The Right Mexican Visas for Expats like US [Updated 2022]

May 17, 2018
By TAO Mexico

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Mexico has a clear policy on immigration which controls the country’s borders, yet provides welcoming access for citizens of the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, or the European Union countries which are within the Schengen Area. 

We’re automatically given a tourist visa upon entry and the process of applying for one of the Mexican resident visas is relatively simple. 

Mexico has an open policy with regards to those who wish to live here, with rules that aren’t too stringent regarding how much wealth an individual needs to have in order to call this place their second home. 

There are 3 types of Mexican visas which apply to those who do not intend to work down here in Mexico.

  1. Tourist Visa
  2. Temporary Resident Visa
  3. Permanent Resident Visa

Having income from an outside source is not considered “working in Mexico”, it’s a form of financial retirement which Mexico welcomes. 

While there are routes to obtaining a working visa in Mexico, the visas we discuss here are for those who don’t intend to find a job or start their own business here.


Tourist Visa

When you enter the country, you’ll automatically be issued a Mexican Tourist Visa. 

On the plane, you’ll be given a Migratory Tourist Form (FMM), which entitles you to stay in the country for up to 180 days (around 6 months). You have to keep your “tourist card” for the entirety of your trip and hand it over when you leave the country. 

When you re-enter Mexico, a new FMM visa will be issued, meaning your stay up to 180 days starts over. Depending on how you enter and leave Mexico, and depending upon your airline operator, your exit could be subject to a departure tax. You’ll need to pay this in cash and it costs around $1,150 Mexican pesos ($65 USD).

It should be noted that the length of your stay in Mexico is at the discretion of the immigration officer you meet at the border. They do not have to issue you 180 days of stay, you’re not guaranteed that number of days by any right. If the officer on duty sees fit to give you 30 days of vacation in Mexico, then you have to leave within 30 days.


Advantages of a Tourist Visa

  • There are no costs.
  • You can enter and leave Mexico as many times as you want.
  • No paperwork to take care of.
  • You can bring a car into the country with foreign license plates.
  • You won’t need legal advice.


Disadvantages of a Tourist Visa

  • You cannot open a Mexican bank account.
  • You are not guaranteed 180 days of stay.
  • You have to leave Mexico at least twice a year.
  • You may have to pay a departure tax when exiting.
  • You cannot apply for a Mexican driver’s license.
  • You cannot buy or register a car in Mexico.


Can you live on a Tourist Visa?

Many expats who live down here in Mexico started out on a tourist visa. It’s simple, free, and most of us tend to make a trip back to the US to visit friends and family at intervals which are less than 6 months apart.

As a long-term plan for living in Mexico, it’s not ideal for giving any kind of permanency to your life here. 

Entering on a Mexican tourist visa is a good option for backpackers or those who want to get a taste of what it’s like to live in Mexico, but are not ready to commit.

It’s not ideal for anyone who intends to stay in Mexico with an eye on the future. If you’re planning on making purchases and building a life here, you should not rely on a tourist visa to provide any kind of guarantee to enter Mexico.  

The right mexican visas for expats like US | Tao Mexico

Temporary Resident Visa

The Temporary Resident Visa is one of two Mexican visas which give you a high level of permanence in the country. 

The Temporary Resident Visa is valid for 1 to 4 years, after which you automatically qualify for a Permanent Resident Visa. 

This is a great route for many who’re looking to build a second life in Mexico, as the financial requirements which you have to meet are lower than those required to apply for a Permanent Resident Visa. 

To begin, you’ll need to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa outside of Mexico, from the embassy in your home country. The visa has to be renewed every 4 years from within Mexico. After 4 years, you’ll have the option to switch to a Permanent Resident Visa or fall back to using the tourist visa system.  

Advantages of a Temporary Resident Visa

  • You can stay in Mexico as long as you like.
  • You can enter and leave Mexico as many times as you want.
  • You can open a Mexican bank account.
  • You can apply for a Mexican driver’s license.
  • You can buy and register a car in Mexico.
  • It’s notable to mention that if you buy a car with a car loan from Mexico, the loan will only extend to the expiration of your temporary Residency Visa. 
  • You can keep a car with foreign license plates in Mexico.
  • You can register a foreign car in Mexico.
  • You can get discounts at certain local businesses.

Disadvantages of a Temporary Resident Visa

  • You have to pay fees.
  • You have to show financial solvency.
  • You have to apply at the Mexican embassy in your home country.
  • You have to do the paperwork.
  • You have to renew it annually (for 4 years) from within Mexico.
  • You may need legal advice.

Who Qualifies for a Temporary Resident Visa?

There are currently two types of Temporary Resident Visa available to US citizens. These are for “Retired Income Holders” or those who want to “Live in Mexico, Work in the USA”. The 3 common routes to applying for a Temporary Resident Visa are:

  • By showing sufficient assets.
  • By showing sufficient monthly income.
  • By proving ongoing employment for a US company.


Temporary Resident Visa by Assets

If you want to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa by proving you have sufficient assets, you’ll be asked to prove your economic solvency by providing:  The last 12 months of statements as well as a letter from your bank or a recognized financial institution stating that you have investment funds or savings that holds an average monthly balance of at least $25,800 USD.  


Temporary Resident Visa by Income 

Applying for a Temporary Resident Visa by proving you have sufficient monthly income requires that you present the last 6 months of statements from a recognized financial institution. Here, you will have to show an account with a monthly income which has a balance of at least $2,000 USD at the end of every month. 

For a salary, you can prove this by providing pay stubs or an original letter from your employer stating your monthly salary and seniority. For pensions, you can prove your monthly income with receipts from the last six months as well as a letter from the Social Security Administration stating the monthly amount you’ll be receiving. 


Temporary Resident Visa by Real Estate Ownership

If you own real estate in Mexico that is valued over $281,000 USD, you can apply for a Temporary Residence Visa. 


Temporary Resident Visa for US Company Employees

Those who are employed in the United States but can enjoy a little freedom regarding the location they conduct their work can apply for a Temporary Resident Visa which lets you live in Mexico and officially work in the US. 

You’ll need to show proof of your employment with a US company, providing the last 6 months of statements and the last six months of pay stubs. 

There are two approaches to this, similar to the previous type of temporary visa. You can qualify by showing an account with at least $20,200 US dollars at the end of every month for the last 12 months, or by showing an account with a monthly income which has a minimum average balance of $2,000 US dollars for the last 6 months.


Economic Dependents

Every family member or economic dependent which is on the application will add an additional 25% to the required amounts shown above. For example, a couple and their child who are applying by proving they have sufficient assets would need to show:

  • Adult 1 - $20,000
  • Adult 2 - 25% of $20,000 = $5,000
  • Child - 25% of $20,000 = $5,000
  • Required Amount - $30,000

Different Types of Temporary Residency Visas | Tao Mexico

Permanent Resident Visa

The Permanent Resident Visa is the serious option for anybody who intends to make a life or have financial interests in Mexico. 

The Permanent Resident Visa is for “Retired Income Holders”, giving you the same benefits as the Temporary Resident Visa. 

After 4 years of the Temporary Resident Visa, you’ll have the choice to either switch to a Permanent Resident Visa or go back onto the tourist visa system. 

The Permanent Resident Visa never expires and doesn’t need renewing annually like the Temporary Resident Visa does.

The primary difference for your life down here in Mexico? You’ll no longer be able to keep a foreign-plated car in Mexico. You’ll either have to officially register it in Mexico or take it out of the country. They’re saying: It’s time to commit!

Advantages of a Permanent Resident Visa

  • Stay in Mexico as long as you’d like.
  • No Renewal Necessary
  • Enter and leave Mexico as many times as you want.
  • Open a Mexican bank account.
  • Apply for a Mexican driver’s license.
  • Buy and register a car in Mexico.
  • Register a foreign car in Mexico.
  • Get discounts at certain local businesses.

Disadvantages of a Permanent Resident Visa

  • You’ll have to pay fees.
  • You have to prove financial solvency.
  • You have to apply at the Mexican embassy in your home country.
  • You have to do the paperwork.
  • You have to officially register any foreign plated vehicles.
  • You may need legal advice.

Who Qualifies for a Permanent Resident Visa?

The 4 common routes to applying for a Permanent Resident Visa in Mexico are:

  • By showing sufficient assets.
  • By proving sufficient monthly income.
  • By completing the 4 consecutive years of a Temporary Resident Visa.
  • By having certain family ties in Mexico.


Permanent Resident Visa by Assets

If you want to apply for a Permanent Resident Visa by proving you have sufficient assets, you will be asked to present the last 12 months of statements from a recognized financial institution. You have to show an account has a balance of at least $80,000 USD at the end of every month.


Permanent Resident Visa by Income

Applying for a Permanent Resident Visa by proving you have sufficient monthly income requires that you present the last 6 months of statements from a recognized financial institution. Here, you will have to show an account with a monthly income which has a balance of at least $2,000 US dollars at the end of every month.


Economic Dependents

The same rule applies as for the Temporary Resident Visa; every family member or economic dependent which is on the application will add an additional 25% to the required amounts shown above. For example, a couple and their child who are applying for a Permanent Resident Visa by proving they have sufficient assets would need to show:

  • Adult 1 - $80,000
  • Adult 2 - 25% of $80,000 = $20,000
  • Child - 25% of $80,000 = $20,000
  • Required Amount - $120,000

 

People Who Apply for Mexican Resident Visas

A broad range of people look to apply for a Mexican Resident Visa. These types of people include but are not limited to:

Retirees

Most of us who move to Mexico will be claiming a kind of financial retirement status as a “Retired Income Holder”. 

Being a retiree in Mexico doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to reach for the pipe and slippers; a lot of people who live here continue to have work and financial interests back home in the US. 

As life is a lot cheaper down here, the amount of money one needs in order to consider themselves financially retired is much lower when compared to that needed to retire in the United States. 

You’d be surprised how many retirees there are here who’re under 40 years old...   

Actual retirees who are over 60 years old are eligible to apply for a “Tarjeta Inapam”. The “Personas Adultas Mayores” benefits program has a senior citizen card which gets you discounts and savings on a range of services. 

These include health care, dental care, pharmaceuticals, and transportation. The Tarjeta Inapam also offers discounts on a variety of cultural interests.


Investors

Those looking to invest capital into Mexico are eligible to apply for a Permanent Resident Visa. Foreign investment boosts property tax revenues and drives the real estate market here, and so Mexico makes it easy to do business. 

Investors looking to make real estate, property, and business investments are invited to explore the possibilities Mexico has to offer, issuing a visa for a relatively small amount of capital. 

The buoyancy of Mexico’s booming tourism industry throughout the Riviera Maya has made it a fast-paced and dynamic real estate market for investors. 

For more information, download our free guide on “How to buy a property in the Riviera Maya being a foreigner”.


Guide: Ten steps to buying a home in Mexico | Tao Mexico


Freelancers & Remote Workers

A lot of businesses have redefined the formality of their corporate structure, with increasing amounts of freedom afforded to employees to work remotely. This phenomenon, coupled with a rise in the numbers of online freelancers, has created a culture of Digital Nomads who are free to work from anywhere they like and can manage their affairs with a laptop and a cell phone.


Professionals & Scientists

Mexico is always looking to invite certain types of prominent people into the country. There is the opportunity to make an individual case to the Interior Ministry if you are some kind of notable humanitarian, artist, researcher, or sportsman. My Nobel prize nomination is not forthcoming, this was not my personal route.   If you have qualifications and certifications in certain professional, technical, or scientific fields, you may be allowed to live in Mexico under sponsorship from a foreign company. Obviously, this excludes those who want to actually work in Mexico, who would need to apply for a proper work visa.


If you’re reading this and you’re interested in living in Mexico - whether you’d like to buy a property in the country, or invest in a rental property, it’s not as hard as you may think! 

We recommend you read: Can a foreigner buy a property in Mexico? and 5 things you should know before buying a house in Mexico.

If you’re ready to buy a house or apartment, or would like to see some of the best properties available in incredible destinations in Mexico such as the Riviera Maya, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, do not hesitate to contact us. At TAO it will be a pleasure to meet you and help you make the best real estate investment in Mexico.

*The information above is subject to change at any time. Please review the Mexican government website to ensure you have the most updated information.

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