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MEXLAW > Immigration  > Risky Business: Extending a Tourist Card Through a Border Run

Risky Business: Extending a Tourist Card Through a Border Run

Many foreigners living in Mexico enter as a tourist which typically grants them a 180 day stay. Once their 180-days is up, they leave Mexico and make a “border run.” For residents of the Riviera Maya, this may mean a quick trip to Belize in hopes of re-entering Mexico and gaining another 180-day visitors card. Although the act of leaving Mexico and returning later is not illegal, many times these border runs entail a bribe to the official on the other side making this an illegal and risky process.

Mexican Immigration authorities also see this as an abuse of the tourist card and are beginning to pay attention to this activity and question your motives in Mexico.

Tourists entering and exiting every 180 days must be supporting themselves in Mexico, and since they have not applied for the proper residence visa, it may lead the authorities to believe they are earning an income in Mexico without permission.

If you are caught earning an income without the proper visa, you will be subject to deportation.  

Recently travelers with many consecutive entry stamps in their passport, making it obvious they come and go every 180 days, have been questioned at the border. IMN agents are checking for evidence that the traveler is living and working in Mexico, travelers personal items including their cell phone, laptop, and tablets will be inspected to ensure you are not illegally gaining an income in Mexico.

Questioning by IMN will cause delays in travel and possibly ending with less than 180 days on your new visitor card. If the IMN officer feels you are skirting the law by extending your stay in Mexico through this method, they have the authority to limit your visit. You can not assume you have the right to stay in Mexico for 180 days as the officer may only grant you 30 days.

The general policy of INM is if you reside in Mexico more than 180 days a year, gain an income or work in Mexico you need to apply for residency and if applicable permission to work. You are no longer considered a tourist; the proper procedure is to apply for a resident visa.

There are many options when applying for residence with a number of different qualifications, and these are the most common:

Temporary Residence – Granted for one year and may be renewed for up to three years After the fourth year you may apply for permanent residency or leave Mexico.

  • Financial solvency
  • Real estate investment in Mexico
  • Investing in  Mexican business
  • Job offer
  • Family ties or marriage to a Mexican citizen

Permanent Residence

For those who intend to reside in Mexico indefinitely, or eventually plan to apply for Mexican citizenship.

  • Retired with sufficient income to support yourself in Mexico
  • Through family ties in Mexico
  • After four consecutive years as a Temporary Resident
  • After two consecutive years of Temporary Residence issued through marriage to a Mexican National or a foreign permanent resident holder.

Contact an immigration specialist, immigration@mexlaw.com.mx for information on how to qualify for residency and stay legal in Mexico.