Guide to Visa Types and Residency Application in Mexico 2024

Mexico Visa

By Wendy Justice

Mexico is the most popular country in the world for North American expats. It has a wonderful variety of climates, superb food, gracious and welcoming people, healthcare is great, and the cost of living is low.

Mexico has an immigration system that is straightforward and easy to navigate, offering options for short-term tourists, along with temporary and permanent options for foreigners who want to stay long-term. Even Mexican citizenship is relatively easy to obtain.

If you want to live in Mexico, you won’t need to make the visa runs that many other countries require, reapply annually, or keep large amounts of cash in the bank to qualify for continued residency. There are several ways to legally stay for just as long as you like.

Temporary Visas

If you want to stay in Mexico for a while, whether to live or to travel, there are two basic options. If you’re from a visa-exempt country (the U.S. and Canada are both in this category), come as a visitor (visitante). You’ll be able to stay for up to six months. The immigration system has recently been computerized, and you no longer need to fill out any paperwork before you arrive; just enter the country by land, sea, or air, and go to the immigration counter where the officer will stamp your passport with the length of time that you can remain in the country.

Visitor permits may be valid for up to 180 days, but it isn’t automatic, and the length of stay that is granted is often arbitrary. You may get the full 180 days or you may only get a few weeks; it’s up to the immigration officer. A visitor permit cannot be renewed or extended.

If you want a full six months in the country, applying for a visitante visa at a Mexican consulate is best. Visa runs—leaving the country every few months and returning with a new tourist visa—were once a popular way for foreigners to live in Mexico, but that practice is now actively discouraged.

Fortunately, Mexico has made it relatively easy to get visas that are valid for more than six months.

Residente Temporal (temporary resident) visas are valid for up to four years. Complete the application paperwork—some of it is in Spanish —and make an appointment to appear in person at a Mexican consulate in your home country. You can schedule an appointment as well as complete some of the application paperwork online. If you are traveling to Mexico with adult family members or someone else, they will also need to schedule an appointment and submit their paperwork.

When you go to the Mexican consulate, you’ll have an interview with a consulate officer. You’ll be asked a few questions about why you want to live in Mexico, and you’ll give them your required documentation. If you are approved, you’ll get a visa in your passport either on the same day or within a day or two.

You have now completed the first of two steps for getting your temporary residency visa. The visa from the consulate is valid for 180 days, so you’ll need to go to Mexico before it expires. When you enter the country, make sure that the immigration official knows that you need a canje stamp, which indicates that your immigration status will be changing. Otherwise, you may just get a tourist (visitante) visa.

Waiting times at any Mexican bureaucracy can be long. It’s advisable to set an appointment online with the Instituto Nacional de Migración (Department of Immigration) at your destination before you leave your home country. Once you enter Mexico, you only have 30 days in which to report to immigration or you’ll need to leave the country and start the process all over again.

When you report to the local immigration office, be sure to bring all the paperwork you were required to show at your home country’s consulate, as well as the printed confirmation page of your immigration appointment and proof of your address in Mexico (called a comprobante; a utility bill works well for this). You’ll have another short interview where the immigration official will verify that you meet the requirements for residency. Once approved, you’ll pay a fee and receive your resident card that day or shortly thereafter. You’ll now be allowed to legally remain in Mexico and travel abroad without having to reapply for a visa.

If you want to work in Mexico, you will need to have your employer request a temporary resident visa with a work permit; individuals can’t apply for this visa directly. Once your employer obtains the work permit, you’ll have 15 to 30 days to apply for your Residente Temporal visa from a Mexican consulate abroad. The rest of the process is the same as for a standard Residente Temporal visa.

As a Residente Temporal, you can import your foreign-plated vehicle, get a driver’s license, open a bank account, buy into the IMSS national healthcare plan, or obtain medical services through the free INSABI healthcare system. In most parts of Mexico, if you’re over the age of 60, you can also get a senior discount card, called INAPAM (Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores), though some states are apparently not granting these cards to non-Mexicans. If you’re lucky enough to qualify, you’ll get discounts on everything from transportation and select restaurants, to retail outlets, medical care, and property taxes. You can also import your household goods duty-free one time if it is done within six months of your formal entrance to Mexico.

Permanent Residency

As the name implies, the Residente Permanente (permanent resident) visa never expires. Once you have it, you can remain in Mexico for as long as you want and travel outside the country whenever you want. There are no requirements to stay in Mexico for any specified period of time, and the visa never needs to be renewed.

The process for becoming a permanent resident is similar to applying for temporary residency. It begins at a Mexican consulate abroad and is finalized after you visit an Instituto Nacional de Migración (Department of Immigration) office in Mexico.

The financial requirements to become a Residente Permanente are higher than those for temporary residency. The exception is if you have lived in Mexico as a temporary resident for four consecutive years. In that case, you can convert your temporary residency status to permanent residency.

As with temporary residency, you’ll need to make an appointment at a Mexican consulate abroad, go through the approval process, and get the temporary stamp in your passport. You’ll then need to report to the Department of Immigration at your destination within 30 days of entering Mexico to finalize your residency.

Permanent residents are eligible to enroll in either the IMSS or INSABI national healthcare plans; if you’re 60 or older, you can also qualify for the INAPAM senior discount cards in most Mexican states. Aside from voting, which is reserved for Mexican citizens, permanent residents have most of the same rights and responsibilities as anyone born and raised here.

The only significant difference between Residente Temporal and Residente Permanente visas, other than the length of the visa and the income requirements, concern motor vehicles. While temporary residents can import their foreign-plated vehicle, permanent residents who want to own a vehicle are expected to purchase it in Mexico. Nationalizing (legalizing) a foreign-plated vehicle is sometimes possible depending on the make, model, and year, but it’s a complicated process. As with temporary residency, you can import your household goods duty-free one time if it is done within six months of your formal entrance to Mexico.

The Residente Permanente visa is primarily considered to be a retirement visa, and it’s assumed that the individual will not be employed in Mexico; in fact, during the application process you will be asked to provide a letter to the Mexican consulate that acknowledges that you are aware that you are not allowed to work in Mexico. However, it may be possible to receive permission to work as a permanent resident by registering with the Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT) office and informing immigration of your intentions within 90 days of starting work.


Mexico allows dual citizenship. You do not need to surrender your U.S. or Canadian nationality or passport to become a Mexican citizen—and you’ll have certain rights that would not otherwise be available to you as a temporary or permanent resident. For example, you can buy property in restricted areas in your own name, including property near a beach or an international border, without having to have a trust (fideicomiso). The title deed can be in your own name and you don’t need to pay any annual trust or renewal fees. You can also vote in Mexico, and do not need to inform the immigration office if you move or change jobs. Citizenship also grants you the right to earn an income or own a business with the same benefits as a natural citizen.

To apply for citizenship, you’ll need to have lived in Mexico for at least five consecutive years as a legal permanent resident, or two years with legal residency if you’re married to a Mexican national or have a child who was born in Mexico. You need to have been physically in Mexico for at least 18 months during the 24 months prior to your application for citizenship.

Regardless of where you live in Mexico, you’ll have to go to the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE) office in Mexico City to apply for citizenship. You’ll need to have at least a basic conversational level of Spanish, and pass a test demonstrating that you know the history of the country and have integrated into Mexican culture, though the test might be waived if you are over the age of 60. You will also need to pass a state and federal criminal background check (called a Certificado de No Antecendentes Penales). You will need to have completed the appropriate application form, depending on whether you’re applying for naturalization by residence, marriage, or by virtue of your Mexican-born children.

It’s important to note that if you reside outside of Mexico for five or more consecutive years after you are naturalized, you’ll lose your Mexican citizenship.

Requirements and Documentation

Whether you’re applying for temporary or permanent residency, you’ll need to present the same documents to the overseas Mexican Consulate. This includes:

  • Your original passport, with at least one blank page, that is valid for at least six months prior to expiration;

  • One photocopy of your passport’s personal information page;

  • An original and one photocopy of another valid ID (driver’s license, ID card);

  • One completed and signed visa application form (available online);

  • One recent passport-size (1.5 x 1.75 inches) color photo;

  • The confirmation page for your consular appointment, which you can schedule online.

The financial requirements for residency are based upon multiples of the current Minimum Daily Wage (MDW) level in Mexico (207.44 pesos in 2023) and the current exchange rate; requirements will vary somewhat from consulate to consulate. The following are the 2023 requirements from the Mexican consulate in Denver, Colorado. Some other consulates may be more expensive and some may be less. All amounts listed here are in U.S. dollars.

Additionally, to apply for temporary residency, you’ll need to present an original version and one copy of the following documents to the consulate:

  • Proof of a monthly income of at least $2,593.05 plus $500 for each dependent for the past six months; or

  • Proof of investments or savings of at least $43,217.50 for the past 12 months; or

  • A notarized public deed of real property in Mexico that is valued at a minimum of $345,740.

For permanent residency, you’ll need to provide the consulate with an original and one copy of the following documents:

  • Proof that you have had an average monthly balance of at least $172,870 in either an investment or saving account for the last 12 months; or

  • Proof through bank statements or paystubs that you have a monthly income of at least $4,321.75 for the past six months, plus $500 for each dependent; or

  • Provide a document from the Social Security Office stating the exact amount of pension that you receive if that is the source of your monthly income.

If you’re applying for citizenship, you’ll need to provide SRE with these documents:

  • Your resident card;

  • Your birth certificate;

  • Your foreign passport or other travel documents;

  • Your wedding certificate, if applicable;

  • Birth certificates for any children born in Mexico;

  • A sworn statement of your travels outside the country; and

  • Two passport-sized photographs (1.5 x 1.75 inches) taken within the last 30 days

Processing Time

Obtaining temporary or permanent residency requires no waiting. If approved, the consulate will put a temporary stamp in your passport. You’ll then need to report to the Department of Immigration in Mexico within 30 days to finalize your residency. You’ll have another interview there, present your paperwork, and if approved, you’ll receive your resident card that same day or shortly thereafter.

The process to become a naturalized Mexican citizen can take a year or longer. It may be advantageous to have a local immigration attorney assist with the process.


You’ll need to pay an application fee of $51 in cash to the overseas Mexican consulate for either a temporary or permanent visa. Additional fees are due when you receive your visa at the Instituto Nacional de Migración in Mexico

The first Residente Temporal card is always issued for one year and costs 5,108 pesos; subsequent renewals may grant additional stays of one, two, or three years. The fee for an additional one-year extension is 7,654 pesos; for two years, it’s 9,693 pesos, and it’s 11,488 pesos for three years.

If you want to stay in Mexico after the four-year period, then you’ll need to apply for permanent residency. The fee to convert your temporary residency visa to permanent residency is 1,632 pesos in addition to paying the fee for the Residente Permanente card.

The fee for the Residente Permanente card is 6,226 pesos.

The cost to obtain Mexican citizenship is currently 8,395 pesos.

The fees payable to the Immigration Department in Mexico must be made in cash to a designated local bank; the bank will issue a receipt, which you’ll then present to the immigration office. Fees for citizenship must be paid online.


It is quite possible to apply for temporary or permanent residency without using the services of a visa agent or immigration attorney, especially if you have a good knowledge of Spanish or have a Spanish-speaking friend to assist. It’s easier to use a visa or immigration specialist, however, and their fees tend to be reasonable; plan on spending between $250 to $1,000 per person.

Many relocation specialists also help foreigners obtain long-term visas. A few reputable ones are Sonia Diaz (website:, email:, who serves San Miguel de Allende and the Puerto Vallarta / Riviera Nayarit region, Casey Leonard at Yucatán Transitional Services (website:, email:, who serves Mérida and the Yucatán Peninsula, and Liz Mundo at MyPlaceAtQueretaro (website:, email: MexLaw (website:; email: can also assist with all immigration matters.

For more information about obtaining Mexican citizenship, see the government website here:

How I Got My Mexican Visa

By Melissa Heisler

Los Cabos sits on a peninsula with the mighty Pacific Ocean on one side and the beautifully calm Sea of Cortez on the other. ©Jason Holland/International Living
Los Cabos sits on a peninsula with the mighty Pacific Ocean on one side and the beautifully calm Sea of Cortez on the other. ©Jason Holland/International Living

When I moved to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in 2015, I had no idea if I would be there one month, one year, or longer. Thankfully, United States and Canadian visitors generally receive a 180-day tourist visa when they enter Mexico, so I had time to figure out how long I was staying and how the visa process worked.

Once my heart told me I was destined to stay, I looked into my options for permanent residence. I decided to apply for temporary residence (Residente Temporal) first. After that, I would be able to apply to become a permanent resident (Residente Permanente—similar to a permanent green card in the U.S.).

The immigration authorities now use a “points system,” with points added based on certain factors. The relevant ones are financial background, ownership of property in Mexico, and a strong relationship between the applicant and Mexico.

As I did not have a job to go to in Mexico, I chose to apply with retirement status. Although I was not even 50 yet, I could use this status if I could show the required retirement funds. This status allows people to come to Mexico who are not intending to work here nor receive any of their social services (with the exception of public healthcare, which is available to all residents).

One important point: The documentation process does not start in Mexico. Coming from the U.S., I needed to go to a Mexican consulate in the U.S. If I were from Canada or elsewhere, it would be at the nearest Mexican consulate in that country.

I decided to travel to Chicago to get things started. Unfortunately, because I had to gather all the documentation I needed, I wasn’t able to complete the process on that first trip and returned to Mexico without it done. Be warned that some consulates will expect to see hard copies of your last 12 bank statements (others will accept six—it varies with location). While the Mexican immigration department has its own requirements, consulates have some leeway to set their own guidelines, too. If I can give one piece of advice, it would be to talk to only one consulate for the entire process and make sure you know their specific requirements.

I returned to the U.S. a few months later, with all my preparations made. I booked a one-way ticket from Cabo to Chicago, as I needed to leave my passport at the consulate and they did not specify when the process would be complete. In the event, it took less than one week. The staff were amazing, the process was smooth, and the cost was minimal (around $40).

Once the consulate finished its process, my passport had a special sticker in it regarding my visa application. It is very important to show this to the immigration desk upon arriving in Mexico, and you must travel to Mexico within 60 days. When you arrive, there is a different immigration process for applicants versus normal tourists, and it needs to be completed at the point-of-entry immigration desk. The officer must give you an entry visa showing “Canje” and not “Tourist.” (If the immigration officer marks you as a “Tourist,” this invalidates the whole process, and you have to start over.)

Finally, you need to go to your local immigration office in Mexico within 30 days of arriving to complete the process and actually get your residence card.

Many people choose to hire a “fixer” or attorney.

I decided to hire help to complete the process in Mexico. Many people choose to hire a “fixer” or immigration attorney, since the paperwork can be complex and the process is in Spanish. It costs between $600 and $1,500, depending on your circumstances and the attorney used. Martha Sandoval, whose office is conveniently next to the immigration building in Cabo, helped me with mine. It took a few weeks, in which time I could not leave Mexico (you must stay in-country for at least a month). But at the end I received my Residente Temporal card.

Temporary resident status needs to be renewed each year, but you can apply to renew multiple years in advance. I renewed after my first year and then paid for the other years upfront, so that I didn’t have to remember to renew. Next January, I will be able to apply for permanent residence.

After one year as a permanent resident, and depending on my score on the points system mentioned above, I can apply to become a citizen of Mexico. Unlike the resident status, there is a time-in-Mexico requirement for the citizen application. In the two years preceding my application for citizenship, I cannot be outside of Mexico for more than 180 days total.

To prepare for citizenship, I am also studying hard, as there is an exam on Spanish language, as well as in Mexican history and culture. If I want to bypass the history test, I can just wait until I am 60, when it is no longer required, although I’ll still need to demonstrate knowledge of the Spanish language.

For now, I am proud to be a Residente Temporal and loving the added benefit of bypassing the always-crowded tourist immigration kiosks at the airport.

International Living’s suggested immigration attorneys in Mexico are Ernesto Arrañaga in Playa del Carmen and Mérida (see: and Diana Cuevas in San Miguel de Allende (contact: Both speak excellent English.