Immigration & Visas, Mexico Essentials

Time Scales for Obtaining Mexico Residency Visas and Cards

When you're applying for residency in Mexico, you will need to take typical time scales into account for processing your visa and residency card

Calendar and time planning

When you’re applying for residency in Mexico, you will need to allow for application and processing times of your visa and/or residency card.

This article describes the typical time scales involved when you’re applying for residency.

Applying from outside of Mexico

Most applicants need to begin their applications for residency from outside of Mexico, at a Mexican consulate abroad.  Applying this way is a two-stage process:

  • you apply for your residency visa(s) at a Mexican consulate, and if your application is accepted they will place a visa sticker in your passport; then
  • you must arrive in Mexico within 180 calendar days from the issue date of the visa, and within 30 days of your arrival, you must apply to exchange the visa for a residency card at an immigration office in Mexico.
  • If you don’t meet this time scale, your visa will become void, and you will need to restart your application.
  • Note that if you’re renewing an existing residency card, or applying on the basis of Family Unit, you can undertake this process in Mexico—see the section below for details.

Typical time scales at the consulate

You must request a residency application appointment at the Mexican consulate.  It can take several weeks (and in some places, months) to secure an appointment for residency applications at a Mexican consulate.

Once you set your appointment, the consulate usually issues the visa sticker within 10 working days after your appointment/interview date, when your application is successful.  We recommend you plan ahead to allow for lead times required to secure appointments at Mexican consulates.

Typical time scales at immigration offices in Mexico

With the visa sticker(s) in your passport(s), you need to arrive in Mexico within six months and, within 30 days of your arrival date, you must ask for an appointment date at the local immigration office in Mexico nearest to where you intend to live, to exchange the visa for a residency card:

  • Mexican immigration offices operate an electronic appointment system for advance bookings, but this system is currently offline—see the yellow info box, below.
  • It can take up to several weeks (and in some places, up to a couple of months) to secure an appointment at a local immigration office in Mexico.
  • Once you have asked for and been given your appointment date at the immigration office your visa will remain valid, even if the appointment date is scheduled on a date that extends beyond the 30-day exchange windows/visa expiry date.
  • Residency cards are often issued on the same day as your appointment date, although it can sometimes take longer, but not usually more than 1-3 weeks after your appointment date.

Electronic appointment system currently offline

The electronic appointments system that immigration offices in Mexico use to set appointment dates for exchanging visas to residency cards (and other requests) is currently offline.

This means that applicants need to go to the local immigration office in person, request an appointment date, and then return to the office on that date to process the visa-to-card exchange.

Some immigration offices might allow an applicant’s representative to attend the local office and request the appointment in advance, but some offices might not allow this and insist that the applicant attend in person.  If you want someone to attend the immigration office to make the appointment on your behalf, you’ll need to contact/hire an attorney situated in the locality where you intend to make the exchange and ask whether that is possible.

Typical time scales for residency permits

These are the typical time scales you ought to take into account when you intend to apply for a Mexico residency permit starting at a Mexican consulate abroad. (We update this article with time scales based on our associate’s current experience of working with Mexican consulates abroad and immigration offices in Mexico.)

Consulate appointment/interview: It’s currently taking between two weeks and up to 3 months to secure a residency appointment/interview at a Mexican consulate abroad, depending on which consulate you apply at.  Sometimes consulates release additional dates without notice (perhaps due to cancellations), which can reduce the time scale, although you should plan ahead when booking your consulate appointment for a residency interview.

Getting the visa sticker(s): After you attend the consulate, it typically takes up to 10 working days for the consulate to process the application and, if you are successful, to place the visa sticker(s) in your passport(s). You then have 180 days to arrive in Mexico and exchange this for a residency card(s).

Exchanging your visa(s) for residency card(s) in Mexico: You need to schedule an appointment at your local immigration office in Mexico to exchange the visa(s) for card(s). It’s currently taking between several weeks and 2 months to secure appointments at local immigration offices in Mexico.  Due to the electronic booking system being offline (see yellow box, above), applicants must attend the immigration office in person to ask for an appointment date, and then return on that appointment date to exchange the visa(s) for card(s).

Getting your residency card: Many visa exchanges are processed the same day as the appointment date, and you walk out of the office with your residency card(s) on that day.  However, on some occasions it can take longer and you might have to return to the immigration office between 1-3 weeks later to receive your residency card(s).  If you are asked to return, you’ll be given a case number and the INM’s system will send you an email when the card is ready for you to pick-up.

Longest and shortest time scales: Total time scales depend on a combination of appointment availability and processing times at the consulate/immigration office you apply at. It can thus can take up to three months to get your visa, and then up to another three months to get your residency card once you arrive in Mexico.

Leaving Mexico: If you need to leave Mexico while you are waiting for your residency card(s), you can apply for an exit/re-entry permit after you have submitted your paperwork for the visa exchange. You cannot apply for this when you are in Mexico awaiting your visa exchange appointment date.

Applying from inside Mexico

Most people need to begin their residency application at a Mexican consulate abroad.  However, people applying for residency on the basis of family unit, and those renewing existing residency permits can do this from within Mexico.

If you are applying from inside Mexico, you will need to ask for an appointment at your nearest immigration office; there is no need to ask for an appointment at a Mexican consulate abroad.  See the information above about asking for appointment dates at local immigration offices in Mexico.

Time scales for residency permits within Mexico

Time scales for applications for residency from within Mexico vary depending on the type of application.

Residency renewals are often (not always) processed the same day as the set appointment date; but other applications, for example residency based on marriage to a Mexican national, may take longer.

We recommend you allow 1-3 weeks from the date of your appointment for straightforward applications, and 4-8 weeks or longer for more complex and ‘regularization’ procedures.

Mexico Immigration Assistance

When you need assistance with your Mexico residency application, renewals, or regularization procedures, our Mexico Immigration Assistance Service provides consulting, advice, and practical help that helps you through the entire residency application or renewal process, including regularization procedures.

Please note: This is a tele-support service and while our associate can make appointments using the online system, they cannot go the local immigration office to request appointment dates for you in person while the electronic system is offline.   We will update this article when the electronic system is back in service.

Learn more about Mexico visas and residency

Mexperience publishes extensive information about visas and immigration to Mexico, including: