Last updated: September 16, 2020
Dateline: Warsaw, Poland
Cast your mind back to the last US election of 2016. Do you remember all the talk of moving to Canada in the face of a Trump presidency?
Well, in the face of yet another US election and with huge internal turmoil that’s taking place in the country, the topic of moving away from the United States has never been more relevant.
Perhaps it’s our contrarian inclination, or perhaps it’s our appetite for greater personal freedom, but we would recommend looking past Canada.
For years, we’ve been talking about the many positives of living in Mexico, whether you are an American looking to comfortably relocate or an individual from any country looking to enjoy a vibrant culture and greater freedom.
What we haven’t discussed, however, is how to become a resident or citizen of Mexico.
The good news is that the process is relatively straightforward and allows you to obtain a second passport in as little as five years.
Mexico’s passport is the 26th most powerful passport in the world (2020) and allows visa-free access to 158 different countries, including all of Europe’s Schengen Area.
While the process is simple, we wouldn’t recommend going at it alone.
It can be a real headache dealing with all of the contradicting messages that are out there.
And that’s not to mention the overall inefficiencies in the different governmental institutions.
For example, you will often find that the quality of service varies greatly from one Mexican consulate or immigration office to another.
If you’re a high net worth individual who values time over money, you can work with us to put together a holistic financial plan that’s tailored specifically for you. Or, you can get our help to obtain your Mexican passport if you have connections to the country.
That being said, here’s what you need to know about traveling to, residing in, and becoming a citizen of Mexico.
The most common ways to enter Mexico as a foreigner
There are many different ways a foreigner can enter Mexico, depending on his or her circumstances and the reason for visiting.
The first option is to visit as a tourist. Citizens of the United States, most of Western Europe, and parts of Latin America can visit visa-free for up to 180 days.
Citizens from non-visa-free countries can obtain a visa for 332 pesos, approximately $15 USD.
If you have a location independent business or other online work, you can stay in Mexico the allotted six months without needing any other procedures or permissions.
If, however, you wish to work in Mexico for a Mexican corporation during the 180 day period, you must apply for a different visa that allows you to engage in lucrative activities.
To obtain the “permission to work” visa you must provide proof of a job offer and pay a $155 fee. Another catch is that you cannot be paid in Mexico for your services. You can, however, apply for permission to work after arriving in Mexico.
Less common visas include the adoption visa and the student visa.
For those seeking a way to move to Mexico on a more permanent basis, you will most likely need either the temporary or permanent resident visa.
In the past, you could apply for either visa while in Mexico as a tourist.
Recent immigration reforms now dictate that you apply for your temporary or permanent resident visa at a Mexican Consulate outside of Mexico before traveling to the country.
Once you have provided the proper paperwork to the Mexican Consulate, you will be given a temporary visa (which costs roughly $40 USD) that will be valid for 180 days.
Upon arrival in Mexico, you will have 30 calendar days to exchange the visa document in your passport for the official temporary or permanent residency visa card.
If you fail to exchange your temporary visa within 30 days, you will be restricted from leaving the country and must go through a process of regularization that includes extra fees and an additional interview.
How to qualify for the temporary resident visa
Mexico’s temporary resident visa is designed for foreigners who plan to reside in the country for more than 180 days and up to 4 years.
It is important to note that having a temporary residence doesn’t automatically grant the visa holder permission to work in Mexico.
Temporary residents must apply for the same “permission to work” as those wishing to work within the 180 day period mentioned above.
The offer letter and a $155 fee are required, as well.
That being said, there are various ways you can qualify for temporary residency.
If you can prove that you have sufficient economic resources to provide for yourself without working in Mexico, including housing and meal costs, you can qualify for the visa.
You can also qualify if you have an invitation to work (i.e. volunteer) from an organization or institution from which you will receive no income OR you are related to a citizen or temporary/permanent resident of Mexico.
If you are married to a Mexican citizen, you should apply for a two-year temporary resident card before applying for permanent residency or citizenship.
Temporary residency through a real estate purchase
If you are interested in purchasing real estate in Mexico, you may be able to automatically qualify for temporary residency.
If you can prove that you have made an investment in real estate in Mexico equal to the value of 40,000 days of the general minimum wage in Mexico City (123.33 MXN in 2020) – which is approximately $233,473 at the current exchange rate – you can obtain a temporary resident visa.
For that price, you can get a modern two-to-three-bedroom apartment in Mexico City, or a luxury home with three to five bedrooms and a swimming pool in most other parts of the country, including the suburban zones of Mexico City in the state of Mexico.
Temporary residency through investment
Your other option to obtain residence in Mexico is to have a number of different investments in the country, including real estate, stocks, and a business.
Altogether, you should have at least $123,330 (at the current exchange rate, or 20,000 days of general minimum wage) invested in real estate and another $86,000 invested in shares in a Mexican corporation.
You must also provide sufficient documents to prove the development of economic activity, such as invoices, receipts, contracts, business plans, permits, and your registry with the Mexican Social Security department showing that you are employing at least 3 people.
In any of these cases, temporary residence is only granted for a 1 year period to begin, after which you can apply for renewal for an additional 1-3 years.
There is no “time on the ground” requirement to maintain your temporary residence card. You can also exit and enter the country as many times as you wish.
However, if you plan to apply for Mexican citizenship in the future, you should reside in Mexico for most of the year.
How to qualify for the permanent resident visa
Up until now, we’ve been talking about temporary residence. But what should you do if you want to relocate to Mexico for an indefinite period of time?
Then permanent residence would be the best choice.
It’s granted to individuals who intend to reside in Mexico on a long term basis and who meet at least one of several qualifications.
One handy thing to keep in mind is that a permanent residence must not necessarily be preceded by a temporary residence.
In other words, if you qualify for a permanent residence from the beginning of your time in Mexico, you don’t have to apply for a temporary visa first.
And when does one automatically qualify for permanent residence? There are four instances:
- If you are related to a permanent resident to the second level (i.e. grandparent, parent, daughter, son or grandchildren)
- If you are pensioned or retired and are able to provide adequate monthly income through investments, savings or pensions
- If you are seeking political asylum
- If you have a Mexican father or mother (if you are an unmarried minor)
- If you have given birth to or are the sibling of a Mexican citizen
Otherwise, you must first seek temporary residency and then apply for permanent residency after 4 consecutive years that you’d spend in the country.
And, if you are married to a Mexican citizen, that time period is reduced to 2 years.
How to obtain dual citizenship in Mexico
How would you like to add a Mexican passport to your passport portfolio?
Luckily, Mexico is among the many nations that allow dual citizenship. It does not, however, allow multiple nationalities beyond the initial two.
Once you have your permanent residency, it is fairly easy to obtain Mexican citizenship.
While there are options to become a Mexican citizen through birth abroad to Mexican parents, through marriage, or by having Mexican children, most foreigners will qualify for citizenship through naturalization.
Naturalization in Mexico requires 5 years of residency prior to the application date, which can include all years of residency, whether temporary or permanent.
Are you originally from a Latin American country or from the Iberian Peninsula? Then you can become a citizen in as little as 2 years of legal residency.
And if you don’t want to wait to become a naturalized citizen, we recently started offering a service that helps people claim their Mexican citizenship by descent.
We help you confirm eligibility, collect documents (from your country and from Mexico), deal with the bureaucracy, and file for citizenship alongside our trusted lawyers and agents on the ground. You can learn more about our premium citizenship by descent service here.
Just keep in mind that obtaining citizenship in Mexico is not the right answer for everyone – just like with any country.
But it is one of the best options for someone with, say, a manufacturing business that markets to US customers or someone who has a location independent business that wants to get out of the US, but still stay close to family.
There are a number of situations that could make Mexico the right choice for you.
If you are ready to get serious about going offshore and want to take a closer look at Mexico, or any other country for that matter, apply for a consultation and we can begin designing your financial and personal future.