Work in Mexico: Getting a Mexican work visa

TransferWise content team
13.03.17
6 minute read

Mexico’s economy is the 15th largest in the world with areas of rapid growth especially in the service industry. Relatively low levels of inflation and interest rates over the past decade have been driving development and pushing modernisation in the wider economy.

This economic growth brings opportunity, for foreign workers and entrepreneurs, to come and be a part of Mexican life.

If you’re looking to Mexico for your next working challenge, then you’ll need to make sure your paperwork is in order. If you intend to work for yourself or others, then you may need a Mexican work visa to do so legally. Here’s a guide to prepare yourself when needing a work permit.

Do I need a Mexican work visa?

Your first priority should be to figure out if you need a work permit at all. In some cases, depending on your nationality and the role you’re going to take on, a permit might not be necessary.

If you have a valid visa for the USA, you might not require a work permit as long as you're planning on staying in Mexico for less than six months as a ‘business visitor’. The same applies for permanent residents of the UK. The criteria applied is strict and usually means you can't be directly paid for the work you do in Mexico, so make sure you read up before you land. Even if you don’t need a visa, you’ll have to complete a landing card, also known as an FMM Form, upon arrival. This must be presented again when you leave the country.

Citizens of other countries and those wishing to stay in Mexico for longer should apply for a visa, which could be a work permit or temporary residence permit depending on the circumstances. Explore Mexico’s visa requirements to understand which permit you’ll need. This includes all details of visa types, processes and fees.

What’s the process to get a Mexican work visa?

The visa types available to you might vary according to your nationality and the reasons for your visit to Mexico. Each different consulate has a slightly different process, including a few tight action deadlines. Figure out what timetable you’re working before you go too far into the application.

For a work visa, which is usually an FM2 or FM3 visa, your prospective employer must make an application on your behalf to the National Institute for Immigration. This process could take 30 days, so it’s a good idea to complete it with plenty of time. The application, once approved, is then passed to your local Mexican consulate. From there, you’ll have around 10-15 days to visit the consulate in person to present your documents and conclude the visa process. You’ll need to make an appointment before visiting your embassy, but consulates usually can arrange this within a couple of days.

Processing time for an initial visa can be quite swift depending on the country in which you apply. For UK nationals, it’s expected to take only a few days after submission of documents, for example. Each individual embassy makes their expected processing time available online on the consular website.

You may receive an entry visa, which you can switch for a temporary residence card when you arrive in Mexico. Temporary residence cards are usually issued for a year at a time and can be renewed. After being in the country for five years, you can change your card to permanent residence if you wish.

There are fees involved for any Mexican visa. The costs are published in local currencies, and updated on a monthly basis to allow for changing interest rates. At the time of your appointment, your local embassy will tell you the cost of the specific visa you want.

What documents do I need for a Mexican Visa?

The documents you have to present vary depending on your nationality and the type of visa you're looking for. However, you can expect to be asked for the following:

  • Valid passport and completed application form

  • Passport photograph (taken in the last month)

  • Employer letter stating the agreed salary and your relevant technical ability (in some cases this must be accompanied by a photocopy of an official ID of the person who signed it)

  • Original and copy qualification certificates

  • Original and copy of the last six month's pay slips/stubs

  • Proof of payment of consular fees

Mexican work visas for part time, fixed term and seasonal workers

There’s no specific seasonal work visa. Instead, you’ll follow the same process as for temporary residence permits outlined above. If you intend to do volunteer work while you’re in Mexico, the process might be slightly different depending on your nationality. Contact your local embassy if this your situation.

If you're under 30 and from an eligible country (including New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany or South Korea), you may be able to get a Mexican working holiday visa for up to one year. This visa allows you to work for up to three months with any one employer and doesn’t require employer sponsorship. Check with your local embassy to see if you’re qualified.

Under the terms of most student visas, you’re not able to work for pay. If you want to work while you study in Mexico, you’ll need your employer to apply for a work permit on your behalf and follow the process outlined above.

How do I get a Mexican work visa as an entrepreneur?

British and EU nationals who are in Mexico for unpaid work such as researching a new business idea or negotiating contracts don’t need a work permit for the first six months. You will, however, need an FMM Form. Check with your local embassy to ensure the unpaid work you intend to do in Mexico is covered by the business visitor scheme. If not, you should apply for a work visa.

If you’re going to be in Mexico for longer, or expect to start to earn money straight away, you’ll need a visa. You can apply for a FM2 or FM3 type, depending on your situation. The FM3 visa will require you to prove the amount of money you’ve personally invested into the enterprise you're starting.

How might my Mexican work visa affect my spouse and family members?

If you have a valid temporary residence permit, you can also apply to have family members join you under the family unity policy. Each consulate will have a slightly different process for this application, and you might have to go to the embassy at the same time as your family members make their application. Check with your local consulate when you make the appointment.

When you attend the embassy for a face to face meeting you’ll have to provide documentation, such as that detailed on this temporary resident checklist.

How can I move my money to Mexico from my bank account abroad?

To get the most of your money, you'll want to open a bank account in Mexico, which you can do before you arrive.

Once you send money to Mexico, consider using a money conversion service like TransferWise to avoid unfair exchange rates. There's a small transparent fee, and when your money is converted from one currency to another, you’ll get the real exchange rate - the same one you can find on Google. Not only that, but TransferWise receives and sends money via local bank transfers instead of internationally,  further saving you money by cutting out hefty international transfer fees. .

If your trip is short or opening a bank account in Mexico isn't an option, you can always withdraw money from your foreign account using an ATM in Mexico. Just keep in mind it'll be more favourable to agree to be charged in the local currency, not your home currency.

Regardless of when you start your new job abroad, it should be fairly straightforward to get your visa. The most important thing is just to make sure to enjoy your new adventure.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

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