Earlier this month, new immigration regulations in Mexico went into effect. The main changes impacting foreign workers and their employers are as follows:

Three New Broad Visa Categories

The FMM visitor, non-immigrant (FM3), immigrant (FM2) and permanent resident (residente permanente) visas have been replaced by three new broad visa categories — Visitor (Visitatnte), Temporary Resident(Residente Temporal) and Permanent Resident (Residente Permanente):

  1. Visitor (Visitante)

Replacing the FMM visitor visa, the new Visitor visa category includes two visitor visa types that are dependent on whether the foreigner shall be remunerated in Mexico.

  • The Visitor visa for foreigners without authorization to perform activities remunerated in Mexico.
    • This Visitor visa allows foreigners, who do not have permission to receive any type of remuneration in Mexico for activities to be carried out in Mexico (i.e., tourists and business visitors), to stay in the country for up to 180 days. The foreigner can apply for this type of Visitor visa from a Mexican Consulate or Embassy abroad.
  • The Visitor visa for foreigner with authorization to perform activities remunerated in Mexico.
    • This Visitor visa allows foreigners, who have permission to be remunerated in Mexico for the activities they will perform in the country, to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days. In sharp contrast to its Visitor visa counterpart, this type of Visitor visa must be obtained from the Instituto Nacional de Migracion (National Immigration Institute or INM), Mexico's immigration authorities, and petitioned by the foreigner's employer abroad.
  1. Temporary Resident (Residente temporal)

Replacing the FM3 and FM2 categories, the Temporary Resident visa category is a multiple entry visa allowing foreigners to stay in Mexico for up to four years. Similar to the procedural requirements pertaining to the new Visitor visa category, if the foreigner will not be remunerated in Mexico for activities to be carried out in the country, then he/she may apply directly with a Mexican Consulate or Embassy abroad. Otherwise, if the foreigner will be remunerated in Mexico, then the application for the Temporary Resident Visa must be submitted to the INM for approval.

While the validity of the Temporary Resident visa will depend solely on the intended length of the foreigner worker's assignment in Mexico, foreigners who initially obtain a temporary resident visa for less than four years may request annual renewals up to a maximum of four years. Renewal requests must be submitted 30 days prior to the visa expiration date, and once the four-year limit has been reached, the foreign worker and his/her dependents may request a change of status to permanent resident status.

  1. Permanent Resident (Residentes permanents)

The new Permanent Resident visa category allows foreigners working and receiving remuneration in Mexico to stay in the country for an indefinite period of time. Unlike its predecessor, the new Permanent Resident visa will allow foreigners to qualify for permanent resident status in a shorter period of time, particularly for those with family ties in Mexico.

Temporary Resident and Permanent Resident visa holders, whose visas expire while they are outside Mexico, may enter Mexico under the expired visa and request a renewal upon entry provided that such entry is no more than 55 days following the visa expiration date and the renewal request is made within five days of entry.

Elimination of Change of Status Provision

Previously, the INM accepted FM3 work visa applications filed in country by foreigners already present in Mexico as business or tourist visitors. Under the new regulations, foreigners seeking work authorization in Mexico must obtain their work visas prior to entering the country and are prohibited from being physically present in Mexico (as a tourist or business visitor) during the adjudication of their work visa application.

Employer Registration Required for New Entry Permit Applications

Employers seeking sponsorship of foreign employees are now required to file an employer registration file with the INM. This requirement is no longer optional for employers. Under the new regulations, visa applications will not be accepted from employers that do not have an employer registration file.