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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Mexico City

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    The last InterNations event was just great: I had some very nice chats with fellow expats (even Canadians like me) in Mexico City.

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Relocating to Mexico City

  • Mexico City has a relatively temperate climate due to its elevation.
  • The metropolitan area is overpopulated and the city counts up to 16 boroughs in total.
  • You don’t necessarily need a visa to enter the country, but getting hold of a work visa might be a long process.

Mexico City: Urban Landscapes Framed by the Mountains

Mexico City is located in the Valley of Mexico, a plateau in the center of the country, surrounded by mountains. The entire Distrito Federal as well as parts of the neighboring states lie about 2,240 meters above sea level.

Settling in or around Mexico City is by no means a new idea. The first Aztec settlement of Tenochtitlan was established there nearly 700 years ago. After a period of battles, sieges, and the complete rebuilding that followed, large numbers of settlers started moving to Mexico City — which became the city’s official name in 1585.

However, the woods and lakes that defined the valley back then are long gone. Do not expect to lay eyes on anything but urban landscapes when first arriving in Mexico City. A steady feature, however, are the aforementioned mountains, some of which are active volcanoes. Currently, Popocatépetl, located around 70 km outside the city, is fairly active, with minor eruptions every now and then. While officials have raised warning levels as a precautionary measure, there is little indication of any direct danger to citizens of the city. So Popocatépetl is no reason to reconsider your move to Mexico City.

The Surprising Climate of Mexico City

Mexico City’s elevation is obviously a major factor for the local climate. While parts of Mexico have a reputation for either being prime locations for sun-worshipping tourists or being covered by desert, expats moving to Mexico City will be greeted by a relatively temperate climate. Although it is undeniable that temperatures can rise considerably (at times exceeding 30°C), it tends to be a somewhat chilly city, so you might want to bring along a sweater, even for summer nights.

Better yet, also bring an umbrella when moving to Mexico City. The summer months, from June to October, see the majority of rainfall, while the remaining months are very dry. In the winter, temperatures below freezing are not uncommon, but they rarely reach double digits.

The Metropolitan Area: Enormous and Crowded

One of Mexico City’s defining features is its gigantic dimensions, which will have escaped the fewest of expats interested in moving here. While this tends to get slightly overblown, Metropolitan Mexico City is without a doubt huge, with its more than 20 million citizens.

The metropolitan area extends across almost half the Valley. Settling down somewhere in the rest of the Valley is an option, too. However, due to the job market, proximity to amenities such as international schools, and the horrific situation for commuters — who have to travel an average of 108 minutes to get downtown —  most expats opt to move to Mexico City proper.

Choosing the Right Delegacion

If you move to Mexico City, you will need to decide on one of the 16 delegaciones (boroughs) of the city proper, all of which enjoy a certain degree of political autonomy from the city administration. As is usually the case for cities of this size and history, expats moving to Mexico City will experience a wide variety of atmospheres and traditions, even within one and the same borough. In alphabetical order, the boroughs are Álvaro Obregón, Azcapotzalco, Benito Juárez, Coyoacán, Cuajimalpa, Cuauhtémoc, Gustavo A. Madero, Iztacalco, Iztapalapa, Magdalena Contreras, Miguel Hidalgo, Milpa Alta, Tláhuac, Tlalpan, Venustiano Carranza, and Xochimilco.

The 16 official delegaciones are further segmented into hundreds of colonias, or neighborhoods. Figuring out where to settle down can be a daunting task, so expats moving to Mexico City will be wise to hire a reputable realtor. Due to the large expat population in the city, you should run into very few problems trying to find someone with experience and an instinct for expats’ needs and wishes.

Due to the high number of boroughs there is not just a single one where most expats live. Nevertheless, due to their reputation of being safer and their proximity to many international schools, the following colonias are the most popular among expats: Lomas de Chapultepec, Polanco, Bosques de las Lomas, and Santa Fe.

Visas for Expats in Mexico D.F.

Visa or No Visa?

If you would like to travel to Mexico City for leisure, to conduct non-remunerated business, or to get a first impression of what living there is all about, your first step is checking whether or not you will need a visa. If you will be starting a new job in Mexico, you will always require a visa regardless of your nationality (see below).

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 don’t need a visitor’s visa, you can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days. While your passport of course has to be valid for the duration of your stay, Mexican authorities do not require any further minimum period of validity. Once you arrive in Mexico, the only thing left to take care of is completing the FMM multiple migratory form, which is usually issued in the airplane or at the port of entry.

If you do need a visitor’s visa, the process is bit more elaborate and time consuming. Depending on different factors, requirements and fees vary considerably. In any case, you will need to submit a completed application form, your passport (original and photocopy), and a recent photo. Please check with your Mexican embassy for further details.

The Process of Getting a Work Visa

If you will be moving to Mexico to start working there, your employer will first need to get a work permit for you.  In order to do this, your employer needs to submit several documents to the National Institute of Migration, such as your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), and passport photocopies.

If the application is successful, the Institute will send you a letter of authorization, which you need to apply for a temporary resident visa (which in this case will include the permission to work) at the Mexican mission indicated within. Please bring the following items with you:

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

Once in Mexico, you need to apply for your temporary resident card at the nearest immigration office within 30 days of arriving in the country. This separate plastic card will allow you live and work in Mexico for up to four years. After this period of time, if you would like to remain in Mexico, you can apply for a permanent resident visa.

Brace Yourself for the Mexican Immigration Law

In 2012 the Mexican government radically reformed its immigration law, which is the law regulating all the rights and obligations for foreigners. As the revised law is quite complex, we strongly suggest either asking your future employer in Mexico City to take care of the administrative side of things, or hiring an immigration lawyer.

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  • Francois Bertrand

    The last InterNations event was just great: I had some very nice chats with fellow expats (even Canadians like me) in Mexico City.

  • Barbara Melington

    With InterNations, we had the chance to find a good bi-lingual school for our children in Mexico. They are gonna grow up as true 'third-culture kids'!

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