Mexican Visas and Immigration

Mexico Immigration Stamp

Mexico has a comprehensive legal and statutory Immigration Policy affecting Mexicans and foreign nationals.

This guide gives an overview of the Mexican immigration system and outlines the principal visas and options open to persons seeking to visit Mexico for leisure, business, for retirement, for living and working, as well as those seeking permanent residence in Mexico or Mexican Citizenship.

IMPORTANT NOTICE (Updated February 2016)

The Mexican government announced a root-and-branch review of its immigration law, the changes of which came into force in November 2012. This guide has been updated to reflect the new immigration laws, visa types and application procedures, as well as minor amendments to the laws which have come into effect since 2012.
You can also download the fully-updated and detailed eBook Guide to Mexico Immigration.

What is Mexico’s Immigration Policy?

Mexico’s General Law of Population sets out the rights and obligations of foreigners, as well as the different statuses associated with foreign immigration.

Types of Immigrant Permits

There are two kinds of immigration permit: Non-Immigrant and Immigrant:

  • Non Immigrant Permits are for people who intend to visit Mexico for a specific purpose and then depart;
  • Immigrant Permits are for people who wish to gain long term permanent residence in Mexico.

Applying for Mexican Visas

You may apply for your visa(s) in person, or you may hire a representative to advise you, make the application on your behalf and do all of the paperwork. See Immigration Lawyers for more details.

Please Note: The information on this page is intended as a summary of basic principles and immigration procedures in Mexico. For detailed information contact an immigration lawyer or download the Mexico Immigration Guide eBook

What are the Non-Immigrant Visas?

There are various classifications of Non-Immigrant visitors to Mexico – the main ones are listed below.

Visitante – Visitor Permit for Short Term Visits

The ‘Visitante‘ permit is intended for visitors—usually tourists and business visitors—to Mexico on short term visits of six months or less. For trips of longer than six months, a non-immigrant or immigrant visa should be considered—see the sections below for details about this.

A Visitor’s Permit is issued when you arrive in Mexico (by air, or travel inland by road beyond the ‘free border zone’) by completing a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM): these forms are issued by airlines, and are also available at ports of entry. The Visitor Permit is valid for upto 180 days and cannot be renewed. Upon its expiry you will need to leave the country*. There is a fee of about US$22 for this permit, which is usually included in the price if your flight (under taxes and fees). If you arrive by road or ship, and travel beyond the ‘free zone’ near the border, you will have to pay for this permit separately.

See Also: Entry Requirements for Tourists

* In a small number of circumstances, your Visitor’s Permit may be exchanged for a Resident Permit.  See the next section for details.

Visa de Residente Temporal – Temporary Resident Visa

Mexico operates what is known as a Temporary Resident Visa, intended for people who wish to live in Mexico for more than 6 months and not longer than 4 years. The Temporary Resident Visa is a renewable, long-term (more than six months) permit which gives non-immigrant temporary residency status to the holder. The visa is issued for one year, and can can then be renewed for a further 1, 2, or 3 years (i.e. 1+3, 4 years max); this visa can optionally give work permissions, and allows unlimited entries to, and exits from, Mexico. This means that it gives a person holding the permit the right to live in Mexico for up to 4 years under terms as set out in the visa.

There are various categories under which the Temporary Resident visas are granted, and these relate to the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the Temporary Resident Visa, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific, activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative, depending on the visa’s classification.

A key criterion that the Mexican authorities require for the issuance of a Temporary Resident Visa is that the applicant prove that they have ‘sufficient funds to sustain themselves while in Mexico’ and/or a proven steady income. The financial requirements are based in Mexican pesos, and the various financial criteria been formalized following the introduction of the new immigration law that was enacted in 2012.

With a few exceptions, the Temporary Resident Visa cannot be issued to you in Mexico; you must apply for it at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico. This is a change to the rules before 2012, where Visitor Permits could previously be exchanged for Resident Visas if the person(s) fulfilled the criteria.  This article explains who can apply for residency within Mexico.

When applied for from overseas, the Temporary Permit (card) itself is not issued by foreign consulates. Instead, they process and pre-approve the application and place a Visa (sticker) in your passport. When you arrive in Mexico you have to attend your local immigration office within 30 days of arrival, and undertake a procedure to exchange your temporary resident visa (passport stamp) for a Temporary Resident Permit (a plastic card).

Once applied for and granted, you can hold the Temporary Resident Permit for up to four years, and after this it cannot be renewed: at the end of the four year period you must exchange the Temporary Resident permit for a Permanent Resident permit, or leave the country.

Detailed Information about Temporary Resident Visas

For detailed information about Resident Visas, contact an immigration lawyer or download the eBook Mexico Immigration Guide.

*To holders of passports from specific countries only.
See Mexico Entry Requirements for details.

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Mexico’s Permanent Resident Immigrant Visas

Permanent Resident Visas are issued to foreign nationals who have the intention of living in Mexico for long periods of time (over six months) AND who intend to settle permanently (indefinitely) in Mexico.

Visa de Residente Permanente – Permanent Resident Visa

The Permanent Resident Visa is intended for people seeking permanent residency status in Mexico, or those who may seek eventual Mexican Citizenship. You do not need to be a Temporary Resident first to become a Permanent Resident later, provided that you fulfill one of the other requirements needed for permanent residency.

To apply for and be granted a permanent resident visa, the applicants must:

  • have certain close family connections in Mexico, or
  • apply for retirement status and prove they have sufficient monthly income (or substantial assets) to support themselves, or
  • have 4 consecutive years of regular status as Temporary Resident, or
  • have 2 consecutive years of regular status as Temporary Resident where that the Temporary Visa was issued through marriage to a Mexican National or a foreign permanent resident, or
  • meet a minimum score under the Points System*, or
  • be granted residency on humanitarian grounds or through political asylum.

If your goal is to seek long-term residency in Mexico, or to become a Mexican Citizen, you should apply for a Permanent Resident Visa.

Upon receiving immigrated status, you will receive a plastic card that looks like a driver’s license. This card enables you to pass through Mexico’s borders as if you were a Mexican national.

 

*Details of the points system have yet to be announced by the government (February 2016).

Examples of the kinds of people who might apply for Permanent Resident Visas:

Retirees

If you want to engage in “non-remunerative activities” and you are receiving funds from abroad (from a pension or other investments or fixed income) you can apply for a Permanent Resident Visa. Read more about Retirement in Mexico on Mexperience.

Investors

You can receive an immigration permit if you are willing to invest your capital in Mexico. Your investment can be directed at industry or services, and must equal a minimum set amount—check separately for the latest investment levels required for this visa.  The current investment multiples and procedures for this application via this route are detailed in the Mexico Immigration Guide eBook.

Professionals

If you are a qualified professional, you can have your certificates validated by the Mexican Consulate in your home country and apply for an immigration visa to live in Mexico and seek permanent residence.

Technical or Scientific Professions

If you are a qualified technician or scientist, Mexico offers a category of visa which enables you to live and work in Mexico under sponsorship from a foreign company. For example, if the company wants to open an office or factory in Mexico, a person or persons representing that company may enter Mexico to manage the commercial operations on a long term basis.

Prominent Person

To apply for this visa the applicant must be a person with known national or international prestige or be some other prominent person, such as a scientist, researcher, humanist, artist, sportsman or journalist.  Each case is considered individually and entry is at the Interior Ministry’s discretion.

Detailed Information about Permanent Residency Visas

For detailed information about Resident Visas, contact an immigration lawyer or download the eBook Mexico Immigration Guide.

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May I be granted Mexican Citizenship?

There is a specific process to apply for and acquire Mexican Citizenship (also known as ‘naturalization’). As a minimum you must have applied for, and been granted, permanent resident status, although exceptions to this rule may apply, depending upon a variety of circumstances: marriage to a Mexican national, for example, may enable naturalization with a shorter qualification period.

You will be asked to undertake an exam, which you must pass, in order to acquire naturalization/citizenship. The examination is of a “multiple choice” type, consists of about fifteen questions, and is not hard—although you will need a basic grasp of the Spanish language to pass it.

See Related Article: Becoming A Naturalized Mexican

Detailed Information about Mexican Citizenship

For detailed information about acquiring Mexican Citizenship, including information about the exam you need to pass, contact an immigration lawyer or download the Mexico Immigration Guide eBook.

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Which Mexican Visa is Right for Me?

Here are some examples of situations and the type of visa you may consider applying for:

Temporary Visitor

When you do NOT want to seek permanent residence in Mexico

For Vacations and Casual Trips to Mexico: Simply fill out and use the Visitors Visa permit, available from the airline you travel with, or at the port of entry*

See Also: Volunteering in Mexico

For Work Placements in Mexico: If you plan to live and work in Mexico for a defined period, and intend to return to your home country afterwards, a Temporary Resident Visa, valid for up to 4 years, is your best option.  If you end up staying longer you can exchange the temporary visa for a permanent visa after 4 consecutive years of  residency in Mexico.

For Other Activities: You should apply for a Temporary Resident Visa commensurate with your activity (e.g. Student, Journalist, Scientist, Professional, etc.)

Detailed Information about Temporary Resident Visas

For detailed information about Temporary Resident Visas, contact an immigration lawyer or download the Mexico Immigration Guide eBook.

*To holders of passports from specific countries only.
See Mexico Entry Requirements for details.

Immigrant, Economically Active

When you want to acquire permanent residency AND you want to work in Mexico:

You should apply for a Permanent Resident Visa commensurate with the economic activity you want to undertake. Some common examples of economic activities which qualify for this visa are: a company-sponsored job, or an invitation to carry out academic or scientific research. If you have ~100,000 US dollars to invest in a Mexican company you can apply for an investor’s visa under this category.

Detailed Information about Investor’s Visas:

For detailed information about Investor’s visas, contact an immigration lawyer or download the Mexico Immigration Guide eBook.

Immigrant, Not Economically Active

When you want to acquire permanent residency but DO NOT want to work in Mexico:

If you have a regular source of income from abroad (e.g. investments, savings, pension, etc.) then a Permanent Resident Visa will be the most straightforward route. By law, you need to prove that you have sufficient funds or investments to sustain yourself, and the income criteria has been tightened up under the new laws which came into effect in 2012.

If you want to live permanently but not work in Mexico, you will need apply for a Permanent Resident Visa and satisfy one or more of the requirements (family connections, minimum income/investments, or political asylum). As part of your application, you will need to state what you intend to do there, e.g. early retirement due to health, etc.

Detailed Information about Mexico Retirement Visas

For detailed information about retirees’ visas, contact an immigration lawyer or download the Mexico Immigration Guide eBook.

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Immigration Consultancy

If you’re considering or planning a move to Mexico and need some detailed personal advice about the move, some immigration consultancy assistance may help.

Immigration Consultancy by phone/email differs from hiring an immigration lawyer (see next section) as you don’t have to be physically located in Mexico and the consultancy will enable you to speak with an expert in Mexican immigration matters about your specific circumstances.

This type of consultancy is ideal if you want to talk through your situation with an expert and talk through the various immigration options which may be open to you so that you can form your plans based on informed choices.  The consulatation will seek to assess your individual circumstances and suggest a proper course of action, based on your personal situation, that will have the best chance of leading to a successful application.

To learn more about immigration consultancy connect to our Mexico Relocation Consultancy page for further details.

Immigration Lawyers

You may apply for Mexican visas directly in person at any Immigration Office in Mexico, or you may hire a representative to do the paperwork and administration on your behalf.

How you go about applying for your visa will depend on your circumstances, how much Spanish you speak, and how much time you have to deal with the bureaucracy involved in the application process.

If you are unsure which visa may be right for your circumstances, if you are having trouble with the application you made on your own, or if your Spanish language skills are rusty, then you may do well to hire the services of a local immigration lawyer in Mexico.

A good immigration lawyer will be up-to-speed on the latest legislation as well as the latest “on the ground” policies being implemented at a local level. A lawyer will also be able to assess your individual circumstances and suggest a proper course of action, based on your personal situation, that will have the best chance of leading to a successful application. A good lawyer will also advise you if it is not possible for a person in your circumstance to make a successful application.

Hiring an immigration lawyer and representative will also avoid you having to make repeated trips to the immigration office. If your presence is required at the immigration office, such as to sign documents or give fingerprints, your lawyer will advise you and arrange to meet you there.

The support offered by a good lawyer can save you a considerable amount of time, especially if your application is complex. If you don’t speak good Spanish then you will almost certainly require representation to expedite your visa(s).

If you’re not currently in Mexico and want advice about your immigration choices, based on your own individual circumstances, our Mexico Relocation Consultancy service may help.  It’s staffed by immigration and expatriate consultants who can help you to understand your options and determine a pathway for your immigration to Mexico.

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