The Mexican visa process for English language teachers
By ESL Teacher Anna
Anna is an ESL teacher from London, England. She has been teaching English to children, teenagers, and adults in the south of Mexico for 4 years. Before this Anna also taught in the Dominican Republic.
English teachers are highly sought after across Mexico. Language schools range from small neighbourhood, locally run schools, to large corporations found across the world. Volunteering as an English teacher is also a popular choice, where you are able to teach for a few weeks or months at a time and make a difference within a community.
Obtaining a visa is relatively simple however there are steps that need to be taken to avoid any problems and to simplify the process.
Visa requirements for English teachers
Your visa requirements will differ based on whether you are a volunteer or whether you are being paid.
Volunteer visas: Assuming you are volunteering as an English teacher and no money will exchange hands you can enter Mexico on a tourist visa. Tourist visas are usually valid for 180 days, regardless of your entry point. You will receive a stamp with a date of entry in your passport and on arrival you complete your documentation. Your details will show that you are traveling to Mexico for pleasure, a holiday or recreational purposes
This document is called the FMM or Official Entry Immigration Form. This will be given to you on the plane and asks for your name, address of where you will be staying in Mexico and how long you plan to be there. You will also need to tick the option that states you are a tourist to show you are not seeking paid work.
When you enter Mexico the immigration officer will check the document and take part of it to keep. It is essential you retain the piece they give back to you. You need to surrender this when you leave the country. If you lose it during your stay it is a complex and lengthy, not to mention pricey process to get a new one! They may ask you some basic questions to check your information is completed correctly, but this is nothing to worry about.
Working visas: Working visas are more complicated but essential if you wish to work legally in Mexico. You must begin this process in your home country at the Mexican Embassy. You cannot begin the process from within Mexico.
On successful completion of your application you will receive a green plastic card which is your residente temporal con permiso para trabajar. This means you have temporary residency with permission to work. These visas are valid for a year assuming you do not lose your job.
In order to receive a visa with permission to work your employer needs to be registered with immigration in Mexico and also with the tax office. If they are not you cannot seek a visa in this way.
Documents to prepare
To volunteer in Mexico, you only need your passport and the address of where you will be staying. You are entering the country as a tourist so the process is the same as going on holiday so you do not need a physical visa, they will just stamp your passport upon entry.
To teach in a paid position Mexico you will need to prepare several documents
First, you’ll need to arrange a visa appointment at the Mexican embassy in your country. For this, you’ll need to prepare the following documents:
- You will need your passport and your completed visa application.
- You must provide one UK size passport photo in colour taken within the last month.
- Your employer will need to provide a letter stating your job role and confirming that you will receive an income. The letter will need to be accompanied by some form of official identification.
- A copy of your CV stating your abilities and experience in order to undertake the job.
- Payment of consular fees made payable to the Mexican Consulate
The embassy will issue you an appointment time for an ‘interview’. My experience was that this was less like an interview and more a case of the embassy taking my documents and checking my identification. My passport was returned about a week later with a document added as an additional page to my passport. This document shows Mexican authorities that you are entering the country to work and means the process for your official visa has begun.
After you arrive in Mexico you’ll need to complete the visa process. For your Mexico based immigration appointments:
Please be aware you have 30 days to begin the in-country visa process from the date you arrive in Mexico. You will need to go to the nearest immigration office (INM).
- First you need to complete a document known as a tramite para solicitar visa por oferta de empleo (an application for a visa for an offer of employment) which must be completed online and printed off and taken to immigration in person. Documents for completion can be found here https://www.gob.mx/tramites/ficha/visa-por-oferta-de-empleo/INM73
- You will also need to provide your employer’s accreditation, copies of their official identification and documentation stating you have a job offer from them. (Assuming your employer has done the process before they will know what to do and help you with the paperwork.)
- Your passport and a copy of your passport.
After your paperwork is in process the immigration office will ask for photos of a specific size known as infantile. The size is important, they will not accept larger or smaller photos. The current size requested is 32.0 mm x 26.0 mm with a maximum of 39.0 mm x 31.0 mm with a white background.
Visa application process
For me the UK based visa application was simple, quick and efficient. The in-country Mexican system takes a little navigating and multiple trips to immigration, but with patience and a positive attitude it is easy to do.
Be aware that INM will not contact you directly to tell you when to return to the offices for the next step, so it is your responsibility to check the status of your application online. They sometimes send emails but this is not always the case. You will find the process much easier if you speak some Spanish although there are some officers who speak some English depending on where you are located. If in doubt go to INM and ask.
The process in Mexico takes about four appointments and works in the following way:
- Print and complete your tramite and take the physical copy to immigration along with your passport and documents listed above.
- They will process your details or send you away to correct any errors. If necessary you return again with a new document completed a second time.
- You will then need to wait for an email or check online to find out when to return with your photos and payment. INM will provide you with a cost and a document that needs to be stamped by the bank at the time of payment.
- Return to immigration with the payment and your photos.
- Finally, your card will be ready and you will have an appointment to collect it, sign for it and have your fingerprints taken.
You will not need to return to INM again before your card expires unless you change your address or employer during your time in Mexico. If this occurs you complete another online form and take it to immigration. This process is much faster.
A final thought
Teaching English in Mexico is a lot of fun and there are endless different places to explore on your time off. The people are friendly and welcoming and the food is great too! The visa process looks a little complex at first but take it step by step and it will work out fine. Your employer will be able to help you with any concerns you may have, as well as with Spanish if this is a barrier. I always felt comfortable asking for help and double checking information to make sure I completed everything correctly. Four years after my first year teaching here I am settled permanently in Mexico and love it! Come and visit!