Mexico has a comprehensive legal and statutory Immigration Policy affecting Mexicans and foreign nationals.
This guide 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.
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 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 may apply for your visa(s) in person, or you may hire a representative to advise you, make the application on your behalf and do all of the paperwork. See Immigration Lawyers for more details.
Please Note: The information on this page is intended as a summary of basic principles and immigration procedures in Mexico. For detailed information contact an immigration lawyer or download the Mexico Immigration Guide eBook
What are the Non-Immigrant Visas?
There are various classifications of Non-Immigrant visitors to Mexico – the main ones are listed below.
Vistante – Vistitor Permit for Short Term Visits
The ‘Visitante’ permit is intended for visitors, usually tourists and business visitors, to Mexico on short term (six months or less) visits. For trips of longer than six months, a non-immigrant or immigrant visa should be considered
Visitor’s permits are 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 180 days and cannot be renewed. Upon its expiry you will need to leave the country*. There is a fee of about US$20 for this permit, which is usually included in the price if your flight (under taxes and fees). If you arrive by road or ship, and travel beyond the border zone, you will have to pay for this permit separately.
*The exception to this rule is if you have close family relatives (parents, spouse, children in Mexico) or you apply for residency for humanitarian reasons: in these circumstances a visitor’s permit can be exchanged for a resident visa.
Visa de Residente Temporal – Temporary Resident Visa
Mexico operates what is known as a Temporary Resident Visa, intended for people who wish to live in Mexico for more than 6 months and not longer than 4 years. The Temporary Resident Visa is a renewable long term (more than six months) permit which gives non-immigrant temporary residency status to the holder. The visa can be issued for 1, 2, 3 or 4 years (max), can give work permissions, allows unlimited entries to and exits from Mexico. This means that it gives a person the right to live in Mexico for up to 4 years under terms as set out in the visa.
There are various categories under which Resident Visa 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.
One of the criteria 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. The financial requirements have been tightened-up following the introduction of the new immigration law that was enacted in 2012.
With few exceptions, the Temporary Resident Visa cannot be issued in Mexico; you must apply in your home country of residence. This is a change to the old regime, where Visitor Permits could previously be exchanged for Resident Visas if the person(s) fulfilled the criteria. There are two exceptions to this if you are currently hold a Visitor’s Visa and want to exchange it for a residency visa without having to return to your home country: 1) if you have close family in Mexico, and; 2) if you apply for residency on humanitarian grounds, then you are able to change your status from visitor to resident without leaving Mexico.
When applied for from overseas, the Temporary Visa itself is not issued by foreign consulates. Instead, they process and pre-approve the application and when you arrive in Mexico you have to register at your local immigration office within 30 days and acquire the Visa (a plastic card) in Mexico.
Once applied for and granted, the Temporary Resident Visa may issued for up to 4 years (or yearly, with annual renewals required in Mexico) and after this four year period, it cannot be renewed: at the end of the four year period you must apply for a Permanent Resident Visa or leave the country.
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