Guide to Mexican Visas, Residency and Immigration

Mexico Immigration Stamp

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

This page 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.  Download our free Mexico Immigration Guide eBook for full details.

Last Updated: November 2021

Mexico Immigration Guide 2021 Published — Download free eBook

The 2021 Guide to Mexico Immigration has been published.  Download this free eBook, the most complete guide to immigration, visas, residency and citizenship in Mexico.

See Also: Latest articles with insights about Mexico Visas & 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 broadly 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 have to apply for your visa(s) in person, but you may hire a representative to advise you and undertake the appointment scheduling, paperwork and filing on your behalf.  See Immigration Consultancy and Support and Immigration Lawyers for more details.

Renewing an existing Mexico resident permit

If you currently hold a Mexican resident permit (card), you can find information about renewal of your Mexico resident card here.

Please Note

The information on this page is intended as a summary of basic principles and immigration procedures in Mexico. For detailed information download our free Mexico Immigration Guide eBook

Mexico’s visitor permit, FMM

If you intend to visit Mexico for a short period, for example as tourist, on a business trip, or a short-term visitor (e.g. to volunteer, undertake a medical procedure, or take a sabbatical) then you may be able to use Mexico’s visitor permit.

Visitante: Visitor permit for short-term visits to Mexico

The ‘Visitante‘ permit is intended for visitors —usually tourists and business trips— to Mexico on short-term visits.  For visitor of longer than six months, you should consider applying for residency—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 up to a maximum of 180 days and cannot be extended or renewed beyond the number of days written on the form by immigration official when you enter Mexico. Upon its expiry you will need to leave the country.

There is a fee of about US$25 for this permit, which is usually included in the price if your flight (under taxes and fees). If you arrive by road or ship you will have to pay for this permit separately.

See Also: Entry requirements for tourists

Special Procedure for Residency Applications

Under a special procedure announced by the INM some people with expired visitor permits may exchange these for residency permits in-country without having to leave MexicoLearn more about the special procedure to find out if you qualify.

Mexico’s temporary resident visa

If you intend to reside in Mexico temporarily, the Residente Temporal permit enables you to remain in Mexico for up to 4 years.

Visa de Residente Temporal: temporary resident visa

Mexico offers a Temporary Resident visa, intended for people who wish to live in Mexico for up to 4 years. The Temporary Resident visa is a renewable, long-term residency permit that gives legal temporary residency status to the holder.

The permit is issued for one year, and can can then be renewed for a further 1, 2, or 3 years; this permit can optionally carry work permissions, and allows unlimited entries to, and exits from, Mexico.

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.

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 article explains who can apply for residency within Mexico.

When applied for from overseas, the Temporary Residency 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).

All Temporary Residency cards are valid for only 1 year initially; they must be renewed after the first year for a further 1, 2, or 3 years if you wish to remain resident in Mexico.

After four years of holding Temporary Residency, you can apply to exchange the temporary residency for permanent residency; or enter into a regularization procedure to start temporary residency again; or leave the country.

Detailed information about temporary resident visas

Learn more about temporary residency permits in Mexico.  For detailed information about Resident Visas download our free eBook Mexico Immigration Guide.

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

See Also: Latest articles with insights about Mexico Visas & Immigration

Mexico’s permanent resident visa

Permanent resident visas  are issued to foreign nationals who have the intention of living in Mexico 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, and/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 the other requirements needed for permanent residency.

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

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 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.

With a few exceptions, the Permanent Resident visa cannot be issued to you in Mexico; you must apply for it at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico. You can apply for exchange an existing Temporary Resident card for a Permanent Residency card in Mexico.  This article describes who can apply for residency within Mexico and this article describes the difference between temporary and permanent residency, including exchanging a temporary residency to permanent.

When applied for from overseas, the Permanent Residency 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 permanent resident visa (passport stamp) for a Permanent Resident permit (a plastic card).

Permanent Residency cards do not expire, but you must notify the immigration office of certain changes in your circumstances, e.g. address, marital status, etc.

*Points-based System not in force: The 2012 immigration law references a Points-based system as one of the routes foreigners may use to seek residency in Mexico.  However, details of the points system have yet to be announced by the government.

Detailed information about Permanent Residency visas

For detailed information about Resident permits, download our free eBook Mexico Immigration Guide.

Examples of people who apply for Mexico resident visas:

This section lists typical situations of people seeking residency permits in Mexico.  You can learn more about the principle routes to obtain legal residency here on Mexperience.

Retirees / independent income

If you want to engage in “non-remunerative activities” (i.e. you do not intend to earn money in Mexico) and you are receiving funds from abroad (from a pension or other investments or income sources) you can apply for a Temporary or Permanent Resident permit your meet the criteria. Read more about Retirement in Mexico on Mexperience.

Investors

You can receive a resident 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.

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 residence here.  Download our free Mexico Immigration Guide for details about residency permits with work permissions.

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 (this could be a company you own). The company must cover all of your income and expenses while you are in Mexico.  Learn more about Working in Mexico.

Prominent person

To apply for this visa the applicant must be a person with recognized 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.

There are other situations including students and people with family connections in Mexico.  Download our free Mexico Immigration Guide eBook for detailed list of visa types and details.

What Mexican visa is right for my situation?

Here are some examples of typical situations and the type of Mexican visa you may consider applying for.

Temporary visitor or temporary resident

When you do not want to seek permanent residence in Mexico right away.

For vacations, casual trips, or short business 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*

Volunteer work in Mexico: If you plan to volunteer here in Mexico, read the article about Volunteering in Mexico for details about the visa required.

For temporary 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 permit, valid for up to 4 years, is the permit to apply for.

For other activities where you intend to stay longer in Mexico: You should apply for a Temporary Resident permit commensurate with your activity (e.g. Retiree, Student, Journalist, Scientist, Professional, etc.)  Our Immigration Assistance service can provide personalized consultation and support.  If your plans change and you decide to stay longer, you can renew your temporary residency for a maximum of four years and, after that, you can optionally apply to exchange your temporary residency for permanent residency.

Detailed information about Temporary Resident visas: For detailed information about Temporary Resident Visas download our free Mexico Immigration Guide eBook.

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

Long-term resident, economically active

When you want to obtain residency and you want to work in Mexico

Most people who want to work in Mexico either get sponsored by a Mexican company, or move here to work independently and/or invest in Mexico. You need to apply for temporary residency with work permissions.

For detailed information about applying for residency to work in Mexico, including investment visas, download the free Mexico Immigration Guide eBook.

Long-term resident, not economically active

When you want to obtain 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 you can apply for a Temporary or Permanent resident permit. By law, you need to prove that you have sufficient funds or investments to sustain yourself.

Detailed information about long-term residency permits: For detailed information about long-term residency when you don’t intend to work in Mexico (including retirees’ visas) download the free Mexico Immigration Guide eBook.

See also: Latest articles with insights about Mexico Visas & Immigration

Principal routes to obtain legal residency in Mexico

Read our article about the principal routes to legal residency for an overview of the ways most foreigners consider when they want to apply for legal residency in Mexico.

Applying for 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.

If you are between 18 and 60 years of age you will be asked to take an exam, which you must pass, in order to acquire naturalization/citizenship.

For further information, read: Becoming a Naturalized Mexican

Immigration consultancy and support

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

Immigration Assistance 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 talk to and correspond with an expert in Mexican immigration matters about your specific circumstances.

This type of consultancy is ideal if you want to discuss 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 consultation 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 live, work, invest or retire in Mexico.

Consulting and practical support for your Mexico residency application

To learn more about immigration consultancy connect to our Mexico Immigration Assistance Service 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).

Personalized consultation support

If you want advice about your immigration choices, based on your own individual circumstances, our Mexico Immigration Assistance Service can 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.