For Mexico immigration, you must have a valid U.S. passport or passport card (for land and sea entries only) and, if applicable, a valid U.S. Resident Alien Card (Green Card) or U.S. visa. Minors must also travel with a valid passport. A minor (under 18 years of age) traveling alone or accompanied by someone other than a parent or guardian of legal age (grandparent, uncle/aunt, school group, etc.), must present a signed and notarized letter in Spanish certifying permission from at least one parent for travel to Mexico.
The FMM (Visitante) is a multiple immigration form for stays in Mexico of less than 180 days. It is primarily used for tourists and business travelers whose purpose is non-paid or non-profitable activities. You will be given an FMM form to complete on your plane, point of entry or at your destination airport. After 180 days you will need to apply for a temporary visa.
Visitors are not permitted to change their status (such as tourist to temporary resident) while in Mexico except when due to family unity (the person has a spouse who is a temporary or permanent resident or a parent or child who is a Mexican Citizen). Except for these limited cases, an application must be made at a Mexican consular office in the United States.
More information is available at this U.S. Department of State website under the tab: Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements.
Mexico requires nationals of certain countries to go to a local consulate to request a tourist card. The list of countries where a prior authorization for a tourist visa (and proof of income or assets) is required can be found at this Government of Mexico website.
The Temporary Resident (Residente Temporal) visa can be obtained for up to a four-year duration. Visas of less than four years can be extended in Mexico, but cannot exceed the maximum term of four years. Thereafter, you can apply for permanent residency or return to the U.S. and apply for a new Temporary Resident visa. Holders of this visa may leave and re-enter Mexico as many times as they wish and may apply for a Work Permit. If you are not planning to work in Mexico, you will need to show proof of your financial self-sufficiency or regular income.
You can qualify for a Temporary Resident visa if:
- You are an immediate family member of a temporary or permanent resident or citizen of Mexico.
- You have one of the following: proof of investment receipts or bank statements showing an average monthly balance of over US$103,616 for a year, proof of employment or a pension with a monthly income over US$2,072 for a period of 6 months. The amount needed is tied to the minimum wage so it will fluctuate each year with rises in the posted minimum wage rate as well as exchange rate fluctuations.
- You have a valid job offer from a Mexican employer that states the occupation, includes the physical address and provides temporary proof of the future employer ID registration number within Mexico Immigration.
- You own real estate worth a minimum of US$200,000.
- You have an investment or shares in a Mexican company or a fixed asset, such as heavy machinery, of US$100,000 or more.
- You operate a business that creates jobs for five or more Mexicans.
The Permanent Resident (Residente Permanente) visa allows holders to move to Mexico and stay indefinitely, does not require renewal and includes the right to work. You can apply for permanent residency after four years as a temporary resident (no financials are required if you always renew on time) or after two years as a temporary resident, if married to a Mexican citizen.
- Choose one of the following options for Retired/ Pension: Proof of investment or bank accounts with an average monthly balance equivalent to US$129,500 for a year or proof of monthly income from pensions in the amount of at least $2,600 USD for a period of 6 months. The amount needed is tied to the minimum wage so it will fluctuate each year with rises in the posted minimum wage rate as well as exchange rate fluctuations.
- You can apply for a permanent visa if you have family ties to a Mexican or a foreigner permanent resident after two years as a temporary resident, if you are married to a Mexican citizen. If you have a Mexican child, you can go straight from tourist visa to permanent visa.
- You can apply for a permanent visa if you have had a temporary visa for four years without having to show income, if you renewed on time the last 4 years.
Mexico also has a points system designed to attract foreign investors and people with high competence in areas such as science, technology, sports, humanities and art. Individuals deemed to have skills that will strengthen and promote the development and competitiveness of Mexico also receive strong consideration for permanent residency.
The point system is based on the following criteria:
- Education level
- Work experience in areas of interest to the country that have high demand and low supply.
- Skills in science and technology
- Acknowledgments and international awards
- Proficiency in Spanish
- Understanding of Mexican culture
While the point system was part of the original immigration law enacted in 2011, the details and workings have yet to be published. We will keep you up to date on any changes in this area.
More information on temporary and permanent residence visas can be found in our blog Visa Requirements for Moving to Mexico by attorney Spencer McMullen.
If you move to Mexico and plan to work there with an existing company, the following are the basic requirements and information to obtain a Work Permit visa:
- You need to receive a job offer before you can begin the process with the National Immigration Institute.
- You need original documents of your birth certificate, degrees and any other titles and transcripts.
- Include a copy of a letter of intent to work for the company that has hired you.
- Organizations that intend to hire a foreign national must first register with the National Immigration Institute.
- In order to sponsor a foreign national’s visa application, the sponsoring organization must submit an application for work authorization to the Mexican immigration authorities on behalf of the foreign national.
- Upon approval of the work authorization application, foreign nationals must appear before the Mexican consular office with jurisdiction over their place of residence to obtain the entry visa.
- Within 30 calendar days of entry into Mexico, you must appear at a local National Immigration Institute office to be registered.
- Work Permit visa applications for local hires will be subject to a quota system.
Please see the requirements for Temporary and Permanent Resident visas. You will need to apply for the appropriate visa in person at your nearest Consulate General of Mexico office.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico has more information, including locations and contact information for all U.S. Consulates in Mexico.
If you hold a Temporary Resident visa, you are allowed to import your household goods and personal effects free of duty and taxes, provided they have been used for at least 6 months and consist of personal effects and furniture for day-to-day use. Also included duty free are clothing, books, bookcases, art, scientific instruments and tools of your trade, but not complete collections for trade shows or to equip a laboratory, store, factory and other uses. Items not considered household goods and subject to duties are items with less than 6 months use before you move and items packed in original cartons, even if used.
You must provide a list of your belongings (Lista de Menaje de Casa) in Spanish and have it stamped by the Consulate General of Mexico office nearest you in order for it to be submitted to Mexican customs. You can prepare your list in English and then have it translated. If you use a moving company, they generally provide this service for a fee.
You have 6 months from the date your visa was issued to ship your goods to Mexico. You will need to pay a fee in cash for the consular stamp. This household goods concession is provided only once in the lifetime of a family.
You will need to provide the following documents:
- An original valid passport and five copies of the pages containing personal information, photograph of bearer and expiration date/extensions.
- An original visa and five copies
- An original plus four copies of a typed itemized list of all household goods (Lista de Menaje de Casa), including those contained in boxes. Your address in the U.S. should appear in the upper left-hand corner and your new address in Mexico in the upper right hand corner of at least the first page. Your list must be in Spanish, typed single-spaced and with columns specifying the following: quantity, description and, if electrical appliances, the brand name, model and serial number. You must leave space for the Consular’s seal in the right bottom of each page. You must sign each page at the left bottom in front of the consular official. Please note that the consular officers may ask for additional information at the time of the interview.
Items being imported may not include complete equipment, industrial tools or laboratories. If you wish to import firearms and cartridges, you must secure an import permit from the Ministry of Economy and from the Ministry of National Defense.
Here is a partial list of items you cannot bring into Mexico:
- Food (spices, canned, liquids, powder, fruits, vegetables, etc…)
- Alcoholic beverages
- Illegal drugs
- Guns, weapons, ammunition
- Explosives and flammables
- Gas tanks
- Plants or seeds
- Dissected animals (skins, horns, antlers, trophies, etc…)
- Cleaning items (cleaning liquids, solvents, etc…
Motor Vehicle Importation
Rules and procedures will vary based on the status of your visa, whether you are importing your vehicle temporarily or indefinitely, whether the vehicle is brand new from a country with which Mexico has a free trade agreement, such as NAFTA, or the vehicle is classified as used or classic.
Temporary residents and retirees are permitted to import their vehicles to Mexico. All new vehicles (i.e., current or later model years with an odometer reading of less than 600 miles) from the U.S., Canada and the E.U. are admitted duty free.
If you do not drive your vehicle to Mexico yourself, only an authorized customs broker can carry out the importation of your vehicle to Mexico on your behalf. The only exception to this is spouses and family members may temporarily import their family member’s car if they prove the relationship. Cars that are leased or financed require a letter from the leasing or financing company giving permission to be taken into Mexico.
If you wish to bring a large truck over one ton in weight, you will need a special certification. You also may bring a trailer and motorcycles with your vehicle, up to three non-road legal recreational vehicles.
The duration of the temporary importation permit conforms to your immigration document, which is up to 180 days for tourists and up to the end of the total 4-year term for temporary residents. Permanent residents may not import or drive foreign plated cars (unless the importer is in the car or the car is imported by a direct family member).
If you or a family member does not bring the vehicle in to Mexico, you will need to employ a freight forwarder/broker that specializes in vehicles and is experienced with Mexican customs. This may be the same company or affiliate of the company you are using for your household move, if you choose to use an international moving company.
Documents required to import your vehicle into Mexico are:
- Registration from your country of origin not expired more than 3 months
- Invoice or bill of sale
- Original vehicle title
- Driver’s license
- Passport copy
- Original Temporary Resident visa
- Permission from finance/leasing company
To import your pet into Mexico, you will need a health certificate (original and a copy) issued by your veterinarian. The certificate must be on letterhead with the veterinarian’s license number printed on it. You will need to present this certificate at the Office of Animal and Plant Health Inspection (OISA) located at the port of entry to Mexico.
If you bring more than two pets, you must complete additional forms and pay additional taxes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides further details on requirements for importing your pet into Mexico.
You can ask immigration, customs and pet importation questions and get real-time answers on the Consulate General of Mexico, San Jose Facebook page.
(Information provided in our Immigration section is updated frequently by Chapala Law with offices in Guadalajara and Chapala.)