Moving to Mexico: Planning Guide and comprehensive Relocation Check-list
Once you have decided to relocate to Mexico, there will be a plethora of things to take care of and prepare for your move here. This guide will help you to create your own personalized relocation check-list.
Checklist – 3 Months before moving
Checklist – 2 Months Before Moving
Checklist – 1 Month Before Moving
Checklist – 7 Days Before Moving
Checklist – Move to Mexico Day
Arrival in Mexico
Settling-in to Mexico
Once you have made your decision to move to Mexico, there will be a substantial amount of planning and organizing to do before you leave your home country and arrive to settle in Mexico.
The exact details of your plans will vary depending on your own, unique circumstances. Key factors that will influence the complexity of your move include whether you are single or married; whether you have children to look after, and whether other family members will be moving with you, too.
This guide has been written to give you a practical check-list of items that need to be considered and taken care of over a three month time-line leading up to your moving day.
The list in this guide covers many practical aspects of moving to Mexico and will help you to create a personal check-list of tasks for your individual situation.
The guide presumes that you have made the decision to move to Mexico and you are in the planning stages of leaving your home country and physically moving you, your family, and your possessions to Mexico.
See Also: Mexico Living & Lifestyle Guides
Here is a checklist of items to be organized three months before your planned departure date:
Travel Documentation: Ensure that you and all members of your family have passports and that you have applied for your visa to live (and if necessary, work) in Mexico. Some employers will take care of the visa documentation for you, but if you are moving independently, or to retire in Mexico, then you will need to take care of this yourself. Be sure that you can fulfill the requirements needed to qualify for a living / work visa in Mexico (you can find details of these on our Mexico Immigration page. If you need additional assistance, consider the Mexico Relocation Consultancy service.
Passport Validation: Your passport(s) should be valid for at least one year when applying for a residency visa; if they are due to expire, you may need to renew them before you submit them to the Mexican Consulate for residency visa processing.
Driving License: Mexico does not require you to have an International Driver’s Licence, so you can take your home country licence with you. Once you are in Mexico, you may apply for a Mexican driving licence if you want to; the procedures to apply for a Mexican Driver’s License vary from state to state; for example, in Mexico City, you simply complete some forms, present your residency visa, and pay the fees for your driving license to be issued. Check with the state where you plan to live for local procedures and fees.
Check Electrical Appliances: Make a list of the electrical appliances you plan to take with you to Mexico. Items working on low-voltage, for example: laptops, iPods and smart phones, etc. will usually adapt automatically in Mexico. If you live in the Americas, then your voltage will be identical to Mexico’s, and big-ticket items (e,g, TVs and refrigerators) can be moved to Mexico; however, you should carefully consider whether it’s wise to move large lumps of electrical furniture when these may be easily obtained in Mexico. If you live in Europe, you will need to leave most electrical items behind. A European TV will not work in Mexico either, as Europe uses the PAL (wiki) system and the Americas use NTSC (wiki).
Consider Pets: Cats and dogs can be taken to Mexico, but you will need to apply for permission and your pet will need to have all its vaccinations and health papers in order. You will need to supply a Health Certificate issued by an official authority or by a licensed veterinarian provided that his signature is approved by a state veterinarian and proof of vaccines against rabies and distemper, administered at least 15 days before the arrival of your pet in Mexico. Note that cats and dogs may be taken to Mexico, but other animals may not without special import permits, e.g. rabbits, birds, snakes, ferrets, etc. Read the guide on Mexperience about Bringing Your Pets to Mexico for full details and links to relevant authorities.
Consider Items to Take and Leave: Make a check-list of the items you will definitely take with you and those you definitely won’t be taking. Consider selling your items on eBay or via Garage Sale / Moving House Sale. Go around your home and physically look at all of the items you need to consider: you probably have a lot of things you don’t realize you have and it won’t be until you begin putting things to one side that you’ll understand the extend of the amount of things which have built-up over the years. Don’t forget the garage, sheds, attics and cellars if you have them. If you won’t be taking your pets, now if the time to start arranging an alternative home for them.
Consider Your Real Estate: If you own your home (or have it mortgaged) you will probably have decided by now whether to rent it out, sell it, or leave it empty. If you plan to sell it, then it should be on the market by now. If you plan to rent it, then you need to decide whether it will be rented furnished or unfurnished and have arranged a local realtor to manage the rental while you are in Mexico. If you are living in rented accommodation, check your lease to see when it expires and how much notice you have to give before you leave. Don’t give notice on your rented home (or rent your home out), or close the sale of your house before your visas are confirmed by the Mexican Consulate.
Consider Your Vehicles: If you have cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, etc., then you need to consider what you will do with these. If you live in the USA or Canada, then its feasible to move some or all of these to Mexico if you feel it’s worthwhile; if you live in Europe, you will probably leave these behind; the exception might be a sailboat you may want to sail (or have sailed) to Mexico. If you plan to sell your vehicle(s), then have them serviced and prepare to get them advertised after your visas are confirmed.
Temporary Accommodation in Mexico: If you will be staying in a hotel when you first arrive in Mexico, and you are moving during the high seasons (Christmas/New Year, Easter and Summer) then book your Mexico hotel accommodation in advance. If you are planning to move straight in to a rented house or apartment in Mexico you should be making arrangements for that to happen as soon as your visa is confirmed. If you are buying a Mexican home and you expect the sale to close in the next weeks or months, you should be in continual touch with your vendor and/or agent in Mexico.
Relocation Consultants: If you want someone to take care of everything for you — leaving you to pack your personal bags and just move yourself and your family — you can pay someone to help you navigate the rules and paperwork related to moving to Mexico. Relocation Consultants offer a range of services, from background research to full-service relocation management. The more services you need, the more you’ll pay. If you are moving with your company, your company may provide this service for you through a relocation consultant or a specialist department inside the company. However, whether you make the move independently or through a consulting company and their agents, you will still need to go through this check-list and make decisions about your circumstances all the way through the process.
See Also: Mexico Relocation Consulting
Here is a checklist of items to be organized two months before your planned departure date:
Get Quotes from Moving Companies: Once you have decided what you will be taking and leaving behind, and have created a list of the things to move, contact at least two, and ideally three, moving companies and ask for a quote to have your personal items moved to Mexico. Choose well-established companies with a strong presence in the market. It is a good policy to always ask for references — and check the references out. If you live in Canada or the USA, the goods will be shipped by road; if you live in Europe, then you will need to choose whether your goods will travel by sea or air freight. The latter is considerably more expensive.
Traveling Heavy or Traveling Light?: Depending on your circumstances, you may want to leave all of your “big ticket” items behind (either by selling them or by placing them in storage) and travel light. You can rent furnished accommodation in Mexico, or buy everything again when you get there: see the Mexperience Mexico Cost of Living Guide for details of costs of things in Mexico. If you don’t have children, this may be a sensible option for you. Another alternative is to store the things you want to keep, travel to Mexico light, arrange your accommodation and get settled-in, and then have your personal items moved to Mexico later on. See also, ‘Importing your personal items to Mexico’, below…
Accommodation and Storage in Mexico: You should have worked out your accommodation strategy for arrival in Mexico by now. If you are shipping your personal effects to Mexico when you move, they will probably arrive after you (if you are flying to Mexico, they almost certainly will). Nonetheless, you need to have a plan for the arrival of your items, lest you want to pay storage fees in Mexico. If you traveled light and left your items in storage back home, then you will have time to make the necessary arrangements for importing your personal items once you’re in Mexico…
Importing Your Personal Items to Mexico: You are allowed to import all of your personal items free of duty when you hold a Resident Visa and present a list of your personal items at the border (or at customs if you fly or ship your goods by sea). The list is known as a “Menaje de Casa“, and consists of a detailed inventory and current value of all your goods and chattels, in English and Spanish. Items such as clothes, books and other personal chattels are allowed duty-free; items such as electrical goods and home appliances are subject to a duty limit, and taxes will need to be paid over and above this limit. Moving companies can help with the moving process and the official paperwork of your goods and their second-hand resale value. While you can move your own goods across the border, we recommend you use a moving company, as they know the bureaucratic ropes and will deal with the customs requirements. If you are taking your car to Mexico, read the guide to Driving in Mexico for details about how to import it legally.
Schooling for Your Children: If you have children, you should be making arrangements for their schooling in Mexico. If you are employed by a company, your relocation package may include this; if you are moving independently, you will need to research potential schools in Mexico for your children. You might draw up a short list and visit two or three upon your arrival in Mexico. Your country’s foreign consulate in Mexico may be able to provide you with a list of private schools to contact.
Make Airline Reservations: If you are flying to Mexico, now is the time to start looking at your flight options and making reservations. If you are taking pets with you, the airlines will have certain rules and regulations you need to follow: read the guide about taking your pet to Mexico.
Change of Address: Make a list of all the organizations you need to contact to tell them about your change of address. Arrange a holding and/or forwarding address in your home country if you still don’t yet have a permanent address in Mexico.
Begin Your Clear-Out: Begin to segregate the things you will be keeping (for storage or transportation) from the things you will be disposing of. Begin to advertise items that you no longer use and which may take longer to sell.
Visa and Paperwork Reminder: Before you start to spend money on removals, travel arrangements, etc — and before you begin selling all the things you use regularly back home — be sure to get your visas confirmed. Also, get-together all of the important documents that you will need to take with you such as birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, professional qualification certificates and diplomas, etc.
Consolidate Your Financial Arrangements: You may want to consolidate any financial arrangements you have in place; for example you may want to pay-off or cancel certain credit cards, close bank accounts (or open new ones to support your activities in Mexico, e.g. savings or investments). Any paperwork you dispose of containing personal or financial details should be shredded to avoid someone potentially stealing your identity. Any bank cards and check books you no longer need should be shredded, too.
Financial Documents and Tax Affairs: If you are retiring, be sure to have all of your pension and investment papers organized and to hand: the Mexican authorities may ask for proof of your income. If you are employed (or run your own business) have bank statements and recent pay-slips to hand as they may be required at some point during your visa application or renewal process. Share certificates, bonds, and other financial instruments should be carefully stored or carried with you in your hand luggage. Note that you must declare the import/export of cash and other negotiable monetary instruments if the sum exceeds US$10,000; there is no limit on the amount of money that may be imported or exported from Mexico but if the amount is over US$10,000 you must declare it. If you are traveling via the USA into Mexico, you will also need to make a separate declaration of amounts over US$10,000 to US Customs. Your home country, if not the US, may have a similar requirement when you leave.
You will need to consider your tax position, as well. A good accountant will be able to advise you in detail about the best framework for your personal circumstances. You (or your accountant on your behalf) will need to contact your country’s tax authorities to advise them of your intentions as part of your personal tax-planning program.
Arrange Overseas Voting Rights: Many countries allow their citizens to vote in elections, even when they are living abroad. If you wish to continue voting for your home-country’s politicians while you are living in Mexico, check with your local authorities about how to register to do this.
One Month to Move Day
This is going to be a busy month. All of the preparation work you have been doing over the last sixty days will begin to come together very quickly over the next three weeks. Your last week (see next section) will be one of the busiest in you have experienced…
Your Passports and Visas: All of your travel and visa documentation should be in order by now.
Your Home: If you are renting, you should have given notice to the landlord or renting agent by now. If you are selling, then you are about to close or will leave the selling/closing to the realtor or other person to do on your behalf. If you are renting your home out, then you will need to make final preparations for your tenants to move-in after you leave. If you do not have the time to clean the house, hire the services of a professional cleaner and arrange for them to come in a day or two before you plan to vacate the property.
Your Personal Goods and Chattels: You should be selling or donating all of your unwanted goods by now. The items which you are keeping should be kept separate (perhaps in a spare room or garage) and you should have the removal and, if appropriate, storage of the items arranged and booked with the removals company. If you are moving yourself, you should ensure that your vehicle will safely transport all of the items you are planning to keep or arrange to rent a vehicle that will. Return any borrowed goods to friends, neighbors and other family members.
Inform People and Organizations of Your Move: Now is the time to contact all of the people and organizations on the list you’ve made to let them know you are moving. The list should include your local authorities (e.g. municipality or council), your property management association (where relevant), all utilities, the telephone, cell phone and TV companies, banks and financial institutions (including insurance) you have a relationship with, any newspapers, magazines or other subscriptions you have active (cancel or redirect the service), cancel any milk deliveries, the local library (and return any books), local clubs, gym membership, and other associations, your children’s school (arrange for their last day at school, pick up any work and school certificates, report cards, etc) and any clubs they attend, the car registration agency, the tax office, your vehicle breakdown service company, the family attorney and accountant and doctors (see medical below)…
Medical Records and Prescriptions: Go to your doctor/clinic and get copies of yours and your family’s medical records; also get copies of any prescription medicine you are taking if you will need to buy more in Mexico. You may want to have a last eye-test and dental check-up before your departure to Mexico, and thus not have to concern with those for a while.
Run-down Your Food Stores: Begin to run-down your freezer in readiness for defrost; empty kitchen cupboards of dry goods; use up food and/or donate it to neighbors or shelters.
Begin Clear-out in Earnest: Prepare furniture and appliances being sold or donated for removal from the house or apartment; encourage people to take delivery of items you no longer use now and try to negotiate late-pick up of items you need until your last day in the house, e.g. beds. Begin to clear-out all cupboards and store-rooms including the attic, basement or cellar. Your items check-list should make this process straightforward as you will know what you are keeping and disposing of. Dismantle any furniture that will not easily transport built. This is your final chance to sell goods and chattels you don’t need — do some more advertising if you need to and reduce prices of things that have not sold to date.
Confirm Final Week Arrangements: Confirm with your moving date with your removals company, cleaner, and any other critical service providers (e.g. your rental agency). If you are not taking your pets, begin preparations for their move to their new home; if you are taking your pets, be sure you have all of the paperwork in place and that you have the correct type of carry box or kennel to transport the pet(s).
7 Days to Move Day
Everything has to come together this week; and you need to organize matters so that your move out of your property goes smoothly.
Prepare to Vacate Your House/Apartment: Anything you have not been able to sell needs to be donated or recycled. Your freezer should be emptied, defrosted and dried out if it has not been done already. All items you are not putting into storage or taking with you need to be removed; those items you are storing or taking will need to be segregated (where possible) or labeled for removal and ready for the removals people to collect. Find new owners to look after your house plants: you cannot take them to Mexico with you. Do last minute laundry and dry-cleaning; don’t forget to collect any items you may have pending at the dry cleaners. If you no longer have a bed to sleep on, you may arrange to stay the last few nights with family members, close friends or a local hotel. Arrange letter-post forwarding if this service is available in your country.
Get Your Personal Belongings Together: Separate all of the personal items that you will be taking with you in your luggage (i.e. not being removed by the removals people); ensure that you have sufficient clothes to get by while you wait for your shipment if you are transporting most of your clothes via the shipping company; also check that what you want to take fits into the cases you have available and that you are within the airline’s weight limits if you are flying. All high value items such as jewelry and items of high sentimental value should be taken with you as hand luggage.
Get Ready for Moving Day(s): If you have young children, arrange for someone to look after them on moving day. Older children can help with the move! Your removals company should arrive early and empty out the house of all items you are not carrying with you to Mexico. if you have hired a professional cleaning firm, they should arrive early too and begin a thorough clean of the property. You should give yourself plenty of time to vacate the property if you have sold it, or renting. It may be a good idea to officially vacate a rented property the day after your moving day, to give the removals and cleaning plenty of time to do a proper job. Try to build in some time in the late afternoon / evening, the day before moving out, to simply relax. You may want to move in to a hotel locally.
It might take more than one day to move out, depending on your circumstances; however, if you can, try to move out in one day, and arrange for any hand-over of the property (rental or sale) to happen no earlier than the day after you expect to have vacated the property.
Removals (Company): If you have hired a removals company, they should arrive early and leave you with an empty property to clean. If you are moving yourself, then this is your final day to empty the property of all goods and chattels.
Thorough Clean: The property should be left thoroughly clean, whether you are selling, renting to someone or handing back possession of a rental property. Hire professional cleaners if you don’t have the time or inclination to do this.
Final Meter Readings: Take final meter readings from the gas, water and electricity meters and telephone the suppliers to let them know the details and a forwarding address for your final bills. Cancel your land-line phone service and cable TV if you have not arranged this already.
Final Check: Once the property is cleared, and the cleaning is done, make a thorough check of the property one last time to ensure everything is in order.
Important Paperwork and Documents: Ensure that all of your important paperwork and travel documents are together and easily accessible. Don’t leave them where they may be lost, accidentally disposed of, or packed away with the items in the shipment (this happens!).
Property Handover or Vigilance: If you are handing the property over to someone else, arrange for this to happen the day after you move or later. There is nothing worse than having people waiting outside to move in while you are busy moving out. If your property will remain vacant for a long period, have someone — a friend or a professional property management company — visit the property regularly to check on any issues that may arise (e.g. leaks, breakages etc).
Arriving in Mexico is the start of your new adventure! There are some formalities to follow when you arrive, but they are straightforward and you can quickly begin the process of settling-in. Here is a run-down of the main things to do upon arrival.
Using your Resident Visa Visa for Entry
Upon your first entry using your Mexican resident visa(s), the officer at the port of entry will stamp a page marking your entry date to the country. You now have 30 days from this date to register on the foreign resident’s register via your local Immigration office in Mexico. See Mexico Immigration Guide for details about this. It will take up to four weeks for your visa/details to be registered, during which time you will need to request a special exit/entry permit if you need to leave Mexico for any reason during that period. After the visa is processed in Mexico you will be given a plastic residency card which you will use to exit and re-enter Mexico at any time during the term of its validity.
Importing Your Personal Goods and Chattels: You are allowed to import all of your personal items free of duty when you hold a resident visa; see the note above for details about importing your personal goods to Mexico.
Transport to Your Hotel or Accommodation: If you are arriving by road, chances are you will know where you are going already(!); if you arrived by air, there are official taxis from all airports that will take you to your hotel or other accommodation that you have arranged. If you are renting property in Mexico, the house owner or rental agent may have agreed to receive you at the airport. If you hired the services of a Relocation Consultant, they should have arranged for private transport to receive you at the airport and take you to your hotel or other accommodation if they did not receive you personally.
Upon your arrival, you will need to spend some time acclimatizing and settling-in to your new surroundings and environment. Here are some of the practical aspects you may need to consider.
Take Time to Acclimatize: Mexico has a distinct feel and ambiance and you will need to give yourself time to adapt. If you have moved to Mexico City, or another one of the many cities in Mexico situated at high altitude, you will need to get used to the thinner air.
Find Schools for Your Children: Take time to visit the schools on your short-list and choose one for your children to enroll in. Getting your children into school will help them to make new friends and settle into their new surroundings. Also see Mexperience guide to Schools in Mexico.
Adapting to the Local Culture: As with a move to any new country (living and working there is quite different to just visiting), you will need to adapt to local customs and traditions. Read our guides to Society and Culture in Mexico and Social Etiquette in Mexico for details. If you are working or running a business, also see our guide to Business Etiquette in Mexico. If you are planning to run your own business in Mexico, see the Mexperience Guide to being Self Employed in Mexico.
Get into a Routine: If you have moved to Mexico with your spouse and you or your spouse is working, one of you will have an immediate work routine to slip into; however it’s important that both spouses find a routine. Getting involved in the local community is an excellent way to help yourself settle. There are a large number of community and social networks in Mexico, including charities looking for people to make a contribution to local community projects. If you have come to Mexico to retire, then you will have time and space to settle-in gently to your new pace of life in Mexico: whether that’s to take life at a slow pace for a while, or getting stuck in with the wide range of active sports and community interests which exist across Mexico. Your country’s local foreign embassy or consulate in Mexico will have details of some expatriate social networks in Mexico.
Learn or Improve Your Spanish: You will really need to be able to speak some Spanish to fully enjoy living and working (or retiring) in Mexico. Being in Mexico will help you enormously as you will be surrounded constantly by the language. See the Learn Spanish guides for more details.
Also see the excellent collection of Spanish Language-related blogs.
Essential Skills for Expats
Our five-part blog series on Essential Skills for Expats in Mexico enables you to learn about key abilities you’ll need to help make your move here a success and avoid the pitfalls that some fall in to when they arrive in Mexico less mindful of the adjustments needed when intending to live in a foreign country.
If your stay in Mexico was only for a defined period of time (e.g. a work placement) or you decide to leave Mexico, then the process for leaving Mexico is essentially the same as outlined in this guide — in reverse.
Some key practical things to keep in mind when you leave Mexico are:
Dealing with your Personal Goods & Chattels: If you have accumulated items you wish to ship out of Mexico, you’ll need to make arrangements for these to be packed and shipped. The same companies that can help you move to Mexico can also help you to move out of Mexico and will provide you with a quotation for the move, based on the volume and weight of the things you want to ship. Moving companies will also take care of the items manifest, procedures, and paperwork at the border customs so that your personal goods can be imported back to your home country. Some items you take back might be subject to import taxes: check with your home country’s customs department or ask your moving company for details.
Any items you don’t want to take with you can be sold or gifted locally. Garage sales are common in Mexico (advertise the event in Spanish and English on posters locally) and you could also consider gifting any unwanted items to people in need: ask your maid, gardener, and others you know locally if they or anyone they know would like your surplus chattels. You might also advertise your unwated items at local coffee shops and at internet cafes (in English and Spanish) and ask people to call to arrange collection.
Your Personal Tax Planning Arrangements: Going back to your home country may have tax implications, so check with your accountant or tax attorney.
Your Visa Arrangements: Most Mexican Visas allow you multiple entry and exit from the country; however, if you stay out of the country for a certain length of time, by default you lose the right to your living and working visa. See the Mexico Immigration page for details about visas.
Reverse Culture Shock: If you have lived in Mexico for a number of years, you and/or your family members may experience what is called “reverse culture shock” (wiki) — the shock of getting back to your own country and re-adapting to it after having lived abroad for a time. There are a number of books on the subject if you are interested in knowing more – check Amazon.com for details.