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Important Updates on Mexican Residency Income Requirements

Mexican residency

Good news for anyone looking to get legal Mexican residency: the income requirement dropped and you now only have to show monthly income flowing through your checking account of at least around $1,400. This is a significant reduction from close to two grand. This can be enough to make a difference for retirees living off social security and digital nomads that aren’t earning the big bucks. This is a big deal because some people ended up avoiding Mexico because of the high requirement (far more than you really need to live here) and went to Nicaragua, Panama, or Ecuador instead. 

I have lived in Mexico on and off since 2010. Most of that time I’ve just been on a tourist visa because you only have to leave the country every six months to renew it. As a travel writer, in normal times that was never an issue. My passport has some 40 stamps from five different airports, no sweat. I’m looking at getting legal residency next year though because it doesn’t look like “normal times” are going to be here in travel for a while. 

One time when we did a two-year stint here we got temporary residency permits because we had a daughter in school and didn’t want to have to be forced to leave the country on a deadline. Plus her school wanted her to be a resident, so it was just easier. I detailed that whole process in this Mexican residency post and then recently updated it with our new successful application process in 2021.

Last time I ended up with this identity card below that I put a photo of in the post. Funny enough, that photo got blown up and posted at the Belize land border as an example. Every year or so some blogger friend would e-mail me and ask, “Did you know your picture is posted at the Mexico/Belize border?” Thankfully it wasn’t a “Wanted” sign at least. I’m not sure if it’s still there or not since it expired in 2014. Ping me if you go through. 

Mexican residency visa

The New Mexican Residency Income Requirement

The technical reason behind the changes in Mexico’s income requirement will probably put you to sleep or make your head hurt before you finish reading it, so I’m just going to do a quick summary. Basically, the old rate was based on a multiplication of the Mexican minimum wage (which is 123 pesos per day) for both income and savings. Now the calculation is going to be based on something called the Unidad de Medida y Actualización (UMA), which is a lower amount used to calculate everything from police fines to the year-end bonus for an employee.

The amount used to be close to $2,000 when I applied back in 2013 and it got back up to that amount due to some catch-up changes the past four years to offset currency declines. So you had to show that amount coming into your bank account and/or a liquid savings balance over the past year of around $32,000. For a working stiff like me, in a non-pandemic year that was a fairly low hurdle, even though I did have to show another $500 per dependent or spouse. For a retiree though, this could be an onerous amount since it’s higher than the average social security check for an American, higher than many pensions for Canadians. So those without supplemental income had to either show a history of 12 months of hefty savings or be able to plead their case with a local consulate. (While the embassies and consulates should all be consistent in how they apply the rules, this is not true for immigration offices anywhere in the world in practice. Some in the U.S. and Canada were known to be more liberal in their interpretation than others.) 

Since immigration offices are now supposed to be adopting this new rate of calculation to get in line with other government agencies, it is now much easier to qualify–if they are following the current rules. Depending on the day’s exchange rate, the new minimum is a bit less than $1,400 at a rate of 19 per dollar. If it’s 22, which has been fairly frequent this year, you’re looking at less than $1,200. For the amount you need to have in savings instead if your income is too variable or too low, it would be less than $23,000. Then you’ll need to show around $350 or $400 more for a dependent or spouse. 

healthy juice for $1 in Mexico

Fresh-squeezed juice for a buck

This is a welcome development because, although I needed to show a total of $3,000 per month coming in when I applied for residency years ago (including a wife and child), I never came anywhere close to spending that amount living in Mexico. It is relatively easy to live on $1,000 as a single or $1,500 for a couple outside of resort areas–nearly every Mexican does, after all. So it never made much sense that you had to prove an income of double that amount to go from tourist to legal resident. 

If you want more details on how this all evolved, there’s a good post here on, one of the sites I recommend for getting information about Mexico travel and news

Gather up Your Documents

Anywhere in the world you apply for residency as an American or Canadian, you’re going to need a pile of paperwork, including something showing you’re not a convicted felon. That paperwork will often need to be notarized or even worse, go through an “apostille” process that is internationally accepted. You don’t want to be on the other side of the planet trying to work this out after arrival, or even in Mexico for that matter, so check and double-check what documents you’ll need. If you’re a couple and one of you is much more detail-oriented, they should take care of this part when you are divvying up the pre-moving tasks! 

Always check the embassy or consulate site for a baseline and you can try calling the office to double-check or clarify. Take an important second step though and consult with people who have recently been through the process. There are message boards and Facebook groups for almost anywhere you’re going, both for the country and probably the city too. There’s a very busy “Expats in Mexico” Facebook group for example, but even where I live in a city with a few hundred foreigners, there are two local Facebook groups and an old-school message board. (Plus another that’s just about buying local products/services to support the home team.) Search and scroll to find the real deal on requirements and understand that people will have different experiences from different offices. It’s not all going to match up in a pretty checklist. This should give you an idea, however, of what documents you need to line up and bring to the office. 

In the end, we were way over-prepared in some ways and not ready in others. Some of the things I brought they didn’t even want to see, but we had to go back home to secure other things we didn’t have. As I put in my post back then: 

We had to return a second time with documents that were not listed as required anywhere: a copy of our marriage certificate and an original birth certificate for my daughter. We had to bring 12 months of checking account statements, notarized by my bank, showing that I was making an average of that amount. 

Notarized bank statements? Who even gets paper ones anymore? Yeah I know, but those are the rules, so give your printer a workout or head to an office supply store with a thumb drive. If you’re lucky your bank branch can notarize them. If not you’ll need to find a notary who is actually coming into an office each day. 

Permanent Residency and a Recent Shortcut

Under the long-standing rules in Mexico, you first got a temporary residency permit, renewed it every year, and then after four years you could get permanent residency. At that point, you could stop showing up and paying regularly. Some people were able to renew two years at a time and save an annual office visit, some were able to convert to permanent sooner, especially if they hired some help. If you left and came back like we did though, the clock starts over again. 

One welcome development upended all this though. Last year I started hearing from some of my All-in Package consulting clients that there were offered an option to “skip the line” and go straight to permanent residency. The people offered this seem to meet three unofficial criteria: 1) They’re at or getting close to retirement age, 2) They have proven income that’s a few grand above the minimum, and 3) They’re willing to pay a $100+ more each than the temporary residency process would cost. Ask about this deal if you’re sure about your long-term plans because it’s a no-brainer. 

The Local Mexican Residency Process After Arrival

moving to Mexico residency

Getting approved in your home country is just the first required step in this process. After you arrive in Mexico you’ll need to stay put for a while because you’ve only got a limited time to get moving and they’ll hold your passport while the paperwork is getting processed. It can take a month or two from start to finish, so don’t buy a plane ticket out for week six like I did and be sweating that you’ll have to cancel everything! 

You’ll have to make three or four visits to the embassy or consulate to get everything done and eventually pick up your passport with permit, so factor this into your plans and budget. If you’re moving to Mexico City, no big deal, but if you’re going to some small town that’s hours away from a real city with an immigration office, it can be a pain. Our choices are Leon or San Miguel de Allende–there’s nothing local. 

I’m not up on the exact cost these days, but it’s no trifling amount. The cost in your home country will probably be $5o – $100, but then you’ll spend another $250 to $500 locally in Mexico depending on whether you need/want help from someone to fill out all the paperwork or act as your representative. Having help doesn’t get you out of showing up and signing papers, then giving fingerprints, but it does eliminate any confusion and can speed things up in the prep time. If there are travel costs, you need to add those in too. 

As I said earlier, spend some time doing research online, including on local expat message boards. I’m not a lawyer, immigration expert, or accountant. I’m just someone who has gone through this Mexican residency income verification process twice now. Consult with others who have done it recently for updates.

Even then, understand that the local consulate can take months or even years to update their internal processes, which was the case at the one I visited in Orlando. Plus they can make up their own rules. They were still requiring foreigners to meet the outdated income requirements and even stranger, were looking at the monthly balance in my checking account instead of the income. More on how it went here.

Meanwhile, if you’re thinking about a better life for half the price, get on my free cheap living abroad insiders list for monthly updates. 

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Sunday 14th of November 2021

It is now Nov 2021 and I have been waiting until my small savings account in the us has had enough funds for 12 months to financially qualify under the UMA calculations BUT I cannot find a consulate anywhere that uses UMA except inside Mexico. The US consulates use the old system which requires almost 40% more savings for 12 months. It seems like a catch 22. The mexican gov says to use the UMA figures and the mexican consulates in the US refuse to use those standards. Has anyone found a US consulate using UMA or can an American apply for a temporary residency from Beize and do they use UMA figures??

Alex M

Sunday 20th of June 2021

Very thorough and informative website. I wanted to pass along my recent experience obtaining my PR because it differs somewhat from the original posting. A bit of personal info in case it's pertinent: I'm in my mid 40s, single, retired, Canadian, and was able to exceed the financial requirements set out by the Mexican government for the PR/retiree route. I've been living in Mexico for close to 2 years, and with the exception of the last couple of months before I received my PR, I was diligently leaving before my FMM expired and returning the next day. I'm on the Pacific side and even with covid craziness, I still was able to go to and from Phoenix without any issues. Initially, I was under the impression that as a Canadian, I needed to go to a consulate in Canada but this isn't entirely accurate. The answer is that it depends which Mexican consulate in which city you ask. Los Angeles, for example, told me point blank that they only assist Americans. Phoenix, however, was my salvation. I reached out to the Phoenix office via email, and they replied within a week indicating I needed to send some documentation in for pre-screening. I did this and made sure to send the PR level of detail (12 months vs 6). A very nice woman called me a couple of weeks later, we chatted briefly and she asked me a handful of questions regarding why I wanted to live in Mexico etc. We then scheduled a face to face meeting approximately 6 weeks after the phone call took place. I emailed her AGAIN before I left for Phoenix with all of the required documentation (including up to date financial statements) and I brought paper copies as well just in case. At no time in the process did I explicitly request PR rather than TR - I simply proceeded as if that was a foregone conclusion and all of my paperwork pointed to a PR application. My meeting in Phoenix was scheduled for 2 hours; I was out of there in 20 minutes with a PR visa affixed to my passport, as well as a list of next steps required back in Mexico. At the local immigration office where I live, I spent a grand total of 90 minutes waiting for the officers to do what was needed on their end, and I walked out with a shiny new PR card that very same day. I think I'm probably extremely lucky in some respects that everything was smooth from the outset, and that the local immigration office wasn't backlogged. But it can be a quicker process than many might think AND there's no requirement for expats to have a TR prior to their PR - I didn't.


Wednesday 4th of August 2021

Great information sir! Were you conversing with the representative in Spanish or English? My Spanish speaking isn't "international document level" yet...

Tim Leffel

Wednesday 23rd of June 2021

Thanks so much for sharing your experience Alex. I really appreciate it and I'm sure others will as well. Good to hear they responded to you by e-mail and phone. Sounds like a great consulate to work with.


Wednesday 26th of May 2021

I get $2043 a month from Social Security Disability. My wife has been getting pandemic unemployment benefits for almost 6 months in the amount of $459 a week.

If we print out our bank statements and highlight the deposits each month, do you think the consulate will try to determine the source of the deposits (listed as DFS) my wife gets or will they only care about the amount of money coming in? I don't know if the $2043 is enough to qualify for TR at the Laredo consulate.

Tim Leffel

Thursday 27th of May 2021

Only the amount, not the source. From what I've heard, the Texan consulates near the border are much more lenient than the ones far away.


Thursday 29th of April 2021

Thank you so, s9 much for taking Your time to share all this very informative information!, It puts my mind at ease. I like the idea of just parking that small amount in a separate account for a yr.I own my home, Have savings y, retired at 57. live off of savings right now so this parking money seems so much simpler then showing all assets when they just want to see the silly account over 12 months. Thanks again??


Thursday 8th of April 2021

Question- Im 58 and still working, but its remotely. We just bought a house in Mexico that is held in a trust so will be going for longer and longer each year ahead. I have monthly deposits into my checking of over the required amount but dont carry a balance since I spend the money each month. Does that matter ...or If I have a 401k over the investment income level would you think that will work?

Tim Leffel

Saturday 10th of April 2021

The balance shouldn't matter to anyone following the income rules, but logic doesn't always apply from one consulate to the next. I had more than $4K a month flowing through my checking account even during the worst of the pandemic, but when I went to the Orlando consulate this last time, they complained that my balance wasn't over the income minimum. I guess they wanted me to be treating my checking account like a savings account and leaving money in there. Thankfully they said savings of $35K or more would suffice, so after pulling up 24 monthly statements from two IRAs, I was good to go. I'm going to write a whole post on this soon, but the bottom line is, bring anything and everything and make sure one account has a monthly balance of at least $2K or just park that much in your checking account for months and don't touch it. Bring proof of whatever other assets you have.