A FLEXIBLE IMMIGRATION POLICY
If you’re looking for a place in the sun to call home, Mexico offers a lifestyle that is hard to beat. Enjoy its vibrant culture, wonderfully warm people, beautiful scenery, and an immigration policy that is welcoming to expatriates! If you meet the basic requirements, you can qualify for one of three types of visas in Mexico. Here is a general guide to help you decide which visa is right for you at which juncture.
Visa #1: VISITANTE / THE VISITOR’S PERMIT
Typical Profile: Business Traveler or Tourist in Mexico looking to stay 6 months or less
Valid for: 180 days
This visa is easy to get and easy to renew. For U.S. and Canadian citizens, the only requirement for this visa is a valid passport that will not expire while you are in Mexico.
If you’re travelling by plane, you’ll typically be given a form to fill out prior to landing but can also pick one up as you enter Immigration at the airport. When you step up to the counter, the Immigration official will ask for the form and your valid passport. The official will keep half of the form and will return to the other half to you along with your passport.
Don’t lose this small piece of paper!
This seemingly unimportant piece of paper is the Visa that gives you permission to be in their country. You will need to present it to the airlines when you check in for your flight home.
If you lose your Visitor’s Visa, many of the larger airports have Immigration offices at the departure level. It will take a little extra time at check-in depending on how long their line is, but the on-site Immigration official can issue you the proper documentation to replace the lost Visa. The fine for a lost Visa is normally around $40 or $50 USD.
The Visitor’s Visa is very flexible. For example, there aren’t any restrictions on how you enter or leave the country. You can enter by plane at an airport and leave by car at the border. Nor is there a limit to the number of these visas you can “apply for” in a year. You can even own property under this Visa.
The 3 RULES you’ll want to be aware of with this Visa are:
- You can’t work on a Visitor’s Permit.
- You must leave the country before the 180 days are up.
- Your native country passport cannot expire while you are in Mexico.
If you decide, like so many of us, that you want more time in Mexico than just the 180 days, you’ll need to leave the country before applying for another Visitor’s Visa.
Visa #2: VISA DE RESIDENTE TEMPORAL / THE TEMPORARY RESIDENT VISA
Typical Profile: Working & non-working Foreigners who intend to live in Mexico for some time but not permanently.
Valid for: 1 year with the option to renew for 1, 2 or 3 more years. You may hold this Visa for a maximum of 4 years at which point you can apply for a Permanente Resident Visa.
If you want to spend more than six months at a time in Mexico, the next step is to apply for the Temporary Resident Visa. You’ll need to meet just a few simple, no-nonsense requirements.
- A valid passport that is at least 2 months from expiring
- Visa fee
- If you own property in Mexico, your original property trust plus a copy
- Proof that you have a permanent address in the U.S. or Canada (utility bill)
- 12 months of bank statements to prove that you can support yourself
This last requirement is known as “proof of economic solvency”. The amount of money that is needed to prove solvency depends on a few factors. These include, but are not limited to, your age, whether you are working, and if you own property in Mexico. The requirements can vary from consulate to consulate. However, they are easy to meet and can be as little as $1250 USD in income monthly or $15,000 USD annually.
The process for this Visa begins in your home country with a visit to the closest Mexican Consulate. Make an appointment to avoid spending too much time waiting in line. You should also check your consulate’s website to make sure you have everything you need before you go. It usually takes about two weeks for this first part of your visa request to be processed. The Consulate will hold onto your passport during this time, so make sure you don’t have any international travel planned when you apply.
Once you’re approved, the consulate will add a glued stamp to your passport. You must present this stamp when you go through Immigration in Mexico either at the border or at the airport.
After seeing the stamp in your passport, the Immigration official will give you a document called an FMM for Visa Exchange. You’ll have 30 days to take this new document to the local Immigration offices to move forward to the next step in finalizing your Temporary Resident Visa.
So that you are prepared, the local Immigration offices will request many of the same documents as the Consulate did along with a new application and another fee. They will not hold onto your US or Canadian Passport during this process. Once they’ve completed their internal verifications, you’ll be notified to go in for fingerprinting.
Your new Visa card will typically be ready a week or two after you’ve given your fingerprints. You will need to personally go pick up your Visa. Bring your passport with you as they’ll require an official proof of your identity.
If this process sounds complicated, there are ways to make it significantly easier. There are local businesses that specialize in guiding foreigners through this process. They know exactly what Immigration will ask for and just how to present your documents. The best part is if you hire a professional and authorize them at the beginning of the process to work on your behalf, you will only need to go to Immigration 1 time for fingerprinting! Unless you’re looking for an authentic Mexican experience, this is money well spent.
INSIDER TIP: Because Mexican courts don’t recognize the rights of non-residents, property owners are more protected under a Temporary or Permanent Resident Visa if there were ever a problem with their property.
Visa #3: RESIDENTE PERMANENTE / THE PERMANENT RESIDENT VISA
- Part-time residents who want to avoid the hassle of renewing their visa
- Those who want to live indefinitely in Mexico
- People working toward their Mexican citizenship
- Foreigners who have renewed their Temporary Resident for the maximum 4 years
Valid for: Does not expire! You just need to get a new card every 10 years.
The name of the Permanent Resident Visa a bit misleading. You do not need to live in Mexico full time to qualify for this Visa. The requirements for the Permanent Resident Visa are similar to the Temporary Resident Visa, but a distinct advantage the Permanente Resident Visa offers is that it doesn’t expire! You apply for it ONE time, and then every ten years you will need to update the card with a more recent photo of yourself.
If you are currently in Mexico on a Temporary Resident Visa and want to switch over to a Permanent, you do not need to leave Mexico during the process. In fact, the entire process for a Permanent Resident Visa is handled in Mexico. This means you can enter on a Visitor’s Permit and apply for your Permanent Resident Visa without having to leave Mexico! This is a distinct advantage over the Temporary Resident Visa which requires you to first apply outside of Mexico.
A Permanent Resident Visa is also the first step toward Mexican citizenship. While there are no requirements as to the number of days you need to spend in Mexico each year to keep your Permanent status active, if you are working toward citizenship, be aware that in the 2 years prior to applying, you can’t spend more than 180 days outside of Mexico.
INSIDER TIP: With either the Temporary or Permanente Resident Visa cards you can enter the much shorter Mexican citizen line at Immigration at the airport!
There are a few hoops to jump through with the Temporary or Resident visas but far fewer than you would find in other destinations. If jumping through hoops isn’t your style, check out one of the many professionals in town to guide you through the process so you can focus on enjoying the carefree lifestyle this wonderful country has to offer!