Please do not take this post as being generally valid and legally binding advice. This is just my own personal experience and knowledge. I will not answer specific questions about the Mexican immigration process or temporary vehicle import because I am not qualified to do so.
When you enter Mexico with a residente temporal visa sticker in your passport, you only get a 30-day entrance and they check the box for “canje,” meaning that you will trade your entry paper for a residency card. This 30-day window is the reason why I was in such a hurry to get here since the process can take some weeks. The sooner it is resolved, the sooner I can go to aduena (customs) and also extend my vehicle permit and keep my deposit.
My hosts offered to take me to the INM (immigration) office today in Progreso to show me where it is. They said I should plan on three trips and that this was just a fact-finding mission to see what documents and copies I need.
Being me, I did some research ahead of time and learned that if I filled out a form online, made copies of every document I could think I would need, and showed up with a number called a “pieza” that might save me one trip.
We arrived at the office in Progreso around 10AM. The office is very small and you don’t need an appointment. I’m told the one in Mérida is huge and a pain to get through. But you can only go to Progreso if you have a beach address. So I will keep my Progreso/Chelem address until next year, when I’ll be able to renew my visa for an additional three years and be done with paperwork for a while.
The gal at the front desk apparently speaks English, but I did the whole process in Spanish. This is a huge deal and so, like at the border, I’m very careful to reiterate what I hear and ask for clarification to make sure I’m doing everything right. Let’s see if I can remember everything…
First, she looked at my passport, entry paper, and the form I completed online. I’d made a mistake on that, but she said she was able to correct it. She asked for a copy of my passport page with the photo, a copy of the visa sticker in my passport, and a copy of the entry stamp in my passport (that was on the page right by the sticker, so I just photographed both pages on one sheet and that was okay). I also had copies of my birth certificate and of my entry form, but neither was needed, only the original entry form.
She then gave me a bunch more paperwork to fill out and said that I could do it right there and then we could do the next step.
The next paperwork asked for my personal details including my physical description, the type of work I do, my income, my address in Mexico, etc. It was pretty easy to fill out, but I was glad I had access to Google Translate to clarify a few terms.
Once everything was filled out, I got back into the very short line. The attendant checked that everything was good and then she gave me a receipt/voucher (comprobante) to take to a bank to pay the $3,750 fee (about 275CAD) for the card for the first year. She said there was a Santander bank three blocks away. I checked with my hosts, whom I realised by now hadn’t expected I’d be there that long and had things to do, that they could wait. They generously said yes.
So off I went. I didn’t have a long wait at the bank, but got a clerk who was unsure of what to do so it took a bit of time. He eventually gave me a receipt showing I had paid. Off I went back to INM, where there were now many more people. I was going to suggest to my hosts that they just leave me there and that I would figure out how to get back on a colectivo (minibus), but the attendant finished up with her current client and called to me to give her the receipt as that was all I had to do. Before leaving, I confirmed that my next step is to wait to get an email that says we’re ready for the next step, which I believe is showing up with photographs and having my fingerprints taken.
By the time we got out of the office, it was only 10:55! We really weren’t there that long. By the time I got home, I already had an email in my inbox with my user name and password for the INM website so I can check the status of my request.
In the next couple of days, I’ll go back to Progreso on my own and advise aduena that my application is in progress, again to hopefully preserve the deposit for my truck. That is the most complicated thing and what I’ve gotten the most conflicting info on.
I’d read lots of reports of the process to get the residency card and like with the TIP for the vehicle, it sounded very confusing. I suspected that the process would be made easier by picking the right immigration office, by doing my own research straight on the official Mexican websites, and by doing the whole thing in Spanish. I was right on all three counts. So far, it just feels like a lot of paperwork, but it’s not been particularly difficult, especially when compared to getting anything done in Quebec.