What are the benefits of establishing residency in México? This is a very common question from people considering a move to México. As we discussed in Eating the Elephant, there was a LOT for us to consider when we were planning our move to México. We were about to completely uproot our lives and move to a foreign country. For us personally, the most important matter to tackle first was to address the question of residency. This move was not something that we had just thought up on a whim, but rather something that was years in the making. We planned to be in México for the foreseeable future and as such our first order of business was to apply for residency visas.
If you’re just getting started, you may also want to read our Mexican Immigration & Visas – Getting Started post. There are essentially three ways that a foreigner (non-Mexican citizen) can enter and reside in México. There are other types of visas (i.e., student, humanitarian, adoption, etc.) but the following three are the most common types: 1)Tourist (Visitante) can visit the country for a maximum of up to 180 days at a time; 2) Temporary Resident (RT – Residente Temporal), you can reside in México for up to four years and exit and re-enter the country as you please and 3) Permanent Resident (RP – Residente Permanente), you can reside in México indefinitely and exit and re-enter the country as you please. The latter two, RT and RP, are considered residency visas.
For various reasons, we decided to apply for and were granted RT visas. So, that begs the question. What exactly are the benefits of obtaining a residency visa. In no particular order, here are 10 benefits of getting a RT or RP visa.
1) NATIONAL HEALTHCARE PROGRAMS
As discussed in Medical Insurance & Coverage in México, having residency opens up additional doors in regards to medical coverage. In addition to private medical insurance, as a RT or RP visa holder you are also eligible to participate in the Instituto Mexicano Del Seguro Social (IMSS) or Seguro Popular (SP) social security programs which provide medical care. IMSS provides private employers and employees with health, pensions and social security security services. However, RT and RP visa holders can opt into this program without being employed. SP is designed to cover individuals who are not enrolled or otherwise covered by the IMSS program.
2) INAPAM SENIOR DISCOUNT CARD
The Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores (INAPAM) is a federal agency that that is responsible for administering programs in support of Mexican senior citizens. If you are a RT or RP visa holder that is at least 60 years of age, you are eligible to receive an INAPAM card at no charge that entitles you to discounts with merchants and service providers across the country. You can read more about benefits and discounts in your local area as well as the requirements and process to obtain a card. Please note that some individuals with RT visa status have reported that they were unable to obtain the card, which is in direct contradiction to what their Web site states.
3) CAPITAL GAINS ON HOME SALE
As a RT or RP visa holder, you may be eligible to reduce your tax liability in regards to capital gains on the sale of your primary residence. You will need to meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for this tax exemption. Given that Mexican tax law is quite complex, you will need to seek professional advice from a notario público (notary public), which in México is a lawyer with advanced education and specialized work experience, or tax accountant. This is a major benefit and could potentially result in significant financial savings.
4) BANK ACCOUNT
As a RT or RP visa holder, you can open up a bank account. Though getting cash (i.e., from a foreign bank account) is rather easy and really not an issue, the main advantage of having a Mexican bank account is that it can make certain transactions such as paying utilities easier (i.e., auto debit via electronic transfer) to perform. Additionally, not all merchants and service providers in México accept foreign debit/credit cards. Though anecdotal, I have read and heard from numerous people across the country being able to open bank accounts without a RT or RP visa. I would consider this the exception rather than the rule. It is always best to check with each bank and branch as to their individual policies.
5) FOREIGN PLATED VEHICLE
Bringing a foreign plated vehicle into the country versus buying a vehicle here is a personal decision. In Bringing a Car Into México, we discussed the requirements and process to bring a foreign plated vehicle into México. As a RT visa holder, you can keep your foreign plated vehicle here for the duration of your visa which is up to 4 years.
6) ABILITY TO WORK
Work can be defined as working for an employer, being self-employed (i.e., business owner), being an independent contractor, etc. As an RP visa holder, you do not need to submit a separate application, like with RT visa holders, to obtain permission to work. However, you must notify Instituto Nacional de Migración – INM (Immigration) of your intent to work. Additionally, you will need to be registered with Servicio de Administración Tributaria – SAT (Tax Administration Service) for tax purposes. Be sure to seek professional advice to ensure that you are adhering to official requirements and process from both an immigration and tax perspective.
7) REGISTER A VEHICLE
Anyone is able to purchase a vehicle in México regardless of their visa status. Ironically enough, only RT and RP visa holders are able to register their vehicles in their own name. Go figure! However, I have read and heard anecdotally in a few instances of individuals who do not possess a RT or RP visa being able to register their vehicles in their own name. I would consider the latter the rare exception rather than the rule. I have also heard of people registering their vehicles in other people’s names. However, this could present potential legal ramifications were you involved in an accident or try to sell your vehicle legally to someone else. Personally, I would never purchase a vehicle anywhere in the world if I was not able to register in my own name. But then again, that’s just me! Just be sure to understand vehicle registration rules in your respective state.
8) LOCAL DISCOUNTS
As a RT or RP visa holder, you may be eligible for certain discounts with local merchants and service providers. Check with businesses in your respective area to see if any such discounts are available. You may be pleasantly surprised as to what you may discover.
9) MEXICAN DRIVER’S LICENSE
One can drive in México with a valid driver’s permit from another country. However, I am of the opinion that it is always a good idea to have a license from the country and state/province that you reside in. As an RT or RP visa holder, you are eligible to obtain a Mexican driver’s license. Cree just recently got her Jalisco state driver’s license in Guadalajara and I’ll talk about that process and experience in a post in the near future. In some states and jurisdictions, you may be able to obtain a temporary driver’s permit under tourist status your permit will last for the duration of your Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM). It is best to check with your respective state to find out driver’s license requirements and process.
10) VISA VALIDITY
As a RT visa holder, you are able to reside in México for up to 4 years with unlimited exits and re-entries. As a RP visa holder, you are able to reside in Mexico indefinitely with unlimited exits and re-entries. If you enter the country as a tourist, you can be granted up to a maximum of 180 days per visit. The practice of repeatedly renewing your status as a tourist every 180 days (or the time that is granted to you) is commonly referred to as a border run, visa run, border hopping, etc. With the continuing advancement of technology at the federal government level, INM is beginning to crack down on this practice. Entering the country as a tourist is really intended for those that are truly just visiting or vacationing here. If you plan to be in México for greater than 180 days or reside in México full-time, then you really need to apply for a RT or RP visa. It’s not only the smart thing to do but also the right thing to do. Failure to do so can negatively impact your future ability to visit or reside here.
There are countless other tangible and intangible benefits of obtaining a RT or RP visa but the ones mentioned here are the ones that come to my mind immediately. If you do decide that residency makes sense, you will then need to decide whether a RT or RP visa makes more sense in your personal situation.