Complete Guide on How to Get a Mexico Resident Visa

Last Updated: April 13, 2022 by
Categories: Visas, Living in Mexico, Immigration, Expats

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 fabulous 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.

Mexico Tourist Visits

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 under certain conditions and cost $638 pesos (around $32 as of January 2022). For stays of seven days or less, the FMM is free.

You need a passport or passport card to obtain an FMM. When you travel to Mexico by air, the price of the FMM is included in your airfare. When traveling to Mexico by land, you need to stop at the border and get one.

Stays Longer than 180 Days

The question many people have is what do you do if you want to stay longer than 180 days or live in Mexico full- or part-time? For that, Mexico has residency visas. Compared to many other countries, Mexico makes it easy to stay longer than 180 days.

In the past it was 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 and making it more difficult if not impossible to do.

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.

Mexico Resident 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. See your local consulate's website for the specific amounts required. For your initial resident visa, the process must be started at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico (except in special circumstances).

Find the Mexico resident visa application form here. For a complete list of the required documents needed for your initial application, visit the website of the consulate you will be using.

You'll want to visit the website of the consulate you'll be using to see how they do the resident visa process. Some (very few) take walk-ins, some require an appointment to be made by phone, some require you to make your appointment via email or 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 (the stamp in your passport), you must finish the process inside of Mexico. Your visa is good for 180 days and will have an expiration date on it. It is good for one entry into Mexico. You need to enter Mexico before it expires to finalize your residency.

When you come into Mexico, you will fill out an FMM as you usually would do when visiting, but you will mark the purpose of your trip as "other." You can use the address of where you will be staying, be it a hotel, Airbnb, or other accommodations. Hand your completed FMM and your passport opened to the page your visa is on to the immigration agent. He or she will stamp it, thus canceling it and mark it "canje" ("exchange") and give you 30 days, written at the bottom of the form.

After entering Mexico as above, you now have 30 days to get to your local immigration office (INM, Instituto Nacional de Migración) to start the finalization process. In Mexico, there are facilitators and attorneys that can do this finalization for you for a fee, or you can do it yourself with patience and a little Spanish. If you are planning on doing the finalization yourself, without the assistance of a facilitator or attorney, you will need to visit your local INM to see if you need to make an appointment with them or if they take walk-ins. As of Spring, 2022, there is no longer an ability to make appointments online.

How to Get a Resident Visa

  1. Go to the Website of the Mexican Consulate where you'll be applying for a visa (in the U.S. or Canada):
    1. Find the list of documents needed for your application;
    2. Find out the process for applying (online or in-person appointment);
    3. Schedule an appointment for each person applying.
  2. Using the documents list from (1a) above, fill out the Mexico Resident Visa Application.
  3. Get your residency visa from the consulate.
  4. Enter Mexico within six months of receiving your visa.
  5. Go to your local INM office to see if you need to make an appointment or if they take walk-ins.
  6. Start the finalization process within 30 days of your arrival in Mexico.

Factors in Determining Which Visa to Get

Financial Requirements

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.

Bringing Foreign-Plated Vehicles to Mexico

Temporary Residency allows you to bring your foreign-plated vehicle with you to Mexico. You can get what's called a Temporary Vehicle Importation 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 (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 required, 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 required.

If you do bring your foreign-plated vehicle to Mexico, you must have Mexican liability insurance, at a minimum.

Employment

Consider too, 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. However, if you are earning money from a Mexican source, you will need permission.

A permanent resident, however, does not need permission to work. Permanent residents only need to notify the tax authority (SAT) that they are working so that they can pay income tax.

Temporary Residency

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 must either leave the country or switch to permanent residency.

The minimum financial requirements for a temporary residency visa are either an income of 300 times the Mexican minimum wage (as of 2022, $172.87 pesos per day) for the previous six months, or, if using savings/investments, it's 5,000 times the Mexican minimum wage in your bank accounts for the previous 12 months. This means if you are using income, you need to show proof of earning an income of at least $51,861 pesos per month for the previous six months. For savings/investments, you must have had a balance in your account of at least $864,350 pesos for the previous 12 months. You can 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

Mexican permanent residency is just that, permanent. There is no need to renew it. Permanent residency has higher financial requirements than temporary residency. Many consulates will not give out permanent residency visas, except for people who have pension income. Don't 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 is required).

The minimum financial requirements for a permanent residency visa are either an income of 500 times the Mexican minimum wage (as of 2022, $172.87 pesos per day) for the previous six months, or, if using savings/investments, 20,000 times the Mexican minimum wage for the previous 12 months. This means that if you are using income, you must have proof of earning an income of $86,435 pesos per month for the previous six months. For savings/investments, you must be able to show a balance of $3,457,400 pesos in your account for the previous 12 months. You can 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 their area.

Finalizing Your Residency

Once you are approved by the consulate and have your visa in your passport, you have six months to enter Mexico to finish getting your residency. After entering Mexico, you have 30 days to get to Mexican immigration (INM) to begin finalizing your residency. You must use the INM office closest to where you will be living. Note that finalizing your residency can take a week or two, 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 (temporary residency) or RESIDENTE PERMANENTE (permanent residency), whichever applies, across the top in big block letters. Use whatever address you will be staying at. Mark the purpose of your trip as "other." 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 ("exchange") box. You will turn in this FMM with your initial application to finalize your residency with INM.

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). INM is no longer making appointments online, so you will need to go by their office to see if you need to make an appointment or if they are taking walk-ins. The INM office should also be able to provide you with a list of what documents you need to finalize your residency. Alternatively, for a 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 and a photograph. 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, get your photo and all fees are paid, you get your card. Cards are now available either the same day, or in a week or two, depending upon which office you're using. INM (or your facilitator or attorney) will notify you when your card can be picked up if you did not get it same day. 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 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 $484 pesos (as of 2022). You will be able to pick-up your letter in five days. 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.

Conclusion

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 have your dream of living in this warm and welcoming country!