There are essentially 3 ways that a foreigner can visit or reside in México. There are other types of visas (i.e., student, humanitarian, adoption, etc.) but the following are the most common types and the ones that I will focus on in this post:
- Tourist (Visitante)
- Temporary Resident (RT – Residente Temporal)
- Permanent Resident (RP – Residente Permanente)
I have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions that we receive about visas as they relate to México. In no particular order, below are the 10 of those questions.
1) WHAT IS A FMM?
FMM stands for Forma Migratoria Múltiple. It is a form, both in paper and electronic format, that is used by Mexican immigration (INM – Instituto Nacional de Migración) to track the movements (entries and exits) of ALL non-Mexican passport holders (non-citizens) in and out of the country. I make the prior distinction since ALL Mexican citizens are considered Mexican nationals but not all Mexican nationals are necessarily Mexican citizens. The FMM is commonly referred to as a “tourist visa” or “tourist card.” However, as already stated, the use of a FMM is not just limited to those foreigners who are entering México as a tourist. It is to be used by all foreigners, including RT and RP visa holders.
2) DO I NEED A VISA TO VISIT MÉXICO?
Whether you need to apply for a visa before you come to México will depend on your passport (and hence your citizenship) OR your current visa. The following 2 links list all the countries where you MUST apply ahead of time for a visa and all the countries where you do NOT have to apply in advance. Both lists are quite long but I have included an excerpt of each list below for easy reference. For the full lists, please click on the aforementioned links.
- Dominican Republic
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
Visa Not Required
- Costa Rica
- New Zealand
- Trinidad & Tobago
- United Kingdom
- United States of America
3) WHAT TYPE OF VISA DO I NEED?
This will all depend on the purpose of your visit (i.e., vacation, living full-time, adoption, etc.) and the length of time you intend on being in the country. And based on that, you can then determine which type of visa is best to pursue. You can go to the following page on Gob.mx (the official Web portal of the Mexican government) and scroll over “Migración,visa y pasaporte” to see the different visa options. From here, you will find the requirements and process for each type of visa.
4) HOW LONG CAN I REMAIN IN MÉXICO ON A TOURIST VISA/CARD?
If you are entering as a tourist, INM can grant you up to a maximum of 180 days per visit. Just keep in mind that it is at the sole discretion of the INM agent on how many days they issue you upon arrival. If you are given the full 180 days, you cannot extend or renew your stay from within the country and you must leave the country before your time expires. Overstaying your allotted time will result in fines which you can pay at either your nearest INM office or at an INM office at your respective port of entry, i.e., airport, border crossing, etc. With the continuing advancement of technology at the federal government level, just be aware that if you are seen to be a repeat offender it can negatively impact your future ability to visit or reside here.
5) CAN I CONTINUALLY RENEW MY TOURIST VISA/CARD EVERY 180 DAYS?
If you enter the country as a tourist, you can be granted up to a maximum of 180 days per visit. The practice of repeatedly renewing your status as a tourist every 180 days (or the time that is granted to you) is commonly referred to as a border run, visa run, border hopping, etc. With the continuing advancement of technology at the federal government level, INM is beginning to crack down on this practice. Entering the country as a tourist is really intended for those that are truly just visiting or vacationing here. If you plan to be in México for greater than 180 days or reside in México full-time, then you really need to apply for a RT or RP visa. It’s not only the smart thing to do but also the right thing to do. Failure to do so can negatively impact your future ability to visit or reside here.
6) WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF GETTING A RT OR RP VISA?
There are lots of benefits to obtaining residency including enrolling in national healthcare programs, senior discounts, registering a vehicle, etc. just to name a few. I would encourage you to go back and read a prior post of ours which goes into further detail about the various benefits – 10 Benefits of Residency in México. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list but certainly highlights those benefits that we believe to be the greatest.
7) WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO OBTAIN A RT OR RP VISA?
Some quick background. INM is the Mexican government agency that is responsible for all matters related to immigration. INM sets the visa guidelines and requirements and each respective consulate around the world enforces those requirements and guidelines. INM falls under the Secretaría de Gobernación (SEGOB) and the various consulates fall under the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE). Two completely separate entities that work in concert with each other. In theory, the requirements set forth by INM should be the same globally. The reality is that each consulate has some level of latitude and discretion in enforcing the requirements.
As such, I highly recommend contacting your local or nearest Mexican consulate (or embassy, if a consulate does not exist) for the most current requirements. In addition, be sure to review the respective consulate Web site since a lot of this information can be found there. In regards to the process, it is comprised of 2 parts. Part 1 is completed at your local or nearest consulate and part 2 is completed at your local INM office (based on your address) in México. I would recommend reading the following 2 prior posts of ours to better understand the process:
- Part 1 – Mexican Immigration & Visas – Getting Started
- Part 2 – Mexican Immigration & Visas – Finishing Process
8) HOW LONG DOES A RT AND RP VISA LAST?
As a RT visa holder, you can reside in México for up to 4 years and exit and re-enter the country as many times as you want. Currently, INM is issuing RT visas for an initial period of 1 year (with a few exceptions, i.e., married to a Mexican citizen) and then you can renew for an additional 1, 2 or 3 years.
As a RP visa holder, you can reside in México indefinitely and exit and re-enter the country as many times as you want. Since there is no expiration date, renewals are not necessary.
9) AS A RT OR RP VISA HOLDER, IS THERE ANYTHING I NEED TO DO WHEN I LEAVE THE COUNTRY?
Yes. According to INM, you need to complete a FMM every time you exit and re-enter the country. This is regardless of the method of travel whether by air, land (car or foot) or sea. When traveling by air, you are essentially “forced” to complete this process at the airport. Otherwise, you will not be able to complete the check-in for your flight. When traveling by car, this is not always very straight-forward since the burden falls on you to stop at the INM office at the border on the way out and on the way back in. It’s even less straight-forward when crossing by foot, since some ports of entry that accommodate foot traffic, such as the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) bridge in Tijuana, are currently not even set-up to process FMMs for RT or RP visa holders. I cannot speak to travel by sea. Though, on paper, the requirement to complete a FMM still should remain the same.
If you look at the back of the FMM, it clearly states “Holders of special passports, special visas, current cards or credentials issued by INM must fill out this form for statistical purposes. In none of those cases shall this immigration form grant any immigration status.” Though this sounds quite benign in nature, it’s quite the opposite. In fact, if you fill out the FMM incorrectly and it’s entered into INM’s computer systems incorrectly, it can very well invalidate your current migratory status as that of a RT or RP visa holder. And you likely will have to start the process all over again outside of México. You might be able to get this rectified from within México by hiring a good immigration attorney but I certainly wouldn’t bet on that. If ever in doubt about how to properly complete a FMM, I would recommend speaking with an INM agent at your local or nearest INM office. Better to be safe than sorry!
In a future post, I’ll go into further detail about how you should fill out the FMM.
10) HOW DO I APPLY FOR A WORK VISA?
Work can be defined as working for an employer or being self-employed (as an independent contractor or business owner).
If you enter México as a tourist you are not allowed to work nor is there currently a work visa available that would allow you to work independently. Instead, if you do not have a RT or RP visa, you can only be employed by an employer who is willing to sponsor your work visa. You can learn more about the requirements and process to obtain a work visa for both the employer and yourself. Your prospective employer should be able to guide you through the process.
As an RT visa holder, if you wish to work, you can either be employed by someone else or be self-employed. In either case, you need to apply for permission to work with INM. You can learn more about the requirements and process here.
As an RP visa holder, you do not need to submit a separate application to obtain permission to work. However, you still must notify INM of your intention to work.
In all cases, you will need to be registered with Servicio de Administración Tributaria – SAT (Tax Administration Service) for tax purposes. Should you wish to work, be sure to seek professional advice to ensure that you are adhering to official requirements and process from both an immigration and tax perspective.
There are countless other questions that we see and hear on a daily basis but the ones discussed above are by far the ones that come up the most often. Regardless, make sure you do your homework about immigration rules and laws when wanting to visit or reside in México. Like anywhere in the world. And above all else, enjoy your time in México.
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