FM3 Visas – How to determine the most appropriate Visa to Mexico?

When faced with trying to have a U.S. citizen, legal permanent resident, or nonimmigrant visa holder perform services in Mexico, it is critical to analyze the following issues first:
· Does the company have any operating entities in Mexico?
If so, some Mexican consulates will indicate that FM-3 visa applications should be made through Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM).

· What services/duties will the person perform in Mexico?
Certain managerial, executive, and technical duties will force the use of the application process through INM versus Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE). INM documentation requirements are always more demanding.

· How often will the person need to be in Mexico and where in Mexico over what period of time?
Business visitors must typically consider 30-day or one-year visas allowing certain business activities.

· Is the person from a restricted nationality country under Mexican law?
If so, plan ahead for two- to six-week delays for review of the visa application by INM in Mexico City. This comment includes someone who is from a restricted nationality, but who possesses a valid U.S. nonimmigrant visa.

· How will the person be compensated for services/duties performed in Mexico?
If the applicant will be paid by a Mexican source, the application must be reviewed by INM first before approval by SRE.

· Will the person reside in Mexico or the U.S. side of the border as to border zone assignments?
If the applicant will reside in Mexico, INM must review the application before the issuance of any visa by SRE.

· Will the person have signatory authority to bind the U.S. or Mexican company?
In this situation, it is important to have the FM-3 visa annotated to reflect this authority, which is often called “poder” authority.

· If the person possesses technical expertise, do they have a degree (for that matter a copy of the degree and curriculum vitae)?
The INM documentation requirements normally include providing an apostilled letter from the employer as well as an apostilled copy of a degree or an apostilled letter from the company confirming expertise for those not possessing a degree. Some INM offices will accept just an apostilled letter confirming experience as well as any degree versus reviewing the original degree.

· Has the person ever had a Mexican visa before, if so, what type? Did the person cancel prior Mexican visas?
Most INM and SRE offices will require proof of timely cancellation of the prior visa and payment of any required penalties before issuance of a new visa. This can become costly for those who have forgotten to do so for months and then need to be re-admitted. Although the penalty is set by a formula, it is possible to request a reduction in the amount based on circumstances of merit (e.g., first FM-3, illness, or other emergency).

The Mexican immigration alternatives are constantly changing, as are those for the United States. It is important to consult with legal counsel before choosing any particular options. It is also important to make sure that support letters as to activities in the United States do not contradict representations made concerning a U.S. nonimmigrant visa holder’s status in the United States. In addition, pre-planning regarding the documentation necessary for INM versus SRE applications for FM-3 status is critical.