Getting a Work Permit
Last Update 11 December 2014

First, some basic ground rules:

1.  If you are a Residente Permanente, there are no restrictions on your working.  Otherwise, to work legally in Mexico you must have a Residente Temporal visa which must be endorsed authorizing you to work at a specific job for a specific employer. You cannot change jobs or employers, legally, without getting a new endorsement. If you are caught working without a permit, you will be deported – usually with just enough notice to get your personal belongings before you are forced out of the country.  You are very likely to get caught; somebody will turn you in to immigration.  It happens every day.

2.  The rate of unemployment is very high in Mexico, so the government will not grant a work permit to a foreigner if it is for a job that a Mexican can do.  This means that, for the most part, one can get a permit only for a job that requires fluency in English, such as selling vacation time shares or teaching English.

3.  Every year a bunch of young people (and some not so young) come to Mexico expecting to enjoy a working vacation, sans permits.  For most it turns into a great disappointment, for some it becomes a disaster.  Hotel, bar and restaurant pay is so low that you would have a hard time making it.  By the time you pay your rent and basic food, there will be nothing left over for enjoying your time in Mexico -- even if you don't get caught by La Migra. 

4.  The law says that you must provide proof of your ability to do the job for which you are requesting a work permit.  The nature of this proof will vary depending on the job as well as local requirements by your INM office.  In general, this includes college degrees (diplomas), professional certificates (TEFL for teachers), etc.  These will need to be notarized and have an apostille attached.  They may need to be translated into Spanish.  The INM office will tell you where to take the documents if they want a translation.

5.  If you wish to be self-employed or open a business, the procedure is pretty much the same except you will need the assistance of an accountant to help you with the tax papers.  Read more here.

6.  This "permit" is properly called a Residente Temporal tarjeta con permiso de trabajo.

7.  You cannot have a foreign-plated vehicle (no TIP) while you have a work permit.  If you have brought your car, you must take it out of the country as soon as you get the working endorsement.

Take the following documents to your INM office:

1.  Your passport with a copy of the picture page.

2.  Your Residente Temporal visa with a copy of both sides.

3.  You will need to fill out an application on the INM do-everything form on their website.  Instructions are here -- scroll down a ways.

4.  A letter in Spanish (and a copy) from your employer, on his letterhead, which states why he needs to hire you, what your job title is to be , what your earnings are expected to be, your visa number, his RFC number (if you're being hired by a legal foreigner, his vixa number, too), and requesting that your Residente Temporal visa be given the correct endorsement.

INM will tell you all of the rest of the steps you must take -- additional information they my want, where to pay the fee.

Many larger employers will handle this process for you (some even paying the fee) so that you only have to go to Migración twice; once to initiate the process, and once to finalize the process and get your endorsed visa.

If you need to do-it-yourself, the folks at INM are usually very helpful, and they sometimes speak English. If you feel that you can't do it yourself, there are people who will handle it all for you, for a fee, usually in the $150 USD range. Just ask around among folks in the expat community and they will steer you to someone reliable.  

When you originally got your Residente Temporal you were required to present proof of a foreign income.  After you get the working endorsement, you will not be required to show a foreign income upon renewals.

IMSS and Taxes

You also must be registered with IMSS (social security) and in some circumstances, with Hacienda -- Mexico's IRS.  This is necessary so your taxes will get paid properly.  If you cannot prove that your taxes have been paid, you will not be allowed to renew your visa.  Most employers will take care of this for you.  If you have to do it yourself, you will need the help of a local registered accountant, as the IMSS registration and reporting procedures are complicated -- it is not a do it by yourself task.  The accountant will not be expensive.

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