When you are granted a residency visa at a Mexican Consulate, you are issued with a visa sticker in your passport.
This sticker grants you one-time entry to Mexico as a legal resident, and you must arrive at a port in Mexico before its expiry date (usually six months from its issue date), and you must exchange this sticker for a residency card within 30 days of your arrival date in Mexico.
Time limits for making the visa exchange
You residency visa must be exchanged before it expires and soon after you physically arrive in Mexico:
- You must arrive in Mexico and exchange your visa for a residency card before the expiry date printed on the visa (that is usually six months after its issue date); AND
- You then have 30 calendar days from the date of your arrival in Mexico to begin the process to exchange your resident visa sticker for a residency card.
Your residency visa will become void if you don’t make the exchange in time
If you fail to initiate the exchange process (in Spanish termed el canje) in this time frame, the visa will become void and you will need to restart the application process again from a consulate abroad.
Your arrival in Mexico as a legal resident
Your application for legal residency in Mexico is not finished until you complete the visa-to-card exchange process—which must be done in person, in Mexico.
- When the Mexican Consulate places a residency sticker in your passport and you arrive in Mexico with that sticker, you are admitted to Mexico as a legal resident, not a tourist or visitor.
- The immigration official will check the box that reads ‘canje’ (exchange) on your entry form/stamp.
- You must apply to exchange your residency visa for a residency card at a local immigration office within 30 calendar days of your physical arrival in Mexico.
- When a residency visa sticker is present in your passport, you cannot enter a Mexico as tourist/visitor, leave, and then return later and get the residency visa stamped to begin the exchange process—you must enter Mexico as a resident and begin the exchange process.
The residency sticker-to-card exchange process
The process begins by completing a form online, and you also have to write a letter (in Spanish) requesting the exchange of the resident visa for the resident card. Afterwards, you attend the local immigration office where your application will be processed, and your picture and fingerprints taken digitally. You’ll need to pay the residency permit fee, and the local immigration office will soon afterwards print a residency card for you to use.
You can get assistance with the exchange using our Mexico Immigration Assistance service that will help you through the entire exchange process.
Temporary vs Permanent residency cards
If you applied for temporary residency (Residente Temporal) your first card is always valid for only one year. You need to return to the immigration office to apply for a renewal in the 30 days leading up to its expiry date if you intend to stay in Mexico. Renewals after your first year can be requested for between 1 and 3 years (for a maximum of 4 years total).
If you applied for and were granted permanent residency (Residente Permanente) your card doesn’t carry any expiry date. Permanent residency cards issued to adults (aged 18 years and older) don’t expire do not need to be renewed; however, permanent residency cards issued to minors (aged under 18 years) do require periodical renewal.
Learn more about the difference between temporary and permanent residency in Mexico.
Assistance with the visa exchange procedure
If you already have your Mexican residency visa(s) in your passport(s) and now need help with the exchange procedures, our associate can assist you.
The service begins with a personal consultation with our associate to explain the procedures to you in detail and ensure that your paperwork is in good order; they will also answer any questions you have. The service goes on to provide practical help and support as you make your own way through the visa exchange procedure including:
- providing you with a checklist of all the documentation you’ll need to gather as part of the visa-to-card exchange procedure;
- review of your documentation for accuracy and completeness;
- filling-out the application forms you need (in Spanish);
- writing the necessary covering letter (in Spanish); and
- the service also provides ad-hoc advice and troubleshooting (if needed), as you move through the application.
Mexico Immigration Assistance – Visa Exchange
Our associates charge a fixed fee for tele-support to prepare all the paperwork and help you prepare for your appointment to make the visa-to-card exchange at the local immigration office in Mexico.
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:
- Once you have your residency card, you need to present it each time you leave and re-enter Mexico. Learn more about entry and exit procedures.
- Rights and obligations of legal residents in Mexico
- These are the typical time scales when applying for Mexico residency visas and cards
- Learn about the principal routes to obtaining legal residency
- Read about the financial criteria to qualify for residency in Mexico
- See the latest residency-related fees charged by Mexico’s government
- Learn about the typical time scales involved when applying for residency in Mexico
- Download our free eBook: Mexico Immigration Guide that encapsulates essential information about visas and residency permits for Mexico.
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