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The need for FM3 visa: Real Estate transactions in Mexico are considered as doing business by immigration authorities

The Mexican Perspective
The need for FM3 visa: Real Estate transactions in Mexico are considered as doing business by immigration authorities

By Patrick Osio, Jr.

What are the Mexican immigration or visa requirements for American citizens when buying property in Mexico? With so much real estate buying activity taking place along the coast from Tijuana to Ensenada by Americans throughout Southern California, plus a fair number from Arizona and Nevada the question of immigration to Mexico was bound to come up and it has.
Mexico has a variety of visas. Most Americans entering Mexico traveling into the interior of the country obtain the FMT visa, which is a “tourist” visa. The FMT only allows that which it implies – be a tourist – no business, so that buying or even leasing real estate property is part of “business,” not tourism.
When leasing or buying real estate in Mexico (or doing any sort of business), the FM3 visa is needed. It can be applied for in conjunction with the real estate transaction so there is no need to obtain that first, but obtaining it is a must. Not obtaining the FM3 visa negates any rights one may have in the event of any dispute requiring court interdiction in turn placing the purchased property in jeopardy and the person into an “illegal alien” status.  The FM3 is good for one year at a time, but renewal is easy and can be handled by an attorney or others without the necessity of even being present, this may be of importance since renewals must be applied for in the same city where the original was granted.
The Baja real estate boom continues unabated with 57 known real estate projects with over 9200 houses/condos and lots ready for construction in the works and not yet sold plus a number of additional projects in the works, which will soon be in the market from Playas de Tijuana to Ensenada, all ocean view or ocean front being primarily marketed to U.S. residents. The driving force for their demand is that the properties are a bargain compared to similar housing along coastal waters in California. So the number of US citizens needing to obtain the FM3 is growing.
Visitors (tourists) to Baja are not required to have an FMT visa, entry is simply drive or walk through where a small percentage, if a red light flashes at the port of entry, are checked by Mexican customs but not by immigration officials. The result has been that there is little awareness of Mexico’s immigration laws and visa requirements and when buying property immigration status is far too often not even on the radar screen of buyers.
Mexico’s immigration agency (INAMI) has recently taken to publicize the need for FM3 in the Rosarito and Ensenada municipalities due to the large number of real estate sales made to Americans and the low numbers of FM3 issued along the corridor. Rosarito has around 8,000 FM3 holders but the American population there is estimated at close to double that, visible most weekends. Bringing to mind that even when the real estate purchase is as a second-home and not full time living, an FM3 visa is still required and recommended.
Numbers for Ensenada are fussier and the “guesses” run rampant. Even the U.S. Consulate figures on how many American expatriates live in the Baja California Peninsula are now "guesstimates."  A few years ago the data provided was that the number exceeded 170,000, based on the number of Americans who had registered with the consulate. The actual number by now might well be over the 200,000 mark.
Mexican immigration officials say if that figure is anywhere close to fact, there are a lot of American illegal aliens in Baja as the number of total FM3 visas are somewhere around 15,000.  If such is the case there are a couple hundred thousand illegal alien Americans living full or part time in the Baja peninsula.
Before anyone starts to organize street marchers, waving American flags, translating the Mexican national anthem to English and demanding immigration rights and legalization, there is a much easier way – get the FM3.
It seems that Mexico recognizes the economic, cultural and social contributions made by Americans buying properties and settling or part-time living in their regions. They are welcomed as members of the community as the largest percentage are great citizens and represent the U.S. well. As such no one is going to be deported by after-the-fact applying and obtaining the FM3 – kind of like, dare I say it? - Amnesty.
In the U.S. contact the nearest Mexican Consulate for advice and applications. If living in Baja, contact the office of Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INAMI) or ask your Mexican attorney to handle the process. Most responsible real estate agents working in Baja are making sure that new buyers are both aware of the need for the FM3 and are helping in the process. 

Patrick Osio writes the award winning, The Connection, monthly column for the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine and is Editor of HispanicVista.com, an Internet international publication. He is also Content Editor for the TransBorder Communications, a binational company, producers of television programming and marketing strategies.

This column is an excerpt from Patrick Osio’s The Mexican Perspective: Dismantling Perceptions, Understanding Mexican Culture and Protocol, Establishing Personal and Business Relations  -- His book is available as an E-book at: http://www.hispanicvista.com/sales/excerpts.htm

Published Tuesday, December 5, 2006 4:43 PM by Kanoa Biondolillo


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