As we prepare to head to Mexico along the Pacific coast one of the issues that weighed on our minds was the process at the border. You don’t need a visa – at the border they will grant you a tourist visa good for 180 days with just your passport. However, we wanted to get Permanent or Temporary Resident Visas so we would not have to leave the country in 180 days (did I mention how slowly we travel?), plus we needed a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) for our boat. The TIP is required for any vehicle entering Mexico including boats.
The Banjercito office at the Mexican Consulate in Sacramento is the only place in California that you can start your TIP, whereas visas can be done in most of the consulates, so we chose to go to Sacramento rather than San Jose or San Francisco. There is an online site for starting your TIP, but we have heard reports that this process is flawed and does not let you know whether your boat has an open TIP. We preferred to do this in person. It turned out to be easy but took almost six elapsed hours including a lunch break. Since they close to new appointments at noon you will want to schedule this for morning. We left our anchorage in Half Moon Bay at 6 am, and including a stop for breakfast and to leave our dog with a friend in Richmond we made it by 9 am. We had all three documents by 3 pm.
I was told that Sacramento was one of the consulates that required an appointment, but this is NOT true. San Jose does, and San Francisco accepts them but does not require them. I never did manage to set an appointment online for Sacramento but it may be possible. Apparently September is not “high season” so they were not as busy as they can get, so your experience may differ. They do intend the visa process to be a same-day process so if you arrive in time they will try to complete it.
Documents required: Passport, Coast Guard documentation or other title, Anexo (see below) and $60.
We have had friends that discovered their boat had an open TIP and were worried that ours might also have one from the first owner. Read our friends’ informative article about having to fly to Sacramento from San Diego to deal with these issues and you’ll see why going to Sacramento before you leave the San Francisco area might be a good idea.
HINs and IDs
The Banjercito (long made-up word with Bank and Army in it – it is a military bank in charge of the process) issues the TIP and can also impound vehicles illegally in Mexico. The TIP lasts for 10 years and SHOULD be cancelled when you leave the country. Or you leave a mess behind you should you or the next owner ever want to re-enter Mexico with the boat.
If your boat is Coast Guard registered then the CG documentation is the main paperwork you will need. Our boat was built as a run of one in 1991 in Canada. It has no hull id that I know of or have found on the boat. In these cases the Coast Guard issues its own number and this is what we used on the Mexican paperwork as well. This caused the clerk some discomfort, but he finally went with it.
The other piece of paperwork you are advised to supply is the “Anexo”. This is a list of the major equipment on the boat including engines, dinghies, electronics, etc. It is a lot of trouble to prepare, but if the part is on the boat when you enter the country, and you later need to replace it, the Anexo can be used to avoid import tax. You may need to use an agent to implement this, but I understand it could save you a fee of up to 50% of the cost of the item if it is shipped to Mexico. If you want to see an example, here is the Anexo form I developed: Sample Anexo . I removed the serial numbers etc but left the headings to jog your memory about parts you may have. For the purpose of getting a TIP the official was mostly interested in microwaves, tvs, dishwashers, etc but for your own use document everything.
TIP: I forgot to get my Anexo stamped by the official and it might have been useful. He included some of the items on the attachment to the TIP, but left others off. He gave me back the extra copy I had given him and one stayed with his paperwork. He suggested I show the extra copy to the marina. I’m not sure why.
Because the visas took some time, I was able to walk up to the Banjercito window and apply for the TIP while waiting for the other process to resume. The visa folks still had my passport but I had a copy of it. With that he walked over the visa folks and verified my passport information. Very efficient. I was able to complete the TIP in about 20 to 30 minutes, then returned to the Visa area to wait to be called again.
You can enter Mexico with a TIP between 7 days and 60 days of getting it. I was asked to supply the earliest date I might need it and I gave a date in mid October.
Note: Save your payment receipt with the TIP. I’ll update on entry whether that was essential.
We plan to spend a couple of years in Mexico. The tourist visa is good for 180 days, but this would mean leaving Mexico sometime in April which is inconvenient for us. It did not look difficult to get a Permanent Resident visa, which would give us the ability to open a bank account, so we thought we’d try for that. The other choice would be a Temporary Resident visa which gives you four years in the country and must be renewed every year. The justifications for each visa are quite different. Assuming you are not a famous person, or have been offered a job or non-paying position, or starting a company or have family in Mexico, you will be entering via your economic position. Either income OR assets can be considered and each married person will need to show their own documents.
To be a permanent resident (and not in a special category as outlined above) you have to be retired. And retired means receiving an income from a pension or social security. So although I am “retired” at 62 and living off my husband’s social security, that does not count for them. If I had an adequate income stream from investments they might consider that a retirement income, but it might have to be from a qualified pension or Social Security, I’m not sure. They explained that if I’m not retired I might try to get work, and they are very sensitive about foreigners taking Mexican jobs.
- $2700 retirement income per month for six months – show bank deposit statements for each of the last six months
- $108000 balance for 12 months – show bank statements with at least that balance for the last 12 months. Even though this is listed as a separate path to permanent resident, they would not consider this in my case.
They would not accept the 2. balance for me – I was able to use it for the temporary resident visa, but not for permanent resident visa. My husband (67 with retirement benefits) would have been able to get a permanent visa using either method 1 or 2. We chose to both get temporary visas.
Temporary Residents can stay in the country for four years, renewing the visa every year. The economic requirements are:
- $1620 retirement income per month for six months – show bank deposit statements for each of the last six months
- $27000 balance for 12 months – show bank statements with at least that balance for the last 12 months
Note: print the bank statements from the web, but make sure your name is at the top of each page – I found some statements at my bank did not put my name in a printable part of the page.
I was able to use the second method to get a temporary visa and my husband used the first method. As our money is in common I don’t know if they would have allowed us both to use the same lump of money but having separate paperwork made it easier.
We did not arrive with the correct paperwork, but were encouraged to go down the street to a Kinko’s or public library to print out the required information. On our return to the consulate we were waved through security and went directly back to the window without waiting in line again.
Documents required: $36 payment, Passports, extra passport photo, economic credentials (see below)
On entering through security we were waved to a main line. After a few moments we spoke to the official and explained we were there for a TIP and a visa. He said that we could just walk up to the Banjercito window – pointing next to him – but that we needed a number for the visa. We were given a number starting with “V” and told to wait in the main room. Large screens at various places in the waiting room showed up the numbers they were servicing. Although the numbers were read off in Spanish the screens meant it was easy to see when your number came up. After 20 or 30 minutes we were called to a visa window (“ventanilla”). The woman was very nice and gave us a visa application to fill out. It was all straight-forward until the question about why we were going to Mexico. We said something about seeing your beautiful country. When we brought the applications back up she covered up those answers with white tape and said we needed a non-tourist reason to visit as we wanted a residency visa. So we changed our reason to “to live in Mexico and become fluent in Spanish”. That flew.
Then we presented our economic credentials and learned about the meaning of “retirement” for their purposes. We went off to Kinko’s to get the proper copies and returned to her window on our return. With the new paperwork we were able to complete our application and pay our fees ($36 each). Then we waited until just before lunchtime when she took our photos (“don’t show teeth”) and fingerprints.
At that point we were allowed to leave until 1 when they reopened. We had 40 minutes left but were able to walk to the nearby Thai restaurant for a quick lunch. There are 6 or so restaurants in walking distance surrounding the consulate in the shopping center.
When we returned we had over an hour to wait for our “interview”. The interview was very simple. We told her a little about the boat and our plan to sail down this fall. She asked why we wanted to go to Mexico. And then she welcomed us to the country and said that they hope visitors like us can help to connect Mexicans and Americans. It was very friendly.
She then gave us our passports with a visa stamped on one of the pages. This will get us into the country, but more paperwork will be required then.
NOTE: Save your receipts from the Visa process – it may be required.
Follow-up process within the country (as we understand it)
We plan to check into Ensenada with the visas stamped on our passports. We are then allowed up to 30 days to arrive at a “destination” where we will complete the process and receive a “Residence Card”. We are thinking of doing this in La Paz or Mazatlan. I cannot find a list of cities that have an INM, but am assured that most larger towns and cities have them.
We are told this final process to get the card can take some time, weeks maybe. You start the process, then are emailed when they are ready for you to come back. Special photos are required, fingerprints are taken again, etc. It was recommended to us by a US sailor that we hire an agent for this process to make it go more smoothly. I’ll do an update once that process is complete.
Mexico!! We hope to enter before November.