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Mexico - Visas

The immigration policies and procedures in Mexico are handled by the Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM), which falls under the jurisdiction of the Mexican Interior Ministry (Secretaria de Gobernacion). The bureaucratic red tape is one of the most challenging aspects of moving to Mexico. It is important for all visitors to obtain the right kind of visa or entry permit before planning a trip to this country.

Over the last two years the immigration laws in Mexico have changed a lot. The authorities have now started issuing different types of visas. The former FM2 (permanent residency) and FM3 (temporary residency) have been replaced by Forma Migatoria Multiple (FMM). Based on the purpose and the duration of one’s visit, an individual may need to apply for a Tourist Visa (valid for a period of 180 days), a Temporary Resident Visa (valid for a period of 4 years) or a Permanent Resident Visa. As the policies have changed, the criteria to obtain visas have also become more stringent.

Visitors from certain countries do not require a visa in order to enter Mexico. However, in such instances they can only stay on for a short period of time, which is generally mentioned at the immigration checkpoint. A detailed list of countries whose citizens do not require a tourist visa for short-term stay in Mexico, can be found here.

The immigration form (FMM) is handed out to visitors at the port of entry. On arrival, the form and passport need to be handed over to the officer for inspection and stamping. The form has two parts; the inspecting officer keeps one part and the second part needs to be presented to the immigration department upon departure. There is a fee for the FMM. For visitors who enter the country by air the price of the FMM is generally included with the airline ticket. Tourists who cannot produce the proper FMM documentation at the point of departure may be asked to pay a fine.

American tourists who enter Mexico by car through a border point require neither a visa nor an FMM if they are staying within the border zone (an area that is around 20Km to 30Km from the border) for 72 hours or less. US citizens who travel beyond the border zone must fill the FMM form like all the others visitors.

An FMM Form is available at all Mexican consulates, Mexican border crossing points, and Mexican tourist offices. All visitors are advised to contact their closest Mexican embassy way before the travel date. The requirements, time frame and cost for processing a visa application may vary from one country to another.

Tourist Visa

This type of visa is most suitable for those who plan to stay in Mexico for no more than 6 months. While visitors on a tourist visa can own shares in Mexican businesses, they are not allowed to seek any kind of employment.

Fewer documents are required to apply for a tourist visa. In most cases, people just submit their passports, additional identification proof, residency proof, and financial statements (to show that they can support their stay in the country).

Temporary Residency Visa (Residente Temporal)

The temporary residency visa is perfect for expats who plan to live in the country for no more than 4 years as non-immigrant temporary residents. This visa gives them the right to work in Mexico. They can also leave and enter the country multiple times. Expats may either apply for a working visa or a student visa for short-term residence.

Any expat on the temporary residency visa can apply for a permanent visa after having lived in the country for four years. Most applicants successfully obtain the permanent visa.

People should obtain the temporary residence visa in their home country before travelling to Mexico. The documents generally required for this visa include the passport, proof of residence, and an employment certificate (constancia de empleador) or university admission details.

Permanent Residency Visa

This type of visa is ideal for expats who plan to live in Mexico for a long period of time. Visitors on this visa can seek employment or run a business. They may also exit and re-enter the country multiple times.

The criteria to qualify for any type of Visa for Mexico generally include:

• Having family connections
• Seeking retirement status
• Ensuring that adequate funds are available at all times
• Completing four years as a temporary resident or two years if legally married to a Mexican
• Meeting the minimum score of the Point System

An applicant doesn’t have to meet all the above mentioned criteria. Even fulfilling just a few requirements can help them qualify for a permanent residency visa.

Many of the bureaucratic policies and procedures are still being altered and it could therefore take around three to four months for an expat to complete all the paperwork. It is therefore best to seek professional advice for obtaining residency in Mexico.

For more information on visas for expats, get in touch with:

The Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM)
Av Homero 1832, Col. Los Morales Polanco,
Del. Miguel Hidalgo, 11510 Mexico City
Tel: + 52 55 5387 2400

Expats living in Mexico do not have the same rights that the citizens do. For starters, they need to have a permit to enter the country, stay on, and even leave. There are different types of visas and entry permits issued by Mexican Immigration Authorities, known as the Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM). Visitors can be classified into two categories: Non-Immigrants and Immigrants. After living in the country for a certain period of time, immigrants can apply for citizenship on certain grounds.


Mexico recognizes two types of non-immigrant visitors. These include tourists and temporary residents.

An individual who enters the country as a tourist or on a business visa can stay on for up to 180 days but can neither take up a job nor seek admission in a Mexican educational institute. Obtaining this kind of visa is relatively easy and the only documents that are asked for include:

• A valid passport
• Identification proof
• Residency proof
• Financial statements

Those who wish to stay in the country for a longer period of time have to apply for the Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM). This is applicable to temporary residents too.

A temporary resident can stay on in Mexico for up to four years. Expats on this visa can study or work in the country. However, they are given non-immigrant status. This means that they cannot directly apply for citizenship. Moreover, their temporary residency is tied to a local job and they will need to leave after a period of four years (extendable by six months) unless they change their status. In addition to their temporary residency, expats need to have a work permit. These permits are generally granted to skilled professionals who have skills that are rarely found in Mexico.

All foreigners must apply for the non-immigrant visas in their home country, before they travel to Mexico. The procedure for a temporary residence visa is:

• Visit the immigration department and seek information about the paperwork as well as the procedure
• Fill in the online application form
• Take a print of the initial payment page (Pago De Derechos)
• Pay the fee at the bank at least three days before going to the immigration office
• Go to the immigration office and submit the payment proof along with the required paperwork

Once an application has been submitted, it takes at least three to four months to get a response. All applicants are given a reference number and they can track the progress of their application through the website. After the visa has been “approved” the applicant will be given a date and time to visit the immigration office, where photographs and fingerprints will be taken. The visa is then sent to the applicant by courier within three days.

After staying in the country for a few years a non-immigrant can apply for immigrant status, based on the following grounds:

• Family connections
• Retirement
• Steady job/business/income
• Completion of four years as a temporary resident (or two years if married to a Mexican legally)

Those who meet certain criteria and can provide the required documents are generally granted a permanent residency within a period of four to six months.

A permanent resident of Mexico is regarded as an immigrant, not a citizen. He or she can stay on for a much longer period of time and has the right to work, study, open up a business, retire, invest, and so on. This option is ideal for those who are seeking Mexican citizenship in the long run.

The immigrant status application procedure can be quite complicated, and therefore it is best to consult a professional. Expats are asked to submit different types of documents based on the reason they are applying for immigrant status.

Applicants applying for residency are not required to be physically present as long as they have the required documents. Moreover, there are no medical exams to be given. However, it is preferable to make the application in person, even when accompanied by an attorney.

Expats with temporary or permanent residency can exit and enter the country multiple times. They are granted a residence card (CURP), which acts as proof of immigration status. This card also serves as ID proof throughout Mexico. However, the tax authorities and many commercial bodies require a foreigner’s passport for identification purposes.

The Mexican authorities conduct regular checks and audits at offices and factories to make sure that all foreign workers in their country have the relevant paperwork. Anyone found working without the required permits is fined heavily and may also be deported immediately.

Since the Mexican immigration laws are still undergoing changes, it could take a minimum of three to four months to obtain the required permits.

There are no laws which state that people of a particular nationality need to register with their embassies or any other similar bodies. However, all expats who travel to Mexico on a work permit must register with the INM within 30 days of arrival. This also applies to the applicant's dependants (spouse and children), who will get a dependant visa. Children on a dependant visa can get admission in schools or colleges but are not allowed to seek employment.

Below are the contact details of various foreign consulates located in Mexico City.

• United States Embassy: +52 (0) 55 5080 2000
• Canadian Embassy: +52 (0) 55 5724 7900
• British Embassy: +52 (0) 55 5242 8500
• South African Embassy: +52 (0) 55 1100 4970
• Australian Embassy: +52 (0) 55 1101 2200

According to Article 30 of the Constitution of Mexico, there are 2 ways in which an individual can become a citizen of the country. The first is by birth, where one of the parents is Mexican or the person is born in Mexico. The second way of gaining citizenship legally is through naturalization, where an application needs to be made and several criteria need to be fulfilled. Only those foreigners who have lived in the country for more than five years on a Permanent Residency Visa can apply for citizenship. Alternately, a foreigner can also get citizenship by getting married to a Mexican.

Applications for citizenship must be made to the Secreteria De Relaciones Exteriores (SRE), not the Institute of Immigration (Instituto Nacional de Migracion or INM). Since the entire procedure is a little complicated, it is best to hire an attorney or a professional immigration consultant to prepare the paperwork.

According to the Nationality Law, expats need to fill out an application form and submit it to the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs. Other documents that need to be presented along with the application form include:

• The original passport (valid for at least another six months) along with two copies
• The Permanent Residency card
• The original birth certificate (apostille/certified by the consulate) along with a translated copy (Spanish)
• Photographs
• A police record of behavior

While submitting the application an initial fee is to be paid. After around a year or so, the applicants are called to fill in a few additional forms, take an exam, and pay a second fee. It could take another 6 to 12 months before applicants receive a call to pick up their Certificate of Naturalization. This is when the PR Visa has to be surrendered. On receipt of this certificate an expat can apply for and receive a Mexican passport.

The authorities believe that all citizens should be able to speak Spanish and must have basic knowledge about their country’s history. All applicants are therefore required to take an exam (consisting of around 15 multiple choice questions) and go through an interview. Only those who clear both will be granted citizenship. Usually comprehensive lists of questions that may be asked in the exam are posted on the government’s website. An additional list is added to that every six months. Applicants should go through the questions carefully while preparing for the exam. Those above the age of 60 are exempt from the written test but still have to sit through an interview, during which their ability to comprehend and speak basic Spanish will be gauged.

Gaining citizenship to any nation takes at least a couple of years and this applies to Mexico too. After a foreigner has completed five years in the country on a Permanent Residency the application procedure starts. It could take anywhere between one and five years after that for the citizenship paperwork to come through. While most people receive their citizenship in two years or less, some have been known to wait five years. In the meantime, applicants can continue to live in Mexico as long as their Permanent Residency is valid. During the five year period of staying in the country on a PR, an expat can exit Mexico for no more than a total of eighteen months (distributed in any way). If an applicant spends more than two years out of the country, the PR is cancelled and new residency papers need to be filed.

Like most other South and Central American nations, the law in Mexico differentiates between citizenship and nationality. Citizens enjoy certain rights and benefits, some of which include:

• Voting in all elections
• Being able to change addresses or jobs without having to inform the National Institute of Migration
• Investing in property without a bank trust

There are certain career opportunities that are only open to Mexican Nationals, not Naturalized Citizens. Even after receiving citizenship, expats cannot occupy positions in the:

• Mexican military during peace
• Police force
• Congress
• Supreme court
• Government
• Legislature

Naturalized citizens are not entitled to become President of Mexico either.

While the Mexican Government recognizes dual citizenship, expats may or may not be required to surrender their original passport, depending upon the policies in their home countries. Most American, Canadian, and British Nationals retain their original citizenships and passports even after becoming citizens of Mexico.

Read more about this country

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