A Guide To Mexican Visas For Self-Employed Expats

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Not only will you now get notified of every informative-yet-witty article we publish, but you’ll also get to see the listings of all the sub-groups we run. These groups are the perfect place to research future moves, contact expats who are already overseas and ask all the questions you have. The members of these groups have probably already solved the problems bothering you and can help you navigate the strange maze of paperwork and bureaucracy.One such question has prompted us to dig a little deeper into a request for advice posted in one of the Mexico forums.

The question reads:

“Just curious about what it is like to apply for a temporary or permanent visa if I'm self-employed and don't make a regular monthly income. I know that in the process you need to show a certain minimum amount per month but that's not how I earn. Any advice welcomed – thanks!"

Visas are always a thorny issue, with one bit of paper having the power to enable or curtail the boldest of expat dreams. We’ll do our best to offer useful advice in response to the above question.

Mexico is attracting more and more migrants, many of whom are looking to bring their business nous to the country’s booming economy. As the world’s 15th largest economy with impressive growth in the service sector and sweeping modernisation programmes, there has never been a better time to move to Mexico.

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Mexico’s visa rules are complicated, mostly because there are different rules for different nationalities, meaning there is no ‘one size fits all answer’ to the question above. However, the same answers do typically apply to US, UK and EU citizens, with a few differing details.

There are numerous articles online directing expats to investigate visas known as FM2 and FM3, which used to apply to permanent and temporary residents respectively. These visas have now been retired, yet the majority of the advice out there still references them, so take care when doing your online research. Instead, expats need to look for FMM, Visa de Residente Temporal and Visa de Residente Permanente.

Forma Migatoria Multiple (FMM) is the border-hopping permit. Issued on arrival to citizens of certain countries, including the US, UK and EU countries, it gives holders permission to stay for 180 days. US citizens staying close to the border can get the FMM for free. However, those travelling further into Mexico or who are citizens from other nations will need to pay USD$24.

If you are arriving by air, the FMM is good for a solid 180 stay but will be invalidated on leaving Mexico, meaning you will need to complete a new FMM application. US citizens arriving by land who stay in the border regions can come and go for 180 days on the FMM.

Although it is now easy to apply for the visa online, the biggest upset with the new visa rules is that the FMM does not allow visitors to seek work.

Expats studying in Mexico may be permitted to take on paid work, but only if permission is requested with the original visa application. This may be rejected as the student visa stipulates that applicants must have the means to pay fees and support themselves.

The Visa de Residente Temporal is one option that may allow you to set up your own business. This temporary visa grants holders permission to stay in Mexico for between six months and four years. The visa itself lasts for a maximum of one year, but can be renewed annually up to three times.

Temporal visas let expats come and go as often as they like, but only permit them to take part in specific activities, with separate classes for lucrative and non-lucrative. The visa allows holders to work or start a business and register for tax purposes.

A big hiccup with the temporary visa is the requirement to have funds to support yourself, equalling a monthly income of around USD$1500. Alternatively, you can show a holding of liquid assets that average USD$95,374. Either way, this financial commitment may be a stumbling block for many expats.

Anyone who builds a successful business may not be keen on walking away from it after their temporal visa expires for the fourth and final time. Luckily, these four years will qualify you for a Visa de Residente Permanente.

You don’t need to hold temporal status to apply for this visa. The permanente is exactly that, a visa that allows holders the right to stay long term, with the same rights to work, study and reside as a Mexican citizen. However, there is one catch; the permanente visa will be withdrawn if a holder spends more than 18 months out of Mexico in any five-year period.

For tax reasons, it may be best to incorporate your company, which is still possible as a sole owner.

For businesses with under MXN$2,000,000 a year, the Regimen de Incorporacion Fiscal scheme grants a 10-year tax break. This would mean you pay no tax for the first two years and see only incremental increases after that. Businesses on this scheme are required to self-report income only every two months, as opposed to accountant-led reporting every month, offering considerable savings. Businesses currently under this scheme include hair salons, bars, shops and property rental.

The World Bank lists Mexico as the 49th easiest country to do business with around the globe, a ranking that is consistently improving over time. Although starting an incorporated business in Mexico is not overly simply, it is not intentionally difficult either.

The original question is an interesting one because it falls through the cracks of official Mexican policy. The options only go some way to answering the original question, but it is good to know what options are on the table. Frustratingly, the Mexican system as it stands is not overly freelancer-friendly, preferring expats to have a named employer who guarantees their minimum income. However, while there is no ‘official’ scheme for flexible freelancing or stress-free self-employment, there are ways to make the system work for you.

Have you worked in Mexico? Share your experiences in the comments below, or answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!


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