What type of visa do I need to do business in Mexico?
In this post I will tell you whether you will need a visa to travel to Mexico to perform business related activities that are allowed under a regular visitor visa, or else what is the best type of visa that you need to obtain for your business.
We will not be using legal terms, just general concepts. If you would like to read technical explanations, please send us an email and we will be glad to share.
First… who does not need a visa?
You will not need a visa if you are a citizen of a country that has a visa exemption treaty with Mexico. If you see your flag below, all you need to travel to Mexico is a valid passport (check the link for updated info).
If you are not a citizen of any of the above countries but you have a permanent resident permit from you are also exempted from a Mexican visa and may travel to Mexico with your passport and a permanent resident card issued by either .
Also, if you have none of the above but have a US visa or an APEC card approved by Mexico, you are also exempted from a visa requirement.
I am exempted! But, am I allowed to do business in Mexico if exempted?
You are allowed to do some business related activities. For example, you may network for potential business partners, have meetings with service providers, customers or potential buyers of your services or products. In this case, you are viewed as a visitor from an immigration-legal standpoint.
What about if I am not exempted and want to do some of the above activities?
The same rule applies for foreign nationals that are not exempted but in this case you will need an ordinary visitor visa (e.g., tourist / business visa).
What type of business activities should I refrain from doing?
If you are either exempted or hold an ordinary visitor visa you should not engage in a paid job or perform commercial activities. For example, you cannot be hired by a Mexican company and receive a salary. Commercial activities are somewhat of a grey area with respect to immigration rules. For example, it is not prohibited that an individual foreign national would sell some sample products while in Mexico. However, from a tax standpoint you may be viewed as doing business in Mexico and would be subject to tax reporting. To play on the safer side, it is best that all your business related activities are free from remuneration or else you are likely required to apply for an investor visa or a working visa (commonly referred to as FM3 or FM2); in addition tax reporting.
What if I would like to sell products or look for a job?
Regardless of being or not exempt, if your plans are to engage in daily business or get a job, you need to apply for an investor visa or a working visa. If you are also planning to stay for more than 180 days you will need a temporary resident status.
Doing business as a foreign individual.
If you are running a business as an individual, you will need to obtain resident status and obtain a tax identification number (RFC) among other permits and registrations. More on this on a separate post.
Arrived as a visitor but want to change status or extend stay without leaving the country.
It is not uncommon that people come to Mexico and have plans to stay for a short period of time, say 2 or 3 months. However, for multiple reasons they need to stay longer or indefinitely. In this case, the general rule is that you would have to leave the country and come back with a different immigration status, like a temporary resident, which may be accomplished either by applying for a resident visa at the nearest Mexican consulate in your home country or by applying for a working visa at the National Institute of Immigration in Mexico. There are, however, some situations where you may stay in Mexico and change your status without needing to leave the country, so long as you justify the reason for your change of status and pay a fine, which would be determined on a case-by-case basis (may be waived in limited situations).
Visas for persons with Mexican companies.
People that create Mexican companies to engage in business must sometimes visit Mexico for short periods of time to follow trough their commercial activities (e.g., less than 6 months). In this case, because it is the company and not the individual that is engaging in business, the immigration status of the company’s owner or shareholder can vary substantially. In some instances, for example when the individual owns the company but she or he is not engaged in local management, the individual will either be exempted from a visa requirement (see above) or else require a regular visitor visa. In other cases, when the owner or shareholder is engaged in management or operational aspects of the business that will require the individual to enter into contracts, hire people, open a bank account, and other similar activities, then that person will need to obtain a different type of immigration permit, such as a working visa, investor visa, or other.
Please share your thoughts or questions on the comments section or feel free to reach out via email and we will be glad to followup with you.