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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  1. Per my experience in July 2023, getting you RFC in La Paz is now a two appointment process.

    You can get the number created and a paper printout at the first appointment, but you have to come back to get the digital version on a thumb drive and complete the photo / fingerprint process.

  2. Hey Trisha! Hope you’re well! I appreciate all the information you are providing! My wife and I are building a house in Cerritos BCS. Quick question, I have been trying to find out if we need temporary Visas to switch our CFE account to our name. Theres a lot of conflicting information online.

  3. 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.

  4. 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?

  5. Hi @Trisha Velarmino,

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

    Thank you

  6. 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.

  7. Hello! I am wondering if you can help me answer a question. If my landlord sends me a photo of the Telmex or CFE bill and I print it will that suffice?

    1. Hola Cecilia! Yes, you can print it from your landlord but it should be officially downloaded as a PDF from the CFE website. SAT does not approve screen shots of CFE bills. Your landlord will know this for sure.

  8. I forgot to add that I live in Puerto Vallarta, MX. After reading all of this information I would suggest hiring an attorney to start and go through the process with you. They do all the paperwork, make the appointment, and are there with you through the whole process. All I had to do was send a copy of my permanente and CFE bill so that could be added to the paperwork. Within a week of making an appointment I had my RFC. Hope this helps.

    1. @Dianne,

      I also live in PV and would like to use the same lawyer to get the RFC pronto! Can you pls email me their contact and price pls.

  9. I just got my RFC today with the help of a third party representative. I would say half the people there were with representatives. It only took two hours and worth having someone with me that understood the process especially since I signed multiple papers that were in Spanish so I definitely needed help.

    1. Dianne, we used to live in Puerto Vallarta and while I was successful with getting my RFC in La Paz, my partner is still in line and have been for months! Thanks for the info and I will e-mail you. We are coming back to Puerto Vallarta to empty our apartment there. We’ve decided to permanently live in Cabo.

  10. Quick Question: I heard from someone who recently get their RFC and they told me that the printed CURP must have a phone on the left hand side of the print out. I have not been able to get a printed CURP with a photo. Does anyone know how or where to get the printed CURP with your photo on the left of your data? Thanks!

  11. I had an appointment and took a screenshot of my date and time of the appointment just so I would not forget. When we got to the SAT office the lady asked for a pdf of my confirmation. I never got a confirmation pdf even though I did confirm my appointment. No where does it say to print one out. It took me months to get this appointment , only to have to start again trying to get another virtual date. Here we go again.

    1. @Nicholas Maniates, Hi Nicholas! What website are you using? It is strange that they are asking for an RFC because only Mexican nationals/residents are allowed to have that, not tourists. Let us know which platform you are using and we will check it for you!

  12. As a married couple who own property here and want to sell, do we both need to apply for an RFC or just one per family?

  13. For the RFC, what category do you apply for your appointment in?

    I own a home in Cabo, but only have a temp residency card
    I also live in California, so I am a foreigner

    Do I use “special cases” or Natural

    Please advise for Cabo San Lucas SAT


    1. @Mike Schneider, we have temporary residency, and were in the virtual queue for an appointment for months with an appointment type of adult over 18 years. Finally our appointment date came up, and we were turned away because we needed to have an appointment type of “special cases” (Inscription de Personas Fisicas (casos especial…). We could not convince the person to help us change the appointment type. So, we had to go back on line and join the virtual queue again.

  14. Hi Trisha,

    I came back from SAT office today without an RFC. Because I had applied it in a wrong catagory. It should be special cases as I am foreigner. They denied to change my catagory at all. So I applied again,now in spacial case, it is pending in virtual que with 914 waiting. I am not sure when I am gona get the appointment. Anyone, any idea how long i have to wait with this waiting or if there is any another way I can get the appointment sooner.

    1. Hi Bano, I am so sorry that happened to you. I really think it’s a hit and miss and I INSISTED and told them that I felt I wasn’t being helped so they did their best. Which SAT Office did you apply in? Please note that SAT offices per state and city have their different rules. It’s all so confusing so I really can’t speak for all the SAT Offices. I am currently consulting with a Mexican accountant on how to make this post better. I’ll update this post for more tips!

  15. Thank you for the article, if you already have your bank account, are not going to buy property or vehicles and are retired, do you still need to apply for this? Sounds like I’ll have no need for it.

  16. Hey Trisha, thanks for the great post. So using your Cabo San Lucas comprobante de domicilio was ok in La Paz? And the form you filled in was using the Cabo San Lucas address as well, correct? I’m waiting to obtain a Curp at INM but situation with INM is even worse without the possibility of electronic appointments.

  17. Hello,

    I’m trying to get my RFC right now and its really confusing as everyone says different things. Did you need your US birth certificate to get it? Did it have to be apostilled?

  18. I just learned about this through the expat group on Facebook. I also came to Mexico based on economic solvency and now in my 2nd year of my temp residence. Just when I thought i be good for the next 2 years until i apply for permanent they now wasting my time by forcing me to get an RFC …. I can see myself going up and down across Mexico City. I might as well register myself as self employed or business because i heard you can claim tax back when you purchase stuff.

    1. @Td, Don’t do that! You will be very sorry if you claim any income as taxes are very high, and if you claim no income it will be examined closely. Don’t lie. Just get the RFC! I have never heard of getting tax back for purchases.

  19. We visit Baja frequently on an FMM. We have not yet gained a resident status. We own a couple of properties, one of which we are attempting to close a sale of. We are being asked for our RFC. My understanding is that “technically”, we don’t need one. The sale, however won’t close without it. My understanding is there is a “generic RFC” for people in our situation. That number being: XEXX010101000. Our lawyer doesn’t know about that, so I’m trying to find an official Mexican document, probably from SAT, that shows this is, in fact, that case. Can you be of any help in locating such a document?

    Thank you,
    Ken R.

  20. Hi Trisha,

    I just found out that I need an RFC in order to regularize my US plated vehicle (Until July 31st, 2022, in certain states Mexico is allowing foreign plated vehicles to be imported for the cost of $2500 pesos and without much paperwork). My issue with obtaining a RCF is that I don’t have a comprobante de domicilio. I live off the grid north of Todos Santos so obviously I don’t have CFE or Telmex bills. What should I do? I have a Residente Temporal visa, a Mexican drivers license and a bank account at Bancomer.

    1. Hi Miguel! I am so sorry, but you need the comprobante. Perhaps you have a friend in the area who can lend you one? They don’t check the address but you need any comprobante de domicilio dated within the last 3 months.

  21. Trisha – outstanding information, thanks for sharing. We have our meeting set up with SAT next Thursday in Tepic (they no longer process them in Puerta Vallarta – I’m told).
    In your comments, it’s stated to bring printed copies of Telmex or CPE. Then later it’s stated to ensure they are in .PDF format. Do we bring both electronic and paper?

  22. Great article! Just landed in CDMX with a permanent visa and just picked up my card yesterday. Now I’m onto getting my RFC, so that I can open a bank account and buy a car.

    My question: I live in a friend’s apt and just pay the gas/electricity bills in his name. For the proof of address… bring the bills in his name will work?

    May I ask how positive you are about this? I say that because it seems like from what I read online about getting a driver’s license, I need to go back to immigration to get a letter certifying my address. Even though I didn’t show a bill or anything, just filled out the application.

    Any info is appreciated. Thank you!

  23. I heard an RFC it is now required if you have a temporary or permanent residency, is that true? I also heard you need an RFC not only to open a Mexican bank account but also to buy property in Mexico, is that also true? Also am I required to file taxes in Mexico even if I make no income in Mexico and my primary residence, income, and taxes paid on that income is in the US?
    Thank you for you help!

    1. Hi Mike, I have a temporary resident visa (4 years) and I was able to get an RFC with this visa type. I will write about the taxes soon as I am currently doing the process.

    2. Yes, RFCs are now legally required if you have temporary or permanent resident cards, and yes you now need one to buy property. These are new changes. I don’t think you are required to file for taxes in Mexico unless you derived income here, but I am not positive about that.

  24. Hola,
    Thank you for allowing us to ask questions regarding the RFC. We own a condo in Cabo for the past 12 years. We rent it out AirBnB & just recently VRBO. We knew we needed to get our RFC # but didn’t realize we needed it asap in order to get paid from VRBO. We have an appointment with the Denver Mexican Consulate finally to get our temporary residency. We are not moving to Cabo but are there often. This is the only way we were told to get an RFC #. My Spanish is not good and curious how difficult it will be to schedule an appointment in La Paz or hopefully Cabo for the last week of June!? I’m trying to remain optimistic. Can we return at a later date for our appointment with our temporary visa? Thank you so much!!!

  25. Hi, Trish! Excellent article about obtaining a RFC. What a hassle, though!
    I have lived in Mexico for eleven years and had never heard of or needed a RFC, despite buying two cars and opening two bank accounts here.
    When I went to the website to get an appointment I received this message:
    La CURP que ingresaste ya se encuentra asociada a un RFC, si tienes dudas acércate a alguna ADSC. (The CURP that you entered is already associated with an RFC, if you have any doubts, contact an ADSC.) So I guess I already have a RFC, though I have no idea where it is. The message says to contact an ADSC, but what the heck is that and where do I find it? There are many things I love about living in Mexico, but this is definetly not one of them!

    1. Hi Larry, that is so odd! Did you mean that you just got assigned an RFC number without applying for one??? You usually just go to any SAT office but I am not sure how to schedule an appointment for your case. The appointment is so hard to get and they don’t allow third-party or external fixers to do it for you. I can ask my immigration lawyer or I can connect her with you if you like? Thanks for your input! X

    2. Probably you got permanent residence status now…after 4 years you can apply for permanent perhaps you automatically get an RFC as they do with permanent

    3. QRoo Paul has a video on this very thing. You may have gotten one when setting up a Fideicomiso for a house or taking one over with a transfer. He shows you how to see it, too. I tried in hopes I had one but I’m in the virtual line. I recently went permanent and that does nothing to your RFC. A notario may have set you up without mentioning it. I wish mine did.

  26. Trisha, Can you apply in various cities in Mexico hoping to get an appointment and take your CFE or Telmex bills (in this case, Puerto Vallarta) and receive an RFC number? I know you only traveled 2 hours to La Paz, but we have the ability to travel to any major city if it means getting an appointment scheduled quicker than our hometown.

  27. I am confused about the requirement for ALL foreigners to have a RFC. I have read other posts that say it is only required if you earn income in Mexico or are purchasing a car or property or require a factura for any other transaction. Can you clarify!

    1. Hi Edwin! I applied for my RFC because some banks in Mexico require it, especially where I live in Baja California Sur. I think it’s a case-to-case basis because when I was living in Puerto Vallarta, they did not ask for an RFC and Banorte let me open a bank account.

      If you are on a non-lucrative resident visa in Mexico (visa no-lucrativo), I am 100% sure you don’t need to apply for an RFC because this was my first visa-type in 2018.

      When I changed to the normal visa, the bank saw it and they said I needed an RFC.

    2. My understanding is that all holders of temporary or permanent resident cards are required to have RFCs before 2023.

  28. The $450 daily cash withdrawal limit only applies to ATMs. You can go to a cashier in the bank and withdraw any amount.

  29. We had our appointment today 19 May 22 to get our RFC, to only be turned away because we now needed a work permit added to our temporary Residency card to get an RFC #.
    I don’t want a work permit but I think it’s an additional money grab that cost approx 3300 pesos.
    So the other solution is to wait until we have a permanent Residency card.

    1. They were selling the work permit?? I thought you could only get the permiso de trabajo with INM. What city are you in? Or they would give you RFC not having the work permit by charging 3300 MXN?

  30. Oh wow! I had no idea that this was even an issue. But I guess an RFC Mexico is essential if you live in the country for a while. Thanks for breaking it down! I’ve long considered retiring to San Miguel de Allende (if the rules are the same!).

  31. Oh my! As an expat I can associate with the complexity of having to going through a process and acquiring a tax id card in a foreign country. I’m amazed by the low limits in cash withdrawal. It is definitely complicated when a country depends much of cash instead of bank transfers. Residence Permit isn’t enough to open a bank account? Ooh. More complications! Thanks for this guide. Its really detailed.

  32. The process of getting a RFC seems quite tedious. But looking at the benefits I feel it’s certainly worth the efforts. Not having much idea about Mexico it was good to understand something new although may not need to go through the process myself. Certainly good reason to celebrate for you after obtaining the RFC.

  33. This sounds like a pretty complicated document to have, especially since many locals don’t use it to avoid the tax. It’s not great that you couldn’t send someone to do it for you, and had to do it yourself, in person. If there is one thing I don’t like, is bureaucracy, it wastes to much time from your life .

  34. 16% is a huge tax if you can avoid it with cash transactions. Cash would be hard to get used to though, and I think I would be concerned about being robbed. It is great that you are a rule follower and went through the process (I would have attempted to get an appointment once every couple of weeks and called it good) and super smart to be sweet when she turned you away. I was shocked that you take a USB to a government office. Do they actually plug it into their government computer?

  35. It was good to read all I needed to know about getting an RFC in Mexico. The regulations in each country are so different. Although it was interesting to read that many locals do not even want one! I would certainly be looking for someone to help because my Spanish will never get me through the process!

  36. Wow! Getting a RFC in Mexico sounds very complicated and time-consuming. Glad that you managed it in the end. I guess bureaucracy is always a challenge in a foreign country, but this seems extreme.

  37. Oh! This is a bit sad that the banking system is not yet updated. I can imagine the hassle with the withdrawal limits plus the “refusal” to shift to digital payments.

    Thank you for sharing these tips about getting the RFC. I may not need it now but this is good to know.

  38. It amazes me how much work you have to put in for im guessing is the equivalent of a utr number here in the uk. Amazing country tho

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