Obtaining your Mexican Resident Visa is not as easy as some think. We know how hard it can be to navigate Mexican bureaucracy. And if you don’t understand perfect Spanish, the second part of your residency process in Mexico can be a nightmare.
We hear stories about people overstaying their visas or leaving the country every six months to avoid getting a Mexican Resident Visa.
Then they are surprised when they get caught, fined, or turned away at the border. And the Mexican National Immigration Institute (aka INM) is starting to crack down on perpetual tourists.
If you are considering moving to Mexico, you should understand how to legally get a Mexican Resident Visa. And if you’re coming in as a tourist to check it out before moving here, you should also know how long you can stay.
Either way, the following information should help you decide what to do to be in Mexico legally.
That’s why I created this COMPLETE Guide to Mexican Resident Visas
But first, let me explain some of the terminologies for tourists vs. residents because it matters in your understanding of the process.
Learn how to get your Mexican Resident Visa the right way. We cover the process for Temporary and Permanent Residency. And get access to our directory of Immigration facilitators across Mexico in ourCOMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide.
Tourist Visa or FMM
You might be coming to Mexico to check it before making big decisions. That’s a great idea! I suggest exploring this beautiful and large country before getting a Mexican resident visa.
And why not? You can stay in the country for up to 180 days as a tourist if your passport is from one of the “no visa required” countries.
But remember that even though you can be given up to 180 days, there is no guarantee you will get the full 180 days. There have been many cases where tourists have come to Mexico and were given 30, 20, or even 15 days on their tourist visas.
And many people are surprised when they come to Mexico with plans of being here for more than a few weeks or months and are given only days on their tourist FMM.
Some people may have brought their pets, household goods, or something else they assumed could stay longer. Or maybe you’ve made reservations at an Airbnb for five months and may lose out on some of that expense.
So if you plan to be in Mexico for more than 180 days and can’t risk getting less than 180 days’ permission to stay in the country, you should consider a residency visa.
Flying Into Mexico
Some of you will be flying into Mexico to finish your residency visa process.
The fee of an FMM is usually included in your ticket. Most likely, an agent will give you this form to fill out before entering Mexico. You’ll need to fill out a declaration form before arriving in Mexico, and you only need to fill one out per family.
If you’re coming in to finish your residency visa in Mexico, you’ll need to let an agent know they must mark you as “canje.” It’s super important, and I cover that in detail further down.
If you’re coming in as a tourist, an immigration officer will stamp your passport and issue you a slip with the time or days you are allowed to stay in Mexico.
Remember that you are not entitled to or automatically guaranteed 180 days as a tourist.
This is up to the immigration agent to process your FMM upon arrival. You must check the time they write into your FMM when you arrive in Mexico so that you don’t accidentally overstay your visa permit.
In some airports, you will be given a paper FMM. In some other airports, you will only get a stamp on your passport. Changes are happening daily- for more info, go to this post about Digital FMMs in Mexico.
Driving Into Mexico
A lot of people moving to Mexico decide to drive across the border. Makes sense to me. You might have pets. You might have household goods. Or, this vehicle may be your transportation in Mexico. And if you decide to get your residency in Mexico, you might need a car.
If you decide to drive to Mexico, you’ll still need to get an FMM. An FMM costs $687 MXN as of January 1st, 2023
If you’re coming in as a tourist, you might read online that no one checks this while driving in Mexico. And while it may be the case most of the time, it is required by law for you to get one upon arrival. Getting caught without one could cause trouble for you while you’re in the process of getting your residency visa in Mexico in the future. And no one at the border in Mexico forces you to get an FMM.
So it’s your responsibility to either buy one online ahead of time or get it at the border when you cross.
If you’re coming in for canje, you must get an FMM at the border crossing you drive on. Make sure they mark you as Canje and not as a tourist on your Mexican Resident Visa stamp.
Where to Get An FMM On The Land Border?
When you drive across the border, an INM office is usually for you to get your FMM. Usually, an immigration officer will give you an FMM for up to 180 days if you are from one of the “no visa required countries” and coming in as a tourist.
But suppose you’re coming in as a resident.
In that case, it’s extremely important to let an agent know you are coming in as a resident and not a tourist if you are in the process of residency in Mexico (also known as “canje”).
If they mark your FMM as a tourist, your Mexican Resident Visa will no longer be valid, and you will have to start again. So don’t let an INM agent brush you off.
Getting a TIP permit for your car
You must also apply for a TIP if you drive your car across the border. (Temporary Vehicle Permit) A TIP allows your foreign-plated vehicle to be driven while you are in Mexico.
The cost of a TIP is MXN 1,044.52, or roughly USD 52.
You can ONLY apply through Banjercito, but I found the process on their website to be very easy!
And if you like to plan, you’ll be pleased to know that you can get your TIP permit from 7 to 60 days before travel. Usually, a TIP is good for up to 180 days. However, we do not recommend getting it weeks in advance because you never know if you will use that same car.
Stays Longer Than 180 Days
If you plan to stay in Mexico for more than 180 days, you must apply for a temporary or permanent residence visa. And yes, you can get deported if you’re caught overstaying your visa. If you only want to be in Mexico temporarily, you must leave by the 6-month mark and surrender your FMM.
The most popular visas for ex-pats are either the temporary resident visa (residente temporal) or the permanent resident visa (residente permanente).
Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for one or both. I’ll explain how to determine the right one for you and how to apply.
Temporary Resident (Residente Temporal)
The most common Mexican Resident Visa is a temporary residency.
To qualify for a temporary residency visa, you need to:
- Demonstrate monthly income starting at USD 2,700 and up to USD 3,300 monthly for the past 6 months. You must provide at least the last 6 months of bank statements.
- Demonstrate a minimum balance in investments or savings of approx USD 52,000 for the last 12 months. You must provide at least the last 12 months’ bank statements.
- The income requirements vary by consulate.
Permanent Resident (Residente Permanente)
A permanent resident visa is less common because you must prove more savings or income to qualify. *In some cases, you also have to be of retirement age. I’ll go over that further down.
To qualify for a permanent residency visa, you must:
- Demonstrate a minimum monthly income starting at USD 4200 and up to USD 5,400 for the last 6 months
- Demonstrate a minimum balance in investments or savings starting at $180,000 and up to $208,000 for the last 12 months, with bank statements showing this minimum balance each month.
- The income requirements vary by consulate.
*It is worth mentioning that some consulates require you to have a pension/social security benefits or be of retirement age (over 60) to qualify for a Permanent Resident VISA without having the Temporary Resident VISA first. However, different consulates in the USA have different rules.
Most consulates expect only the main applicant to qualify with the income requirements I have shared above.
- But if you are applying as a married couple, an additional $1,060 per dependent needs to be demonstrated in monthly income.
Of course, this also varied by consulate. Some consulates require each applicant to qualify individually. You must verify the requirements with the Mexican consulate you intend to apply to.
Many people don’t know this, but every consulate has its income requirements for residency in Mexico. Some are higher than others. While some only issue temporary residencies in Mexico. And some only allow you to apply if you live in the local area
Temporary Residents (Canje)
The first part of your residency process will almost always start in your home country. You have to secure a Mexican consulate appointment- where they will check to see if you qualify for residency in Mexico. The cost of this consular appointment is always USD 51 or the equivalent based on your home country’s currency. It is non-refundable regardless of whether you are approved or not.
The second part of the process takes place in Mexico and is known as CANJE.
Because most Temporary Residents are initially given their residency card for one year, you can expect this to cost $5,108 MXN.
You can renew your residency card UP TO 30 days before it expires. Remember that dates in Mexico are formatted DD/MM/YYY. For example, the card below expires on August 9th, 2023.
If you are outside of Mexico and your temporary residency expires, you have up to 55 days to renew it after its expiration. Once you enter Mexico, you have up to 5 days to start the process at the INM office where you did your canje
After the first year, you must renew your residency visa and can only do so for up to 4 years. You must renew within Mexico, and you can start the renewal process up to 30 days before it expires.
These are the costs for renewal
- 1 Year $5,108 MXN
- 2 Years $7,654 MXN
- 3 Years $9,693 MXN
- 4 Years $11,488 MXN (only optional when someone meets the requirements for a 4 year residency visa upfront)
After 4 years, you can apply to make a switch from temporary to permanent residency. This also has to be done within Mexico.
Work Permit for Temporary Residents
If you wish to work in Mexico as a temporary resident, you must obtain permission to work from INM. Even if you rent an Airbnb in Mexico as a temporary resident, you have to ask INM for permission to work- because you are generating an income.
The cost of this work permit is $3835 MXN.
Permanent Residents are given permission to work without having to process any additional permits., Although you are supposed to notify INM of your intent to work and what you plan to do for work.
If you are given a permanent residency at the Mexican Consulate that approved your residency, your visa is indefinite and does not need to be renewed. You only pay $6,226 MXN once (about $311 USD).
When you come to Mexico, you pay this amount to finish your process at the INM offices.
For most expats, you’ll have to start the process for a permanent visa in your country. Once granted a permanent resident visa, you must go to Mexico to finalize the process.
Same as the temporary visa, it is valid for up to 180 days, and once you arrive in Mexico, you have up to 30 DAYS to exchange it for a permanent resident card. This is known as CANJE.
Your permanent visa is valid indefinitely. You don’t have to renew it as you do with a temporary visa. You’re also allowed to work without applying for a work permit. However, you must tell INM if you have a job offer in Mexico.
Fill out the application in English with this application form below
Residency Through Family Unification/Unity
You may qualify to apply for residency without having to leave Mexico.
You qualify if you are the:
- Parent of a Mexican citizen/permanent resident
- Child of a Mexican citizen/permanent resident
- Sibling of a Mexican citizen/permanent resident
- Child of the spouse/common-law partner of a Mexican citizen/permanent resident
Instead of starting the process in a Mexican consulate/embassy near you, you would start the process at one of the immigration offices in Mexico.
Having A Mexican Resident Visa Has Benefits!
But what if you’re unsure if you plan to live in Mexico full-time? That’s ok! You don’t have to live in Mexico full-time to remain a resident of Mexico. The only caveat is that if you become a temporary resident, you must come back in person to renew it. So, if you think retirement or living in Mexico might be in your future, I encourage you to look into residency sooner rather than later.
There are some additional perks of being a resident in Mexico, such as:
- You can come in and out of Mexico as you’d like
- The ability to open bank accounts
- You can bring your foreign-plated car free of import taxes (Temporary only)
- You can bring your household goods to Mexico free of import taxes
- You have access to Mexico’s low-cost healthcare through IMSS
- Many private healthcare insurance companies require you to be a resident
- You can apply for a Mexican driver’s license
- You can work in Mexico or run a business in Mexico
- You can register/nationalize a vehicle in Mexico
- Retiree discounts available through INAPAM
- No capital gains are paid when you sell a property in Mexico
- Discounts for locals only
- The cost of getting a residency is very affordable compared to other countries.
- You can bring pets with you long-term
- You can invest in Mexico’s CDs which have a ROI
- And so many more!
Should You Hire An Immigration Expert?
Getting an appointment at the Mexican Consulate in your country of origin might be impossible these days. Appointments are scarce, and you might have to dedicate a few days to calling and checking online every few minutes to see if you can get one.
You also might not feel comfortable visiting an immigration office in Mexico, especially if your Spanish isn’t strong. Or you might not know if you are filling out the paperwork correctly. And trust me, you want to fill it out right first. It’ll save you multiple trips back and forth.
So hiring an immigration attorney or facilitator might be a good idea. We have a list of vetted and very affordable immigration facilitators nationwide.
All of them speak Spanish and English.
And some of them have dedicated staff to make appointments at Mexican Consulates for your initial interview. They’ll prepare you with the right kind of paperwork. And most importantly, they’ll know the best immigration offices in Mexico where you can do your residency exchange in a day or so.
It’s worth every dime.
How To Decide Which Immigration Attorney Is Right?
Not all immigration facilitators are the same. They vary a lot in costs and services provided. And in some cases, they’ll never deliver what they promised to do. Leaving you unsatisfied and having to hire a different person.
When you hire an immigration facilitator, it’s a good idea to interview them to know what’s included. You should ask questions like:
- Will you translate the documents for me?
- Are government fees included in your price?
- Will you provide an official translator? (perito traductor)
- How long can I expect the process to take?
- Will you schedule my Mexican Consulate appointment for me?
- If I process two resident permits, are your fees the same per person?
You can expect reputable and efficient immigration facilitator’s fees to be around $4,000-10,000 Pesos per person. However, your final cost may depend on your specific situation and the paperwork they may need to arrange for you. But I’ve heard stories of expats being taken advantage of and paying thousands of dollars to scammer immigration lawyers who didn’t deliver. All because they didn’t do their research.
We only work with the best and most reputable immigration contacts around Mexico. And we only work with immigration lawyers whose fees are reasonable.
And we DON’T GET ANY KICKBACKS– so you can rest assured that I am not recommending anyone only because I get paid to do so. I earn our income when you buy the relocation guide.
Want to learn more about working with our recommended immigration facilitators? Get More Info On Which Ones We Recommend and the questions we recommend asking them in our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide
Common Mistakes or Misconceptions
Here are some of the most common mistakes I see or hear about. Sometimes the consulates are the culprit for giving you wrong information. Get the facts:
- There is no guarantee that if you qualify for Permanent residency, you will get Permanent residency. The consulate has the final say on what residency visa you will receive. Don’t get upset- you can always get Permanent residency after 4 years as a Temporary resident.
- If you use an Airbnb or Hotel address when you do your Canje, it is your responsibility to change your address within 90 days with INM when you settle in your long-term home in Mexico.
- If you are applying as a married couple, some consulates require each one of you to qualify independently. If only one of you qualifies, don’t worry. Get residency, and once you are in Mexico, you can petition your spouse without having to prove additional financials.
- You will receive a stamp on your passport when you are approved at a Mexican consulate. You have up to 180 days to come to Mexico and finish the process. This is known as Canje. Canje is the process by which you exchange that stamp in your passport for an actual card. You are not done with the process until you receive your residency card.
- From the time you enter Mexico, you have 30 days to at least start the process in the immigration office. If your appointment at INM for canje is past the 30 days, don’t worry. You are not going to get in trouble. But it does mean you cannot leave Mexico unless you get permission from immigration. Otherwise, you cancel your whole process.
- If you are driving to Mexico to do your Canje, it is YOUR responsibility to stop at INM at the border and ask for your FMM. Without this, you cannot get your residency card. And it would be a bummer to have to drive back to the border.
- You might be asked to bring financials when you renew your temporary residency at INM. That doesn’t mean you have to prove the income requirements again. In fact, I’ve never known anyone to get denied for not having a specific amount. But be prepared to get asked for money in the bank when you renew your Temporary residency at INM. And not every INM office requires this.
- What you get in the Mexican consulate is what you get in Mexico. If you got temporary, you can’t request permanent residency once you go to INM (immigration) in Mexico.
- All Temporary residencies are for one year initially. After the first year, you can renew for 1,2, or 3 additional years. You can only be a temporary resident for up to 4 years. After which, you will either have to become a permanent resident or start over again.
- Once you get your Mexican visa stamped on your passport, you need to finish the process in Mexico the next time you enter. You can’t come as a tourist while you have the visa in your passport and come back later to the country to finish it.
Mexican Bureaucracy Is Challenging
Ask any local or foreigner living in Mexico what they think about Mexican bureaucracy, and I guarantee you will get a few eye rolls. It’s one of the most frustrating things you will have to deal with when you move to Mexico, but trust me, once you learn to accept that nothing will be super easy, you will live a happier life.
Mexican government offices are sometimes very old school in their way of handling procedures. And immigration is no exception.
And while doing the process on your own isn’t impossible, knowing and hiring the right people to help you can save you time, frustrations, and money.
To give you an example, as of 2022, all immigration offices in Mexico stopped taking online appointments. Now, all appointments must be made in person. Which automatically made all INM (immigration in Mexico) offices have long lines and long wait times to get anything done.
From renewals to canje to family unification processes. Many people don’t realize this. And they might come to Mexico thinking they might be able to finish their residency process in a matter of days. But come to find out, they need to invest about 2-4 weeks. But what happens if you have a job to return to? Or pets or family?
It’s also not uncommon for some immigration offices in Mexico to run out of plastic. So what could have taken 1 day to complete might now take 3-4 days.
Knowing the right facilitators and having access to the right information can help you avoid some of these surprises. You have to keep in mind they do this for a living. They are at the immigration offices daily. They know what’s happening in real time. Plus, they can help you shorten your processing times and help you avoid unnecessary frustrations.
You’re paying for that when you hire a good immigration facilitator. Someone who can help guide you. Someone who knows the local procedure. What’s your time worth to you?
But not all facilitators are created equal. And if you don’t know what to look for, you could get scammed. I see it all the time. “Reputable” immigration facilitators recommended by other “experts” end up wasting that person’s money or time. Not sure which is worse? I’ve seen people lose money because their facilitator made a crucial error and can’t fix it but won’t give them their money back. I’ve seen facilitators take payment and not return phone calls.
That’s why hiring the right people can make all the difference. And you can take the guesswork out of knowing who to hire with Our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide. Which gives you access to the immigration facilitators we know are trustworthy and professional.
That way, you have one less thing to worry about.