Visas & Permits: The Mexican visa system

Before planning to come to Mexico, make sure you understand your legal situation. Depending on your nationality and the purpose of your trip, you may need an entry visa, residence permit and/or work permit. Read our guide about the legal entry requirements for Mexico.

 

When it comes to immigration laws, visa applications and work permits, Mexico offers just about as much red tape as any other country in the world. Your first step towards overcoming these obstacles is to become familiar with the Mexican immigration system.

Introduction

Who needs a visa for Mexico?

Not everybody needs a visa for Mexico. If your stay does not exceed 180 days, you might not need to apply for a visa. Residents from Schengen area countries, as well as citizens from Argentina, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela, do not need a visa.

Types of visa

Mexican law distinguishes between six types of visa that can be categorized in the following way:

  • Visitor visas
    • without the right to earn a salary (visitante sin permiso para realizar actividades remuneradas) (valid for 180 days, 10 years for pensioners proving their ability to sustain themselves financially)
    • with the right to undertake paid work (visitante con permiso para realizar actividades remuneradas) (valid for 180 days)
    • visitor for adoption procedure (visitante para realizar trámites de adopción)
  • Short-term residence visas (for stays up to 4 years)
    • temporary residence for students (residente temporal estudiante)
    • temporary residence (residencia temporal)
  • Long-term residence visa (residencia permanente)

Go to the website of the Mexican Ministry for External Relations for official and up to date information on Mexican visas.

Work permits

If you want to work for an international company in Mexico, you and your company will have to apply for the corresponding short-term residence visa in a Mexican consulate or embassy.

If you want to work for a Mexican company, you and your company will have to apply with the Mexican authorities for a work permit and subsequently for a long-term residence visa.

Residency visas

Visas for short-term and long-term residency

 

In Mexico you can either apply for a short-term or a long-term visa. The former is valid for up to 4 years, the latter does not expire.

Residency visas

Short-term residence visa

There are two types of short-term residence visas (visa de residencia temporal) for stays of up to 4 years in Mexico. You can either apply for a temporary residence visa for students (residente temporal estudiante) or for a temporary residence visa (residencia temporal). Neither of them gives you the right to pursue remunerated activities in Mexico.

Long-term residence visa

The long-term visa (visa de residencia permanente) is recommended (and even necessary) if you want to live in Mexico for more than four years. After getting a work permit, or if you have Mexican relatives or relatives with living in Mexico on a long-term residence visa, you can apply for a long-term residence visa yourself. This visa does not expire.

How to apply for the visa

If you want to apply for a Mexican visa, you have to do so with the consulate or embassy in your home country. You have to be a national of the country where you apply. You will need the following:

  • Passport
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Document certifying your connection to a Mexican national/long-term resident

Visitor visas

Visas for visiting Mexico

There are three types of visitor visas for Mexico. You are obliged to apply for a visitor visa 30 days after your arrival in Mexico.

Visitor visas

Probably the most common visa, the visitor visa which doesn’t allow you to undertake paid work (visitante sin permiso para realizar actividades remuneradas) is valid for 180 days after which you will have to leave the country. If you are a wealthy pensioner, you can also apply for a visitor visa which is then valid for up to 10 years. You will have to prove you have the means to financially support yourself for the duration of your stay though.

If you have a business meeting or similar, you can apply for a visa with the right to pursue remunerated activities (visitante con permiso para realizar actividades remuneradas) that is valid for 180 days and can only be applied for if you are paid by a company outside Mexico.

If you plan to adopt a Mexican child, you can apply for the visa as a visitor for adoption procedure (visitante para realizar trámites de adopción).

How to apply for the visa

If you want to apply for a visa to live in Mexico, you have to do so with the consulate or embassy in your home country. You have to be a national of the country where you apply. You will need the following:

  • Formal letter of invitation from a Mexican national or long-term resident of Mexico
  • Passport
  • Passport-sized photo
  • Document certifying your solvency for the duration of the stay
  • Document/letter certifying you inscribed for a Mexican university (for the student visa)

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