Living in Los Cabos: The Immigration Procedure Changes
Well here’s what I know about the new procedures for immigration: your world has changed.
OK, maybe I know a little more after Sabrina Lear and I did the radio show on it for two weeks. One thing is for sure, anything you think you know about the process is out of date. The entire system has changed and been automated, which is a good thing. The familiar FM3 and FM2 booklets are being phased out and replaced by new plastic cards similar to a credit card or driver’s license. If you’ve got one of the old booklets you’ll need to replace it. The local head of Immigration, Lic. Martin Segovia, told us that most can wait until they need to renew their book but all will be phased out by early 2011. If you don’t make the change-over you will simply cease to exist.
You must go to the official website of the Immigration Department to start the process at http://www.inm.gob.mx/EN/index.php?page/migratory_facilitation. Although this link goes to the English page, the actual forms you’ll fill out are in Spanish. If you’re Spanish challenged have a friend with you when fill them out. The other option is to go to Immigration; they have a computer in the waiting room for this purpose and have English-speaking personnel who can help you with questions. The office in Cabo is on the main drag just across the street from AmeriMed hospital and is open for this service until 1 PM (the office is open until 8 PM, but they only process FM3 and FM2 requests in the mornings).
Once you’ve filled the forms out online you’ll be assigned a number and a code. The number will be your personal ID for immigration for the rest of your life. If you move to another country for a few years and return to Mexico you’ll get that same number back. The code will allow you to follow the progress of your application online. You’ll want to check this regularly; one lady we talked to in immigration was picking up her card after a month wait. She said it would have been ready sooner, but she didn’t check her status. You see, if there are any questions or missing documents they put the message on your status. In her case the photos she’d supplied were incorrect and they were waiting for her to come by with new ones. If she’d checked on a regular basis she might have had her card sooner.
Once you’ve completed you’ve completed the forms you’ll need to stop by immigration with your support documents and photos. The documents will vary based on your status, the website will tell you what you need to bring. The photos are different this time: you’ll need color photos in the ‘infantile’ size (about thumbnail sized). Several facing front and several profile. Any of the photo shops here can do them, just remember to specify infantile and color.
You’ll also need to stop by Registro Civil to get a CURP if you don’t already have one. What is a CURP? It’s another identification number, similar to a Social Security number in the US. If you’re already working in Los Cabos you have one, but now even if you’re on a non-lucrative FM3 or FM2 you’ll have to get one. It’s painless and easy. If you have one, but have lost the ID card no sweat: you can pull it off the internet and print it yourself and skip going back to Registro Civil.
You’ll also need to pay the fees, which will be posted on the website as well. You can pay at any bank, and in fact Bancomer has been advertising that they will accept payments online, too.
Now you’ll take your CURP and support doc’s, along with your numbers to Immigration before 1 PM. You’ll present everything to the agent on the desk, who will verify what you’ve got and print out your application (I’d print one myself if I were you just in case). Unless there’s a problem they’ll tell you to check the website with your code. When your card is ready that message will be on the site and you’ll come down to pick it up.
See, that isn’t so bad. The whole point of the changeover is to make the process simpler and more transparent, and so far that seems to be the case. Of course there are still companies who will, for an additional fee, help you through the process. And Lic. Segovia was very clear with Sabrina that they look at each case individually. She was very impressed with him and his reasonable attitude.
The other really interesting thing I learned is that it seems the process has been expedited for foreigners with Mexican relatives (spouse or child); they can move from FM3 to FM2 more quickly and can apply for citizenship earlier. If you do have a Mexican relative be sure to point that out with the support documents on your application.
Carol Billups is Broker/Owner of REALTY EXECUTIVES Los Cabos. A Certified Home Marketing Specialist, she has enjoyed working with both buyers and sellers for over nine years and still thinks hers is the best job on earth. She is also the real estate columnist for Los Cabos Magazine and the real estate co-ordinator for the Los Cabos Now program on CaboMil FM (www.cabomil.com.mx). You can read more of her articles on www.reloscabos.com. You can reach her from the U.S. or Canada at 1-760-481-7694, or in Cabo at 044-624-147-7541.
© 2010 Carol S. Billups