Not only will it save you a small fortune (around 5,000 peso), I always think it’s a good idea to have an understanding of personal things that pertain to you, meaning, I think it’s important to understand the rules and the system so that in the event of an emergency, you are able to help yourself. I’m not one for relying on others for much of anything and will be the first to confirm, knowledge is power.
So let’s get started. There are two common ways to get your INM visa (or work permit) paperwork done. You can hire a professional lawyer or you can do it yourself. As I mentioned before, when I first moved to Cancun I hired a lawyer to initiate my first application.
I was advised that the first application was rather tedious and since everything was new and I had zero Spanish skills, that made sense. That was the only time I hired a lawyer though. I watched with two keen eyes at what he did and how he did it, took mental notes and the following year, said a Hail Mary before heading down to the INM office for my first renewal.
I will share with you a little secret few folks seem to know. The immigration paperwork required to let’s say renew a visa, is not the same from one office to the next. And I’m not talking about the differences between states (of which there are many), I’m talking about from one office to the other in the same region.
My first two temporary visas were applied for in the Cancun INM office. This was back when foreigners had to renew annually, so in essence, you were heading down there with paper and receipts in hand every 10 or 11 months because then, it usually took a month or so to get the renewal complete.
When I moved to Playa del Carmen, renewal 3 and 4 as well as the application for my permanent residency (so three annual visits in total) was so much easier! The INM office in Playa del Carmen was the cat’s ass for not only paperwork, but for an organized system (Cancun INM could learn a thing or two).
In Playa, they require a lot less paperwork, so bonus! They also have a system in place. There is a guard who allows only a specific amount of people in the office at a time. Everyone signs in and out. The first line you stand in is a basically check point. When you get to the nice guy or gal officer at the desk, you simply state your business (change of status, visa renewal, visa application, work permit), then he or she takes the folder from your hand and quickly flips through. If you have what’s needed, you are then told something like listen for your name, listen for this number (they hand you a paper laminated number or letter, etc.) and to then go sit down.
If, on the other hand, you’re missing an obvious document, you’ll be told what it is and sent away. The goal is to have INM officers receive people with all the required documents.
Once you get to the INM wicket (your name or number has been called after a lengthy wait), they will then ask you for paperwork. You give them ONLY the papers that pertain to them and to the application. Your notes and extra copies should not be part of what you hand them. If they want more, they’ll ask.
They will read and go through everything with a fine-toothed-comb and start to yellow highlight parts of your paperwork. Do not try to start a conversation with them. Do not fiddle or fidget and for gawd’s sake, don’t hover! This is where you need to be serious and attentive (cell phone off!!)
If you’re on the right track they will turn to their computer and start banging on keys. This is often a good sign. If there is a discrepancy between official documents (what’s on their computer versus what you’ve provided on paper), they will tell you and send you away to fix it.
Don’t despair. You can just go next door to one of the shops (just outside the INM office) make the correction and come back without having to wait in line. They will receive you again.
When I applied for my permanent residency there was a discrepancy on my passport. The spelling of my birth town was different than what I had entered (correctly) on my application, so she turned the computer monitor in my direction and simply pointed at it. It’s up to you to read between the lines and figure it out.
The INM officers are not permitted to carry on conversations with clients. While they can offer generalized help, they cannot “tell you” the exact issue, only offer guidance. The reason is to avoid favoritism.
In saying that, I saw the mistake right away, went next door to the small Internet cafe, logged onto the INM website, filled out the form again, printed it and returned to the office. I waited about five minuets for her to finish with the client who replaced me. I handed her the new “misspelled” form with my birth town and walloh. Everyone was happy.
The INM officers are not mean or hateful of foreigners, which were things I’d been told by other expats. I’ve been to that office many, many times over the years and have never had an unresolved issue. They are simply there to do a job, so if you have to go, just mind your P’s and Q’s and you too, will sail right through the process.
If you need to know an address or office hours of an INM near you, here is a full list for every INM office in the country.