- Download our Moving to Mexico Guide (PDF)
When crossing national borders, travellers must always check updated and relevant information on visas. This can be a stressful experience, but luckily, when it comes to Mexico, there is a relaxed immigration policy allowing many nationalities free entry.
Those nationalities that do require a visa to visit Mexico should apply at their nearest Mexican consulate before arriving in the country. Expats should also visit the official website for the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores), where they can select their country of citizenship for specific information on visas, the full list of visa-free countries and the most up-to-date information.
The Mexican government does make it clear, though, that merely holding a visa does not guarantee entry into Mexico: arrivals will be asked several questions by authorities to confirm the information provided on the visa is correct.
There are several categories of visas that expats may apply for: tourism, business or transit visa; work visa; temporary resident visa; student temporary resident visa; or a permanent residence visa. Expats can also obtain a visa for diplomatic reasons or to conduct adoption proceedings.
Visa-free entry visitors
Permanent residents, visa holders and citizens of several countries do not need to apply for tourist, business or transit visas, and stays shorter than 180 days. These countries include many South American countries, Canada, the US, the UK, Schengen Area countries and Japan.
There are some requirements of these visitors, including a passport valid for the duration of their stay as well as completing a Multiple Migratory Form (FMM) provided at the port of entry. Immigration authorities may request certain documents confirming plans and finances during the stay, including a travel itinerary, a business letter or letter from an educational institution in the case of students travelling. In case visitors are asked, whether they needed a visa or not, it’s helpful to carry these documents.
Tourism, business or transit visas
This visa is suitable if the reasons for travel to Mexico include tourism, or sports, artistic or religious activities, transit or business reasons. This visa is considered for visitors who are not authorised for lucrative activities. Expats who are working in Mexico or have a contract with a Mexican company must get a work permit.
If new arrivals, who are not from a visa-free country, are entering as a tourist or business visitor for a short stay of up to 180 days, this is the best choice of visa.
Applicants may need to show financial records to prove economic solvency as well as documentation to prove the purpose of their travel. The documents needed depends on the reason for the visit and could include a letter of invitation from an organisation to partake in activities that are not remunerated, or an acceptance letter from an educational institution for courses shorter than 180 days.
Alongside documents, applicants must visit the nearest Mexican embassy and may need to have an interview, asking the same questions as the visa provides.
Travellers are generally required to surrender their visa to the Immigration Officers at the border when they leave Mexico and must request a new one if they want to return.
Family members or children dependent on the main applicant must apply for a visa alongside them and need only prove their relationship rather than supply financial records for economic solvency.
Visas for minors under the age of 18 must be signed by both parents or legal guardians, or at least one legal guardian provided documents proving their full parental authority or the absent guardian’s authorisation.
Applicants over age 65
Visitors over the age of 65 who are applying for this visa for tourist reasons are exempt from providing extensive economic solvency proof.
Temporary resident visas
The Temporary Resident Visa is the most common visa for expats employed in Mexico and their dependants who intend on living in the country for longer than six months, but less than four years.
Applicants of a temporary resident visa must normally provide proof of employment and comply with the stipulations of the visa and work permit.
Expats are required to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa at a Mexican consulate before arriving in the country. Once arriving in Mexico, the holder of the visa is required to visit their nearest immigration office within 30 days to have their visa replaced with a Temporary Resident Permit card.
Student temporary resident visas
Students staying in Mexico for less than 180 days can apply for a tourism, business or transit visa. Educational courses extending longer than 180 days requires a student temporary resident visa.
Students studying courses or conducting research through Mexican higher education institutions must provide their acceptance letter and financial records or acceptance of a Mexican scholarship to prove they can sustain themselves during their stay.
Within 30 days of arrival, students must apply to the National Migration Institute for their residence card.
Permanent resident visas
The Permanent Resident Visa needs no extensions and is for expats who plan to live in Mexico permanently. A benefit of this visa is that, according to Mexican foreign investment law, legal residents may be considered as nationals when they want to invest.
This visa is most common for retirees in Mexico or those with close family ties in the country. Provided certain conditions are met, expats don't need to have a Temporary Resident Visa before applying for a Permanent Resident Visa.
Like with temporary residence, visa holders must visit the nearest immigration office within 30 days to receive their residence card.
Dependents and family members may apply for permanent residence at the embassy accompanied by the permanent resident or Mexican citizen. For foreign spouses of Mexican citizens or permanent residents, they typically must hold temporary residence for two years and then can apply for permanent residence at the National Migration Institute.
*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
What do expats say about Mexican visa processes?
"My husband and I are here on a temporary visa, which we did ourselves. However, we hired someone for the three-year extension to make our lives easier." See our interview with Kirsten, an American expat, to learn more about moving to Mexico.
"I would never take on the visa paperwork myself! It was all handled by the expert admin team aboard ship. I have seen the forms, and heard people talk of the process, and I would not go about trying it on my own." Check out our interview with Rudi for some personal insights.
►Read more on Work Permits for Mexico
►Need assistance with the immigration process? See Relocation Companies in Mexico who will help
Are you an expat living in Mexico?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Mexico. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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