If one topic preoccupies all foreigners looking to relocate to Mexico temporarily or permanently, it is how to get a visa. We've been there. This article will help you navigate the procedure that may seem daunting but that really is straight-forward once you get a clear picture of the process.
I will cover the different types of visas and permits for Mexico and their application processes. I will also outline the financial requirements for those moving as retirees and the process for those wishing to move to work. However, always check with your consulate and local immigration office for the latest requirements as they change often.
Types of Mexican Permits
Mexico has three types of immigration permits:
- Visitor's Permit or Visitante: for short-term stays. This permit is obtained by filling out the FMM form upon arrival in Mexico. The airline provides the form or it will be provided in the immigration offices if arriving by land or sea. If arriving by airline, the $25 USD fee is usually included in the airfare (unless it's a charter flight). If arriving by land or sea, the fee will be due upon entry. The visa can be granted for up to 6 months and cannot be extended or renewed. You will need to leave the country before it expires.
- The Non-Immigrant Permit or the Temporary Resident Permit (Residente temporal), formerly known as the FM3. This is the permit you need if you plan to stay in Mexico longer than 180 days and up to 4 years. This permit can grant working permission or not, depending on your purposes and if you fulfill the required documentation.
- The Immigrant Permit or the Permanent Resident Permit (Residente permanente), formerly known as the FM2. This permit is for people looking to reside permanently in Mexico and perhaps eventually acquire citizenship. You can directly apply for this permit; you do not have to obtain the Non Immigrant visa first. However, it is a common path after 4 years of having the Non Immigrant Permit to continue on with the Immigrant Permit if you are planning on staying in Mexico.
Which Permit Do I Need?
The Temporary Resident Permit or Residente temporal
For most foreigners living in Mexico, this is the only permit they need. You can renew it annually and for up to 4 years under certain conditions. It does not lead automatically or directly to permanent residency status or citizenship. It also does not automatically grant permission to work. Depending on your intents and objectives of living in Mexico, you will supply documents for your situation.
Who Qualifies for Temporary Residency?
Basically, if you are applying for the Residente temporal and do not wish to work, you will supply documentation showing proof of a certain level of income or assets.
In January 2020, with an exchange of 19 Mexican pesos for one U.S. dollar, if you wish to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit, you must supply documents showing :
-you have a monthly income from foreign sources amounting to 300 days' worth of minimum wage (Mexican official minimum wage on Jan. 1 2020 is 123.22 pesos /day x 300 days = 36,900 pesos or $1945 USD (considering 19 pesos to 1 USD on Jan. 1, 2020))
– have assets such as a savings account balance over the past year amounting to at least 5000 days' worth of minimum wage. (5000 days x 123.22 pesos = 616,100 pesos or $32,426 USD)
What If I Want To Work?
If you do wish to work, you can be sponsored by an employer. They will provide you with the proper documentation proving you will work for the employer, your job description and responsibilities, your salary and the intended time of employment. Receiving a visa for a company-sponsored job is mainly done by matching your skill sets with skill sets the employer has not been able to find in-country. These work permits restrict you to only working in specific capacities that the Immigration Office will define.
The Permanent Resident Permit or Residente permanente
If you have fallen in love with Mexico and wish to live here on a permanent basis, you may wish to apply for the Permanent Resident Permit. This permit is for those looking to stay for long periods of time and who intend to live permanently in Mexico.
There are plenty of benefits to getting this card besides not having to leave the country after 180 days. You will get access to the national health care system, tax benefits and other discounts for senior citizens. It may also offer you the possibility of getting a work permit under certain circumstances.
Who Qualifies for Permanent Residency?
Applicants with ties to Mexican citizens (spouse, common law partner, child) or foreigners residing in Mexico with temporary or permanent residency status.
Retirees proving they have sufficient funds to support themselves. The amount of funds necessary can change in time and varies according to where you make application. Check with the consulate where you will make application.
Holders of the Temporary Resident Card for 4 years.
Holders of the Temporary Resident Card for 2 years who were granted the card through the family unity stipulations.
Some other categories of people including those seeking refuge for humanitarian reasons or asylum.
You do not have to hold a Temporary Resident Card to apply for the Permanent Resident Card.
If you are applying for the Residente permanente and do not wish to work, you will supply documentation showing proof of a certain level of income or assets. The income required from foreign sources in order to be granted Permanent Resident status is higher than that for a Temporary Resident Permit.
In January 2020, with an exchange of 19 Mexican pesos for one U.S. dollar, if you wish to apply for a Permanent Resident Card, you must supply documents showing:
-you have a monthly income from foreign sources amounting to 500 days' worth of minimum wage (Mexican official minimum wage on Jan. 1 2020 is 123.22 pesos /day x 500 days = 61,610 pesos or $3243 USD (considering 19 pesos to 1 USD on Jan. 1, 2020))
– have assets such as a savings account balance over the past year amounting to at least 20,000 days' worth of minimum wage. (20,000 days x 123.22 pesos = 2,464,400 pesos or approximately $130,000 USD)
The 2- Step Application Process
The 2-step process consists of first obtaining a visa at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico to be able to enter Mexico with the appropriate status. Secondly, you will complete the process by applying for your resident permit (either Residente temporal or Residente permanente) at your local immigration office.
Let's have a look.
Can I Do It Myself?
Although the application process may seem complicated, it is possible that you can complete it yourself. But if you are not fluent in Spanish or if you lack patience, you may want to find some assistance. In fact, I would highly recommend contacting an immigration attorney to get things started. Ask around and find out who other expats in the area have used.
If you choose to work with an attorney for the process, always verify the paperwork yourself even if the attorney has filled it out. Make sure all signatures have been applied, etc. Many an application has been denied because of small errors. Do not only rely on the expertise of the legal assistance. You should keep an active role in the processing of your paperwork.
As is common in many bureaucratic processes, usually, the procedure is easier in smaller towns or cities. Attention is more personal. Chances are that if you are applying in a smaller town and feel you have good contact with the INM employees, you can likely do the process yourself.
Smile, be patient and remember why you want to live in Mexico.
With a few exceptions, neither the Permanent Resident Permit nor the Temporary Resident Permit can be issued to you in Mexico. You must first apply for a visa at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico by submitting an application and having an interview.
What Documents Will I Need for Step 1?
Ask what documentation you will need to supply directly at the Mexican Consulate where you will make application. This is crucial. Although a national process, there are regional and local specificities. Do not assume because you found a list online of the documents you need that the list is accurate, exhaustive or up-to-date.
Some of the documents you will be required to assemble include:
- A completed Visa Application (online)
- A passport valid for at least one year.
- Original and photocopy of the migratory document proving your legal migratory status in your home country.
- One or more photographs measuring (3.5 cm X 3.1 cm)
- Payment of fees must be made in cash for the issuance of the visa.
- You will be required to provide your fingerprints.
- Proof of sufficient monetary funds to sustain a livelihood in Mexico.
- You will need to show documentation of your income – statements of your bank account and any investments that are relevant.
- In the case you are applying for a visa that will allow you to work, a letter from your future employer indicating: salary, work hours, job description, why the employer needs your specific skills, etc.
Once you gather your documentation, you will make an appointment online to appear in person at the consulate with your documentation. The consulate will process and pre-approve your application and will put a visa sticker in your passport.
When you arrive in Mexico, you must go to your local immigration office, the INM (Instituto Nacional de Migracion). You will begin another application process. Your local Immigration office will provide you with a list of documents that must be supplied for your resident card.
What Documents Will I Need for Step 2?
As required documentation varies according to office and type of card being applied for, you will be supplied the exact list of documents to submit by your local office. To give you an idea, here is a list of some documents typically required:
- A cover letter (in Spanish) requesting the Resident Card. The letter must include your name, address, and a formal request to change your immigration status from Tourist to Temporary Resident or Permanent Resident. You should also indicate in the letter that you have gathered up the necessary paperwork and all items requested of you. Many offices will have a form letter and allow you to fill it out with them. (Again, advantage of smaller towns.)
- The FMM tourist card that you received upon entering the country if applicable.
- The original and a copy of each page of your passport.
- A total of five recent small size (3.5cm x 3.1cm) color pictures (three frontal and two profile). Make sure you do not wear any jewelry for these photos.
- A utility bill showing the address at which you reside. A power bill (CFE) works best (for some reason, they are not too particular if the bill isn't in your name).
- Proof of sufficient monetary funds to sustain a livelihood in Mexico.
- Your marriage certificate, if applicable.
You will be required to pay an application fee (approximately $80 CAD; $60 USD). The Immigration office (INM) will give you a form to take to a bank to pay the amount.
When you return to the INM Office with proof of payment from the bank, you will receive access to a personal online account. You can then check on the progress of your application.
Your total cost for the entire process will include the visa fee, the local application fee plus any legal fees, copy fees, photography cost and a possible interpreter or assistant.
How Long Will It Take?
The processing and waiting time will vary but it is usually about a month. INM will inform you (online) that your card has arrived at the local office. You should return to the INM office to pick it up.
Upon receiving immigrated status, you will receive a plastic card that looks like a driver’s license. This card enables you to pass through Mexico’s borders as if you were a Mexican national. You are now ready to renew your relationship with the lovely sunset, beaches and mountains.
Please note that this information is being provided as a general guide. The regulations and requirements frequently change so please confirm them with your attorney, a Mexican embassy or consulate.
There is a difference between a visa and a permit. The visa, obtained outside of Mexico, allows you to enter Mexico with the correct immigration status. The permit is obtained by visiting your INM within 30 days of arriving with your visa and completing the immigration process. The “card” is the physical document you receive once the entire process is complete.
If you don’t know the language or don’t have the patience, it may well be worth the cost to hire an expediter or lawyer to process the documentation for you, especially the first time.
With a few exceptions, the Temporary Resident Visa or the Permanent Resident Visa cannot be issued to you in Mexico; you must apply for it at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico.
Be sure to get information on the renewal process for your new visa from the INM offices. Be sure to undertake the renewal before your present card expires. Ask your office when you should start the renewal process.
For further information about specific conditions and updated requirements you may go to these websites: