What is an FMM Visa?
The FMM VISA is the Short-Term Non-Immigrant Visa that every visitor receives upon entering Mexico. Short term visas are intended for visitors to Mexico who come to stay for 6 months or less. Usually these visas are given to tourists and business travelers on short-term business trips. FMM visas are issued by airlines and are also available at ports of entry.* For trips of longer than 6 months, a non-immigrant or immigrant visa is required-- see the Questions and Answers below for details.
What is an FM3 Visa?
The FM3 VISA is the Long-Term Non-Immigrant Visa.
Mexico provides the FM3 Vsa, which is a renewable long term (more than 6 months) permit which gives non-immigrant temporary residency status to the holder. This means that it gives a person the right to live in Mexico (under the terms set out in the visa) but it does not lead to, and cannot be converted to, a visa leading to permanent residency.
There are various categories under which FM3 visas are granted, and these relate to the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the FM3, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative, depending on the visa's classification.
One of the criteria that the Mexican authorities require for the issuance of a FM3 Visa is that the applicant prove that they have 'sufficient funds to sustain themselves while in Mexico' and/or a proven steady income. There is no official minimum or maximum amount -- every application appears to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Proof of funds and/or income is usually requested by means of bank account statements, proof of investment income, credit cards, or a combination of these.
Once applied for and granted, the FM3 may be renewed for an additional four years (for a total of five years). After this period, a new FM3 may be applied for and, if granted, will serve for another (max) five year period, renewable annually.
The FM3 visa may not be exchanged automatically for a visa leading to permanent residency (FM2). The FM2 visa must be applied for separately. Any years accrued under a FM3 visa are not transferable towards FM2-residency status (see FM2 Heading, below, for details).
What is an FM2 Visa?
The FM2 visa is an Immigrant Visa, intended for people seeking permanent residency status in Mexico or those seeking Mexican Citizenship.
There are various categories under which FM2 visas are granted, and these relate to the activities you intend to undertake while in Mexico. Under the terms of the FM2, you are authorized to only undertake certain, specific activities which may be lucrative or non-lucrative.
You must hold an FM2 for a full consecutive five-year period before you may apply for "immigrant" status or Mexican Citizenship. You do not need to have held an FM3 visa before applying for an FM2, and any years you may have accrued while living in Mexico under an FM3 permit do not count towards your five-year FM2 qualification period.
If your goal is to seek long-term residency in Mexico, or to become a Mexican Citizen, you should apply for FM2 status (or request a change of status from FM3 to FM2) so that your time starts counting towards the qualification period as soon as possible. You may apply for a FM2 visa while in Mexico and in possession of a FMM (Tourist/Business Visitors Visa) or a FM3.
Following the five-year qualification period, you may apply for full resident status. When your full residence status has been accepted, you are entitled to full rights (e.g. access to IMSS sickness pay) and responsibilities (e.g. pay income taxes) as any other Mexican Citizen, with the exception of the right to vote. Foreigners are not allowed to involve themselves in "internal Mexican affairs" and they may not be post-holders of any public office.
When your full residence status has been accepted, you may also begin your application for Mexican Citizenship, although you do not have to do this; you can remain a 'resident alien' on a FM2 visa. Upon receiving immigrant status, you will receive a document that looks like a Mexican Passport (the actual FM2 visa). Under Mexican law, you do not need to surrender your national passport. You may remain a resident-alien or apply for Mexican citizenship. You will keep your original passport, which you will use when you return to your home country, for visits, or when returning home permanently.
If you hold a FM2 visa and stay outside of Mexico for longer than 2 years, or for 5 years in any 10 year period, you will lose your permanent resident status in Mexico.