If you are planning to move to Mexico either permanently, or for any extended period, you will invariably have to obtain the necessary documents and requirements and understand the immigration laws of the country.
If you're uncertain which visa you need or need help to obtain a visa, I recommend hiring an immigration lawyer. But before you do, know that most of the paperwork is easy to fill out and submit and that a lawyer may not be able to process your visa any faster than if you do it yourself.
Plus, you'll be saving lawyer fees.
There are three types of Mexican visitor permits/visas you need to be aware of. The first is known as the FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple). For US and Canadian residents, this is all the official documentation you require for visiting Mexico (aside from your passport) if you wish to stay no longer than 180 days. Here is the complete list of countries that do not require special visas to enter Mexico.
The Tourist Card
Most people visiting Mexico will be issued the visitor's visa that's meant for tourists or people who are conducting business for six months or less. Once you've been in the country for six months, you need to leave and re-immigrate if you want to stay longer. The tourist card cannot be renewed without leaving the country. If you want to stay longer than six months, then you should apply for the non-immigrant or immigrant visa.
The FMM is the most common visa tourist card issued to all visitors to Mexico.
If you are flying, it will be given to you onboard the flight. It is also available from immigration officials at the airport when you arrive at your Mexican destination. There is a cost for the FMM, which is included in the price of your airline ticket
If you enter the country overland or by sea, the form will be issued to you by the immigration office at the border or port of entry.
The FMM will cost you around US$22, which has to be paid at a bank. Banks are usually available near the immigration office if you need to obtain local currency. If you're carrying US dollars, most offices will accept dollars instead of pesos.
This form that you need to fill out and give to the officials, who will stamp and process it, will grant you a stay in the country for no more than 180 days. When they stamp your form at immigration, they'll give back the right-hand part of the form for your safe-keeping. Make sure you keep this half of the form with you and safe at all times no matter how long you're staying. Put it with your passport or in a locked box as immigration will ask for it when you leave the country. If you lose it, you'll have to pay a fine and be hassled at the border. Just keep it safe during your visit.
The Non-Immigrant Visa
The FM3 Long-Term, Non-Immigrant Visa is the document you need if you plan to stay in Mexico for anything longer than 6 months. It is a document that is renewable indefinitely and is renewed annually. For most foreigners living in Mexico, this is the only visa they need. It gives them the right to live in Mexico under the conditions stipulated by the visa.
This visa does not lead to permanent residency status or Mexican citizenship.
See my guide on how to apply for an FM3.
The Immigrant Visa
The FM2 Immigrant Visa is for those who wish to achieve Mexican Permanent Residency Status or Citizenship in the country. With an FM2, one may apply for permanent residency or citizenship after 5 years. You do not have to hold an FM3 to apply for an FM2.