When you are looking for a second passport, Mexico is an ideal solution. You get visa-free access to over 150 other countries. You can visit some, like China, that you don’t get a visa waiver with a US passport.

As everyone who reads this blog knows, a second passport allows you the freedom to change countries and travel around no matter what is going on in the world (for example: Hello Covid shutdowns!).

There are a variety of different visas you can obtain in Mexico and stay there year round.

The path to permanent residency or citizenship (passport) all start the same way: with a temporary residency card.

How Residency Differs From Citizenship


citizenship & residency compared
Two ways to be in a country

When you are crafting your dream life, you look at these different paths and see which one works best for you.

  • 6 months of visa waiver per year may be plenty.
  • Maybe you want residency to stay longer than 6 months each year.
  • Or maybe you need citizenship to get your preferred second passport from Mexico.

It is up to you to decide what the right path is in your case.

US Citizen to Mexico

Let’s start off by going through the different ways to stay in Mexico and the paths to getting citizenship and a passport. There are 3 ways to stay in Mexico as a foreigner:

  • Tourist Visa (up to 180 days)
  • Temporary Resident (up to 365 days)
  • Permanent Resident  (up to 365 days)

Tourist Visa for Mexico


mexican departure ticket
US Citizen to Mexico

Obtaining a tourist visa gives you the permission to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days in a row and a total for the year. A tourist visa is actually a visa waiver, meaning Mexico waives the requirement to apply for a visa for most visitors.

Here is the list of countries that get a visa waiver to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days:

AndorraCroatiaIrelandMicronesiaSan Marino
AustraliaCzech Republic,ItalyNetherlandsSlovakia
AustriaDenmarkJamaica New ZealandSlovenia
Bahamas BarbadosEstado Plurinacional de BoliviaJapanNiue South Korea
CanadaGermanyLuxembourgParaguayTrinidad and Tobago
ChileGreeceMacauPeruUnited Arab Emirates
ColombiaHong KongMalaysiaPolandUnited Kingdom
Cook IslandsHungaryMaltaPortugalUnited States of America
Costa RicaIcelandMarshall IslandsRomaniaUruguay


All foreign visitors, regardless of their nationality, traveling to Mexico for tourism, business, or in transit to another destination, are exempt from presenting a Mexican visa as long as they have a valid visa issued by any of the following countries: Canada, Japan, the United States of America, the United Kingdom or any of the countries comprising the Schengen Area.

Upon arrival in Mexico, you will go through immigration and present your passport and state your reason for traveling into the country. You fill out an immigration form in immigration and give it to the agent. This includes an arrival and departure card (shown above). The departure card portion of this form will be given back to you at immigration and you are responsible for returning it back to immigration when you exit the country.

The visa waiver (tourist visa) is not a path to citizenship and getting a new Mexican passport. We included it here because it is a good way to visit Mexico for up to 6 months per year.

Remember there are different ways to live your life abroad and you will be crafting your own Dream World around citizenships (with passport) and other residencies (the ability to stay in a country for longer than the visa waiver time AND come and go more frequently if you so desire).

It is important to understand the difference between being a RESIDENT and being a CITIZEN. You will need to watch out for tax implications of both of these things as you set yourself up for an international living. Some people don’t need more than a 6-month visa waiver in Mexico to enjoy their life so they don’t need to become a resident or citizen. Your dream life is your dream life, whatever it looks like.

Mexico Temporary Resident

All paths to Mexican citizenship (and the passport) start with temporary residency. It is important to understand that once you get a temporary residence card for Mexico, you are no longer a tourist. You MUST enter and exit the country at all times AS A RESIDENT. Doing so as a tourist will invalidate your resident card and you’ll have to go get a new one. Not a good idea at all.

Everyone will have to have a temporary residency before they can get a permanent residency or citizenship. The flow looks like this:

  • Get temp residency first. Good for 1 year and renewable each year.
  • Do this for 4 years. Now you can get a permanent residency if you wish.
    • exception: if you have a Mexican child, spouse, or other family members in your family, you can get the permanent residency or citizenship after only 2 years. Same thing applies to citizens of other Latin American countries like Panama or Colombia. They can get a Mexican passport or permanent residency after only 2 years.
  • At 5 years you can apply for citizenship.
  • All that is required here is to pass a basic test of spanish language and Mexican history (10 questions). You will pass if you have been paying attention and trying to learn some spanish.
  • PRO TIP: Learn spanish anyway, especially if you are American. It comes in handy almost every day even in the USA.

Different Ways to Qualify for Temporary Resident Card

  • You have a job in Mexico
  • You are a student in Mexico
  • You have enough money and want to live in Mexico
  • You invest in a business in Mexico
  • You purchase property in Mexico

Most people choose the money option for this path to residents or citizens.

Mexican Temporary Resident Card


Temporary Resident Card


Fill out the Mexico Tourist Visa Application Form, have it printed and signed.
  • Provide a valid passport with a minimum of 6 months left on it. Send only the page with the photo and information on it.
  • A recent passport-size picture of yourself not older than six months. It has to be taken with a white background and remove all head or face accessories. Don’t do this yourself, find a place that does it all the time.
  • Statements of investments, savings, or bank accounts that have a balance of at least $42,000 for the last 12 months OR documents that prove the applicant has a job, pension income from any source for at least $2,500 per month for the last 6 months.
  • Cash, check, or money order for $48 (in the US – the amount varies by country of origin). The processing is typically two business days.

Permanent Resident of Mexico

Mexican permanent resident card

In order to qualify as a permanent resident, you must accumulate a minimum of five years as a temporary resident. This option is ideal for those who want to retire in Mexico. Besides its beautiful beaches, Mexico is a fairly tax-friendly and affordable place to live for retirees. Oh and nice weather!

Permanent Residency Requirements

  • You have spent 4 years living in Mexico as a temporary resident. There is no minimum time spent but you will be in Mexico anyway if you are interested in living there. You can do this after only 2 years if you fall under the exception for having a family (child, spouse, etc) or you are a citizen of another Latin American country.
  • You can prove you have the income or assets to stay in Mexico full-time. This amounts to approximately $1,445 USD per month or $43,220 in liquid assets.

AS a permanent resident, once you hit the 5-year mark, you have the option of applying for Citizenship and a Mexican Passport. You would have to pass the Spanish language and Mexican history tests (not too hard to do). You do not have to do this. You can live indefinitely as a permanent resident.

Mexican Residency or Citizenship (Passport)

Now that you have chosen a path toward one of the 2 options, it is time to execute. 

Like any residency and/or citizenship past your native country, it will take time and effort to get these things accomplished. Like planting a tree, the best time to get started is 20 years ago and TODAY.

You want to get the clock ticking on whatever it is that you are going for. You are going to be living on this planet for 5 more years anyway, so get the clock ticking in your favor!

Leave a Reply