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Moving to Mexico

A comprehensive guide to moving to Mexico

Are you thinking of moving to Mexico? There is more to this beautiful country than vacation hotspots, fiestas, remarkable beaches, and lively cities! For more information about moving to Mexico as an expat, read our article about Mexico’s government, economy, and visa regulations.

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Relocating to Mexico

  • There is a high degree of competition in certain economic sectors which might be challenging for expats.
  • Mexico is faced with the issue of inequality and there is a certain degree of social instability despite the fact that the system of government is a democracy.
  • A recent overhaul of the visa system requires the help of your local Mexican embassy or consulate. Entering Mexico might be quite easy, but getting hold of a work permit is usually harder.

Mexico is located between the USA to the north and Guatemala and Belize to the south. Many expats considering a move to Mexico picture it as a Pacific paradise. People who have visited its beaches and seen its palm trees in Cancún or Cabo San Lucas know this to be true.

Outdoor enthusiasts moving to Mexico will get to enjoy a rugged country with volcanoes and rain forests waiting to be explored on hikes and bike tours. Despite Mexico’s beautiful countryside, close to 80% of its 120 million residents live in the cities. Similarly, most expats who have made the move to Mexico find their new home in a metropolis like Mexico City or Guadalajara.

Privatization and Competition in Mexico’s Economy

Mexico’s economy isin the trillion dollar class. A mix of modern and older industries accounts for a per-capita income about one-third that of the United States. Foreigners moving to Mexico for business reasons will face privatization efforts and a high level of competition within certain industries.

Foreign companies and investors in Mexico benefit from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) along with other free trade treaties. About 90% of Mexico’s international trade falls under these agreements.

The main industries and services within the national economy include tobacco, chemicals, food and beverages, iron and steel, mining, textiles, and tourism.

The Biggest Challenge: Inequality

There is no denying that Mexico is a country facing socio-economic challenges. One of the greatest is the issue of inequality. According to a 2015 report by Oxfam, Mexico is within the 25% of countries with the highest levels of inequality in the world. This signifies that approximately 23 million people in Mexico cannot afford basic goods, while it also hosts some of the richest men in the world. This inequality has both social and political implications. The first reflects in a weak national market, a huge gap between private and public education, and violence caused by marginalization. The latter translates into a political system in the hand of the elite.

Corruption and Instability in Mexico’s Politics

Before moving to Mexico, you may want to get a general idea of the political system and the level of political risk here. Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, and today it’s a federal republic with 31 states and a legal system based on constitutional and civil law principles. Enrique Pena Nieto is the current President of Mexico, working both as chief of state and head of government.

Despite the fact that Mexico is a democracy, there are different social issues in the country which have led to a certain degree of social instability. The previously mentioned inequality has led to demonstrations, social unrest and migration north towards countries such as the US. Mexico also sees its fair share of corruption: According to Transparency International, Mexico was ranked 103rd among 175 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index in 2014.

For over 79 years, a one-party-rule existed in the country. Even though it came to an end in 2000 and there is now a wider range of political parties and candidates, politics are by many considered discordant and the available options not trustworthy. As a response to this, movements and demonstrations have sprung up across the country in the last years, demanding more transparency and honesty from political representatives.

Furthermore, Mexico is not untouched by security problems related to the drug cartels. Even if the severity of this problem seems to have diminished recently, some link this merely to the fact that the government has chosen to adopt a policy of silence relating this issue.  

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Visa and Travel Info for Mexico

Recent Overhaul of the Visa System

In late 2012, the Mexican government implemented a large-scale overhaul of its visa system, which affected all types of visas and permits. For instance, please note that some categories of visas and permits you might still stumble upon in your research are no longer issued (such as the tried and tested FM2 and FM3). The information below is accurate as of February 2016. However, as the Mexican government and diplomatic missions are not always quick to provide up-to-date information in languages other than Spanish, it would be wise to double-check with the Mexican embassy, consulate, or mission in your country. You can find an overview including contact details on the website of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

First Step: Visitor’s Visa?

If you are going to Mexico as a tourist, or if you would like to engage in non-remunerated business there, chances are that you will not need a visitor’s visa. Quite a long list of nationals need no visa for short trips to Mexico (up to 180 days). On this website, you can choose your country of origin to see if you need a visitor’s visa (also known as an entry permit) in order to enter Mexico for non-work-related reasons. If you are exempt from the visitor’s visa requirement, you simply need to bring your passport. You will then be issued a so-called multiple migratory form (FMM) on the airplane or at the airport, which you need to complete and sign.

If you do in fact hail from a country not exempt and thus need a visa, please consult the website of your nearest Mexican diplomatic body for visa requirements and fees, as fees and the supporting documents necessary for applying can vary considerably depending on the nature of your stay. For stays in Mexico longer than 180 days, nationals of all countries need a visa.

The Long Road to a Work Permit

Your Mexican employer has to get in touch with the National Institute of Immigration, handing in several documents that you will need to provide, such as a birth certificate, a marriage certificate (if applicable), and passport photocopies. If the application is successful, you will receive a letter of authorization from the Institute of Immigration and must then apply for a temporary resident visa (which in this case will include the permission to work) at the Consular Section of the nearest Mexican embassy.  The application process includes coming in for an interview as well as handing in your paperwork:

  • a copy of the authorization letter
  • a completed visa application form
  • original and photocopy of your passport
  • one recent passport-size photograph
  • application fee (to be paid in cash)

Your visa should be ready within two working days. Remember to check whether or not you will need to pick it up in person! Once you arrive in Mexico, you have thirty days to apply for your temporary resident card at the nearest immigration office. This card will allow you to live and work in Mexico for up to four years including renewals. In case you want to stay longer, you need to apply for the permanent resident visa.

There are other cases in which a foreigner can apply for the temporary resident visa. This is the case, for instance, if you have a familiar bond with another person who has either the temporary or the permanent resident visa, or when you have a marital (or equivalent) bond with a Mexican citizen. This visa category is called vinculo familiar.

The cost for the temporary resident visa depends on the lengths of your stay:

  • two years: 5,272 MXN
  • three years: 6,678 MXN
  • four years: 7,914 MXN

Note that the process of getting a visa can be very time-consuming and potentially frustrating.

The Curp Card: You Cannot Live without It

On top of everything, once in Mexico you will need a Curp Card. Curp is an identity code which is needed in order to have access to most government services in Mexico. To obtain one, it is necessary to present an original and a copy of the visa (temporary or permanent), your passport, and a copy of the latter. You can apply for the Curp card at various government offices. Among many things, the card is necessary to keep record of tax fillings and passport applications.

Flying to and from Mexico

Most flights to Mexico go through airports in Mexico City, Cancún, Monterrey, or Guadalajara. Only Mexico City (MEX) and Cancún (CUN) service direct flights to and from Europe, Canada, Cuba, and Central and South America.

Because the airline Mexicana went bankrupt in 2010, Aeromexico, founded in 1934, is now the longest-running airline in Mexico. Many of Mexicana’s flights are now serviced by United Airlines, though. Aeromexico used to be state-owned, but a consortium led by Banamex purchased the airline in 2007. In terms of safety, Aeromexico is comparable to major European and US airlines.

Updated on: December 13, 2017
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