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Mexico taxes for foreigners and immigrants, explained

How do you apply for an RFC Mexico as a foreigner? Here’s a detailed and personal experience on how to apply for your tax form in Mexico.

I never thought that I will need my own RFC Mexico and when I was informed that I do need one, my mind fast-forwarded to the crazy lines and hours that I will need to spend in a day in order to obtain one.

living in mexico

As someone who has been living in Mexico for years now, I understand there are many ways to get things done here by seeking help from others but this time, I had to do it myself. The fiscal’s office doesn’t allow third-party representatives to process your RFC and believe me, I have tried.

Anyway, in this post, I will give you detailed information on how I got my RFC as a foreigner in one day, including what to expect, how many hours you need, requirements, etc.

🧐 Questions about RFC Mexico? Ask us on Tiktok.

rfc mexico
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🙋 What is RFC Mexico?

RFC stands for ‘Registro Federal de Contribuyentes’. It has 12 digits and can be obtained in any SAT office in the country. It is a unique number for individuals and businesses.

🧾 What is RFC Mexico used for?

RFC Mexico is used for tax purposes for businesses and individuals. Essentially, all Mexican nationals are required to have an RFC but due to the zero tax benefits, many Mexicans do not have an RFC.

Which makes it harder to transact business with Mexicans, say, for example, a carpenter. While Mexico is a cash country, I, as a foreigner, have been used to bank transfers instead of paying cash.

However, many Mexicans don’t want to get an RFC because of the 16% IVA (VAT) that is charged to them. This is also the reason why landlords always want to take cash for your rent.

rfc mexico
The image above was grabbed from the SAT website since I don’t want to share an image of my own RFC.

They don’t want to get taxed because they don’t have benefits from paying them. It is quite a hassle on my part since most Mexican banks only allow US$450 daily withdrawal limits.

Imagine if your rent is US$1,000, you have to go back to the bank every day to complete this withdrawal from the ATM machine or fall in line for hours to withdraw the full amount.

The banking system in Mexico is super backward but as a foreigner living here, I accepted it is what it is and has followed the laws diligently.

🤯 RFC Mexico: process experience

Why do I suddenly need an RFC after 2 years in Mexico without needing one? My current banks in Mexico are Banorte and BBVA.

When I was still living in Puerto Vallarta, I did not need one to open these bank accounts. They opened both pesos and dollar accounts for me without an RFC.

Now that I am living in Los Cabos, I learned that the state of Baja California does not really allow you to open a bank account without an RFC.

Huh, you learn something new every day huh? I am a temporary visa holder (4 years) and my visa type is non-lucrative which means I am not allowed to do financial activities within the country.

✅ How to apply for RFC Mexico as a foreigner

Step #1: Schedule an appointment

This is super difficult. I have been trying to get an appointment on the SAT website since November 2021. No luck. Always full. I currently live in Cabo San Lucas so this is the SAT branch I have been trying to get an appointment with.

In January 2022, a friend of mine said that I can just try to get an appointment in La Paz. It’s a 2-hour drive from Cabo and it wouldn’t really take too much for me to do a day trip to La Paz.

rfc for foreigners

So I checked the La Paz SAT and guess what? Still no availability. I was very desperate to get my RFC so I tried something else: I signed up as adultos de 18 años and I got an appointment!

My Mexican accountant didn’t think it was a problem. Plus, getting an RFC for foreigners using a Spanish website can be confusing. I am fluent in Spanish but written and formal Spanish is still very hard for me.

As soon as I received the confirmation via e-mail, I started gathering the requirements to apply for an RFC.

Step #2: Gather the requirements

Below are the requirements to apply for RFC Mexico. Make sure you have everything because the guards outside the SAT Mexico offices will not let you in if you did not bring all your requirements.

rfc mexico
  • Valid passport
  • Valid Mexico residency card (temporary or permanent)
  • Comprobante de domicilio (proof of address). Telmex and CFE are accepted and they don’t have to be under your name. You can ask your landlord about this.
  • Printed CURP. You need to go to the CURP website to download it. This must be printed.
  • USB: this will be used to download/save your firma digital. It is important not to forget this!
  • Processing your RFC is completely free of charge. Be wary of fixers who are trying to charge you.
  • All documents above must be printed. They do not accept digital copies.

Some RFC for foreigners requirements that weren’t clear to me

Since I was applying in La Paz where I don’t reside, I was going to present a Telmex or CFE bill with a Cabo San Lucas address. I asked my Mexican immigration lawyer if I need a CFE bill with a La Paz address and she said yes.

rfc for foreigners

Just sharing a photo of me, the dogs, and my housemate driving out of Cabo to get to my RFC appointment in La Paz. It really took my whole day!

Which makes total sense. When I asked my Mexican accountant, he said the opposite. He told me to bring any comprobante and the SAT Mexico will accept it. True enough, they didn’t care where the address was as long as they can put an address in the system.

Additionally, they will not accept CFE or Telmex bills in JPG or PNG format. Everything must be in PDF and should’ve been downloaded from the government websites of CFE/Telmex.

Step #3: Go to your appointment

Make sure you are there 30 minutes before your appointment. Of course, they won’t call you at the time of your appointment since they base it on the number of people still processing their RFC inside.

I got a 9:50 AM appointment. I went up to the lady at the door at 9:30 AM. She looked at her list, found my name, and crossed it out. Probably just a mark saying that I have arrived as some people don’t really arrive on their appointment day.

rfc mexico

I came up to her again at 10:00 AM and every 30 minutes until 11:00 AM. Finally, there was space in the waiting area inside. But before being allowed to go in, they checked my folder if I have complete requirements.

So… I forgot to print my CURP. Actually, I did not know I had to print it since the CURP was already visible on my resident ID card. The lady sent me away from the line and said that I should get an official CURP and print it.

Good thing that I lived in La Paz last spring so I know the area quite well. For those of you who need to print documents last minute near the SAT Mexico office in La Paz, there is a bicycle shop next to Giulietta e Romeo Ice Cream Shop, just one block from SAT.

Step #4: Fall in line and wait for hours

The total time that I was able to complete my RFC for foreigners application was 4 hours.

After I printed my CURP, I was sent to the first counter to get a number. Since there are many types of RFCs in Mexico, there are also different desks assigned to each type.

When the lady saw that my RFC type was for menores de 18 años, she immediately told me that I will not be able to process my RFC because it was the wrong category.

rfc for foreigners

She said I needed to go to the SAT website again and set an appointment. But of course, she does not understand that the RFC type I am trying to obtain does not have any appointment slots available.

I did not tell her the story that I have been waiting for months with no luck. What I did tell her was that I came all the way from Cabo, woke up at 4:30 AM to get to my appointment in La Paz, and if she can find it in her heart not to send me back home, that would be very much appreciated.

She stopped and looked at me for a while then she made some phone calls. She still told me the same thing: leave the line and do the appointment online with the correct category.

I wasn’t going to give up so I told her, I am a foreigner and I misunderstood the appointment process. Followed by words like, “is there any way you can help me?” or “how can you help me because I need my RFC asap.”

rfc mexico

She made another phone call again and finally, she gave me a number that says that the category I am in should be changed. I went to the desk and when the number was called, the SAT lady on the desk changed my category. After that, I was asked to wait and wait and wait…

The good thing about this is that you will get your RFC Mexico the same day. You just need to spend hours and hours at the SAT office but everything will be done in a day.

Finally, I have my RFC which makes me a better resident of Mexico. I also won’t have trouble getting credit cards from my Mexican banks since they require an RFC.

After getting my RFC, I celebrated with my housemate and my dogs by getting lunch at Toro Guero in La Paz. It was a tedious day as I had to drive back to Cabo but I am so happy that I already have my RFC!

⁉️ RFC Mexico FAQ

How do I apply for an RFC as a foreigner?

You can apply for your RFC if you have a valid residency permit. It doesn’t matter if it’s temporary or permanent. The RFC is processed in any SAT Mexico office where you are currently living.

Can I apply for an RFC in the USA?

No, you cannot apply your RFC while in the US. You have to do it in a SAT Mexico office.

What is SAT Mexico?

In Mexico, SAT is the office where you have to process your RFC. SAT stands for Servicio de Administración Tributaria

Can someone apply for my RFC on my behalf?

No. You have to apply your RFC yourself. Back in the day, accountants (personal or company) can do it for you. I have a company accountant (Mexican) and he told me I have to do everything myself. So here we are.

Can I process my RFC in any city in Mexico?

ABSOLUTELY! As long as there is a SAT office in the Mexican city you are in, you can apply there. But my advice is apply in the city where you have proof of billing.

🇲🇽 Living in Mexico Resources

🚗💨 I’m moving to Mexico. What do I need to prepare?
We have many resources about moving to Mexico on this blog. But first, we recommend you talk to our relocation expert for a more personalized plan.

⚖️ How do I get a residency visa in Mexico?
There are many types of Mexico residency visas. It’s best to get in touch with an attorney to know the right type of visa for you. Book a call with our in-house attorney to get started!

🏠 Can you help me find housing in Mexico?
ABSOLUTELY! We have a house rental viewing program where we schedule a full itinerary for you to find one-year rentals. Get in touch for more info!

🏡 Can you assist with Real Estate buying in Mexico?
FOR SURE! We have our own certified Mexico realtors who can help you with buying. We also send available properties via e-mail. Feel free to subscribe to get these listings!

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Sunday 3rd of September 2023

Getting your RFC now takes two appointments, at least in La Paz, BCS.


Saturday 12th of August 2023

Hi Trisha ,

Thanks for your detailed explanation.

I just want to know like if we avail a RFC does that mean our visa permit status change from dependent to work visa ( as I came to Mexico through dependent visa as my spouse is working here ). I felt like only the people who are taxable Can have a RFC… Or if that is not the case what is the easiest way to get a work permit in Mexico ? Thank you and any help would be appreciated.


Tuesday 4th of April 2023

We procured our RFC numbers in December 2022. Now it's April 2023 and several companies we deal with are asking for an "updated" RFC number for 2023. How do we get that?


Sunday 2nd of April 2023

Hi @Trisha Velarmino,

Can you get an RFC with the temporary residency through the economic solvency?

Thank you

Trisha Velarmino

Sunday 2nd of April 2023

As far as I know, you can get an RFC with any type of visa. Mine was just temporary resident visa when I applied for RFC and I got it anyway.

Karen Cyr

Wednesday 1st of February 2023

As a US resident who rents Mexican timeshare weeks through VRBO and Airbnb, do I have to purchase a Mexican registration in order to obtain an RFC? I’d like to pay 4% instead of 16% Mx taxes on my rentals. I was told yes, as a foreigner you do have to purchase one and the Mx registration can expire in either 5,10 or 15 years depending on what you want. I was told Mexican registration for foreigners is $5,200 US. Please advise.

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