Work permits for employees in Mexico: A complete guide for employers


May 25, 2023

Many companies in the US and beyond have expanded their operations to Mexico—with a high quality of life and low cost of living, Mexico is a great place to run a business (and recruit top talent).

But before you onboard any new hires in Mexico (or transfer any existing employees there), you need to make sure they're eligible to work there. That means understanding work permits for employees in Mexico—including who needs them, how to get them, how long they last, and other important considerations.

Luckily, you've found this guide. Below, learn more about work visas in Mexico so you can be sure your new hires and transferred employees are compliant with local laws—keeping your company compliant in the process.

What is a work permit in Mexico?

In many countries, work permits and work visas are the same thing, and the two terms can be used interchangeably. In Mexico, visas work a bit differently.

There is no work-specific visa that allows someone to immigrate to Mexico and work for a specific company. Instead, someone who intends to work for an employer with a presence in Mexico must apply for a residence visa, and if it is approved, request permission to work while living in Mexico via a work permit.

A work permit in Mexico is a document issued by the Mexican government that grants permission to a foreigner to work within the country for a specific employer. Work permits are typically required for individuals who are already in Mexico on a different visa type, such as a student visa or a temporary resident visa, and wish to engage in employment. The employer usually initiates the work permit process on behalf of the foreign worker.

Who needs a work visa in Mexico?

For the most part, any foreign national who isn't a Mexican citizen will need to request work privileges in order to work while living in Mexico. This includes those who are living in Mexico on a permanent resident visa.

However, there are some exceptions:

  • Those traveling to Mexico on business from the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Pacific Alliance countries, or Schengen countries, and staying less than 180 days.
  • Citizens of certain countries who plan to do technical activities, journalistic work, or study while in Mexico.

When you send an offer letter to a new hire in Mexico, it should include a clause about the offer being contingent on their eligibility to work in Mexico legally.

How long does it take to get a work permit in Mexico?

Processing times for work permits can vary depending on a lot of different factors. Getting a residence visa and work permit approved so a foreign national can work in Mexico is a complex process that can take several months to complete.

Types of work visas in Mexico

There are no specific work visas in Mexico, but there are three types of visas that allow foreign nationals to enter the country. Once your prospective employee has been approved for a visa, they can request work privileges (more on that process below).

  • Non-working tourist visa. This visa is for short-term visitors, allowing foreign nationals to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days. It cannot be extended and no work permits can be granted to foreign nationals with this visa.
  • Working visitor visa. This visa is for short-term visitors who plan to work in Mexico. It allows foreign nationals to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days with permission to work during their stay. This visa cannot be extended.
  • Temporary resident visa. This visa is intended for those who plan to live and work in Mexico for longer than 180 days, but less than four years. It's also the most common type of visa issued to foreign nationals who receive a job offer from a Mexican company (or a global company with a presence in Mexico). This visa is issued for one year and can be extended for up to four years in total. It can also be converted into a permanent residence visa upon request as long as the visa holder meets the requirements for permanent residence.
  • Permanent resident visa. This visa allows foreign nationals to live in Mexico indefinitely. Anyone who holds this visa can apply for a work permit and eventually seek Mexican citizenship if they wish.

Requirements for getting a permanent residence visa in Mexico

To live and work in Mexico for longer than four years, an individual will need a permanent residence visa, which has stricter requirements than Mexico's other visa types. To qualify for a permanent residence visa, they must:

  • Have family connections in Mexico and sufficient income to support themselves and any dependents; or
  • Have held a temporary resident permit for at least four years.

Application process for Mexico work visas

Foreign nationals who plan to work in Mexico can apply for a residence visa and a work permit concurrently. Their employer will need to initiate some of the steps. Here's how the process works:

  • The employer issues a job offer to the prospective employee. The offer letter should include a job description, the duration of work, and the salary.
  • The employer submits an application for a work permit (and the required documents, more on that below) to the Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) on the foreign employee's behalf.
  • The employee submits an application for a residence visa (and the required documents, more on that below) to the Mexican Consulate in their home country. Once the documents are approved, the employee will be asked to attend a consular interview and proof of a medical examination.
  • After clearing their interview, the employee collects both their residence visa and work permit from the Consulate and travels to Mexico to start work.
  • Within 30 days of arrival in Mexico, the employee (and any dependents) must register with the immigration office.

Frequently asked questions about work permits for employees in Mexico

Do US citizens need a work permit to work in Mexico?

In most cases, yes. But Mexico does allow citizens of the US to take short-term business trips (less than 180 days) to Mexico without a visa.

What documents are required to apply for a Mexico residence visa?

When applying for a Mexican residence visa, an individual will need the following documents:

  • A visa application form
  • A valid passport with at least six months left before its expiry date
  • A signed letter of authorization from the Mexican Immigration Office with the NUT (Número Único de Trámite) number
  • A signed job offer from a company with a business presence in Mexico
  • A signed letter of registration of the company or employer (Constancia de Inscripción de Empleador)
  • A Letter of Notification of Authorization of Visa received by the Mexican Company
  • An airline ticket itinerary
  • One color passport size photo (minimum size 3.2 cm x 26.0 cm; maximum size 3.9 cm x 3.1 cm; white background, no eye glasses)
  • A photocopy of the main page of their passport, their National ID, any former Mexican visa they've had, and any valid visa from another country
  • Proof of permanent or temporary legal residence

What family ties qualify a foreign national for permanent residence in Mexico?

One of the qualifications for a permanent residency visa in Mexico is "close family ties" to the country. That could mean the visa holder is the child, parent, child of a spouse or common-law partner, or sibling of a Mexican citizen or foreigner with permanent residence in Mexico.

How does a foreign national prove economic solvency for permanent residence in Mexico?

Another qualification for a permanent residency visa in Mexico is the ability of
the visa holder to financially support themselves. This means they need to be able to show proof of economic solvency in at least one of these ways:

  • Have sufficient income to afford the cost of living in Mexico;
  • Have sufficient savings in cash or cash-like investments;
  • Own Mexican real estate, and/or
  • Have investments in local companies or the stock market.

The level of income the applicant needs to demonstrate varies depending on the type of visa they're applying for.

What’s the fastest way to get a Mexico work permit?

Unfortunately, processing times for both residence visas and work permits in Mexico can vary, and there's no way to speed up the visa process. Applicants can save time by applying for their residence visa and work permit concurrently, with their employer's help initiating the work permit process.

How much does it cost to get a Mexico visa and work permit?

Mexican visa fees vary depending on the type of visa and the applicant's country of origin.

For applicants with a temporary resident card in Mexico, the fee to apply for a work permit is 3,207 MXN (~$150).

For applicants with permanent residence in Mexico, there's no fee to apply for a work permit.

Are family members included in visa applications in Mexico?

Family members are not included on the same visa. They can apply for a dependent visa once the working family member has received a residence visa and work permit. Family members with dependent visas can also apply for their own work permits.

How do you renew your Mexican visa?

Applicants who move to Mexico on a temporary residence visa will receive their initial visa for one year. They can apply to extend this visa for up to three additional years—four total. Any application to extend a visa must be made at least 30 days before the visa expires.

Once a visa holder has lived and worked in Mexico for four years on a temporary residence visa, they become eligible for a permanent residence visa.

Is there a limit on the number of work permits you can obtain in Mexico?

The short answer is no. While living in Mexico with a temporary residence permit, a foreign national can apply for a work permit any time they receive a new job offer. After living in Mexico for four years, they'll need to apply for permanent residence if they still wish to stay. Once they receive a permanent residence permit, work permits are no longer needed.

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Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting, or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.

last edited: March 26, 2024

The Author

Christina Marfice

Christina is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in Chicago. Having lived and worked in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, she’s bringing her expertise on hiring in Latin America to Rippling.