How Do I Renew My Mexico Tourist Visa?

Belize's Caye Caulker. A wonderful place to renew your visa.
Believe me, this is a question that has kept me up at night over the past three and a half years that I've lived in Mexico City.

Despite the fact that I've been here that long and even married a Mexican citizen, I still have a tourist visa! Why? Well, I don't want to pay for a proper visa or do the paperwork. Plus, I love the chance to travel every six months (the Mexican tourist visa is for 180 days or approximately six months).

I've had absolutely no problem getting my visa renewed by leaving the country. Foreigners can essentially live in Mexico without hassle, the rules are that lax. If you want to legitimately work in the country, though, you're going to have to get a work visa.

Another thing: is is a myth that you can get your tourist visa renewed within Mexico. You have to leave Mexico to get a new tourist visa. You can't get a new visa or even get it extended within Mexico.

Another hot tip: you can overstay your visa and pay a $35 USD fine upon exit. I haven't personally tried this, an American friend told me she did it without problem. I'm trying this option right now, so I'll report back how it went. Leaving the country, even with cheap flights, can be expensive.

Now that's out of the way, where can you go to renew your visa?

1. Belize

God, I love Belize. You can get a cheap flight to Cancun and then take a six hour bus ride to the border. This is not a cheap or easy option, because you still need to take a bus to the border. And once you're there, you should stay 7-10 days to really experience this country. Go to Caye Caulker, Orange Walk, and San Ignacio. I've also heard that people have gone to the border and tried to return to Mexico immediately, but were denied a visa upon re-entry unless they stayed in Belize for at least 48 hours.
Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is one of my favorite places in the whole world.
2. Guatemala

Also a great option if you want to get some traveling in. Get a cheap flight to Tuxtla Gutierrez, then overnight in San Cristobal de las Casas an hour away. Then take a bus to the border (about three hours) and go onwards to Huehuetenango, Xela, and Lake Atitlan/Antigua if you want to. The land border at Ciudad Cuahtemoc/La Mesilla is super relaxed--though you're not going to want to spend any time in La Mesilla (on the Guatemala side). I'm not sure how long you have to stay, since I've always traveled in Guatemala for at least a week.

You could also fly into Guatemala City, though it's hard to find a good deal. I did this once and this was the only time I was questioned upon re-entry--the Mexican official asked me if I was living in the country. Generally, I think land borders are more relaxed than customs at airports, especially the Belize and Guatemala borders (I can't account for the US).

My husband Miguel and I love Guatemala.
3. United States

I've never done this because, as a Canadian, I'd rather go to Central America than the U.S. Also, I always find it a hassle to deal with U.S. Customs whenever I have stopovers in Texas or Florida. I'd rather not tangle with American officers. Also, an American friend of mine told me she was frequently questioned, even when going home on holiday, because they thought her living in Mexico was sketchy, for whatever reason. 

This is why I've never done a U.S. border run. Technically, you could get a cheap flight to Monterrey and then take a three hour bus ride to Nuevo Laredo (Laredo, Texas is on the other side). Even better would be to fly to Tijuana, because you can just walk over to San Diego. Or find a cheap flight to Miami.

How long do you have to stay? Some reports online say you can just cross over for a couple hours and come back. Personally, I wouldn't chance it. Go to Tijuana and enjoy a weekend in San Diego.

4. Go Home

 Potentially very expensive but after six months, why not? A very legitimate way to renew your visa.

5. Other Places

Browse Kayak Explore for cheap flights to other destinations. Personally, I've always wanted to go to Colombia. Cuba is another possibility or Costa Rica. Take this opportunity to see a new country!

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What are your experiences getting a new Mexican tourist visa? Comment below!


Unknown said...

I'm from San Antonio, so I go home every 4 months to visit my family. Most of the time, I fly through customs. However, even as a US citizen and native Texan, there's one customs officer who will give me a hard time.

Unknown said...

Excited to find your blog and its funny how our situations are mirrored so exactly.

Im super nervous. Going to get married (yaay) but I need to extend my tourist visa first - so - how long are you required to stay in Guatamala to do this?

Thanks so much!!!

Unknown said...

Visa is an endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country. See the link below for more info.


Amy Whitney said...

My husband and I want to move to either Mexico, Colombia or Ecuador... the problem is the visas and trying to find one country we can stay in for a year. I am going to bring my kitty cat and I am so worried about flying out of the country for 3 days and trying to return where they refuse entry. This tourist visa 'renewal system' seems to be common in Central America including Mexico but in Colombia and Ecuador it is only permitted that you stay a total of 180 days within any 365 day period :(

The question is, have you heard of any one getting refused reentry after being out of Mexico for the 72 hour period of time? How many times have you been issued your tourist card. Also, is it normal that they issue a 180 tourist card or have you had to go to the go to a consulate to request the full extension.

Thanks for the info!

Unknown said...

This was useful. Did it - it went fine. Thanks for the info.

John said...

The h1b visa processing time is not lengthy a person can easily get visa in 6 to 8 months.

gdrh said...

Wondering if you actually did overstay your visa and pay the $35 US upon leaving; if you did this, how was it when you returned and wanted another 180 day Mexican visa?

We are wanting to renew our 180 day visa to be able to remain an extra month and a half here in Mexico. We're looking into flights from Guadalajara to either Ciudad Juarez or Tijuana (cheapest we've found), crossing over the border, spending a night and then retuning the next day. Just paying a 'fine' for overextending our visa would be far cheaper; however, we want to be certain there are not 'black marks' against us as we want to be able to return to Mexico in the future.

Any feedback would be welcome. Thanks!

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B.Kienapple said...

I didn't have to pay ANYTHING for overstaying my visa. They just waved me through. But, I think these things are luck of the draw so can't tell you if this would happen every time. I've always left the country before because I didn't want to chance it. I took the risk this time because I was moving back to Canada (or at least for now).

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Anonymous said...

Exactly the same situation for me....came on a tourist visa, bought a property and 4 years later (and 8 "border runs"), I'm still here. Visited Cuba, Costa Rica and Guatemala (3 times)by air and only been "questioned" seriously once returning from Guate.....also crossed by chicken bus into Belize once and twice just asked the border guards to stamp me out and straight back problems. I LOVE MEXICO.

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