Mexico Visa & Residency
Summary: If you plan to move to Mexico, you'll need to understand the process involved and the order in which requirements need to satisfied. Here is an excellent primer on what you'll need to do regardless of the amount of time you plan to spend in Mexico.
The basics of residency in Mexico are for the most part simple, but you must follow the rules closely. The process does involve to-do items both before departure and after arrival. Failure to follow these steps could result in denial of entry, fines, or loss of legal status in Mexico.
You can enter Mexico as a tourist for up to 180 days. This is fantastic news for those that want to live in Mexico for a large portion of the year in order to explore the country, lap up some of the Mexican beach lifestyle, or ditch the worst part of winter. After that time period expires, however, you will need to leave Mexico, at least for a time.
Expats on the Expat Exchange Mexico forum have noted that there are definitely signs that Mexican authorities are aware that this policy is frequently abused, and there are indications that they are now more vigilant and are making greater efforts to enforce the true spirit of the law than in the past.
If you wish to obtain residency in Mexico, a Multiple Immigration Form (Forma Migratoria Múltiple or FMM) is required prior to entering Mexico. You will also need to make an appointment with a Mexican consulate prior to leaving, which is when you will receive specific details about the FMM as they relate to your specific situation.
This is the process in short:
- Apply online, in Spanish, via the nearest consulate's website. Receive a date and time for your appointment via e-mail. At your appointment, assuming everything goes smoothly, you will receive a temporary visa, valid for 180 days, which will enable you to enter Mexico legally.
- Enter Mexico and receive a temporary visa.
- Report to a Mexican immigration office within 30 days and obtain your official residency card.
Visit the Mexican National Institute of Migration's (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM) website or Embassy of Mexico in Washington, D.C. for more information, including their section on visas for Mexico.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you make an appointment with the Mexican Consulate that has jurisdiction for your place of residence.
Initially, you will need to decide whether to pursue Temporary or Permanent residence in Mexico. There are pros and cons to each option.
Temporary Residence (Residente Temporal)
Expats must show a monthly income of at least $1,620 in order to obtain temporary residence in Mexico. For a couple, the amount is between $500-$550 more ($2,120-$2,170 total). Alternatively, you can show savings between $32,500-$38,000. (These are the latest figures posted on Expat Exchange by applicants - check with the consulate you apply at to ensure you have up to date information, as this can change without notice. Our research often shows significant variation based upon the consulate.)
Additionally, one of the most important differences between temporary and permanent residency involves transportation. Temporary residency, which is renewed after one year, allows you to purchase vehicles and have them registered in Mexico, temporarily drive your current (non-Mexican registered) vehicle. One of the "Cons" for temporary residency is that you'll need to ask for permission from local officials before accepting a job. Temporary residency can be renewed for up to 4 years, and after the first year you may be able to choose the number of years you would like to renew. However, as noted above, after 4 years you must either obtain permanent residency or leave the country.
Permanent Residence (Residente Permanante)
There are also specific financial requirements to obtain permanent residency in Mexico. You must show $108,000-$150,000 dollars of savings or a monthly income of $3,500-$3,800. (Again, check with the consulate near you for up-to-date information.)
Once you secure permanent residency in Mexico, you do not need to renew it again, and you'll then have other legal privileges that those with temporary residence do not. Other than being able to vote, you'll have all other rights held by Mexican citizens. One drawback is that now you cannot any longer operate a vehicle that is registered in another country... it must be registered in Mexico.
Additionally, here are some thoughts from Expat Exchange members on our Mexico Forum.
In a thread entitled Residency, an expat in Mexico advised:
"It depends on the consulate that you apply at. I met the financial conditions for permanent but the Seattle consulate would not give it to me. They said they weren't certain I'd stay in Mexico permanently, and they didn't "like" to give out permanent status to people who didn't stay permanently, so they were giving me a temporary residency.
After 4 years I got permanent, but I had to renew my temporary after the first year (getting a 3 year temporary) and then convert to permanent after the 4th year. Extra hassle, extra fees.Definitely it's worth trying for permanent immediately if you qualify for it financially.
Another Expat in the same thread added:
"This seems to be a common misconception, You can get permanent residency immediatly if you meet the income or asset requirements. The major difference is that the temp people can drive a car from outside of MX. I think after 4 years the car has to taken out of [Mexico]."
About the Author
Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.
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