Mexican Visas and Immigration Policy
Like many industrialized nations, Mexico has a comprehensive legal and statutory Immigration Policy affecting Mexicans and foreign nationals.
Right here, you can find an overview of the Mexican immigration system and outlines the principal visas and options open to persons seeking to visit Mexico for leisure, for retirement, for living, working as well as those seeking permanent residence in Mexico or Mexican Citizenship.
What is Mexico's Immigration Policy?
Mexico's General Law of Population sets out the rights and obligations of foreigners, as well as the different statuses associated with foreign immigration.
Types of Immigrant Permits
There are two kinds of permit:
Applying for Mexican Visas.
You may apply for your visa(s) in person, or you may hire a representative to advise you, make the application on your behalf and do all of the paperwork.
What are the Non-Immigrant Visas?
There are various classifications of Non-Immigrant visitors to Mexico - the main ones are listed below.
Mexico's Immigrant Visas
Immigrant Visas are issued to foreign nationals who have the intention of living in Mexico for long periods of time (over one year) AND who intend to seek permanent residency in Mexico, or Mexican Citizenship.
FM2 - The Immigrant Visa
FM2 visas are intended for people seeking permanent residency status in Mexico or those who may seek eventual Mexican Citizenship. There are various categories under which FM2 visas are granted, and these relate to the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the FM2, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative. You must hold a FM2 for a qualifying period* before you may apply for "immigrant" status or Mexican Citizenship. You do not need to have held a FM3 visa before applying for a FM2, and any years you may have accrued while living in Mexico under the auspice of a FM3 do not count towards your FM2 qualification period. If your goal is to seek long-term residency in Mexico, or to become a Mexican Citizen, you should apply for FM2 status (or request a change of status from FM3 to FM2) so that your time starts counting towards the qualification period as soon as possible. Once you are in possession of a FM2, following the qualification period, you may apply for full residency status in Mexico. When your full residency status has been accepted, you may also begin your application for Mexican Citizenship, although this is optional; you can remain a 'resident alien' on a FM2 visa indefinitely. Upon receiving immigrated status, you will receive a plastic card that looks like a driver's license. This card enables you to pass through Mexico's borders as if you were a Mexican national. If you hold a FM2 visa and stay outside of Mexico for longer than 2 years, or for 5 years in any 10 year period, you will lose your permanent resident status in Mexico. *Qualifying periods vary depending on your circumstances. Seek professional about this matter.
Examples of the kinds of people who might apply for FM2 visas:
The Right Visa for You
Below are some examples of situations and the type of visa you may consider applying for.
Non Immigrant (FMM and FM3)
When you do NOT want to seek permanent residence in Mexico.
Immigrant, Economically Active (FM2)
When you want to acquire permanent residency AND you want to work in Mexico:
You should apply for a FM2 permit commensurate with the economic activity you want to undertake. Some common examples of economic activities which qualify for FM2 are: a company-sponsored job, or an invitation to carry out academic or scientific research. If you have several hundred thousand US dollars to invest in a Mexican company you can apply for an investor's FM2.
Immigrant, Not Economically Active (FM2)
When you want to acquire permanent residency but DO NOT want to work in Mexico:
If you are of retirement age (50+) and have a regular source of income from abroad (e.g. investments, savings, pension) then a Retiree FM2 visa will be the most straightforward route. NB: There is no 'official' minimum income, by law, that you need to prove; criteria and income levels vary and each application is dealt with on a case-by-case basis; you will need to contact your local immigration office in Mexico for the latest advice or hire an immigration lawyer to give you counsel based upon your individual circumstances.
If you are not of a retirement age (below 50) and want to live but not work in Mexico, you will need to contact the Mexican Consulate if you are not already in Mexico. If you are in Mexico, perhaps on a FMM visa, contact an immigration lawyer for advice. Provided that you can prove a steady income, you may be granted FM2 visa to live in Mexico and seek permanent residency. You will need to state what you intend to do there, e.g. early retirement due to health, etc. There are various routes to obtaining a FM2 visa, and if you are unsure, the best course of action is to contact an immigration lawyer for counsel (see next section).
You may apply for Mexican visas directly, in person, or you may hire a representative to do the paperwork and administration on your behalf.
How you go about applying for your visa will depend on your circumstances, how much Spanish you speak, and how much time you have to deal with the considerable bureaucracy involved in the application process.
If you are unsure which visa may be right for your circumstances, if you are having trouble with the application you made on your own, or if your Spanish language skills are rusty, then you may do well to hire the services of an immigration lawyer in Mexico.
A good immigration lawyer will be up-to-speed on the latest legislation as well as the latest "on the ground" policies being implemented at a local level. A lawyer will also be able to assess your individual circumstances and suggest a proper course of action, based on your personal situation, that will have the best chance of leading to a successful application. A good lawyer will also advise you if it is not possible for a person in your circumstance to make a successful application.
Hiring an immigration lawyer and representative will also avoid you having to make repeated trips to the immigration office, standing in line and dealing with the bureaucracy and extensive paperwork involved in acquiring your immigration documents. If your presence is required at the immigration office, such as to sign documents or give fingerprints, your lawyer will advise you and arrange to meet you there.
The support offered by a good lawyer can save you a considerable amount of time, especially if your application is complex. If you don't speak good Spanish then you will almost certainly require representation to expedite your visa(s).
May I be Granted Mexican Citizenship?
The Mexican citizenship application process is relatively easy. Just be prepared to fill out a lot of paperwork and to sit and wait patiently. Here is how to get the citizenship process rolling.
1. Move to Mexico. Before you can even begin the citizenship process you have to legally reside in Mexico for five years. You can prove your legal status and residency through your FM-3 document
2. Start studying. According to Mexican law, every citizen must be able to speak Spanish and have basic knowledge of Mexican history. However, a basic ability to speak Spanish usually suffices as the government rarely administers the written test.
3. Hire a lawyer The application processes can be frustrating and burdensome. If you check the wrong box or turn a form in at the wrong time, you could find yourself back at square one. By hiring an attorney who specializes in immigration to Mexico, you can have an experienced professional jump through the right hoops for you.
4. Get familiar with the Immigration and Naturalization office. It is here that you will start creating your paper trail. Set up an appointment and have the official walk through the entire process with you. Be sure you are clear on what documents you are required to have at the initial meeting and thereafter.
5. Fill out your forms and deliver them to the local immigration office with the appropriate accompanying documents. Have a copy of your passport and several photographs ready to submit with the forms.
6. Write your check. Becoming a citizen is not cheap. You will be required to make several payments during the process.
7. Be patient. After all your forms are filed, be prepared to wait up to two years. The government will review everything and contact you with their decision.