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 immigration rules also legislate for a small few exceptions whereby foreigners in specific circumstances may exchange a Visitor permit (FMM) for a residency permit from within Mexico without having to leave the country. This article describes the exceptions.
Who can apply for residency from within Mexico?
In certain specific 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” residency application in Mexico?
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 of Mexican nationals are granted two years of temporary residency to begin with and, after those two years, they can apply to convert their temporary residency into permanent residency 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 and political asylum cases
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. Contact your nearest INM office for advice and guidance about this.
If your situation does not fold into one of those described above, you need to apply for your initial residency permit from outside Mexico, by personally attending one of the many Mexican consulates abroad.
Applying via Family Unit from outside of Mexico
Optionally, you can also apply for Mexican residency under the Family Unit rules from outside of Mexico, at a Mexican consulate abroad. If you do this, the Mexican consulate will process your application based on the Family Unit rules and place a visa sticker in your passport that you will need to exchange for a card in Mexico.
If you apply from outside Mexico, you do not necessarily need to return to your home country to begin the process. For example, if you are Australian, you could visit a Mexican consulate in the United States or other Latin American country 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); and you will also have to get any supporting documents, e.g. bank statements and marriage certificates, apostilled in the country where they were issued (usually your home country). See this article for details.
Principal routes to residency in Mexico
If you do not qualify for residency under the Family Unit rules you will need to apply for residency via an alternative route—most applications are granted on the basis of economic solvency. You can learn about the principal routes for obtaining residency in Mexico here on Mexperience.
Mexico Immigration Assistance Service
If you would like assistance with applications from abroad or from inside Mexico, through Family Unit or another route, and whether you are applying for the first time or renewing an existing permit, or regularizing your status in Mexico with a special procedure, consider using our Mexico Immigration Assistance service.
Learn more about Mexico visas and immigration
Mexperience publishes extensive information about visas and immigration to Mexico, including:
- Read about the principal routes to obtaining residency in Mexico
- Our article about temporary and permanent residency describes legal residency permits in Mexico
- Our latest articles about visas and immigration keep you apprised of current situations
- Read FAQs about residency visas and cards and FAQs about economic solvency criteria.
- Our free Mexico Immigration Guide that encapsulates what you need to know about applying for visas and residency permits.
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