Mexico employs a double standard for immigration policies. El Jefe Fox wants his people to stroll across the US border and go directly on the dole. But if an American citizen forgets to cross the "t" or dot the "i" on the necessary Mexican paperwork, well, that's why the Mexican word for government pension can also be translated as "bribery."
If you, as an American citizen upon entering the United States of Mexico, violate any of these laws YOU WILL GO TO JAIL.
U.S. and Canadian Residents Entering Mexico - General Guidelines
U.S. and Canadian tourists must carry proof of citizenship. A valid passport is the most convenient, since it ensures problem-free re-entry into the United States, serves as a photo ID and facilitates many transactions, such as cashing traveler’s checks. The U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments also recognize a birth certificate (must be a certified copy from the government agency that issued it). A driver’s license, baptismal certificate or voter registration card is not proof of citizenship.
Tourist Cards: The Mexican government assesses a 170-peso (at press time, approximately $18 U.S.) tourist entry fee for each visitor entering Mexico for pleasure or on business. The fee must be paid in order to have your tourist card validated if you plan to remain anywhere in Mexico for more than 72 hours, or stay less than 72 hours and travel beyond the 26-kilometer (16-mile) border zone.
A government-issued tourist card (actually a form) is available upon presentation of proof of citizenship from Mexican government tourism offices, Mexican consulates in the United States and Canada, or immigration offices at official points of entry. If you’re entering Mexico by land it is advisable to obtain your tourist card prior to leaving the United States. If you’re arriving by air, the tourist card is distributed on the flight.
If you plan to enter Mexico as a non-tourist, there are other restrictions:
Staying for More than 6 Months
You may request from the authorities the corresponding immigration permits, which are the FM2 and the FM3.
FM3 you are allowed to stay in the country as a NON IMMIGRANT for a period of one year. This permit may be renewed annually. After the fifth year you may be interested in acquiring the next immigration status (IMMIGRANT) or simply continue as an FM3 holder.
FM2 This document applies to the IMMIGRANTS. As an immigrant you're not a permanent resident but you are eligible to apply to become an INMIGRADO (permanent resident - for residency in Mexico).
Buying property in Mexico as a resident alien.
Anyone may buy property outright as long as the real estate is not inside the Restricted Zone (within 50 kilometers—about 31 miles—of the ocean, or 100 kilometers—about 62 miles—from a border).
Working in Mexico
According to Mexican Law, foreigners may only perform those activities expressly authorized by the Ministry. You are allowed to perform any activity as long as it's legal and honest. This includes the ability to work in the country.
Both as an FM2 or FM3 holder, you may be authorized to perform several activities. These are the most common:
Business or Investor (FM2 or FM3)
You may have considered investing in Mexico and therefore you wish to learn about possible investment options. Or, you might just come down to invest, supervise an investment, represent a foreign company or perform certain commercial activities.As an INVESTOR: You must note that there is a minimum investment amount as well as the obligation to demonstrate that the investment is beneficial to the country's development.
You must meet minimum investment standards of 50,000 pesos. This is 40,000 times the minimum daily wage.
Scientists and Techinicians (FM2 OR FM3) In these categories you will have to provide all the documentation that proves to the satisfaction of the authorities that you have the skills and knowledge to perform these activities.
Professionals (FM2 OR FM3) You will have to provide the authorities with all the papers that can prove you have the knowledge and skills to perform the specific professional activities. The applicant must demonstrate that the skills are not met in the workforce in Mexico.
High level management (FM2 OR FM3) If you were appointed as a director to a company or to assume a key position you will need to obtain this immigration permit.
Members of the board (FM3) When you need to attend to a board meeting of one or more corporations, this is the migration status you request to the Mexican authorities.
Any bean pickers here?
Students (FM3)Students are admitted for periods of one year for as long as the course lasts. They may not leave the country for more than 120 days every year. Students have to prove to the authorities that they have a regular income to satisfy their needs. The status obtained when applying for the permit is that of a non-immigrant.
Retired (FM2 OR FM3)If you have decided you want to live in Mexico without performing any specific activity you may acquire this immigration status as long as you can prove to the satisfaction of the Mexican authorities that you will live on the income brought from abroad or earned from Mexican-based investments.
What this means is that you must be able to support yourself to the tune of at least $800/month.
THE MEXICAN TAXPAYERS ARE NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU A HAND.
What about "undocumented workers in Mexico?
According to Mexican Law all your immigration papers must be in force and the information in them contained must be updated during your stay in the country. In case they expire or the information is not provided to the authorities within 30 days of the event that modifies such information, you will be liable for fines and other penalties. It is highly recommended that you keep this in mind.
A Mexican word for "undocumented worker" is "prisoner."