As we described in a related article, when your Mexico residency application is granted at a Mexican consulate abroad, the consulate places a visa sticker in your passport. This sticker needs to be exchanged for a residency card in Mexico.
When you you intend to exchange your residency visa for a residency card, you need to allow for the necessary time required to make the exchange, and thus complete the residency application process.
Applying for the visa exchange
To apply for the visa-to-card exchange, you must visit the local immigration office nearest to your (intended) home address in Mexico within 30 days of your physical arrival in Mexico.
- The electronic booking system as immigration offices in Mexico is offline and therefore, you must attend your local immigration office in person to request a future appointment date for the exchange, or to request a ficha ‘token’ for your exchange. Some offices will attend you that same day.
- Whether you are asked to request a future appointment date or ask for a token depends on which office you attend; procedures vary by location.
- Future appointment dates are usually given within 1-2 weeks from the date you request it—depending how busy the local office is. Visa-to-card exchanges are typically completed within 4 weeks from the date you request your appointment/token.
- There are only a limited number of tokens issued each working day and whether you are attended that day or asked to come back another day will depend on how busy the local office is when you go to process your paperwork.
Your visa will remain valid when you begin the exchange process
Once you have a future appointment date set (or a token), your residency visa will not become void, even if the residency cards are issued after the visa’s expiration date—that is 30 days from the date you arrived in Mexico, and no more than 180 days from its original issue date.
Leaving Mexico during the exchange process
It’s important to note that once you enter Mexico with your residency visa(s) you cannot leave Mexico while you wait for your appointment date.
If you leave the country before you file the visa exchange (canje) paperwork, the residency visa will become invalid, and you’ll have to reapply for residency from the start.
Once you have filed the paperwork, you can optionally apply for a one-time exit/re-entry visa if you need to leave Mexico and return. See the section below about this.
Residency cards might be issued on the appointment date—but not always
When you attend your interview on the set appointment date (or you get a ‘token’ for the exchange at the local office), the residency card(s) might be issued the same day; but many offices issue them two-to-three weeks afterward.
If your card is not issued on the same day, the immigration office will issue you with a case number (“pieza”) instead, and their system will send you an email inviting you to return to the immigration office to complete the procedure and get your residency card(s). Almost all visa-to-card exchanges are currently being completed within 2-3 weeks from the date you request your appointment/token.
If you have filed the exchange request, you can apply for an exit/re-entry visa
If there’s a delay in issuing your residency card(s) and you need to leave Mexico, you can apply for a one-time exit/re-entry visa. Note these important points:
- You cannot apply for a one-time exit/re-entry visa if you are waiting to file your paperwork; you must have a case number to request an exit/re-entry visa. (You get a case number when you file your paperwork at the local immigration office.)
- The one-time exit/re-entry visa needs to be requested using a special form with a covering letter explaining the force majeure that requires you to leave. There is a fee to pay as well.
- If your request is approved, the one-time exit/re-entry visa will be issued and valid for only 60 calendar days. You must return to Mexico before the 60-day period expires: if you don’t, your entire residency application will become void.
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 various application forms;
- writing the necessary letters (in Spanish); and
- the service also provides ad-hoc advice and troubleshooting (if needed), as you move through the application.
Please note that our associate cannot guarantee time scales, ‘fast track’ nor obtain preferential treatment for any applicant.
Learn more about the visa-exchange service and make a request
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 the visa-exchange service and make a request
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.
- 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.
Mexico in your inbox
Our free newsletter about Mexico brings you a monthly round-up of recently published stories and opportunities, as well as gems from our archives.