Legal Residency in Mexico and Your Lifestyle Plans

People seeking legal residency in Mexico must choose from two primary options: temporary residency, that can optionally lead to permanent residency after four consecutive years, or permanent residency.

The type of visa you apply for will depend on your life stage and lifestyle plans in Mexico including how long you intend to stay, and whether you intend to work, (or volunteer), live off your investments, or retire in Mexico.

The three principal situations that will influence your choice about whether you will apply for Temporary or Permanent residency are when you intend to:

  • Live in Mexico and not work.
  • Live in Mexico and work.
  • Apply for Mexican Citizenship (Naturalization).

When you intend to live in Mexico and NOT work

If you intend to visit Mexico for a short or defined period of time, and not work here, you have various options to consider.

Living part-time in Mexico

If you intend to live in Mexico part-time and not work, or if you intend to volunteer for a short period of time that doesn’t exceed six months, you might arrive in Mexico under the auspice of a Visitor’s Permit.

A visitor’s permit can allow you to remain in Mexico for up to 180 days (six months) from your arrival date, but note that the immigration officer might at the port of entry might grant you fewer days—the full 180 days are not guaranteed.

If you intend to stay, or volunteer, in Mexico for more than six months, you ought to apply for a Temporary residency permit.

Using a Visitor Permit to live in Mexico longer term

Some people who live in Mexico part-time and don’t work here have been using a Visitor’s Permit to stay longer term, although recent changes to the way visitors are admitted to Mexico make this more difficult and we strongly recommend that ‘perpetual visitors’ and part-time residents apply for residency in Mexico to ease their passage and prevent potentially being turned away at the border.

Living full-time or defined periods in Mexico

If you intend to live full-time in Mexico and not work (for example, living off your investments, or as a retiree), or if you intend to be in Mexico for defined periods, for example to overwinter in Mexico, a Temporary or Permanent residency permit will work for you.

Whether you choose temporary or permanent will depend on your longer-term goals, and whether qualify for permanent residency from the outset.

If you are not retired, then you cannot apply for a Permanent Residency right away even if you have the economic means, but after four consecutive years of temporary residency (or two years if you are married to a Mexican national), you can apply to exchange your Temporary residency for Permanent residency status.

Most people apply for residency in Mexico on the basis of their income or savings, although some people with certain family connections can apply through the Family Unit route.

When you intend to live in Mexico and work

To work legally in Mexico, you must have a temporary residency card with work permissions, or permanent residency.

As Mexican Consulates only issue permanent residency permits to retirees, if you want to work in Mexico you’ll need to apply for Temporary Residency first. After four consecutive years of temporary residency (or two years if you are married to a Mexican national), you can apply to exchange your Temporary residency for Permanent residency.

Immigration spot-checks on working foreigners

Immigration authorities in Mexico have been stepping-up enforcement of the immigration rules with field officers making spot-checks at commercial premises across Mexico.  They will detain foreign residents working under the auspice of visitor permits (FMM) or Temporary Residency cards without work permissions.

Residency permit via job offer in Mexico

If you have a job offer in Mexico, the company offering you the job must apply for your residency permit at the immigration offices in Mexico. When the permit is approved, you must visit a Mexican Consulate abroad where the visa sticker will be placed into your passport.

Self-employment in Mexico

Applications for legal residency in Mexico based on self-employment are complex.  If you intend to move to Mexico and work independently, we strongly recommend you talk to our immigration assistance partners who can assess your intentions and recommend an approach that will give you the best chance of a successful application.

When you plan to acquire Mexican citizenship

If your long term intention is to acquire Mexican Citizenship, also known as Naturalization, you must:

  • Have held legal residency in Mexico for at least five consecutive years under the auspice of Temporary and/or Permanent Residency; and
  • Before you can apply for citizenship, and you must prove that you have been situated physically in Mexico for at least 18 months in the past two years preceding your application date.
  • There are other requirements as part of the application process and you can read more about those on our article about Naturalization (see link in the box below).

Learn more about residency in Mexico

Mexperience publishes information and resources to help you learn about how to apply for and obtain legal residency in Mexico:

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