Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Is The Difference In Visa's

What is an FMM Visa?
The FMM VISA is the Short-Term Non-Immigrant Visa that every visitor receives upon entering Mexico. Short term visas are intended for visitors to Mexico who come to stay for 6 months or less. Usually these visas are given to tourists and business travelers on short-term business trips. FMM visas are issued by airlines and are also available at ports of entry.* For trips of longer than 6 months, a non-immigrant or immigrant visa is required-- see the Questions and Answers below for details.

What is an FM3 Visa?
The FM3 VISA is the Long-Term Non-Immigrant Visa.
Mexico provides the FM3 Vsa, which is a renewable long term (more than 6 months) permit which gives non-immigrant temporary residency status to the holder. This means that it gives a person the right to live in Mexico (under the terms set out in the visa) but it does not lead to, and cannot be converted to, a visa leading to permanent residency.

There are various categories under which FM3 visas are granted, and these relate to the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the FM3, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative, depending on the visa's classification.
One of the criteria that the Mexican authorities require for the issuance of a FM3 Visa is that the applicant prove that they have 'sufficient funds to sustain themselves while in Mexico' and/or a proven steady income. There is no official minimum or maximum amount -- every application appears to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Proof of funds and/or income is usually requested by means of bank account statements, proof of investment income, credit cards, or a combination of these.

Once applied for and granted, the FM3 may be renewed for an additional four years (for a total of five years). After this period, a new FM3 may be applied for and, if granted, will serve for another (max) five year period, renewable annually.

The FM3 visa may not be exchanged automatically for a visa leading to permanent residency (FM2). The FM2 visa must be applied for separately. Any years accrued under a FM3 visa are not transferable towards FM2-residency status (see FM2 Heading, below, for details).

What is an FM2 Visa?
The FM2 visa is an Immigrant Visa, intended for people seeking permanent residency status in Mexico or those seeking Mexican Citizenship.

There are various categories under which FM2 visas are granted, and these relate to the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the FM2, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative.

You must hold an FM2 for a full consecutive five-year period before you may apply for "immigrant" status or Mexican Citizenship. You do not need to have held an FM3 visa before applying for an FM2, and any years you may have accrued while living in Mexico under an FM3 permit do not count towards your five-year FM2 qualification period.

If your goal is to seek long-term residency in Mexico, or to become a Mexican Citizen, you should apply for FM2 status (or request a change of status from FM3 to FM2) so that your time starts counting towards the qualification period as soon as possible. You may apply for a FM2 visa while in Mexico and in possession of a FMM (Tourist/Business Visitors Visa) or a FM3.

Following the five-year qualification period, you may apply for full resident status. When your full residence status has been accepted, you are entitled to full rights (e.g. access to IMSS sickness pay) and responsibilities (e.g. pay income taxes) as any other Mexican Citizen, with the exception of the right to vote. Foreigners are not allowed to involve themselves in "internal Mexican affairs" and they may not be post-holders of any public office.

When your full residence status has been accepted, you may also begin your application for Mexican Citizenship, although you do not have to do this; you can remain a 'resident alien' on a FM2 visa. Upon receiving immigrant status, you will receive a document that looks like a Mexican Passport (the actual FM2 visa). Under Mexican law, you do not need to surrender your national passport. You may remain a resident-alien or apply for Mexican citizenship. You will keep your original passport, which you will use when you return to your home country, for visits, or when returning home permanently.

If you hold a FM2 visa and stay outside of Mexico for longer than 2 years, or for 5 years in any 10 year period, you will lose your permanent resident status in Mexico.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How To Buy Real Estate In Mexico

Properties in México can be legally purchased by foreigners
If you are interested in purchasing property outside the restricted area (32 miles from the coast or 63 miles from the borders), you can do the same way you can do it anywhere else in the world, with a simple deed.

To purchase a property that is within the restricted area, which includes Mérida and most other popular areas of Yucatan, you will need to sign a trust contract with a Mexican bank. Such contract is called a "fideicomiso", and both your name and the bank's appear in the "escritura" (contract).

The contract creates a trust for the benefit of you, the foreign buyer. The bank has a fiduciary obligation to the owner. The owner retains all the benefits of ownership and has legal rights to rent, sell or inherit property as they see fit. Normally these contracts expire after 50 years, but they can be renewed at the end of those 50 years for an additional 50 years. There is no limit on the number of times the fideicomiso contract can be renewed. The 50 year renewal cost is currently about $900 USD.

Currently, the cost to start a trust is approximately $2000 USD. There is an annual fee to the bank for maintaining the trust, which is based on a percentage of property value. For a house in the range of $100,000 USD, the fideicomiso maintenance cost is approximately $ 600 USD a year.
Currently, the law only allows trusts for properties of less than 2000 square metres (about 21,520 sf). You can apply for an exception to this law.

Owning a Mexican company
If your property is over 2000 square meters, you can create a Mexican corporation to buy the property. The cost to create a legally-registered company is approximately $ 1500 USD. You need to be incorporated under the laws of Mexico and all the proceedings must take place under the supervision of an accountant. The cost of the accountant varies from $ 50 to $200 USD per month, depending on how much activity takes place in your corporation.

To form the company requires at least two partners who are at least 18 years of age. The legal representative of the company must be in possession of an FM-3 Visa. You can apply for a visa yourself in the offices of Mexican immigration or you can hire a lawyer to do it for you. The cost for a visa is about $ 500 USD.
Whether buying a property, starting a business, or creating a corporation, you should always consult with a local lawyer. Our sister company, Yucatan Lawyers, provides legal services for real estate transactions, immigration issues and all corporate issues.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Time To Work Out!

One of the many great things about home schooling out kids is that our schedule is really flexible and we can take advantage of certain deals offered during school hours only! We really believe in the importance of exercise for ourselves and for our kids and were thrilled to find the WWGym here in Merida for a very affordable rate.
We love to swim in the huge pool!
Mom & Joseph head for the treadmills while Dad swims laps and Joel plays in the pool. Then Dad works out in the gym while Mom and Joseph and Joel have swim time.

They have several work out areas for every level of need

We pay 690 pesos ($55.00 USD) for 25 visits, no contracts, no fees
This is about half of what you pay for prime time hours as we go during the hours of 10am-4pm

Monday, September 20, 2010

Real Estate & Legal Services

Whether you are buying a property, starting a new development, applying for a visa, or dealing with the legal issues of an existing business... whatever the problem or endeavor you are facing, our team at Yucatan Lawyers has the experience and knowledge in Mexico to understand the issues. We know how to analyze the situation and then present you with your options. We are also careful about following through with the necessary services to get the business done.

Professional Expertise and Personal Attention
We understand how difficult it can be sometimes to understand and excel in business dealings in a country where the laws and customs are different. We pride ourselves on providing our clients with the sophisticated and professional expertise they are accustomed to receiving in their own countries, while maintaining a level of personal attention, cost efficiency and follow through that is often ignored by larger law firms.
We believe that with our special attributes, we can offer clients the type of legal security and comfort that they want and need to be successful in their activities in Mexico.

When it comes to investing in Real Estate, we understand that legal protection is very important, that is why we also offer Title Insurance and Escrow Services. Whatever your motivation for purchasing property in the States of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo, we are here to assist you.

Areas of Practice
  • Real Estate Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Corporate Law
  • Notary Public Services
  • Contracts and negotiations
  • Federal Zone Concessions
  • Environmental law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Litigation and Mediation
  • Extended Services

Real Estate Law
We can provide legal advice in the following areas:
  • Contracts
  • Due Diligence
  • Title Search
  • Title Insurance
  • Closing
  • Fideicomiso set up
  • Negotiation and Preparation of Sales Contracts
  • Negotiation and Preparation of Purchase Contracts
  • Negotiation and Preparation of Leasing Documents
Due Diligence: We are acutely aware of our responsibility to assist our clients in the due diligence which is necessary on their part in connection with the acquisition or purchase of real property.

Title Search:Title search involves an extensive search of the public records to determine that there are no adverse claims to our client's interests. If we find there adverse claims or other defects in title, we will seek to eliminate them prior to closing.

Title Insurance: We can also obtain title insurance for our residential and commercial clients. The title insurance policy protects the purchaser of real estate and the holder of mortgage against loss from defective titles, liens, and encumbrances. Since title insurance, like other forms of insurance, is a risk assumption, the title insurer will work to eliminate risk and prevent losses caused by defects in title arising from events that may have happened in the past.

Closing: We will guide the client through their due diligence and contractual responsibilities concerning the purchase and/or sale of real property. We will also prepare and/or review all the closing documents and other matters necessary to secure a successful closing.

Trusts (fideicomisos)
Trusts in Mexico are principally used by foreigners to acquire rights to property in Mexico’s restricted zone (50 kilometers from beach and 100 kilometers from borders) for residential use and lending agreements.

Immigration Law (FM2 – FM3 Visas)If you are a foreigner and going to live and/or work in Mexico, you will need to have the necessary immigration documentation. Mexico offers several types of working and non-working visas. Before you choose a visa you should know what the pros and cons are of each type. We can assist you with selecting and acquiring the type of visa that best fits your needs.

Corporate Law
We offer of full range of corporate law services including setting up corporations, partnerships, non-profit and charitable organizations, registration of minutes and minutes book maintenance, annual and extraordinary meetings, board meetings and minutes, granting of powers of attorney, government filings and permits, as well as any other administrative assistance needed to maintain a Mexican corporation in good standing.

Notary Services
We have established specific alliances with all the major Notaries in the States of Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo in order to provide full legal services that require any services of a Notary Public.

Federal Zone Concessions
If you have land that borders on a federal zone (beaches, rivers, lakes, creeks, highways or lagoon) you need to be aware of your rights and obligations to use that land. You should also be aware of the rights of third parties to use and enjoy that land even if you own the land bordering it.
Mexico’s federal government will grant concession rights to exclusively use and enjoy certain types of federal zone properties. Acquiring the concession to use the federal land that borders your property is an easy way to increase the value of your land and reduce the risk of someone else using this land for purposes that will reduce your property value.

Contracts and Negotiations
An improperly executed agreement is the biggest cause of civil litigation and/or loss of investment in Mexico. The best advice we give our clients it to make sure their agreement takes into consideration the legal aspects of the business at hand. Too many times foreigners will sign agreements in Spanish without fully understanding the legal implications of what they are signing. When this happens, the outcome of the agreements is often not favorable for the investor.
We recommend that any time you sign an agreement in a foreign country you understand the intent of the agreement as well as the legal ramifications of the entire agreement.

Environmental Law
In today’s world, environmental law affects just about every type of investment. Making sure your investment complies with these laws is important in order to avoid fines, delays and even criminal prosecution. We can assist you in determining how the environmental laws of Mexico will affect your business and assist you in acquiring the necessary permits and entitlements to carry out your operations.
If the environmental authority takes action against you, we can also defend you and your investment from improper application of the law.

Intellectual Property
Counsel on intellectual property includes drafting, filing and follow-up of applications for the granting of patents, registration of trademarks, utility models, industrial designs, advertisements and publications of corporate names, as well as copyright of original works of authorship before the National Copyright Institute of the Department of Public Education.

Litigation and MediationOur team of lawyers can provide litigation and mediation services in all major practices. Please contact us for more detailed information.
Extended Services
  • Land Surveys
  • Structural Inspections
  • Environmental Inspections
  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Accounting 
  • Property Management: Payment of Real Estate Property Tax and Trustee´s annuities.
    • Option 1: Basic Property Oversight and Bill Payment. This also includes 2 visits per month to perform a walk-through inspection, collect and pay all bills and report any problems.
    • Option 2: Caretaking/Management Service. This also includes home oversight, opening/airing out home, gardening and cleaning service, bill payments, other services as needed. (Prices dependent on the property).
    • Option 3: Rental Service/Property Management. This also includes promotion and management of your rental property

For more information please Contact us

Friday, September 17, 2010

Apostilles for Expats

What is an apostille and why do I need one as an expat moving to the Yucatan? Good question. I wish we had known about this before we moved down. If you are married and/or have children that will live with you here in the Yucatan and you want to come down and apply for FM2 or FM3 residency visas you are going to need to have your marriage certificate and all of your children's birth certificates apostilled by the Secretary of State in the documents state of Origin.

An apostille, in the most basic terms, is a notarization that is recognized internationally by all foreign governments. It is recognized by international law. Your bank notary does not have the power to issue an apostille. Only the Secretary of State in all 50 US States or appointed government agencies in your country of origin has the power to issue an apostille. Check out the following link:

Let me give you an example of how this applies to our family. My wife and I met and married in the state of New Mexico in the US. We also had our first son in New Mexico. Our second son was born in Texas because that was where we were living when we had him. I have to order an apostilled birth certificate from Vital Records in New Mexico for my oldest son. Then Vital Records ships that birth certificate to the Secretary of State in New Mexico to have the document apostilled. The Secretary of State then ships out the apostilled document, in this case my son's birth certificate. We go through the same steps with my youngest son with both Vital Records and the Secretary of State's office in the state of Texas.

If you come down to the Yucatan and you have a marriage certificate, divorce decree or birth certificates that do not have apostilles and you want to apply for residency visas (FM2 or FM3) then you are going to have to send back for them in the US or Canada and pay the international shipping rates via FedEx, UPS or DHL. Word to the wise. Get this taken care of in advance. No one ever told us this before we came down and we did alot of research on necessary documents before we came down. Aargh!!! We just don't want you pulling out your hair unnecessarily. Hope this helps.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is the Yucatan Safe?

Is Travel to the Yucatan Safe?

In view of headlines about crime and violence Along the border, and the State Department ’s travel warning concerning travel to Mexico, many people are wondering about the safety of visiting or moving to Mexico.

Mexico is a big country and it’s incredibly diverse, so violence Along the border will not have Any effect on your vacation or move in, for example, the Yucatan any more than an earthquake in California would affect people in Chicago. Most of the violence that has taken place recently is due to conflicts between drug cartels and the Mexican and U.S. Authorities near the border.

Research your destination and choose a place that you will enjoy and feel safe in. There are plenty of places in Mexico where you can have a tranquil, relaxing vacation or move to and still be safe secure. Merida is the Capital City of the Yucatán and known as the “White City” due to its white buildings. Merida is only 15 minutes from Progreso, a beautiful & quaint beach town.

When people think about the Yucatan region of Mexico, they usually think about the archaeological Mayan site of Chichen Itza. But Merida is a beautiful colonial City that can serve as home base for exploring Mayan ruins, cenotes, haciendas and cathedrals. It is an extremely charming city for those that come to visit or stay here. Beyond that, it is known as the safest and most peaceful in Mexico City. Many American and Canadian expats have moved here for those reasons.

Let us help you find your own piece of paradise here in the Yucatan! Our family of 4 moved to Merida from San Antonio, TX & we love it! You will too!

Jay & Christine Blackshear.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

About Us and the city of Merida

My name is Jay Blackshear. I live with my wife and two yougest sons in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. My family and I decided to move here after 3 years of due diligence. And I mean due diligence. While looking at Mexico we narrowed it down to four cities: Guadalajara, Guanajato, San Miguel de Allende and of course...Merida. We found that Guadalajara was too big for our young family, Guanajato was not quite modern enough and real estate in San Miguel de Allende was overpriced for what it offers. Merida is just the right size for us, modern enough for us to enjoy our lives and raise kids, and affordable enough for us to operate a small business in the states and live here with all of our needs met.

My professional background centers mostly around Real Estate Investment and Sales. After faith, family and friends, real estate is one of the few things I have done in life that I can say I have a degree of passion for. Since 2001 I have been involved in over 400 Real Estate transactions in roughly 15 states within the United States. During that time my experiences were centered around the REO foreclosure industry. Based on my experiences in the industry, I believe I can say with confidence that the real estate market in the Yucatan is stronger and healthier than anything in the USA. There are few if any appreciating markets in the US as we speak. On the other hand, Merida is an emerging market with appreciation of around 10% to 15% per annum. The growth here has been steady, safe and modern. 

Because of its geographic location (3 hours from Cancun/Playa Del Carmen), modern amenities and reputation for being the physically safest region in Mexico, Merida has seen some pretty consistent growth over the last decade. The population of our city is around 1.2 million but I can tell you it feels like it's about half that much. It just doesn't look or feel like a large city. And it is continuing to grow at a healthy rate. There are two groups of people buying homes here: 1)Expats mostly from the US and Canada and 2) Middle to upper class Mexican nationals who are relocating here for the many of the same reasons we moved here: It's affordable, modern, not too big's close to some of the best beaches in Mexico.

Prices in real estate here can range anywhere, in US dollars, from $40,000.00 to $2 Million and up. There is a very broad range. The cost of housing here is comparable with most of the Texas real estate market which just happens to be some of the most affordable real estate in the US. And I would say the overall cost of living here is about two-thirds of what it is in the state of Texas. If you are from California or New York it is at least half. The same applies to most Canadian cities and states.

Merida is a very safe city with modern amenities. We have police.... lots of them. Federal, State, Local, Military. We have it all. The government of Mexico takes preserving the safety of our region very seriously. Tourism is big business for Mexico. Progresso is a little beach town about 20 miles to the North of Merida. It gets 2 U.S. cruise ships a week that port there. Cancun and Playa del Carmen are three hours to the East of us. Lots of tourism obviously. The whole region appears to be safe. We also have modern amenities. Costco, Sam's, Wal Mart and Home Depot. Restaurants, 4 shopping even has an ice skating rink for the kids.

 There are no established Real Estate Agencies in any of the states of Mexico so most real estate companies in Merida are self-licensed. We don't have a centralized MLS system like the US or Canada but the market has a way of establishing itself and the prices of the real estate market fluctuates and sets itself just like any other market does. It is very important that you have a reliable and trustworthy buyer's agent representing you, regardless of whether you are looking to buy or rent, regardless of whether you speak Spanish or not. You need someone on the ground in this market full time to let you know that you are getting a good, fair and honest deal. If you need a referral let me know. I will put you in touch with the people that have helped me in the past, the people I feel will help you the most, who are trustworty in the process of things.

We have a section on the blog here called FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions). We can go into more detail about more issues in that section. And if you have questions on things we have not posted or written on as of yet then just give me a call or send me an email. My contact info is below. Just know that we are here and available to help you make this transition if you feel this is what is right for you. Let us know how we can help you navigate one of the biggest decisions you will ever make.

Jay Blackshear