Recently, I've been answering numerous questions regarding moving to, retiring in, investing in, and living in Mexico. There are definitely many resources out there and this short post is most certainly not comprehensive, but it is a starting point, a primer to the primer if you will.
There are a couple of obvious starting points that everyone who lives here will tell you to visit as much as possible, so you are familiar with the area you want to live in. Vacationing in a spot is going to be very different than living there, so get out into the neighborhoods, and try and experience as much local life as possible. Ok, well now that this is out of the way, what about the practical nuts and bolts of actually doing this?
This is a big deal and has become a major topic of discussion in many of the FB groups. While you still might be able to get a 180-day tourist card, the days of simply leaving the country and re-entering to get a new 180 are pretty much gone. So, any in-depth conversation about living in Mexico will have to start with looking at your ability to qualify for residency. https://www.yourpvrealtors.com/post/financial-requirements-for-mexican-residency The number one question I get is "My income is not high enough, and my savings are not high enough, can I combine my income and savings?" The answer is no. You CAN combine all of your various savings accounts, ROTH, 401K, bank etc, and you can combine any of your income sources, but you CAN NOT combine savings and income to qualify if both are not sufficient.
Let’s set a few things straight about residency. Unlike in some countries, residency here in Mexico does not come with any requirements to live here. Once you have your residency, you can come and go as you please. For a temporary residency, you have to be in Mexico to renew it, for a permanent residency, you do not. So technically, you could get your perm residency and leave, it won’t expire it does not require you to be here. You do not need to inform your home country that you have residency in Mexico, in fact I recommend that you keep an address of some kind in your home country. Keep your Canadian or US bank account, and maintain a presence there as much as you feel comfortable with. Canadians cannot leave the country for more than 6 or 7 months without potentially losing their health care, but there are many Canadians that are here for 6 months and have their Mexican residency. The point is you do NOT need to renounce one to get the other.
Residency requirements are simply economic, that’s all. There is no exam and you do not need to know Spanish. For 90% of folks, you do NOT need an immigration lawyer. If you have a criminal record or are getting married to a Mexican or your relative was Mexican, congrats, you are in the 10% that needs a lawyer. The process is simple but can be tedious. The demand for residency appointments is WAY up and as a result, so are wait times, so start early, like now - even if you are planning on moving to Mexico in a few years. The paperwork is very simple, but might be challenging for non-Spanish speakers, Google translate, or a Spanish-speaking waiter or friend can help you, no need for a lawyer. Here is a link to my post on economic requirements.
The process is the same irrespective of what country you are coming from (there are a few exceptions, extra scrutiny for those coming from Columbia) Canada, Australia, UK, USA, Germany, etc. you need to go to a Mexican consulate. There is some debate on whether you need to go to a consulate in your home country, but my personal experience is that I obtained mine in Las Vegas even though I’m Canadian. It was easier to find an appointment time (and I saw two shows – yay!). The process is as follows:
· Check to see that you qualify,
· Make an appointment at a consulate
· Collect and print bank records and other necessary documents
· Take the appointment, they take less than an hour on average
· A sticker will be placed in your passport – you now have 6 months to get to Mexico
· Get to Mexico, MAKE SURE YOU SHOW THE IMMIGRATION OFFICER YOUR STICKER! You are not entering as a tourist
· Once at your destination, find the local immigration office and go there – you may need to make an appointment in person
· There are additional forms to fill out when you are in Mexico and some additional fees
· You will be given a letter and told that an email will be sent to you when your card is ready, usually 2-4 weeks. DO NOT LEAVE THE COUNTRY during this time. If you do, you have to start all over again
Renting and Buying
Ok, so that covers the basic legal stuff, what about actually living here? Well, that is the fun part. I’d highly recommend finding a rental first. Grab an affordable Airbnb to start with and use that as your base of operations to find a long-term rental. DO NOT arrange for a long-term rental from outside the country. When setting up a lease, you will want to see that the person renting to you is the person who owns the place, you can ask for a utility bill to verify this. Walking the neighborhoods, searching through various FB groups, chatting with other ex-pats at the bars they hang out in etc. is the best way to find a place you are going to want to live. If you already know you are going to buy, well that’s even easier – just talk to me, I’ll find you what you are looking for. I’m a Canadian ex-pat realtor with Coldwell Banker in Puerto Vallarta.
Phones, Banks, Mail, and Cars.
You will be pleasantly surprised at the cost of living, a Mexico ATT unlimited plan that works in the USA and Canada is $120per year, and high-speed internet is $24 per month. Most larger places in Mexico have modern conveniences and services. It might be romantic to think about living in a remote area far from the crowds, just you and the turtles, but unless you are an experienced live-of-the-grid Robinson Crusoe, you’ll be wanting to be close to a Home Depot or Walmart every once in a while. You can open a bank account here, but as I mentioned earlier, keep your home country account as well. Mail is not really an existent thing here, so you will want to explore other options. Private mail services are quite good and cheaper than Fed-Ex or DHL. Bringing your household belongings is not a great idea. You are starting a new life, shed all those things, and start new! The cost of shipping your whole home will scare you. Keep in mind you can’t just pile up all your stuff Beverly Hillbillies style and drive across the border. The amount you can bring in is the same as if you were flying in on vacation. Once you have residency, you can apply for a one-time exemption to bring all your household stuff, if you really must. That brings me to cars, in general, it’s a bad idea to bring your vehicle. If you are a tourist or on a temp resident visa, your car can only stay as long as you can. After 4 years, your temp visa will convert to a permanent visa, at that point you cannot keep your car here – it must go and if you want it, you will have to permanently import it – read: expensive!
I’m sure that there will be many questions about stuff I’ve left out, I’ve kept this short on purpose, but as I get these questions, I’ll update this post. Thanks for reading.
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