How to Get Residency in Mexico

Updated December 12, 2023

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Generally speaking, the process of moving to Mexico for American citizens is quite easy. There are a number of different paths – some of which lead to citizenship and others that do not.

Below you’ll find all the different options:


Part 1

The Difference Between a Temporary Resident Visa and a Permanent Resident Visa

Temporary Residency

If our clients are any guide, most people qualify for temporary residency first. The qualifications are generally lower and easier to get.

They are good for as little as a year and up to four.

Permanent Residency

After one to four years of temporary residency in Mexico, you can apply for permanent residency.

Or, in some cases, you can choose to skip temporary residency entirely and get your permanent resident visa out of the gate. To do this, you will generally just need to show a higher income and/or asset base when you first apply.

The Path to Citizenship

After five years of total residency, you’ll be able to apply for Mexican citizenship.

But here’s the thing… those five years must be consecutive.

In other words, it’s not possible to become a Mexican citizen with temporary residency alone.

That’s because a temporary residency visa is only good for up to four years. Once it expires, you must either apply for permanent residency or reapply for temporary residency. And if you reapply for temporary residency, the clock is reset to zero. The time you’ve already spent in the country won’t count toward qualification for citizenship.

With that said, here are all the ways to qualify to move to Mexico. There are many Mexico residency visa options. You’ll want to know the right one for you before applying.

yellow sun
Part 2

Retirement Visas in Mexico

Mexico offers both temporary and permanent residency visas specifically for retirees and adults of any age who don’t need to work in Mexico.

They allow qualifying foreign retirees to live in Mexico indefinitely. But please note that, if you go the easier temporary residency route, you won’t be able to qualify for citizenship if that’s your goal.

Did You Know?

These visas are similar in concept to the Pensionado or Rentista visas issued by other Spanish-speaking countries in the region, including Panama and Costa Rica.

However, Mexican consular offices don’t refer to them this way.

How to Get Started

Step One: Schedule an interview at a Mexican consulate in your home country.

Note: Processing times can vary from a few weeks to some months. Since the pandemic, our clients have noticed times are longer than they used to be.

Step Two: Go to your interview

The interview will be held in English in consulates located in English-speaking countries like the US.

Most of the time, consular officers just ask a few basic questions about where you plan to live in Mexico and how you to plan to support yourself without working.

Still, you should also be prepared to answer more detailed questions about the source of your income and how you plan to integrate yourself into Mexican society.

How Much You Need to Qualify

Required income or net worth thresholds to qualify for a retirement visa are based on multiples of the daily Mexican minimum wage (Salarios Minimos or SM) or an economic index called the Unidad de Medida y Actualización (UMA).

Some consulates use the SM and some the UMA. (To our knowledge, there does not appear any rhyme or reason to why any given consulate does it this way.)

For 2023, you must demonstrate a monthly income of approximately $2,600 (UMA) or $3,300 (SM) to qualify for temporary residency and $4,300 (UMA) or $5,500 (SM) to qualify for immediate permanent residency.

Alternatively, you can qualify based on proven assets of $45,000 (UMA) or $55,000 (SM) or more for temporary residency or $170,000 (UMA) or $220,000 (SM) or more for immediate permanent residency.

About Your New Retirement Visa

A temporary residency visa is valid for one year, and may be renewed for a further one, two, or three years. You can also apply for permanent residency after the first year.

A temporary residency visa is only good for up to four years. After that, you must apply for permanent residency or reapply for temporary residency. 

With both types of visa, you can open a Mexican bank account, get a driver’s license, and access the national healthcare system.

Because applicants can’t work with these visas, the income must be from pensions, investments or other passive income.

Interestingly, there is no age minimum. You just have to be “officially” retired or show proof that you have the economic resources available that you will not need to work in Mexico.

Step Three: Pick up your new visa

If you qualify for a visa, you will receive notice that it has been approved. You will then need to visit the consulate again and have an official place a visa sticker in your passport. (Some consulates will allow you to send them your passport, but we recommend another in-person visit.)

The sticker grants you a one-time entry to Mexico as a legal resident and expires 180 days after issuance.

When you arrive in Mexico during that period, you must visit a local Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM) within 30 days to exchange the sticker for your residency card.

If you don’t, your application becomes invalid and you’ll have to start the whole process over again.

Not adhering to either of these deadlines means you must begin the process of applying for residency again.

red flower
Part 3

Mexico's Digital Nomad Visa

Mexico’s temporary residency visa also functions as a de facto digital nomad visa. You can work remotely in Mexico as a temporary resident and generate income from outside the country. But unless you obtain a work permit, you can’t legally work in the local economy.

Mexican poncho
Part 4

Getting Residency with a Mexican Company

Mexico allows investors or business owners to qualify for temporary residency. The requirements are straightforward: You must invest at least (roughly) $110,000 into shares of a Mexican corporation and create three or more jobs.


Not all Mexican consulates are set up to process applications for this type of visa.

Because these applications are more complicated, you may need to hire a Mexican immigration specialist for help. And you may have to travel to a consulate prepared to accept such applications.

It’s usually easier to qualify for temporary residency by demonstrating that you have enough passive income to meet the required thresholds we’ve already described.

green and yellow candy
Part 5

Residency through Real Estate Investment

Another way to qualify for temporary residency is with a real estate purchase. The minimum value of the property you purchase will depend on whether the consulate you apply at uses the SM or UMA[?] thresholds. The minimum threshold is around USD $218,000 for consulates using the SM threshold, or $437,000 using the UMA.

This can be held directly in your name or, if you want to buy within the restricted zone, through a Mexican company or trust.

As with other temporary residency visas, after one to four years, you can convert to permanent residency if you meet the financial requirements. 

After four years, the visa must be converted to permanent residency, or you can reapply for temporary residency. After five years of residency, including at least one year of permanent residency, you can apply for citizenship.

bowl of tortilla chips
Part 6

Family Unity Visa

Every so often, from a residency / citizenship point of view, someone asks if there’s any advantage to marrying a local.

The answer is yes. If you are married to a local, or you can prove cohabitation, your path to citizenship (if so desired) is faster. Other qualifications are waived as well.

To get started, you apply at a local immigration office in Mexico for a renewable temporary residency visa. After two years, you can apply for permanent residency so long as you’re still married.

After 5 years of permanent residency, you can apply for citizenship.

Common Questions

Does a child born in Mexico automatically get Mexican citizenship?

Yes, a child born in Mexico to foreign parents automatically gains the right to Mexican citizenship (the concept of jus soli). However, you will need to complete the proper paperwork in order to claim that citizenship on behalf of your child.

Does a Mexico-born child sponsor a non-Mexican parent?

Not directly. However, once the child turns 18, they can sponsor their non-Mexican parent through the Family Unity Visa program. The child does have to have permanent residency in Mexico to do so.

Part 7

Student Visas

Moving to Mexico to study is among the easiest ways to get a visa. To qualify, you need:

  • An acceptance letter from a Mexican educational institution.
  • Proof of financial means. This means one of the following: a $400 monthly income, savings of $5,000+, or a scholarship letter.
  • For minors, a birth certificate and copy of parents’ IDs.
  • A visa application form and passport photos.

The process is straightforward:

  • You apply at your local Mexican consulate and pay the visa fee.
  • You may need to be interviewed.
  • You head to Mexico within 6 months of approval and apply for your temporary resident card within 30 days of arrival.

The student visa lets you stay for up to 180 days longer than the expected end date of your studies.

pan flute
Part 8

Visitor Visas

US citizens can enter Mexico and stay for up to 180 days with no visitor’s visa required.

However, this does not allow for legal residency or work in the country.

yellow candle
Part 9

Which Resident Visas Let You Work in Mexico?

Generally, it is difficult for Americans to work in Mexico unless you meet one or more of the following:

  • Speak fluent Spanish.
  • Have a high value skill not commonly found in Mexico and that can’t be done by a Mexican worker.
  • Are sponsored by a Mexican company, who submits a work permit request to the National Immigration Institute (INM) on your behalf.
  • Are a US-Mexico dual national, in which case you won’t need a work permit to be employed in the local economy.

It’s more common for Americans looking to work in Mexico to either enter as a digital nomad or to set up their own Mexican company.

Part 10

The Path to Mexican Citizenship

After five years as a permanent resident, you can apply to become a Mexican citizen.

You will need to fulfill any additional requirements, which may include passing tests on the Spanish language and Mexican history and civics.

Applicants over the age of 60 only need to take the Spanish language test. The language test has a reading comprehension section and a writing section. You will need to get five out of six items correct.

And yes, since 1998, Mexico has allowed dual citizenship. That means you can keep your American one and become a dual Mexican / US citizen if you want.

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