Obtaining a Mexican resident card is not a simple one day task; rather, it is a multi-step process that begins at a Mexican Consulate in your home country and ends (sometimes months later) when you finally pick up your resident card at an immigration office in Mexico.

Once you finally get your resident card (temporary or permanent), life in Mexico gets much easier. You can open a bank account, register a car, and obtain government services and that are not available to non-residents (e.g. INAPAM discount card). In other words, life is good.

But then one day it happens — you make a simple mistake and the resident card that you worked so hard to obtain is suddenly cancelled.

The worst part is that the only way to get it back is to leave Mexico and start the process all over again from scratch.

The Mistake

The fastest way to lose your resident card is to enter Mexico under as a tourist because Mexican immigration law prohibits a person from holding two immigration classifications simultaneously (Artículo 61 de La Ley de Migración).

Immigration (known as INM for short) rectifies the situation by cancelling the first one (i.e. your resident card).

Normally, this is only a problem for people who are entering or leaving Mexico by air because all non-citizens are required to complete an immigration form called an FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple). If this paperwork is completed incorrectly, it can result in the resident being incorrectly classified as a tourist.

If you’re entering or leaving by land with a resident card, no one will ask you for this form.

The Procedure You Should Follow

Before leaving the country by air, report to INM with your resident card and passport in hand. There should be an INM desk or kiosk near the ticket counter (international airports):

1. Pick up an FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple) 

This is actually the same form that you would use if you were coming into the country as a tourist, but this time, you’ll be submitting the sections in the reverse order.

2. Fill out boxes 1-8 of Section One and 1-10 of Section Two

Section One is for your return to Mexico and Section Two is for your departure.

That means that your departing flight information will be in Section Two only. You don’t have to worry about filling in the flight information in Section One — at least for now.

3. Present the completed form along with your passport and resident card to the INM agent

He or she will process it and write either temporary or permanent resident on the top of Sections One and Two (in the white margin). If they don’t write it in, I recommend you do it yourself.

The agent will hand you back both sections of the form. Give Section Two to the airline representative when they ask for it. This is normally done at the ticket counter.

4. Store Section One in a safe place 

Seriously, don’t lose it. You’re going to need it in the future.

5. Upon returning to Mexico, complete the remaining boxes on the form (Section One) and give it to INM

Piece of cake!

Let’s Wrap This Up

If you fly in and out of Mexico on a regular basis, it pays to pick up a stack of these forms and fill them out ahead of time.

Tips from a Professional

1. If you get to the airport and you realize that you’ve forgotten your resident card at home, cancel or reschedule the flight and go get it. Of course this only applies to international flights, not domestic.

2. If you lose your resident card while abroad, go to a Mexican Consulate for assistance.

3. If you arrive in Mexico and you cannot find your card, tell the INM agent what happened and request a “regularización de situación migratoria”. Do not enter as a tourist!

If you enter as a tourist and INM cancels your resident card, you only have two choices:

1. Return to your country of origin and start the process over at a Mexican Consulate.

2. Stay in Mexico and apply for a new visa as a financial dependent of a family member who has a resident card (e.g. spouse).