How to legally live and work in Mexico

Posted By on July 3, 2015

Living and working in Mexico is a dream for a lot of people and is one that can be made possible with a little homework. The proper way to live and / or work in Mexico is to go through the appropriate Mexican immigration channel.

It’s important to note, however, that you do not have to go through the immigration system to live in Mexico. Visitors arriving at the border are generally granted a 180-day FMM visa (Forma Migratoria Multiple). This piece of paper means you can stay in the country for up to six months at one time.

Mexico FMM

You also do not have to go through the Mexican immigration system to buy property — as in a second home or a rental condo, for example. Anyone can buy property in Mexico. What you will need is a licensed real estate agent familiar with the local system and local laws.

If, on the other hand, it is your intention to live (and maybe work) in Mexico, then you will need to go through the appropriate Mexican immigration channels.

The first step to starting your resident visa is to visit a Mexican consulate. Foreigners living outside Mexico (or inside Mexico on an FMM visitor visa) must go to a Mexican consulate in their home country. This is where you will start the residency application process. Although there are set standards for the application process, each consulate will have their own set of requirements and be able to tell you what’s needed to start the process.

The basic requirements – each consulate has different requirements, which is why it’s important to visit your nearest Mexican consulate for exact details — will at the very least include:

  • Valid Passport
  • Letter addressed to the Consulate General of Mexico stating that you want to live in Mexico. The letter must be typed in or translated into Spanish.
  • Proof of economic solvency through a letter from a bank institution (last three current bank statements).
  • Passport size pictures: 2 front and 1 right profile
  • Payment of consular fee (fees vary)
  • Payment of consular stamp: $127.00 dollars (for 2016)
  • Applicant must be present in order to submit paperwork (you cannot send it by courier, post or email)

Here is a list of official immigration fees, which vary depending on the type of visa for which you apply. These fees change every year so it is a good idea to check back.

Mexican consulate offices no longer offer FM3 or FM2 cards, but instead, have replaced them with Residente Temporales — no Inmigrante visa (temporary resident non-immigration visa) and Residente Permanentes (permanent resident) cards for foreigners who qualify. Everyone starts with a temporary visa and after four years, are able to apply for permanent resident status.

New INM visa cards

As of November 2013, it became possible to apply for working permission with a temporary resident visa (Residente Temporal con permiso para trabajo). This process changes things in that you are issued an RFC number to pay Mexican taxes before you’re allowed to work. For those wishing to work while living in Mexico on a temporary resident visa, this is an additional cost of $2,600 peso to your application (this fee also changes each year).

If you become a working Residente Temporal visa-holder, you will be required to legalize your car in Mexico or take the car out of Mexico for good. At the moment this does not seem to apply to non-working immigrants.

Foreigners with permanent resident visas do not need to request working permits, nor do they have to renew their visas. A permeant resident visa gives you more rights and allows you to live in the country permanently.

Once you’ve applied for temporary resident status outside the country and are approved, a temporary travel sticker is placed inside your passport. This sticker is valid for 30 days from the time you enter Mexico. Your temporary resident visa is issued in Mexico. Once you enter the country, you have 30 days (as per the travel sticker) to appear at an INM (Instituto Nacional Migracion) office in the city or town in which you will reside.

INM office in Mexico

You can find updates on INM requirements, general immigration news, forms and fees on their website. It is here where you can also check your status and submit forms or any changes you have.

Instituto Nacional Migracion (English)

Instituto Nacional Migracion (Spanish)

INM answers questions over the phone with some English speaking agents:

Immigration Hotline
01-800-004-6264
The hotline is available 24 hours / day, 7 days a week.

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