There are many reasons why Mexico is such a popular destination for American tourists. Not only is it among our closest neighbors, but the blend of tropical jungles, pristine beaches, and affordable prices make it a no-brainer for those looking to take an incredible vacation that doesn’t break the bank. But what happens when you can’t shake your love for Mexico after your return home? For some, Mexico represents more than a fun place to travel. It represents a chance at a new, more attractive way of life.
Since moving to another country is a big undertaking, one of the first questions future ex-pats ask is how long they can stay without changing citizenship. The answer to this question depends entirely on what visa is used. Let’s examine these various visas, how long they allow you to stay, and how you can acquire them.
Living with just a visitor’s visa
The easiest way to live in Mexico for a short period is to use the same visitor’s visa that everyone gets when they travel to Mexico. Because most trips are only a week or two at most, some people don’t realize that this visa lasts for six months or 180 days. This period starts from the moment you cross the border or arrive via plane, fill out the required paperwork, and receive your visa. All you need to do this is your valid US passport.
Six months is a long time, and those planning to split their time between the USA and Mexico might find that they never need to do anything more than leave periodically and restart their visa upon return. Unlike Europe’s stricter Schengen Zone 180-day limit, you can leave Mexico and come right back at any time to restart the clock.
If you don’t plan on returning home often or at all, you’ll have to explore different kinds of visas.
Living with a Temporary Resident Visa
If you only plan to spend a few years living in Mexico but aren’t sure whether or not you want to stay permanently, you can test out how much you enjoy living there with a Temporary Resident Visa. This visa allows anyone holding it to stay for a period longer than 180 days but shorter than four years. Receiving this visa is a little more complicated than receiving the tourist visa.
There are three types of Temporary Resident Visas. The Mexico Work Visa allows you to perform paid employment in the country. The next kind is the Mexico Student Visa, which allows students to pursue studies longer than 180 days. The third type is the Mexico Family Visa, which allows foreigners to join close family members who already live in Mexico permanently.
When applying, you’ll need some supporting documents. Of course, you’ll need a valid US passport. You’ll also need a Mexico Visa Application Form, printed and signed. You’ll need money to pay the visa fee, which is about $36, depending on the embassy. You’ll also need documents relating to the type of Temporary Resident Visa you’re applying for: proof of family relationship, enrollment in a Mexican educational institution, or a Mexico Work Permit provided by your Mexican employer.
Once you receive your Temporary Resident Visa, you must apply for a Temporary Resident Card within 30 days. This is crucial. If you don’t complete this step, your visa will become invalid after those 30 days. You’ll have to visit an office of the National Immigration Institute, so check your maps to find where the most convenient office is located. The tourist card usually costs an additional $15-30.
Once you have your Temporary Resident Card, it’s valid for one year and can be renewed to last for up to four years.
Living with a Permanent Resident Card
Let’s say you’ve been to Mexico before and know you love it. You never want to live anywhere else, and you don’t want to keep dealing with visa renewals and the related bureaucratic procedures. You can apply for a Permanent Resident Visa and never worry about it again. This is an extremely popular choice among retirees. With this visa, you will remain an American citizen, but it gives you nearly all the rights of a Mexican citizen and allows you to come and go as you please indefinitely.
Not everyone is eligible for this card. You must meet one of the following criteria:
• You’ve retired and plan to live in Mexico without any income from Mexico• You’ve lived in Mexico for more than four years on a Temporary Resident Card• You’ve lived in Mexico for more than two years with the Temporary Resident Card issued due to marriage to a citizen or permanent resident.
If you decide this is your ideal route, you’ll have to start by setting up an appointment with a Mexican embassy. Complete the application form on the embassy website. Collect required documents that prove you have a Mexican relative if applicable. On the day of your appointment, you’ll have an interview to prove your case. Then you can submit your application and wait for the visa to be processed. If you’re approved, you’ll pick up your visa which will be attached to your passport.
Like with the Temporary Resident Visa, you have 30 days to convert your Permanent Resident Visa into a Permanent Resident Card or it becomes invalid. It usually takes between ten and fifteen days to be processed, so it’s best to submit it as soon as you arrive.
After five years as a permanent resident, you’ll have the option to apply for citizenship. Though it doesn’t grant you that many more rights, you don’t have to renounce your other citizenships to achieve it. It does grant you the right to vote.
Ultimately, Mexico makes living there as a foreign citizen far easier than many other countries. If you’re thinking of living in Mexico, we recommend working your way up the ladder. Start by utilizing your six months to get a feel for the country, then go for the more powerful visas if you decide living there is right for you.
If you want to drive while you’re in Mexico, you’ll need Mexican auto insurance, even if you’re insured back home. Amigo Mexican Auto Insurance makes the process easy, supporting short-term and long-term travel. Talk to one of our agents to set up your insurance plan today.