Mexico, which is officially known as the United Mexican States, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. People travel from all over to visit its sunny beaches or its ancient historical ruins. Additionally, the cultural festivals, colonial cities and architecture, and the natural beauty make it so much more than just a place to go to when you want to lounge on a beach and a memorable place to visit.
Depending on your nationality, if you want to visit Mexico, you may have to apply for a Mexico visa beforehand. However, not everyone has to apply for a visa before going to Mexico. There is a list of countries whose nationals are allowed to travel to Mexico without a visa for stays of up to 180 days. This includes the United States, the member states of the European Union and the EFTA, Canada, Australia, etc.
Nationals of visa-exempt countries can travel to Mexico with just their passport and obtain a tourist card on arrival.
Types of Mexico Visas
There are three main types of Mexico visas, depending on the duration of your stay:
- Mexico Tourist Visas, which are issued for a short-stay of up to 180 days. They are issued to visa-required foreign nationals who want to enter Mexico for tourism, business, a visit or any other purpose which does not require employment.
- Mexico Temporary Resident Visa, which is issued to foreigners who want to move to Mexico for a period longer than six months but less than four years. Temporary resident visas are then further divided into:
- Mexico Permanent Resident Visa, which is issued to foreign nationals who want to live in Mexico permanently. This type of visa is most common for retirees who will live in Mexico with an independent income, which is why it’s also referred to as a Mexico Retirement Visa. Foreigners with close family ties to Mexico as well as those who have lived in Mexico as a temporary resident for at least four years are also eligible for permanent residency in Mexico.
Is There a Mexico Transit Visa?
No, Mexico does not issue transit visas. If you will change planes in a Mexican airport, and your transit is for less than 24 hours, once your plane lands, an immigration officer will take your passport and escort you to the airport transit hall, where you can wait for the connecting flight.
If you want to enter Mexico for any purpose, even just to transit, then you must have a valid Mexico Tourist Visa and a Tourist Card.
Where Can You Apply for a Mexico Visa?
You can apply for a Mexico visa at a Mexican embassy abroad. However, if you are from Turkey, Russia, you may be eligible to get a Mexican Tourist Visa online through the Electronic Travel Authorization (Sistema de Autorización Electrónica, SAE).
How to Apply for Mexico Visa?
You have to apply for a Mexico visa at a Mexican embassy in your country (or the one nearest to you). The application process is as follows:
- Contact the Mexico embassy to set up an appointment
- Complete the Mexico Visa Application Form
- Collect the required documents
- Submit the application and pay the fee
Contact the Mexico embassy to set up an appointment
The application process for a visa for Mexico may differ depending on the country from which you are applying. Different Mexico embassy offices may have their own specific requirements, including the visa fee payment method, opening hours, and appointments.
This is why the first step when you apply for a Mexico visa is to contact an embassy. You can find a list of Mexican embassies around the world here.
It is advisable to set up an appointment for a Mexico visa at least four weeks before you intend to travel.
Complete the Mexico Visa Application Form
Next, you must download and complete the Mexico Visa Application Form. You can usually find the application form on the website of the Mexico embassy where you will apply. In some cases, you will receive your application form at the embassy when you submit the application.
You can either complete the form by typing it on your computer (if possible) then printing it or by writing with legible typed letters after you have printed it. The first option may not always be available, so follow the instructions on the form or of the embassy.
You have to answer questions such as:
- Your name, birthday, sex, and birthplace
- Passport information
- Marital status
- Country of residence and address
- Information about your job/profession
- Questions regarding your purpose of travel to Mexico
After completing the Mexico visa application form, you must sign it. If the applicant is a minor, his/her parents have to sign the form.
Collect the required documents
You must submit several required documents that support your Mexico visa application. There are also additional documents related to your purpose of travel.
Submit the application and pay the visa fee
On the date of your appointment, you must submit the documents and application form at the Mexico embassy. You also have to pay a Mexico visa fee.
A visa for Mexico costs about $36. However, the visa fee may change depending on the type of visa you’re applying for as well as the country in which you submit your application. The payment method also differs from country to country since some may require you to pay upfront via bank while others ask you to pay in cash.
Additionally, you will also have to pay for the Tourist Card, which may be between $15-$30. The prices for a Mexico Tourist Card may change slightly from time to time.
Can I Get a Mexico Visa On Arrival Instead of the Embassy?
You cannot get a Mexico Visa on Arrival. What you are most likely referring to is a Mexico Tourist Card, which is most often issued at the point of entry in Mexico – yes, on arrival.
Every foreigner who enters Mexico as a tourist, whether they need a visa or not, will get a Mexico Tourist Card before they can enter the country.
However, if you are from a country which is subject to Mexico visas, you must obtain one before you travel to Mexico.
Can Get a Mexican Visa Online?
Only nationals of the following countries can apply for a Mexico visa online:
The online Mexico visa is called an Electronic Travel Authorization (Sistema de Autorización Electrónica, SAE), and is valid for one entry, and allows the holder a maximum stay of 180 days in Mexico. However, you can only get a Mexico visa online if you intend to travel by air. If you will enter the country by sea or land, you won’t be eligible for the SAE.
If you are eligible for an Electronic Travel Authorization, you may apply here.
Mexico Visa Processing Time
The time it takes to process a Mexican visa depends on the specific embassy to which you are applying. Some only take about two days to process your visa while others may take up to four weeks.
You must check the website of the Mexico embassy where you will apply or contact them to learn about how long it will take to process your visa. That’s because not all embassies work at the same pace, and while one might process your visa within 2 working days, another might take 10 working days. That’s why some embassies recommend you schedule your appointment at least four weeks before your trip.
What is the Duration of a Mexico Visa?
The duration of a Mexico visa depends on the type of visa you have.
The duration of a Mexico tourist visa is a maximum of 180 days. However, once you arrive at the point of entry in Mexico, the immigration officials could give you a tourist card that is valid for 30, 60, or 90 days, not the full 180.
A Mexico temporary residence visa is valid for one year, but it can be renewed and extended for up to four years. After four years of temporary residency, you can apply for permanent residency.
Can you Extend a Mexico Visa?
Whether you can extend a Mexico visa or not depends on the type of visa you have.
If you receive a Tourist card which states that the number of days you are allowed to stay in Mexico is less than 180, you may be able to get an extension to the full 180 days. However, you cannot extend a Tourist Visa/Card beyond the 180 days.
You can apply for a tourist card extension at an immigration center in Mexico, but keep in mind that oftentimes, the immigration officials do not allow visa extensions.
If you have a Mexican temporary residence visa, on the other hand, you can extend/renew it for a maximum of four years, which is when you’ll be eligible for permanent residency.
What Happens if I Overstay my Mexico Tourist Card?
If you overstay your Mexico Tourist Card, you must go to an immigration office in Mexico or the immigration center at the airport and pay a fine, which is calculated based on the number of days you have overstayed. Then, you must make arrangements to get an exit visa before you leave.
What Happens if I Lose my Mexico Tourist Card?
If you lose your Mexico Tourist Card, you must visit an immigration office in order to get a replacement. You will also have to pay a replacement fee.
How Can I Work in Mexico?
To work in Mexico (legally) you need a job offer as well as a Mexican work permit. Your employer has to obtain a work permit for you from the National Institute of Immigration (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM).
Then, you must apply for your work visa to be allowed to enter the country for employment purposes, and apply for a temporary residence card.
How Can I Stay in Mexico Longer Than Six Months?
Everyone who wishes to stay in Mexico for longer than six months, regardless of their nationality, has to get a Mexican Temporary Residence Permit, which is valid for one year and renewable for up to four years. Additionally, if they want to work, they have to get a work permit.
You cannot enter the country on a tourist visa or a tourist card and then extend it for longer than six months. Although some visa-exempt nationals had started to enter Mexico on a tourist card, left before it expired, and then re-entered and got another 180 days of residence, that is not advisable. That’s because you cannot work on a tourist card, which means any work you do during this time will be illegal.
So, if you want to legally live and work in Mexico, you need a Temporary Residence Visa and a work permit.