For Those Wishing to Stay Longer than 180 Days in Mexico
Thinking of moving to Mexico? You’re not alone. Many people, after visiting Mexico, think that it would be great to live there. With its great weather, World Heritage sites, cuisine, and fascinating culture, Mexico is a wonderful place to live. This article tells you how to become a legal resident of Mexico.
When you travel to Mexico, you get what’s called an “FMM” (Forma Migratoria Múltiple), which is a travel permit for travel to Mexico, commonly called a “tourist visa” (although it’s not really a visa). FMMs are available for periods up to 180 days and cost $575 pesos (around $25 at the time of this writing). For periods of seven days or less, the FMM is free. You need a passport or passport card to obtain an FMM. More information regarding the FMM can be found here.
The question many people have is what do you do if you want to stay longer than 180 days or even live in Mexico? For that, Mexico has two types of residency visas, the temporary and permanent resident visas. Compared to many other countries, Mexico makes it easy to stay longer than 180 days.
It is possible, but not recommended, to do “border runs” and keep getting repeat FMMs. This requires you to leave Mexico within the validity period of your FMM and get a new one by returning. Increasingly Mexico is frowning on this tactic.
Mexican immigration officials can tell, from computer records, if you’ve been getting repeat FMMs. And while you can get an FMM for up to 180 days, it is up to the individual agent to decide how long the FMM will be valid for. Some people are getting 30 days, a week, or even being denied re-entry into Mexico. This is a problem when you have belongings and pets in Mexico. It’s best to get legal residency and avoid this kind of problem.
Mexican Residency Visas
Mexico has two types of residency visas, Temporary Resident (Residente Temporal) and Permanent Resident (Residente Permanente). These are actual visas for which you get a stamp (sticker) on your passport and, eventually, a resident card. They both have minimum financial requirements that must be met. For your initial resident visa, the process must be started at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico (except in special circumstances).
The Mexican residency visa application form can be found here. For a complete list of the required documents needed for your initial application, visit the website of the consulate you will be using. A list of Mexican consulates and their websites is here.
You’ll want to visit the website of the consulate to see how they do the residency visa process. Some take walk-ins, some require an appointment to be made by phone, some require you to make your appointment online. For those that require an appointment, an appointment needs to be made for each person applying. If you’re applying as a couple, you’ll need two appointments.
After getting your visa from the consulate, you must finish the process inside of Mexico at the local immigration office (INM, Instituto Nacional de Migración). You have 180 days from the time you get your visa at the consulate to enter Mexico and finish your residency process. After entering Mexico with your residency visa, you have 30 days to get to INM to start the finalization process. In Mexico, there are facilitators and attorneys that can do this finalization for you for a small fee, or you can do it yourself with patience and a little Spanish.
Which Type of Visa to Get
When deciding which type of visa to get, temporary or permanent, there are a few things to consider. One is the obvious difference in the financial requirements needed to get the visa. If your income or savings/investments is not high enough to qualify for the permanent visa, you get the temporary visa instead.
Another difference between the visas is with a temporary residency visa you can bring your foreign-plated vehicle with you. You can get what’s called a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) that will allow you to keep your vehicle in Mexico for the length of your temporary residency. Permanent residents cannot get TIPs and thus cannot bring their foreign-plated cars to Mexico without importing them to Mexico (i.e., getting Mexican plates for them). Importing a vehicle into Mexico has many restrictions and is expensive, so most people opt to buy a Mexican vehicle instead. The one big exception to this is for places where no TIP is needed, such as the Baja peninsula and the state of Quintana Roo. In those areas permanent residents can have their foreign-plated cars since no TIP is needed.
Another thing to consider is that with a temporary resident visa, you must apply and get permission if you’re going to be working (earning income) within Mexico. If you’re working online and not earning money from a Mexican source, you don’t need permission to work, but if you are earning money from a Mexican source, you will need permission. A permanent resident, however, does not need permission to work. Permanent resident only needs to notify the tax authority (SAT) that they are working so that they can pay income tax.
Temporary Residency Visa
A temporary residency visa is good for one to four years. Typically, you’ll receive one year from INM with your first visa and then you can renew for one to three years more. This varies by office, with some INM offices only allowing yearly renewals and others allowing you to renew for three years. After a maximum of four years, you either leave the country or switch to permanent residency.
The minimum financial requirements for a temporary residency visa are either income of 300 times the Mexican minimum wage (as of 2020, $123.22 pesos per day) for the previous six months, or, if using savings/investments, it’s 5,000 times the Mexican minimum wage for the previous 12 months. This means if you are using income, it’s an income of $36,966 pesos per month for the previous six months. For savings/investments, it’s a balance in your account of $616,100 pesos for the previous 12 months. You find the specific amount for your currency by dividing this by the peso exchange rate at the time you’re applying. This amount varies a little by consulate which is why you’ll want to visit the consulate’s website to see what that specific consulate is requiring. Consulate “shopping” is allowed although some consulates will only serve people that live in the area.
Permanent Residency Visa
A Mexican permanent resident visa is just that, permanent. There is no need to renew it. This visa has higher financial requirements than the temporary resident visa. Many consulates will not give out permanent residency visas except to people who have pension income. Do not argue with the consulate. Simply come in on a temporary visa and switch to permanent either at renewal time (the financial requirements must be met) or after four years (no further proof of income required).
The minimum financial requirements for a permanent residency visa are either income of 500 times the Mexican minimum wage (as of 2020, $123.22 pesos per day) for the previous six months, or, if using savings/investments, it’s 20,000 times the Mexican minimum wage for the previous 12 months. This means if you are using income, it’s an income of $61,610 pesos per month for the previous six months. For savings/investments, it’s a balance in your account of $2,464,400 pesos for the previous 12 months. You find the specific amount for your currency by dividing this by the peso exchange rate at the time you’re applying. This amount varies a little by consulate which is why you’ll want to visit the consulate’s website to see what that specific consulate is requiring. Consulate “shopping” is allowed although some consulates will only serve people that live in the area.
Finalizing Your Residency
Once you are approved by the consulate and have your visa in your passport, you have 180 days to enter Mexico to finish getting your residency. After entering Mexico, you have 30 days to get to Mexican immigration (INM) to finish the process. You must use the INM office closest to where you will be living. Note that finishing the process may take anywhere from a week to several months, during which time you are not allowed to leave Mexico without written permission.
When you enter Mexico after getting your residency visa, you will get an FMM (“tourist visa”). When you are filling this out, write either RESIDENTE TEMPORAL or RESIDENTE PERMANENTE (whichever applies) across the top in big block letters. Show the immigration agent the visa in your passport. This is very important as you DO NOT want to enter Mexico as a tourist, which cancels the visa you just paid for! The agent will know what to do. He/she will give you 30 days on the FMM and mark the CANJE (“change”) box. You turn in this FMM with your initial application to finalize your residency.
After getting to your chosen place of residence in Mexico, you need to start finalizing your residency within 30 days. If you don’t do this, you will have to start over outside of Mexico (and pay the fees again). For a list of everything you need to finalize your residency, visit the local INM office upon your arrival. Alternatively, for a small fee, you can hire a facilitator or attorney to do this for you.
After you submit your application and it is accepted, you will need to return to INM for fingerprinting. They will notify you via email when you need to do this (or your facilitatory/attorney will let you know). After they take your fingerprints and all fees are paid, you wait for your card. This wait can be anywhere between a week (rare) to six or more months. It’s Mexico, patience is required. INM (or your facilitator or attorney) will notify you when your card can be picked up. You cannot leave Mexico while you wait for your residency card without specific written permission.
Leaving Mexico During Visa Processing
While it’s best if you plan to not have to leave Mexico while you wait for your residence card, sometimes things happen and it cannot be avoided. For this, there is what’s known as the “travel letter.” This is a form letter that you get from Mexican immigration that gives you permission to leave while your visa is processing. It is a one-time-only letter good for one exit and entry only and you can be out of the country for no longer than 60 days.
To get this letter, you must go to INM at least five working days prior to the date you need to travel with a completed application and proof of travel (e.g., plane ticket). There is a fee of $437 pesos (as of 2020) for this. You will be able to pick-up your letter in five days. You present this letter at the INM window at the airport (instead of your residency card because you don’t have one yet) when you go to get your travel FMM. If traveling by land, you would need to find the INM office at the border and get a travel FMM from them.
As you can see, obtaining legal residency in Mexico is possible and not that difficult compared to some other countries. There is certainly no reason you can’t live your dream of living in this warm and welcoming country.