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Moving to Mexico: Visas

One of the questions we’re asked is how long we’ll be in Mexico. Honestly, we don’t know. Our plan is for this to be the FIRST stop on our travels, not our final destination. We want to remain flexible, but right now, we anticipate being in San Miguel de Allende for a year — longer than we plan to stay in other countries. Why? Because we want to take the time to learn the language before we move on.

When Americans go to Mexico, they are required to get a visa. That visa determines how long they can stay and what kind of activities they can do while there (i.e., earn money!). There are several types of visas. At a high level:

Visitor visa

This visa is granted at the border when you come in and is for tourists and business people who will be in the country six months or less. It cannot be renewed, per se. You have to leave the country when it expires. You can, however, come back right away for another six months.

This, obviously, is the easiest visa to get. Note that although it can be issued for six month, it doesn’t have to be. It’s up to the person processing the application at the border. You cannot legally work in Mexico with this visa.

Temporary residence visa

This is the visa that Jay and I got. This visa is for people who want to stay longer than six months, but less than four years. This visa is initially issued for one year, but it can be renewed (without leaving the country) up to three additional years.

Some temporary visas allow the holder to work in Mexico, others do not. A key requirement for this visa, though, is that you have to prove you have sufficient funds to live here and/or a steady source of income. Our visa does not allow us to work in Mexico (for a Mexican company), but we are allowed to work remotely for our US-based job.

You have to apply for this visa at a consulate in your country of origin. You could not, in other words, come to Mexico for a vacation and turn your visitor visa into a temporary residence visa. Once you start the process in your home country, you do a second part at the border, and then the final process is done via Immigration in the Mexican city you’re residing in.

Once you enter Mexico with a temporary visa, you cannot leave until the visa process is final –which takes about seven weeks. If you do, the visa is void, and you have to start over at the consulate in your country of origin! After the visa is finalized, though, you can go in and out of the country as often as you like.

Permanent residence visa

This visa is for people who plan to reside in Mexico indefinitely or who eventually wish to become Mexican citizens. You don’t have to be a temporary resident first; you can jump right to permanent resident status if you meet the criteria.

There are pros and cons to the decision of temporary vs. permanent residency — it’s a subject worth far more discussion than this short post. If you’re interested in learning more about the different visas and their requirements, just Google. There are tons of pages out there with in-depth information. Just be sure to check the date, because the information changes occasionally. The best source is always the official source. We used the consulate in Seattle as our official source:


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