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Immigration and Customs Informaton for Mexico PDF Print E-mail

Immigration and Customs information for Playa del Carmen and The Riviera Maya; a quick overview.

Clearing Customs at The Cancun Airport:

Customs Cancun Airport

When entering into Mexico, customs officials are looking for people who are trying to bring in things to sell that are already available in Mexico such as; computer parts, cameras, and other goods and products. In addition they are always looking for illegal goods and substance such as drugs or weapons. So once you have gone through immigration you then proceed to baggage claim to claim your luggage, and from there you proceed to  customs. This is where you will turn in your customs declaration form and your will load your bags onto an x-ray conveyor belt. Once you have reclaimed your bags from the x-ray machine you will be required to push a button on a machine that looks similar to a traffic light. If the light turns green you are free to proceed with out having your bags search, but if the light turns red you will be required to pull over to the tables on the side where a customs official will search your bags to ensure you are not breaking any international customs laws.

It is an easy and relatively quick process, and once you are cleared through customs you are officially on vacation in beautiful Mexico.



The majority of people who are traveling into Mexico are usually just here for a short stay or visit., and if you are only going to be in Mexico a short while the immigration process is very simple.

FMT Mexican ImmigraionFMT

When visiting Mexico you will receive a tourist visa (FNT) form during your flight,  an immigration office when coming over the border if you are coming by car or bus, or at any Mexican consulate office from your place of origin. All you have to do is fill in the pertinent information (such as name, date, gender, nationality etc,) and as you enter into Mexico an immigration agent will stamp your visa, and voila you are now a legal tourist in Mexico. An FMT is granted to visitors coming to Mexico for less then 6 months. In the Riviera Maya, they will usually only grant you an FMT for 30 days or less due to the fact that this is one of the top travel destinations in the world right now. Immigration wants to be able to maintain and keep track of the number of visitors that come and go. If you do arrive and only are granted 30 days, and wish to stay longer go to either the Cancun Immigration Office, located on on the corner of Avenida Nader and Avenida Uxmal in downtown Cancun,or to the Playa del Carmen Immigration Office located in Plaza Antiguas in downtown Playa del Carmen, and file for an extension. The Cancun Immigration Office is open form 9:00 AM until 12:00 PM Monday through Friday, and the Playa del Carmen Immigration Office is open from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM Monday through Friday.We suggest you file for your extension at least 15 days prior to your FMT expiration date. You will need the following documents in order to file for an extension:

  • Your passport and a photocopy (just to be safe make multiple copies, Mexican officials like paperwork!)
  • The original FMT
  • .A letter requesting the extension of the term.
  • In some cases they may wish to see that you have a valid credit card to ensure that you have the funds to travel, and won't be working in Mexico during your stay. It is not legal to work in Mexico with an FMT
  • Upon leaving Mexico you will be required to return your FMT at the airport, so make sure you don't lose it!
  • Please note that some nationalities have restrictions whe entering Mexico. Depending on the case you may need to be invited by a family member, a friend, or a corporation. You should be able to find out about any restrictions prior to your trip through a Mexican Consulate. The visa should be granted as long as all the requirements are fulfilled.

FM3 from Mexico

What is required if you plan on staying in Mexico longer then 6 months?

There are various ways to secure your immigration status in Mexico if you decide you would like to stay in Mexico longer then 6 months. Whether you plan to work while in Mexico, or if you just want to travel there are various ways to go about doing it. There are 2 different processes and permits that allow you to stay in Mexico longer then the FMT allows; 1) an FM2 and 2) an FM3

  • FM3
    When you have an FM3 you are allowed to stay in the country as a non-immigrant for up to one year. This permit may be renewed annually. After the fifth consecutive year you may be interested in acquiring the next immigration status as an immigrant, FM2, or simply continue as an FM3 holder.
  • FM2
    This document applies to immigrants. As an immigrant you're not a permanent resident but you are eligible to apply for residency in Mexico.

    Pros and cons of either an FM2 or an FM3:
  1. FM3: As a non-immigrant you don't acquire residency rights.
  2. FM3: You are entitled to leave and enter the country freely.
  3. FM2: You must note that as an immigrant you have a restricted number of exits from the country. In the case that you leave the country for more than 18 months in a period of 5 years, you will not be able to apply for residency status. In the case that you stay outside the country for more than 2 years you will lose the immigration status of an immigrant.
  4. Both FM2 and FM3 are essentially the same in regards to what activities you are allowed to perform and engage in while in Mexico.
  5. Both have to be renewed annually. We recommend that you take all the necessary precautions for the term not to expire. You should request the renewal 30 days before the expiration date. If it does expire you are required to start from the beginning. For example; if you have held an FM2 for 4 years, and you then let it expire, you will have to apply for an FM3 and then apply for an FM2 after holding the FM3 for 5 years.


If you wish to work in Mexico you are required to hold either an FM3 or an FM2, and they will specifically outline what you are able to do while working.

Owning a business or investing in Mexico:

If you plan to own and operate a Mexican Corporation, or if you invest money into Mexico, you are eligible for an FM3. 

Investing: You may have considered investing in Mexico and therefore you wish to learn about possible investment options. Or, you might just come down to invest, supervise an investment, represent a foreign company or perform certain commercial activities. As an investor: There are minimum requirements and obligations that you must follow to have investment status.

Corporation: Have you ever dreamed of owning a bar on the Beach Bar Mexicobeach? Running a small hotel? Although is can be challenging it is not impossible to start a corporation and business in Mexico, and therefore securing your immigration status. First you must set up a corporation, get a tax identification number, and then you can apply for working in your corporation. Setting up a corporation is a rather simple process; it just requires a notary, which are federally mandated in Mexico, and equivalent to an attorney. Once you have determined what your corporation wants to be able to do you can apply for an FM3. Keep in mind when starting a foreign corporation in Mexico you will be required to prove investment capital, ensure that it is a necessary and valuable service, and show the ability and desire to hire nationals. It is required to hire 10 Mexicans for every foreigner in your company. In addition it is nearly impossible to work in the service industry as a foreigner due to that fact that nationals are eligible for those jobs.

Working for a Mexican owned business:

If you plan on applying for a job with an existing Mexican business, rather then starting your own corporation, the company that hires you is responsible for filing all of the necessary paperwork with immigration.The following paperwork is required, but not limited to: 

  • Birth certificate
  • University diplomas and certificates
  • Valid passport
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Letters of recommendation (*recommended not required)
All of your paperwork MUST be apostilled from the Secretary of State of origin of issuance. If you are from outside of the United States you will have to find the equivalent to an apostille for your country of origin. Once all of your paperwork has been gathered and properly authenticated it will then need to be translated into Spanish. You may do that in your country of origin, but is much less expensive, and much easier if done here in Mexico once you arrive.  


Plan on staying in Mexico but don't want to work?


Students are admitted for periods of one year for as long as the course lasts. They may not leave the country for more than 120 days every year. Students have to prove to the authorities that they have a regular income to satisfy their needs. The status obtained when applying for the permit is that of a non-immigrant.

If you have decided you want to live in Mexico without working you may acquire immigration status as long as you can prove to the Mexican authorities that you will live on a fixed income brought from your own country or earned from Mexican-based investments.

What about the family?

Family members
If you are the primary earner in your family they are eligible for dependent status as either non-immigrant or an immigrant, if this is the case you will have to provide immigration with copies of your immigration papers, as well as information that proves your income.

Foreigners giving birth in Mexico
If you are a foreigner and live and work in Mexico you may be eligible for an accelerated process to obtain permanent residency; have a baby. If you give birth in Mexico your child is legally a Mexican National, and therefore as a parent you may obtain residency after 2 consecutive years of holding, and maintaining, FM3 status.

Volunteering in Mexico: 

Although it is not widely known, or enforced, it is illegal to volunteer in Mexico. From and official point of view immigration officials are not convinced that you are actually volunteering, but rather receiving payment when working here in Mexico. It is a major cultural difference in the fact that as a culture, Mexicans do not volunteer outside of their jobs. Because of this you are required to apply for a permit though the immigration offices if you would like to volunteer while visiting Mexico. This process is nearly identical as applying for an FM3. If you decide to apply for a volunteer permit we suggest doing so before you arrive. Some non-profits have an arrangement with immigration in regards to people who volunteer for a specific non-profit. One such business is Angel Notion who has been here in Playa del Carmen for years and has had no problems with their volunteers and immigration. 

A final note:

Immigration can be a daunting and complex task, and if you do not have a handle on the language, customs, bureaucracy etc., we highly suggest you locate an attorney here in Mexico to help you with the process of planning and applying for your status. We have nearly 4 years of work and immigration experience here in Playa del Carmen. If you have any specific questions that we did not cover please feel free to contact us at anytime, and we will be more then happy to share any information and insight that we have just e-mail us at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it