Moving to Mexico: Mexico’s New Immigration Law

If you traveled to or lived in Mexico before 2011, you might have experienced a way to gain temporary or permanent residency in the country that has changed completely. The Immigration Laws in Mexico changed back in 2012, and the most drastic difference is that now you can’t apply for temporary or permanent residency from within the country. This doesn’t mean that you can apply for it at the border either. You will actually have to register with the Mexican Consulate from outside of Mexico in order to get Temporary or Permanent Residency, if you don’t already have any of these. If you haven’t been in Mexico for a while, you will notice a few changes. This is a basic summary of the points that are important for the expat community here in Mexico or for those considering moving to this Country.

Inmigration Filters

You can expect basic immigration filters or checkpoints at airports, seaports and terrestrial border crossings, very similar to the border crossings now.
Regarding the Visa, Mexico has signed treaties with various Countries, such as the United States, Canada and most of Europe, so their citizens don’t need a Visa to travel to Mexico. If your place of origin is none of the above, check the list of the countries here. Once you get to the immigration filter the immigration authority will give you a temporary document that will prove your migratory status.
At the time that you are given this document you will be asked the purpose of your trip
to Mexico and the document will reflect that purpose, be it work, pleasure, etc. If you plan on staying in Mexico for more than 30 days you will have to trade the temporary document in at the immigration office closest to your home in
Mexico. At these immigration checkpoints, you may be asked to provide your passport, personal information, purpose of your trip, place of residence outside of Mexico, where you plan on staying in Mexico, who you will work for in Mexico, be that the case, activities in Mexico, income sources and how you are planning on
leaving Mexico.
You can expect that this information is going to be required from you only in doubt about your intentions for coming into Mexico. Most probably families with children, well-dressed tourists and business people will not be asked for details; arriving in the airport after finishing a few too many on the plane might get you an entrance interview. Use common sense.

Temporary and Permanent Residency

One of the major changes in the new immigration policy was the introduction of the Temporary and Permanent Residency instead of the FM3/FM2.
Let’s see in detail each of these.

Temporary Resident

The Temporary Resident document will be issued for periods from 1 to 4 years, based on the decision of the immigration authority. Temporary Residency does not confer automatic permission to work in Mexico, although it may be granted upon request of the foreigner and pending a job offer.
According to the regulations, and congruent with the law, people in any of the following situations will be eligible for Temporary Residency in Mexico:

  • People with a marital or common-law link to a Mexican citizen or a person who holds a Temporary or Permanent Residency status
  • People with job offers
  • People registered in the federal tax registry who are trying to work independently in Mexico
  • People who have been invited by a government or private institution to participate in a non-lucrative activity
  • People who own real estate in Mexico
  • People who have invested in stock in a Mexican company, production machinery or other assets in Mexico or economic activities
  • People who can prove their economic independence.

Permanent Resident

The Permanent Resident is actually a permanent status, except for children under 3 years old, who need to renew their documents yearly until reaching 3 years of age. Permanent Resident status includes express permission to work in Mexico, but you will be required to update any information related to change of job, employer or professional activities.

Any of the following people are eligible to become Permanent Residents in Mexico:

  • People with a marital or common-law link to Mexicans or Permanent Residents (after 2 years of Temporary Residency)
  • Retired people
  • Grandparents, parents, children or grandchildren of a Mexican who acquired their nationality by birth
  • Refugees and political prisoners


The law talks about visitors as people who are allowed to be in Mexico for up to 180 days and then they must leave the country. Please note that anyone who does not ask for Temporary or Permanent Residency prior to entrance to Mexico will not be able to change from their Tourist Status to Temporary Resident, unless they acquire a matrimonial link to or have another familiar link to a Mexican citizen or Resident.
This is important for people planning to move to Mexico or already in the process of moving to the country, because they will need to plan ahead and ask for Residency prior to entry.


There are some penalties for non-compliance with the rules, and it is important to be aware of them:

  • If you are caught performing unauthorized activities your document can be cancelled and you can be asked to leave the country.
  • If you fail to notify the immigration authority of changes in your marital state, address or work situation within 90 days of the change you can be charged a fine of between 20 and 100 days of minimum wage in Mexico City. That’s between $1600 and $8000 pesos as of 2017.


Getting Your First Visa to Live in Mexico

If you are planning to retire in Mexico or to live in Mexico full-time, you need to consider that if you want temporary or permanent residency in Mexico, you will have to ask for it prior to entering the country, since you won’t be able to change from a “tourist” to a “resident” while in Mexico.

There are two basic steps:

  • Get a visa in your home country
  • Get your residency card after you arrive to Mexico

Even if you come from a country that does not need a visa for entry, you will still need to go to the nearest Mexican Consulate in your home country in order to process the following types of immigration documents, which are called visas:

  • Temporary Residency for students
  • Temporary Residency for people not planning on working while in Mexico
  • Permanent Residency for people not planning on working while in Mexico

The process for any of these documents is simple enough, but we want to explain a little further the last two options.

People who plan on living in Mexico and not working

If you are going to live in Mexico but do not plan on working, you are going to need to prove that you have enough money to eat, pay rent and go fishing. To get the visa to live in Mexico for an extended period of time and not work, you will need to go to the Mexican Consulate nearest you with the following:

Identification documents


  • Passport
  • A color, passport sized photo (1.5” x 1”)
  • The document showing your legal presence in the country you are in, if you are not a citizen of that country

For Temporary Residency (one of the following):

  • Original and copy of proof of investments or bank accounts with an average worth over the previous year equivalent to $95,000.00 USD
  • Original and copy of documents that prove that the foreigner has had for the previous six months an income from a job (outside of Mexico) or a pension that pays at least $1,950.00 USD per month
  • Proof of any family bond with another Temporary or Permanent Resident or a marital (or equivalent) bond with a Mexican Original and copy of a notarized public deed showing ownership (or trust rights) to a property in Mexico worth at least $195,000.00 USD
  • Proof of participation of at least $100,000.00 USD in a Mexican company
  • Proof of ownership in heavy equipment or machinery in Mexico worth more than
    $100,000.00 USD, or Proof of doing business in Mexico and legally creating at least 5 jobs for Mexicans.

Permanent Resident (one of the following):

  • Original and copy of proof of investments or bank accounts with an average worth over the previous year equivalent to $95,000.00 USD
  • Original and copy of documents that prove that the foreigner has had for the previous six months an income from a job (outside of Mexico) or a pension that pays at least $2,400.00 USD per month
  • Proof of parent-child bond with a Mexican citizen by birth (this would be birth certificates of everyone involved, plus any other documents proving the citizenship of the Mexican citizen)
  • Proof of the same parent-child bond with another Permanent Resident.

These are the requirements for people who are planning on not working while in Mexico, the process for people going to Mexico to work are different.

How long will this take?
The law requires that the consular visa applications should be resolved within 10 days of when you submit them.
I have my Residency visa, how do I get my Residency card?
Come to Mexico. Once you get into Mexico you will have another 30 days to take your visa to the nearest Immigration Institute (INM) office and they will help you with the process of changing the visa into a residency card .
What do I need to take to the Immigration office?
To change your non-working visa for a Residency card, you will need to take a few things with you to the immigration office:

  • The form that you fill out online
  • Your passport
  • Your FMM (the tourist card you get when you enter Mexico)
  • Receipt of payment of the corresponding fees
  • Three color photos, “infantil” sized (2.5cm x 3cm)

Once you bring all this paperwork into Immigration, the process takes 15 days.

*Check the website for more details:



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