Before the reforms of the Mexican immigration law took effect in November 2012, foreigners who arrived in Mexico using a Visitor’s permit (FMM) were able to exchange this document for a residency permit in-country, provided that they met the criteria for residency status. Since the changes took effect, most foreigners now need to leave Mexico and begin their application for residency from abroad.
This means that if you are currently in Mexico under the auspice of a Visitor’s permit and subsequently decide to apply for residency here, you probably need to leave Mexico to commence the application, and return to complete the process.
The new rules also legislate for a small few exceptions whereby foreigners can, in specific circumstances, apply for residency from within Mexico without having to leave the country. This article explains the exceptions.
Who can apply for residency from within Mexico?
In certain situations, foreigners currently in Mexico holding a Visitor’s permit (FMM) can apply for a temporary or permanent residency permit without leaving the country, most usually under the auspice of a “Family Unit” application.
What is a “Family Unit” under the immigration rules?
A “Family Unit” visa application means that you apply for legal residency based on certain family roots or connections you have to Mexico, either through a blood line, or through marriage. Roots and connections that qualify under the ‘Family Unit’ routes to residency are specified in Mexican immigration law and summarized in the bullet points below.
Foreigners may apply for Temporary Residency (Residente Temporal) in-country if the foreign applicant is:
- The spouse of a foreigner holding a temporary or permanent resident card; or
- The parent (mother/father) of a foreigner holding a temporary resident card; or
- The son or daughter of a foreigner holding a temporary resident card, provided that the son or daughter is a minor (under 18 years of age); or
- The son or daughter of the spouse of a foreigner holding a temporary resident card, provided that the son or daughter is a minor (under 18 years of age); or
- A foreign spouse of a Mexican National. (Foreign spouses may apply to convert their temporary residency into permanent residency after 2 years in Mexico.)
Foreigners may apply for Permanent Residency (Residente Permanente) in-country if the foreign applicant is:
- The parent (mother/father) of a foreigner holding a permanent resident card; or
- The son or daughter of a foreigner holding a permanent resident card, provided that the son or daughter is a minor (under 18 years of age); or
- The sibling of a foreigner holding a permanent resident card, provided that the sibling is a minor (under 18 years of age); or
- The son or daughter of the spouse of a foreigner holding a permanent resident card, provided that the son or daughter is a minor (under 18 years of age); or
- The son or daughter of a Mexican National in situations where the offspring are not entitled to Mexican Nationality and provided that the son or daughter is a minor (under 18 years of age); or
- The son or daughter of a spouse of a Mexican National provided that the son or daughter is a minor (under 18 years of age)
- The foreign parent of Mexican-born children; or
- The sibling of a Mexican National (including naturalized foreigners) provided that the son or daughter is a minor (under 18 years of age); also
- Existing foreign residents who have 4 consecutive years of Temporary Residency may apply to exchange their Temporary Residency permit for a Permanent Residency permit; they do not have to leave Mexico to make this exchange.
Humanitarian/Political Asylum: Foreign nationals may also apply to exchange a FMM for a residency permit inside Mexico on Humanitarian grounds, or by applying for Political Asylum. These are very specialized applications with specific rules and conditions attached to them that intend to assist people in certain situations of severe hardship, or danger due to political persecution.
Everyone else needs to apply for their residency visa from outside Mexico, by personally attending one of the many Mexican Consulates abroad.
Temporary residency (Residencia Temporal) by means of a formal job offer. If you are in Mexico under the auspice of a Visitor’s permit (FMM) and are subsequently offered a formal job by a Mexican company, that company must request the Temporary Resident permit at a local immigration office in Mexico on your behalf. When the hire is approved, you must leave the country and go to a Mexican Consulate abroad to receive the residency/work visa in your passport and then come back to exchange the visa for the Temporary Resident card.
Renewal of existing residency permits. If you already hold a Residente Temporal card and wish to renew it for further years, you do this in-country. Read our article that explains the procedures for residency permit renewal in Mexico.
Expired temporary resident permits: If your existing residency card expires and you want to renew, read this article to learn about the special rules involved in the expired permit’s renewal.
If you need to apply from outside Mexico, you do not necessarily need to return to your home country to apply. For example, if you are Australian, you could visit a Mexican Consulate in the United States to apply. However, you will be asked by the Mexican Consulate to prove that your presence in any country that is not you own is legal; for example, they will ask to see your tourist visa/passport stamps.
Residency permits applied for from abroad take between 2 and 10 working days to process. If the permit is granted, the Mexican Consulate will place a sticker in your passport that you use to enter Mexico, which is valid for 180 days. Within 30 days from the date you enter Mexico you need to attend an immigration office to undertake another procedure to exchange your passport sticker for a resident card.
Qualification criteria. Whether you apply in-country or from abroad, Mexican resident permits are granted only to foreigners who qualify under the current rules. Qualification criteria vary by visa type—you need to demonstrate certain family connections (“Family Unit”) in Mexico and/or economic solvency—see the links to guides and resources below for further details.
You can find general information about applying for residency in Mexico on the Mexico Immigration page here on Mexperience.
For a detailed guide that explains all the visa types, qualification criteria, fees, and processes you need to follow, consider downloading a copy of the fully-updated Mexico Immigration Guide.
Mexico Immigration Assistance Service
If you would like assistance with applications from abroad or from inside Mexico, whether you are applying for the first time or renewing an existing permit, consider using our Mexico Immigration Assistance service.
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