Immigration & Visas, Living, Retirement, Working

Temporary and Permanent Residency in Mexico

Whether you apply for temporary or permanent residency in Mexico will likely depend on your lifestyle intentions and your level of income or savings

Mexico Residency Cards

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 difference 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 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 the temporary residency for permanent residency (see below); or
  • allow the temporary residency to expire and enter into a ‘regularization’ procedure to re-apply for temporary residency; or
  • leave the country.

The financial qualification criteria for temporary residency are less strict that those needed to apply for permanent residency but, after holding four consecutive years of temporary residency, you can optionally apply 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.  See our free Mexico immigration guide for more details.

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 to keep your residency status, although renewals and notifications of changes must be made in Mexico, in person.

Permanent residency permits

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 stricter.  There is a path to exchange temporary residency for permanent residency (see 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.  However, 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 you were physically in Mexico for at least one year prior to your application.

Exchanging temporary residency for permanent residency in Mexico

People who want to live in Mexico long term but only have income or savings to 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.  In most cases you do not need to demonstrate your economic solvency when you exchange your temporary residency 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 passed 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, you can opt to enter the regularization process to apply for a new, 1-year temporary residency permit, but you cannot 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 long term (indefinitely); or
  • you intend to stay long term but don’t have the income or savings to 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 long term but don’t have the income or savings to qualify 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 afterwards 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 long term and qualify with the higher income or savings required for permanent residency

Applying for and being granted permanent residency right away negates the need for you to apply for renewals of your residency permit (less time and cost) and also enables you to work in Mexico if you want to.

Further reading

Our free Mexico Immigration guide offers you comprehensive information about visas and residency in Mexico.  Download your free copy from the Mexperience eBooks Library.

Mexico Immigration Assistance

If you need assistance with your plans, our Mexico Immigration Assistance Service provides advice and practical help that helps you through the entire residency application or renewal process, including ‘regularization’ procedures and troubleshooting.

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