San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

Visas and Immigration Laws

Immigration laws in Mexico have been going through several changes. In May 2010 there was an update to the Mexican immigration protocols. The FM-T tourist permit was deprecated and replaced with an FMM entry and exit permit. In addition, you can no longer obtain an FM-3 outside of Mexico. There have also been changes to the rules for FM-2 and FM-3 residence visas. The FM-3 and FM-2 booklets are being replaced with the Forma Migratoria de no Inmigrante and Forma Migratoria de Inmigrante laminated cards.

What are the Non-Immigrant Visas?
There are various classifications of Non-Immigrant visitors to Mexico - the main ones are listed below. Your local Mexican Consulate will be able to give you full details about how to apply and pay for permits that are required in advance.

FMM - The Short-Term Non-Immigrant Visa
Short term visas are intended for visitors (usually tourists) to Mexico on short term (six months or less) visits. For trips of longer than six months, a non-immigrant or immigrant visa should be considered—see the sections below for details. The FMM has a 'Business Visitor' section, specifically for persons who come to Mexico for short business visits not exceeding 180 days. FMM visas are issued by airlines and at ports of entry.



FM3 - The Long-Term Non-Immigrant Visa
Mexico operates what is known as a FM3 visa. The FM3 visa is a renewable long term (more than six months) permit which gives non-immigrant temporary residency status to the holder. This means that it gives a person the right to live in Mexico (under terms as set out in the visa) but it does not lead to, and cannot be converted to, a visa leading to permanent residency or Mexican Citizenship.

There are various categories under which FM3 visas are granted, and these relate to the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the FM3, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative, depending on the visa's classification.

One of the criteria that the Mexican authorities require for the issuance of a FM3 visa is that the applicant prove that they have 'sufficient funds to sustain themselves while in Mexico' and/or a proven steady income. There is no official minimum or maximum amount—every application appears to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Proof of funds and/or income is usually requested by means of bank account statements, proof of investment income, credit cards, or a combination of these.

Once applied for and granted, the FM3 may be renewed for an additional four years (for a total of five years). After this period, a new FM3 may be applied for and, if granted, will serve for another (max) five year period, renewable annually.

The FM3 visa cannot be exchanged automatically for a visa leading to permanent residency (FM2); a FM2 must be applied for separately. Any years accrued under a FM3 visa are not transferable towards FM2-residency status (see FM2 heading, below, for details).

You may apply for a FM3 visa while in Mexico and in possession of a short-term FMM (Tourist/Business Visitors Visa) or by applying through a Mexican Consulate overseas.

Mexico's Immigrant Visas
Immigrant Visas are issued to foreign nationals who have the intention of living in Mexico for long periods of time (over one year) AND who intend to seek permanent residency in Mexico, or Mexican Citizenship.

FM2 - The Immigrant Visa
FM2 visas are intended for people seeking permanent residency status in Mexico or those who may seek eventual Mexican Citizenship.

There are various categories under which FM2 visas are granted, and these relate to the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the FM2, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative.

You must hold a FM2 for a qualifying period* before you may apply for "immigrant" status or Mexican Citizenship.
You do not need to have held a FM3 visa before applying for a FM2, and any years you may have accrued while living in Mexico under the auspice of a FM3 do not count towards your FM2 qualification period.
If your goal is to seek long-term residency in Mexico, or to become a Mexican Citizen, you should apply for FM2 status (or request a change of status from FM3 to FM2) so that your time starts counting towards the qualification period as soon as possible.

You may apply for a FM2 visa while you are in Mexico and in possession of a FMM (Visitor's Visa) or in Mexico under the auspice of a FM3.

Once you are in possession of a FM2, following the qualification period, you may apply for full residency status. When your full residency status has been accepted, you are entitled to full rights (e.g. access to IMSS sickness pay) and responsibilities (e.g. pay income taxes) as any other Mexican citizen. Naturalized citizens are also allowed to vote in Mexican elections.

When your full residency status has been accepted, you may also begin your application for Mexican Citizenship, although you do not have to do this; you can remain a 'resident alien' on a FM2 visa indefinitely.

Upon receiving immigrated status, you will receive a plastic card that looks like a driver's license. This card enables you to pass through Mexico's borders as if you were a Mexican national.

You do not, under Mexican law, need to surrender your national passport—whether you remain a resident-alien or apply for citizenship —which you'll use when you return to your home country for visits, or if you eventually return to your home country to dwell there again. However, your home country's policies might require you to surrender your passport and/or citizenship; check with your local authorities for details.

If you hold an FM2 visa and stay outside of Mexico for longer than 2 years, or for 5 years in any 10 year period, you will lose your permanent resident status in Mexico.

*Qualifying periods vary depending on your circumstances. Seek advice from an immigration lawyer about this matter.
Examples of the kinds of people who might apply for FM2 visas:

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) you can apply for a Retiree Immigration Permit.

You can receive an immigration permit if you are willing to invest your capital in Mexico. You investment can be directed at industry or services, and must equal a minimum set amount—check with an immigration lawyer for the latest investment levels required for this visa.

If you are a qualified professional, you can have your certificates validated by the Mexican Consulate in your home country and apply for an immigration visa to live in Mexico and seek permanent residence.
Technical or Scientific Professions

If you are a qualified technician or scientist, Mexico offers a category of visa which enables you to live and work in Mexico under sponsorship from a foreign company. For example, if the company wants to open an office or factory in Mexico, a person or persons representing that company may enter Mexico to manage the commercial operations on a long term basis.

Artists and Sports People
Artists or sports people who seek long term permanent residency in Mexico may apply for a FM2 visa. Each case is considered individually and entry is at the Interior Ministry's discretion.