Visas – 101
When you travel abroad you will need two things:
1) Your passport.
2) Your visa or permit.
Mexico’s General Law of Population sets forth the rights and obligations of foreigners, as well as different statuses associated with foreign immigration.
Mexico welcomes most foreign nationals for a specific period of time to take part in non-money-making activities, such as a vacation. Recurring visits or stays over 180 days require special permits from the Mexican Consulate.
There are two kinds of visa/permits, Non-immigrant and Immigrant.
Non-immigrant visa/permits are for people who want to visit Mexico for a specific purpose and length of time and then depart. Immigrant visa/permits are for people who wish to live in Mexico, short or long-term.
You do not have to surrender your natural citizenship to be granted full-resident status in Mexico. Full resident status entitles you to all the rights and benefits of a Mexican National – to live, work, claim state benefits, and pay taxes. But you are not permitted to vote in Mexican elections.
These visa/permits may prohibit work in specific industries such as positions related to bar and waiter/waitress work. Contact a professional for specific advice on immigration. You can also contact the Mexican Consulate of your country.
There are various classifications of Non-Immigrant visitors to Mexico. I’ve listed some Consulates below. They will give you details on how to apply for permits that are required in advance.
The Mexican Tourist permit is known at the “FMT”. It is very simple to fill out and available from airlines and ports of entry. This permit allows visitors to remain in Mexico for a maximum period of 180 days. If the officer at the port of entry does not assign 180 days leave of stay at your point of entry, the permit may be extended to the maximum permitted stay by visiting one of the local foreign immigration offices, completing the paperwork and paying the administration fee.
You can use an FMT permit to enter Mexico for leisure and also if you plan to scout for and/or invest in Mexican real estate. When you are closing a real estate deal, you will need to show evidence to the Notary Public that your stay in Mexico is legal and an FMT is a valid document for this purpose.
For extended stays in Mexico, you must apply for the Visitors permit (usually an FM3) through your company and state what the purpose of the visit is, and how long it is likely to take. There are also some forms to fill out and a handling fee to pay. You can download the forms, and find out the latest fees and process by going to Consulate listed. Visitor’s Permits are issued for up to one year, and are renewable four times, for a maximum of one year each time – for a total maximum period of five years.
Can apply for an immigration permit. Each case is considered individually and entry is at the Interior Ministry’s discretion.
Special visa/permits for foreigners visiting maritime ports and border cities. The permit allows a maximum stay of 3 days, and you must stay within the 35km “border zone”.
Resident Alien (Permanent Visitor):
If you wish to remain in Mexico as a “resident alien” after five years, you must apply for full residency status, and there is a specific procedure to follow and have accepted. Once your application has been accepted and your “FM2” has been issued, you are entitled to full rights and responsibilities as any other Mexican Citizen, with the exception of the right to vote. Upon receiving this status, you will receive a document that looks like a Mexican Passport (called a “FM2”) -newer versions look like a driver’s license – which enables you pass through Mexico’s borders as if you were a Mexican National.
You do not need to surrender your national passport, which you’ll use when you return to your home country – either for visits, or when returning home to dwell. If you stay outside of Mexico for longer than two years, or for five years in any 10-year period, you will lose your resident status in Mexico.
If you are over 50 years of age, and want to engage in “non remunerative activities” and you are receiving funds from abroad (from a pension or other investments or fixed income) of a specific set amount, set by the Mexican government, plus a specific required amount for each dependent (e.g. spouse, children) , you can apply for a Retiree Immigration Visa/Permit.
When you do NOT want to seek permanent residence in Mexico, for vacations and casual trips toMexico, just fill out and use the tourist permit, available from the airline you travel with or at the port of entry. If you are of retirement age (50+), and have approximately US $1,500 (can vary) or equivalent income per month, then a Retiree permit will be your easiest route. 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. Provided that you can prove a permanent steady income in line with the regulations, you may be granted an FM3 permit to live in Mexico, which would be eligible for conversion to an FM2 in 5 years. You will need to state what you intend to do there, e.g. early retirement due to health, etc.
The American Embassy and Consulate in Mexico – Mexico City
Paseo de la Reforma 305
Colonia Cuahtemoc 06500
Telephone: +52 55 5209 9100
The British Embassy and Consulate in Mexico – Mexico City
Rio Lerma 71
Telephone: +52 55 5242 8500
The Canadian Embassy and Consulate in Mexico -Mexico City
Colonia Rincon del Bosque
Telephone: +52 52 55 5724 7900
These are only a sampling of the divisions of people immigrating – retirees, visitors, artists, and so many more, but I slant info toward retirees, of course. Info for other visitors/immigrants/visa can be found though the Consulates.
Addition Feb 3, 2013 – the amount you need to move to Mexico has changed – see – http://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/detroit/index.php/info-english