By Rodrigo Manterola
Do you need a Visa for Mexico from the USA?
To know what type of visa you need to work and live in Mexico you need to know the different options and understand each one carefully, as it is a process and it can take several years to get you living and working in Mexico unless you know the shortcuts.
Types of Visas
FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple)
Tourist visa for one entry only and up to 180 days without engaging in paid activities, this is the option all travelers get when visiting, this is also an option many Digital Nomads go for as technically they don’t work in Mexico, and in many cases, this is not a permanent move. Some taxes may apply for Digital Nomads and online platforms.
FMM cost $594 pesos or some $30 US at $1.00 US equals 20 pesos
During your stay in Mexico, you must retain this immigration form and surrender it to an immigration official upon leaving the country
If your FMM should expire while in Mexico go to the nearest airport and pay for another one, even if you’re not flying out but driving, you’ll need it at the border.
Request one at the INM Website here
Mexican Consulate Pre-approval Visa
This pre-approval visa allows you to enter Mexico up to 180 days from the time it was pre-approved. Once in Mexico, you have 30 days to locate and visit the INM office closest to you.
Consulates directory of locations here
When entering Mexico by car you must stop at the INM offices at the border to obtain your TIP (Temporary Import Permit) for your car and your FMM.
Guide to import your car from the USA to Mexico here
This pre-approved visa is for one single entry
When flying, you will receive one individual FMM on board your flight or at the airport of arrival.
Whether you fly or you drive to Mexico, your FMM must be marked CANJE by the Mexican immigration officers and the date stamped next to the original date stamped on your pre-approved visa in your passport. Not completing this process would mean you have to return to the border to do so.
Make an appointment at the consulate here, and fill up a confirmation form. Get one here
You will be required to show your financial statements of the last 12 months, individual printouts for savings/investments, and/or 6 months of individual bank printouts showing income and/or proof of homeownership in Mexico.
Every financial statement must be in your name and if a joint account both names.
The Mexican consulate visa application form must be completed and printed on both sides, one individual form for each person.
You need to make a copy of your valid passport and bring it along with the original passport.
If your passport is expired or soon to be expired at the time of entry it will not be considered valid.
Photograph of your face facing front with no glasses, in color, with a white background, size 39 mm x 31 mm.
Cost is around $44 U.S.
Read about the best cities for Expats and Digital Nomads in Mexico
Temporary resident visa
This visa is for anybody planning to stay longer than 6 months but less than five years and to obtain this you first need to start with a Mexican Consulate Pre-approval Visa.
Some of the benefits of the Temporary resident visa include:
- Benefits include the ability to obtain a Mexican driver’s license.
- To register in your name a car bought in Mexico.
- To drive an American plated car, TIP ( temporary import permit) required
- Access to opening a bank account
- Obtain an INAPAM senior’s card and access to free healthcare through INSABI
- Savings on taxes on the sale of a property.
You still can’t legally work in Mexico with this type of visa but you can have income from abroad; a remote job or a savings account.
To obtain this visa the process starts with a pre-approval at a Mexican consulate or embassy outside of Mexico.
A Temporary Resident visa is valid for 1 year. You may renew for 1 to 3 more years 30 days prior to expiration.
The expiration date will be the same as the day you entered Mexico.
If you have a source of income in Mexico such as Airbnb or being a landlord, selling art, selling real estate, etc. you must apply for a “Permiso Para Trabajar” or work visa.
This requires registration with the Mexican taxes office SAT. This process is done locally.
You’ll have to show financial statements, if married and your account is in both names, then both names need to appear on your financial statements. Beware that Mexican account printouts usually show one name on joint accounts.
The amounts below are based on a $20.00 pesos to $1.00 US and $16.00 pesos to $1.00 Canadian exchange rate. To get an accurate figure check the current exchange rate.
Canadian consulates all use a higher number than that which I show based on the law.
Investments in Mexico ~$35,425 US / $45,000 C (5000 days x Mexican minimum wage 141.70) with 12 months of individual statements,
Personal monthly income ~$2125 US / $2700 C (300 days x Mexican minimum wage 141.70) employment or pension showing 6 months of bank statements, or
Homeownership in Mexico worth ~ 5,668,000 pesos (40,000 days x Mexican minimum wage 141.70) per person.
This visa is the first but not the only step in order to get a permanent resident visa
Permanent Resident Visa
If you plan to live in Mexico permanently a Permanent Resident Visa is the visa you are looking for: the process also starts with a pre-approval as with the temporary resident visa and the process is the same.
It is permanent so no renewals are required.
You can work as a Permanent Resident but must inform the INM and register on the SAT for taxes.
INM may deny approval to work at their own discretion.
A foreign plated car is not allowed to drive for the holders of this visa.
Amounts are per person.
Consulates vary and may use different numbers taking into account current exchange rates.
Some consulates will not provide Permanent Resident pre-approval to those under retirement age.
For those who are Temporary Residents and living in Mexico, you may become a Permanent Resident in less than 4 years. To do so, you must prove income of at least 500 x UMA per month (UMA) is currently 89.62. UMA means “Unidad de Medida y Actualización” measurement and updating unit, in Spanish.
Or investments/savings of 25000 x UMA.
For financial statements, if the account is in both names, have both names appear on your statements. Mexican printouts often show 1 name on joint accounts. The following amounts are based on a 20 pesos to $1.00 US and 16 pesos to $1.00 Canadian exchange rate.
Investments ~$141,600 US / $180,000 C (20,000 days x Mexican minimum wage 141.70) with 12 months of individual statements, or
Monthly income of ~$3550 US/ $4500 C (500 days x Mexican minimum wage 141.70) per person and with 6 months of individual statements
Children can get a Permanent Resident visa; if they’re between the ages of 1 and 3 they must renew their visa annually.
Children over the age of 3 must renew it every 4 years until legal adulthood at 18 years of age.
Permiso Para Trabajar Visa
This is the visa that allows you to earn income in Mexico.
Available to those on a Temporary Resident visa and who wish to earn Mexican sourced income from self-employed activities such as:
- Musician or artist of any discipline.
- Selling real estate or self-employed in any way.
- Dancer, instructor, landlord, hairdresser. etc.
You need to start the registration process and make an appointment at the SAT (Mexican taxation office) website and visit the nearest SAT office once you have an appointment, to finalize your registration and receive your password.
You’ll receive a (QR scanner code) this is called a ‘’cedula”.
Once this step is done, you may apply at INM for a Permiso Para Trabajar visa which will have another set of requirements such as:
- Bank payments
- Forms to be filled up
- Fingerprints, etc.
A Permanent Resident can work in Mexico once all tax formalities are completed at the SAT office.
The process is the same as that for a Temporary Resident plus providing Immigration with all taxes documentation.
This is not applicable when being hired by a large employer.
Sponsored visas through family, spouse, or employer
This is a slightly different visa from the permanent resident visa under the family or married couple scheme, as in the PR visa each one of the married couples must show equally qualifying amounts of income or investments.
When this is not the case, If the husband qualifies and the wife does not, an option is for the husband to apply for his Permanent Resident visa, and when he enters Mexico, the wife enters as a tourist with an FMM visa, finally when the husband obtains his visa the wife can start her Temporary Resident visa process in Mexico
The wife then renews her Temporary Resident visa for three more years.
After four years she may apply for a Permanent Resident
This is a slow but good option as only one person of the married couple needs to qualify.
When the spouse applies for her Temporary Residence the wife will not need proof of financials as she is being sponsored by her husband.
Things to remember
Both names husband and wife must match their names on their passports and marriage certificates.
If names don’t match they will need a notarized letter from their country’s Embassy in Mexico certifying ID, this letter must be apostilled and translated by a certified translator in Mexico
When the opposite situation presents, when the wife qualifies but the husband doesn’t, the process is relatively easier as the husband’s name is usually the same in the passport, ID, certificates, etc.
When the sponsor is a Permanent Resident parent, a sponsored child, who was not born in Mexico, and under the age of 18 may apply as a Permanent Resident.
You will need to have a certified and notarized child’s birth certificate and both the child’s name in the passport and the birth certificate must match the letter. All documents need to be translated by a certified translator in Mexico.
Other perks of this visa include
Obtaining a visa through marriage to a Mexican national means you can start the process in Mexico without traveling to the country of origin, no pre-approval at a Mexican consulate and no financials required.
You will find this process easier if married in Mexico. Other countries’ licenses and certificates must be notarized and translated by a certified translator in Mexico.
The names on both marriage licenses and passports must match.
You need to be married before applying at Inmigracion in Mexico at the nearest Registro Civil office.
There are different approaches to this type of visa depending on the country the spouse being sponsored is from. More on this soon.
A Mexican job offer requires the potential employer to be registered in the INM, this company must submit an application for your visa.
Once the visa is approved a notification is sent by the INM.
This notification will give instructions on how to request an interview at any Mexican consulate within 30 natural days to get the pre-approved visa stamped in your passport.
When in Mexico, you need to visit the same INM office where the company hiring you started the process, there you’ll exchange your Pre Approved Consulate visa for a Permiso Para Trabajar Visa which allows you to work and live in Mexico.
This visa only allows you to work for one particular company and when you no longer work for the company you must update your status with INM, it’s likely you will have to leave the country and start all over again with a different country or type of visa.
Find jobs for ex-pats in Mexico