Mexico Visa and Residency Permit Time Limits
We often get questions about how long visitors and residents, temporary or permanent, may stay on Mexico. This article aims to answer your questions about how long you can stay in Mexico as a visitor or resident.
Entering Mexico as a Visitor
First of all, if you do not have resident status and are entering Mexico as a visitor, the length of time you may stay will be determined by the immigration agent at border control when you first enter Mexico. If you fly and transit through Mexico City, the agent in Mexico City will determine the length of time you may stay. If you arrive on a direct flight from Canada or the U.S. in Huatulco, for example, the immigration in Huatulco will grant the length of stay allowed.
Since 2021, there has been a great deal of chatter about how long immigration agents are allowing visitors to stay. As a visitor, you may be granted up to 180 days. Before 2021, agents almost always gave visitors the maximum time of 180 days. This is no longer true. Agents now expect proof of stay with reservation dates and receipts and/or return plane tickets.
If you are entering Mexico as a visitor, calmly, slowly and with a smile, explain your plans with the proof of your stay and return flight. This is the best way to acquire the number of days you would like to stay in Mexico.
Once you go through immigration, you will leave with either a stamp in your passport with the number of days granted handwritten on the stamp or at some destinations, you will receive the paper format of the FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple). On the paper format that you will safeguard until you leave Mexico, you will find the number of days granted.
When you leave Mexico, you will receive an exit stamp in your passport and if you received the paper format upon arrival, you will turn it in to the agent as you proceed through passport control.
You may not extend or renew the visitor permit. Plan to leave by the time it expires. For now, there is no limit on how long you must remain outside of Mexico before reentering. However, if you exit and enter often, the agents will see this and may begin shortening your stays. The objective is to get repeat visitors or those coming often, to go through the process of getting a resident permit.
Read more about Why People are Moving to Huatulco.
What’s New With Mexico’s FMM (tourist visa) Procedures
Since the summer of 2022, Mexico has begun to phase out the paper version of the FMM. The INM or Instituto Nacional de Migracíon is currently implementing a passport stamp of the FMM or Forma Migratoria Multiple. The FMM is the classic form you fill out on your way into Mexico or on your way out if you have resident status. This is the arrival form you have used for visits up to 180 days or less if you are not required to have a visa issued in your country before arriving in Mexico.
You may have been given the FMM by the airline or found it at your port of entry. If applying online, for the moment, it will still need to be printed and carried with you in Mexico.
Moving to the passport stamp is simplifying the visitor arrival process conforming to 2021 congressional legislation to move the INM to paperless FMMs.
The FMM is used as a visitor’s permit and as a visa arrival permit if you have gotten your visa before arriving in Mexico with the intention of applying for temporary or permanent residency. Until now, visitors filled out the upper and lower sections of the form and were handed the lower section to keep until they exited Mexico. If a visa was obtained before arrival in Mexico, the lower section of the FMM was exchanged at the INM office as part of the residency application process.
As of October 2022, several ports of entry have already begun using a stamp instead of the FMM paper form including Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, La Paz and Cancun, Loreto, Los Cabos and Huatulco.
The use of the stamp versus the paper version does not change anything regarding time limits on visitor stays or the 30-day limit to appear at the INM to apply for residency in the case of having a visa. With the passport stamp, the immigration agent will write the number of days allowed for your stay (up to 180) on the stamp. In the case of applying for residency, the agent will write CANJE 30 days permission which is the allowance for appearing at INM to continue your residency application process.
If you are a temporary or permanent resident, as you leave Mexico, you will still need to visit the Immigration desk and have your passport stamped. As you leave, the agent will write SALIDA and when you come back, they will write ENTRADA.
Eventually, all international airports should migrate to the paperless system although no timeline has been announced. Until then, if the paper forms are available on arrival, you should still fill them out and hold onto your paper until you exit Mexico. And if you are a resident, you should continue registering your departure by checking in at the immigration desk before you leave.
All of the rules regarding how long visitors may stay have not changed. Visitors may stay up to 180 days. It stands that the immigration agents want to see proof of reservations or flights to grant just that amount of time. It is no longer a rule that everyone receives 180 days. It is possible, but the Mexican policy continues to want repeat visitors or unofficial part-time residents to get their temporary resident status (up to 4 years) or permanent resident status.
Entering Mexico as a Temporary Resident
If you have decided to apply for Temporary Residency, you will enter Mexico with a Visa that you obtained outside of Mexico. This visa will give you an arrival window. As you enter Mexico, you will be given a passport stamp or paper version of the FMM where it will be written CANJE 30 days. Within this 30 days, you will gather your paperwork and appear at the INM office to continue your application process for Temporary Residency.
Once you acquire Temporary Residency, you will be granted this status for one year. After one year, you may apply again for Temporary Residency at the INM office in Mexico for 1-3 years. This must be done in Mexico. During the renewal process, you may not leave Mexico. However, if you have an exceptional circumstance, you may apply for a temporary exit and re-entry permit.
During this total of four years as a Temporary Resident, you may leave and enter Mexico as you like. During this period, upon leaving Mexico, you must go to the Immigration kiosk and either get the passport stamp or fill out the paper version of the FMM. Always be sure when entering Mexico, to show your residency card. Do not enter as a Visitor if you have Resident status.
Temporary Residency status gives you advantages for certain things like opening a bank account or buying a car in some places, and certain obligations such as declaring your taxes.
After the four years of Temporary Residency are over, you may then apply to exchange your Temporary Residency for Permanent Residency. You must apply for this 30 days before your Temporary Resident Permit expires.
If you’re not sure about what type of visa you need, read our article here.
Being in Mexico as a Permanent Resident
Although you may apply for Permanent Resident status outside of Mexico instead of Temporary Resident status, this is no longer easily granted by consulates. Most grant a visa to enter Mexico to apply for Temporary Residency. In any case, once you have Permanent Resident status, you may enter and leave Mexico as you please. You do not have to stay in Mexico a certain amount of time. You may stay in Mexico indefinitely and you do not need to reapply. There is no expiration date for Permanent Resident status. However, you may surrender it or it may be withdrawn at any time.
When you leave Mexico with Permanent Resident status, you will need to visit the Immigration kiosk to fill out a FMM, part of which you will keep to turn in when you enter Mexico again. Again, as a permanent or temporary resident, do not enter Mexico as a visitor. Also, if you have any changes in your personal circumstances such as change of address, employer or marital status, you should make these declarations in Mexico at the INM.
If you decide to apply for Mexican citizenship, you can do that after 5 consecutive years of residency, temporary or permanent. During the last two years of this time, you may not have been outside of Mexico for more than 180 days before the citizenship application date. If you are married to a Mexican national, the 5 consecutive years may be reduced to 2 years. Read about How to Get Married in Mexico here.
Check out our other articles about which visa you need and how to apply for your visa. These are not overly complicated processes. Just check with the consulate before your visit so that you present the right documents. And once in Mexico to apply for your residency at the INM office, know that it may take more than one visit to get the job done. Patience, a smile and politeness will get you a long way.
Read more about Mexican visas in our articles below!