When you apply for legal residency in Mexico, you have a choice of applying for either Temporary Residency (Residente Temporal) or Permanent Residency (Residente Permanente). This article describes the differences between the two.
Differences between Temporary and Permanent residency
The most significant difference is that temporary residency permits need to be renewed at least once if you stay more than a year, whereas permanent residency permits never need to be renewed and never expire.
Temporary residency permits
Mexico’s temporary residency permits last for between 1 and 4 years. Your first temporary resident permit is always granted for only one year* initially and you can thereafter renew your temporary residency for 1 to 3 more years (for a maximum of 4 consecutive years). At the end of a 4-year period of temporary residency, you can:
- apply to exchange your temporary residency status for permanent residency status within 30 days before your final expiry date; or
- purposely allow the permit to expire and then enter a regularization process to restart an application for temporary residency within a specific time period; or
- leave the country and surrender your legal residency status.
The financial qualification criteria for temporary residency are lower than those needed to apply for permanent residency and, after holding four consecutive years of temporary residency, you can optionally apply to exchange your temporary residency for permanent residency, usually without the need to prove economic solvency.
Note that not all temporary residency permits carry permission to work in Mexico; work permissions need to be requested and granted alongside your temporary residency.
When you have temporary residency in Mexico, you can enter and leave Mexico as many times as you wish and there are no time limits on how long you have to remain in Mexico each year to keep your residency status, although renewals and notifications of changes must be processed in Mexico, in person.
*Temporary residency cards issued by immigration offices in Mexico to foreigners who are married to Mexican nationals are valid for two years and after those two years can be exchanged for permanent residency.
Permanent residency permits
When you apply for permanent residency on the basis of economic solvency, you don’t have to hold temporary residency before applying for and being granted permanent residency, but:
- the financial criteria to qualify for permanent residency are higher; and
- if you apply for permanent residency as a couple, the dependent spouse/partner will only be granted Temporary Residency to begin with; and
- virtually all Mexican consulates require the applicant(s) ‘to be retired’ to apply for permanent residency right away—even if they qualify economically.
For those who don’t qualify for Permanent Residency right away, there is a path to exchange temporary residency for permanent residency (see next section below).
Once permanent residency is granted, your residency card never expires and you do not have to renew your residency status as you do with temporary residency, although note that minors under the age of 18 years do have to renew their permanent residency cards—see section below.
As an adult, you don’t need to renew permanent your permanent residency card but you do need to notify your local immigration office of any change of address, civil status, as well as any changes in employment if you work in Mexico.
When you have permanent residency in Mexico, you can enter and leave Mexico as many times as you wish and there are no time limits on how long you have to remain in Mexico to keep your permanent residency status; although if you intend to apply for citizenship, you will need to prove that you have been situated physically in Mexico for at least 18 months in the past two years preceding your application date.
Residency cards issued to minor children
If you have minor dependent children (under 18 years of age) in Mexico, note that special rules apply in regard to the issuance of their residency cards, thus:
- children under 3 years of age are given temporary or permanent residency cards for one year at a time, and these must be renewed in Mexico annually; and
- children between the ages of 3 and 17 years are issued with temporary or permanent residency cards for a maximum of 4 years at a time and must renew them in Mexico; and further note that
- children under 18 years of age holding permanent residency cards need to renew these as above. When they turn 18, their permanent residency will become indefinite and the card will no longer expire or need to be renewed.
Exchanging temporary residency for permanent residency in Mexico
People who want to live in Mexico indefinitely but only qualify for temporary residency can apply for temporary residency to begin with and, after four consecutive years* of temporary residency can apply to automatically exchange their temporary residency status for permanent residency in Mexico.
Near the end of the four consecutive years holding temporary residency, you can apply to exchange your Residente Temporal permit for a Residente Permanente permit. The transfer from temporary to permanent residency is undertaken at your nearest immigration office in Mexico with an application procedure and payment of the processing fees.
You do not need to demonstrate your economic solvency when you have four consecutive years of temporary residency and apply to exchange this for permanent residency.
*If you are married to a Mexican national, you are granted two years of temporary residency and after those two years you can exchange this for permanent residency.
Important note about Temporary Residency to Permanent Residency
Whether you are overseas or in Mexico, if you’re intending to exchange your current Temporary Residency card for Permanent Residency after having held 4 consecutive years of Temporary Residency status in Mexico, you must not let your residency card expire.
If you do not renew your temporary residency card before its expiry date and renew it within the grace period after the card has expired, that process will reset your accrued time as Temporary Resident and issue you with a new, 1-year temporary residency permit. You’ll need to sustain that new permit for 4 consecutive years (without letting it expire) before you can apply to make the exchange from temporary to permanent residency.
Should I apply for temporary or permanent residency in Mexico?
Choosing to apply for temporary or permanent residency will depend on whether:
- you plan to live in Mexico only for a defined (temporary) period and then leave the country; or
- you are not yet decided about your longer-term plans when you apply; or
- you intend to stay in Mexico very long term (indefinitely); or
- you intend to stay very long term (indefinitely) but don’t qualify for permanent residency right away.
Applying for Temporary residency is the better choice if:
- you plan to stay in Mexico for a while and then leave; or
- if you want to stay indefinitely but don’t qualify for permanent residency right away.
If your plans evolve and you decide to stay in Mexico for longer, you can extend your temporary residency (for a maximum of 4 years) and after four consecutive years apply to exchange temporary residency for permanent residency if you want to.
Applying for Permanent residency is the better choice if:
- you intend to live in Mexico indefinitely and qualify with the higher income or savings / other criteria required for permanent residency; but
- note the quirk in the rules, and application options, if you intend to apply for Permanent Residency as a couple.
Applying for and being granted permanent residency right away negates the need for you to apply for renewals of a temporary residency permit, which translates into less processing time and less cost.
Mexico Immigration Assistance
If you need assistance with your Mexico residency application, renewals, or regularization procedures, our Mexico Immigration Assistance Service provides consulting, advice, and practical support that assists you through the entire residency application or renewal process, including visa exchanges, regularization procedures, and troubleshooting.
Learn more about residency in Mexico
Mexperience publishes information and resources to help you learn about how to apply for and obtain legal residency in Mexico:
- Learn about the principal routes to obtaining legal residency
- Read about the financial criteria to qualify for residency in Mexico
- Learn about applying for Permanent Residency as a couple
- See the latest residency-related fees charged by Mexico’s government
- Download our free eBook: Mexico Immigration Guide that encapsulates essential information about visas and residency permits for Mexico.
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