out and hoping that the regularization program is still available when your tourist visa expires, or you can exit the country, re-enter again, and ask the Immigration agent to grant you a very short tourist visa (of 10-14 days or so). 

The questions that need to be completed on your regularization application

Application paperwork 

To apply for the regularization program, you need to make an appointment with your local INM office, submit an application form, and provide them with photos of the information page of your passport, and your first and latest entry stamps into Mexico. 

If your entry stamps were given in old passports, they are usually still accepted. The “application form” consists of a selection of basic questions about things like your height/weight, whether you have tattoos, your education, and your employment/earnings. (Again, there is no required earnings amount/financial requirements and you can apply even if you are unemployed). 

The image above shows the questionnaire that I needed to fill in for my regularization appointment at INM Merida. I had also previously considered applying in Puerto Vallarta, and the questionnaire provided to me by Jalisco INM was slightly different but generally consisted of the same type of questions. 

Relocation assistance agencies 

Once you have submitted your documents, you need to make an appointment at INM in the city where you are applying. There are many immigration lawyers and relocation services companies that can help you with this that are worth considering as they can make the process a lot easier and their fees are often quite reasonable.

In Merida, I hired Edwin Fernandez from MID Relocation Specialists who communicated with INM and set up my appointment for me. You may be able to able to navigate through this alone, but working with Edwin made everything easier and gave me more peace of mind. (I am not affiliated with this company in any way, just sharing my experiences). 

I paid 5,000 pesos (Circa $292 USD) for the relocation services, in addition to the fees with INM. Before my appointment, I also spoke to Sonia Diaz and her associate, Teresa Sanchez in Puerto Vallarta who were charging a fee of 7,000 pesos (circa $409 USD) and have heard that other agencies often charge fees of 10,000 pesos and up, so it is definitely worth “shopping around” when it comes to assistance. 

INM interview 

Different INM offices in Mexico operate differently and I can only speak for what the experience at the Merida office was like. Everything was pretty well organized and ran very smoothly.

I was provided an appointment time, I arrived 30 minutes before, my appointment ran on time, and the whole process took less than 2 hours. By the end, I had my photograph and fingerprints taken and had my “Residente temporal” card in hand. 

I took my passport with me, along with the previously mentioned completed questionnaire. 

My lawyer had told me that I should prepare for potentially being asked questions about why I wanted to stay in Mexico. For instance: 

  • Why have you overstayed in Mexico?

  • Is this your first time overstaying in Mexico?

  • Why do you want to live in Mexico?

  • What do you do for work? 

I was actually not asked any questions at all – perhaps due to the sheer amount of people waiting at the INM office on that day, I am not really sure. I was simply asked to confirm my age and where I was from, and then to pay the fees. 

Progreso beach, Yucatan

Having temporary residency in Mexico 

With your shiny new temporary residency card in hand, you can go on to enjoy life as a legal resident of Mexico. After the four years are up, you can apply for permanent residency and after seven years of living in Mexico, you can opt to take the “naturalization” exam and apply for Mexican citizenship if you wish. 

With temporary residency, you can work remotely (i.e. you live in Mexico but you work for a company in Europe/the United States) but you cannot work with/for Mexicans or operate a local business. You can set up a business if you apply for a work permit, which is relatively straightforward to do. (You must obtain the permit before you start working). 

Temporary residency enables you to apply for your RFC (Registro Federal de Contribuyentes) which is your Mexican tax number. This is useful if like me, you have bought a house in Mexico because it means that you can enjoy capital gains tax exemption if you choose to sell your house in the future. 

With temporary residency, it also becomes much easier to buy a vehicle and to open a Mexican bank account with a bank of your choosing, while Intercam is currently the only bank that allows foreigners to open accounts on tourist visas. 

Exiting and re-entering Mexico

If you leave Mexico to travel overseas and then re-enter the country, be sure to hand over your residency card before handing over your passport. If you hand over your passport and the Immigration Agent stamps a tourist visa in there, it apparently devalidates your temporary residency card which means having to reapply and go through a lot more stress and expense which obviously you don’t want to do.

Progreso beach, Yucatan

Final thoughts on the Mexico regularization program

I am personally delighted at the existence of the Mexico regularization program and how painless the entire process was. In total, I paid 20,858 Mexican pesos (Circa $1218 USD) including INM fees and fees for immigration assistance in Merida. 

For me, this was a great option since I am from the UK and it meant that I did not have to fly back and forth between Mexico and England to have appointments with the Mexican consulate in London as I would have had to do if I were to go down the financial application route. 

While the current Mexico immigration requirements for this program are that you have a passport stamp demonstrating that you entered Mexico prior to 2023, based on past programs, it seems very likely that in the coming years, they will open the program to people with passport stamps prior to 2024, 2025, etc. So it is just a matter of waiting for a suitable program to open if you don’t have earlier passport stamps. 

Do you have any further questions? Feel free to connect with me via email/social media or reach out to me via the comments below and I will do my best to get back to you ASAP. 

Enjoy Mexico! Melissa xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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