Practical Considerations for Living in Mexico

Compass Guide

As you contemplate and plan your move to Mexico, there will be many practical considerations to take into account.

This guide covers some of the key practicalities and also connects you to other pages in the living and working sections on Mexperience for additional information, insight and resources.

See Also: Living in Mexico Q&A

Practical Considerations For Living in Mexico

Although it does happen occasionally, relatively few people would arrive in Mexico (or any other foreign country) and immediately think to themselves, ‘this seems like a nice place, I’ll live here’.

Emigrating to any foreign country takes research, knowledge, commitment, planning, and the organization of your resources to make it happen.

This part of our living and working section highlights some of the principal factors that need to be considered as you plan your move, as well as highlighting issues which you will need to consider as you work through the decision-making process.

Some of the topics in this guide may encourage you to reevaluate your preconceptions or initial intentions; or they may help to re-enforce your understanding about what a move to Mexico entails, and accentuate the advantages afforded to those who make the effort and take the right steps towards a successful move to Mexico.

These topics are designed as an introduction only and, in many cases, connect to other parts of Mexperience which offer a more in-depth review of the topic(s) as well as advice and local knowledge to help you make informed choices.

Is Mexico the Right Place for Me / Us to Live?

To answer this question properly you need to have visited Mexico, probably more than once, and preferably lived here for a period, before deciding to move to Mexico for a longer period of time. Although there are success stories involving ‘love at first sight’ and/or impulse decisions which led to residency, don’t underestimate the effort it takes to adopt Mexico as your home country.

You may not have a choice in the move: perhaps your company is relocating you to Mexico temporarily or permanently. If this is the case, the resources on Mexperience will help you to get an excellent grounding in Mexican culture and prepare you ahead of time for your move to Mexico.

See Also: Society & Culture in Mexico, Social Etiquette in Mexico

If you know Mexico already, then you are likely to know what areas or regions in Mexico you prefer to live in. Some people spend their first months or, perhaps, a couple of years, traveling to different places in Mexico, renting homes along the way, so as to find a place that feels right for them.

See Also: Travel Guides, Mexico Essentials

In any event, if you plan to live in Mexico you should have at least a basic conversational level of Spanish, although there is no better place to learn than by being there.

See Also: Learn Spanish

Whether Mexico is right for you, only you and your partner/family, can answer. By doing your research and getting properly informed you may begin to make certain commitments. It’s at that point that you will need to plan your move, find the necessary contacts, put resources in place and, finally, act on your plans.

See Also: Moving to Mexico, and What Part of Mexico? (section on this page)

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Why Am I Going to Mexico? And For How long?

This question is related to the one above, but importantly, you need to establish for how long you intend to be in Mexico.

If the move to Mexico is due to relocation of your work, then you may arrive in Mexico for a set period depending on your contract and have every intention of leaving afterwards. Some people come to Mexico to work on this basis and end up staying permanently—with or without the original work contract that brought them here.

If your move is tentative or experimental, or only part time—perhaps in the winter months—and you own a house back in your home country, perhaps you’ll rent it out while you are not there and move back into it each time you return for visits, or when you return from an extended stay in Mexico.

Some people decide to sell their homes, if they own one, and all their belongings and move to Mexico ‘until further notice’, i.e. indefinitely. This is often the case with people who fall in love and move to Mexico to be with their new life partner as well as people who like to break ties with one place so that they can be motivated to make things work in their new country of residence. However, we always recommend that people who move to Mexico rent first, get to the know the area(s) they plan to live-in, and build flexibility into their plans.

See Also: Getting Married

Others, and particularly those who have the financial wherewithal to do this, will keep a house or apartment in their home country and buy a second home in Mexico. However, the majority of people either down-size to a smaller property back in their home country (for example, when the children leave home) or sell-up completely and use the proceeds from their sale to buy a home in Mexico.

The Importance of Defining Your Intentions

Every situation is unique. However, it’s important to take the time to define your intentions as doing so will help you to make some important choices in relation to your move, especially the things which will underpin your move to Mexico: the type of immigration permit you will apply for, your work situation (if that exists) and how you organize your accommodation needs.

The issue of immigration permits is important. If you will want to work in Mexico, you will need to satisfy the Mexican authorities that you have an income from a foreign company (which could be your own company if you work independently) or that a Mexican company is sponsoring you. There are various routes you might take and you can get an excellent overview from our Guide to Mexican Visas and Immigration (see below).

In broad terms, if you plan to live in Mexico but do NOT want to take up permanent, long-term, residence (i.e. become fully immigrated or naturalized) then you should choose the Temporary Resident Visa. However, if your intention IS to take up permanent, long-term residence (i.e. become a legalized immigrant or naturalized Mexican) then you should chose the Permanent Resident Visa.

If, after reading our guides and looked at the Mexican Immigration web site you are still unsure, you might consider our Mexico Relocation Consulting service, which offers personalized consultancy by telephone and email for a modest fixed-fee.

See Also: Guide to Mexican Visas and Immigration

How long you plan to stay will also affect some of the choices you make in regard to your accommodations in Mexico. If your stay is going to be short, or intermittent, perhaps renting a house or apartment will be your best option. However, if you plan to stay longer, or if you plan to retire here permanently or with frequent visits, then perhaps a property investment would be a wiser choice. The choices you make will also depend on your specific situation and your financial means. You can find full information about renting, buying and selling real estate in Mexico here on Mexperience.

See Also: Guides to Real Estate in Mexico, Banks, Banking & Credit in Mexico

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Tax Considerations when Moving to Mexico

If you are leaving your home country for an extended period (usually more than one full tax year) you will need to let the tax authorities in your home country know about your intentions.

If you are earning money through work on investments while living in Mexico, it’s worth knowing that many countries now have ‘double taxation’ agreements with Mexico, so any money you earn in Mexico (or investments earning money at home) will not be taxed twice.

Taxation can be one of the most complex areas for foreign residents to deal with—especially so if you have significant financial assets to manage. On the plus-side, being a foreign resident can be tax-efficient, provided that you get the planning right and execute your affairs according to tax laws in both your home country and Mexico.

People with significant financial assets should seek professional tax accounting advice at the earliest opportunity because you absolutely need to plan your commercial, work, and investment affairs ahead of time in order to avoid paying too much tax and to avoid falling foul of tax laws, not just in Mexico but in your home country, too.

You may already have an accountant who may advise you on these matters. International tax planning is a specialized service; some ‘domestic’ accountants may be able to give general counsel, but most will refer you to a specialist.

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Immigration Policy and Visas

As we mentioned earlier in this guide, you will need to consider your immigration status and apply for permits to live (and possibly also work) in Mexico.

Mexico operates a strict immigration policy which seeks to protect the interests—especially the job interests—of its own citizens. You will need to prove an income from a foreign company (which could be your own company if you work independently) or be sponsored by a Mexican company to come and work here.

If you are planning to retire, or take a sabbatical of some type, you will need to prove that you can sustain yourself financially. Mexico tightened up its financial requirements with the introduction of the new immigration law passed in 2011 and enacted in 2012 but the levels which it demands are reasonable and you don’t have to be overly wealthy to qualify for a visa in Mexico.

There are various routes to applying for and acquiring the necessary visas to enter Mexico. Connect to our Immigration page for details.

See Also: Guide to Mexican Visas and Immigration, Finding Jobs and Working in Mexico

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Where to Live in Mexico

Living Places

Mexico is a country with nearly 2 million kilometers of land space; it’s a big place, and you will need to decide what area of Mexico you want to live in.  Mexperience shows you the places which are popular with foreign residents, with links to detailed guides:

See Also: Places in Mexico for Living and Retirement

Marriage and Work Contracts

For the majority of foreigners moving to Mexico, there tend to be two over-riding factors which affect the choice of location: either they have fallen in love with someone who is already settled in Mexico (Mexican or other foreigner) or their work dictates their location.

See Also: Getting Married, Working in Mexico

Self Employment

For some, moving to Mexico is part of a journey that aims to create a more simplified life-situation for them and/or their partner and family. They may have savings or investments and plan to open a small enterprise (perhaps a knowledge-based enterprise) in Mexico. In these circumstances, the people usually know Mexico and know whereabouts in Mexico they want to live.

See Also: Self Employment in Mexico

Retirement Places

Retirees are spoiled for choice in terms of locations to choose from. The location may depend on previous experience of having lived, worked or visited Mexico on some occasions. In any event, this topic and many others are covered in detail in the guides on Mexperience to retirement.

See Also: Guide to Retirement in Mexico, Places in Mexico for Living and Retirement

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Securing Accommodation in Mexico

Once you have decided where you need or want to live, you need to find accommodation that will suit your needs and budget.

Most people start out by renting in Mexico, and we recommend that anyone moving to Mexico begins by renting in the first instance, unless you know the area you are moving to well and have specific reasons for buying from the start. Longer term residents trend toward buying property, as it can represent a better investment of your money over the long term — provided that you do it properly and don’t overpay for the property.

If you need somewhere to stay on a very short-term basis, perhaps for an exploratory visit to a city you are considering, a good local realty agent in Mexico should be able to find you temporary rental accommodations to save you the cost of hotels.

For longer term accommodation, whether it’s to rent or buy, the Mexperience guides to Mexican Real Estate are comprehensive and will give you an excellent grounding to begin your search.

See Also: Guide to Real Estate in Mexico

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Moving Your Personal Belongings to Mexico

You can have all your personal belongings (including furniture) imported into Mexico free of any duty, provided that you have the correct permits to live (and if applicable, work) in Mexico: i.e. a Resident Visa.

You can read a very comprehensive guide to Moving to Mexico here on Mexperience, which deals with a range of matters you will need to consider and address before and during your move to Mexico—including the issue of what to do with your personal belongings.

See Also: Moving to Mexico

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Banking and Money Matters in Mexico

Opening a bank account in Mexico is quite straightforward when you hold a residency visa (temporary or permanent), although expect to have minimum balances for current and savings accounts with penalties for not conforming to the rules.

Banks in Mexico don’t operate overdraft facilities for individuals; this service is only offered on business accounts. Charges for cashiers checks and ATMs are made on certain types of personal accounts, so check with your bank to make sure you open an account that is right for your needs.

Credit cards are available, but expect interest rates to be higher than you’re used to in the US/CA, Europe or Australasia.

Personal loans and mortgages are becoming more common and can be now be arranged, but this will depend on your financial history with the bank, and rates are much higher than you’re probably used to back home—so beware.

Some people borrow money from their home country to purchase property in Mexico; there are increasing numbers of US banks doing this especially, although European and Australasian banks will almost certainly reject any application for mortgages for property in Mexico. Remember that when you borrow ‘foreign currencies’ to purchase assets, you can be left exposed to fluctuations in exchange rates if your earnings are not in the same currency as the loan.

US Dollar currency accounts are not available to individuals in Mexico; only a Mexican company can hold a foreign currency account here. Any foreign currency you deposit (or which is wired) into a Mexican bank account that is not US Dollar denominated is immediately converted to Mexican Pesos.

If you still have an account back home, you should be able to draw down a reasonable amount per a day (equivalent in Pesos) from ATMs using your plastic card, which will be debited back to a home-based account, but beware, ATM charges for international travelers have crept up in recent years. See the Money in Mexico Guide for details about this and other money matters in Mexico.

The guides on Mexperience about money and banking are comprehensive and will give the information you need to open and manage your finances effectively in Mexico.

See Also: Money in Mexico, Banks, Banking and Credit in Mexico

Articles: Blog articles related to Money & Finance

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Driving in Mexico

Driving in Mexico—even in Mexico City—is not as scary as many people make it out to be. Our guide to driving in Mexico will give you plenty of background information and practical tips to help you stay safe on Mexican roads.

If your stay in Mexico is going be more permanent, you may want to buy a car and get an international driver’s license, although you can also apply for Mexican Driver’s license as well.

If you intend to bring a foreign-plated car to Mexico, then there are certain rules you need to abide by — some of them are quite complex.  See Bringing Foreign Plated Cars to Mexico for more details about this.

Car loans are becoming commonplace in Mexico, although to apply for a loan you will need to have a Resident Visa and a good credit standing in Mexico—this may take time to build up with your local bank. Sometimes, they will extend credit based on proof of income and a letter of reference showing good standing from a bank in your home country. In these circumstances, banks lending the money will also want to see bank statements going back 3-12 months.

See Also: Driving in Mexico

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Keeping in Touch While in Mexico (e.g. Phone, Internet, Media)

Mexico’s telephone infrastructure in improving all of the time and home internet connections are readily available nationwide.

Telmex and other cable companies offer high-speed internet connections using a normal telephone line for a modest monthly fee.

In addition to excellent communication services, Mexico also offers plenty of media channels including Sky TV, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines.

See Also: Communications in Mexico, Media in Mexico

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Insurance, Health and Medical Matters

Depending on your residential status, you and your family may be entitled to Mexican Social Services for health matters, which are free at point of delivery.

If you live in Europe are used to some European State’s free-at-point-of-delivery systems, be warned that facilities are nowhere near as developed here in Mexico. Western Europeans used to high levels of social and welfare care funded by the State will need to adjust their expectations of public health care and other social services.

You should buy private medical insurance for you and any dependents to be covered for illnesses and medical conditions (if the company you are working with does not already provide it).

Mexico does have some very fine clinics and hospitals, but like the USA, they are not free at point of delivery; and like the USA you WILL be asked for insurance details and, even if you are insured, expect to be asked for a hefty deposit using a credit card or cash.

The Mexperience Guides to Insurance and Health Care in Mexico will help to give you an excellent understanding of insurance and healthcare in Mexico and help you plan ahead.

Also See: Health & Healthcare in Mexico, Insurance

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Settling-In to Mexico

Once you arrive in Mexico, there will be an inevitable settling-in period. It takes time to get used to living in a brand new environment and culture.

Expect low times and home sickness. The books and resources that you’ll have read before moving to Mexico should have covered this area in detail and have advice so that you, and your family if they are traveling with you, may be prepared.

The Mexperience guides to Moving to Mexico as well guides to Mexican culture will help you to plan ahead.

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.

See Also: Moving To Mexico, Society & Culture in Mexico, Social Etiquette

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Choosing Schools for Your Children

If you have children of school-age, then you will need to find a school in Mexico suitable for them.

If you have residential status (temporary or permanent), your children may be entitled to attend Government-funded schools or colleges, and you need to decide whether you will take this option or pay to have your children educated privately. The second option is relatively expensive, and if a company or sponsor is not paying for this, it is something you will need to have budgeted for.

See Also: Schools and Schooling in Mexico

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Getting Around in Mexico

Mexico offers extensive and affordable transport options–both public and private.  You can learn about getting around in Mexico our comprehensive guides to transportation in Mexico.

See Also: Transport: Getting around in Mexico

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Returning Home from Mexico

Returning to your home country will require as much planning in reverse as your move out to Mexico. If your trip was scheduled for a set period of time, and you still have a house back home, then the process will be more straightforward—although advance planning to ensure your house is empty (if it was rented) and in good condition will be required, as well as the transportation of your personal belongings back home.

If you have children of school age, they will need to re-adjust back into their home school and school system; they may need to catch up, or they may be more advanced, either way their perspectives will have changed too, and you will need to help them through the inevitable reverse culture shock, as you may have had to when they started school in Mexico.

You’ll also need to get your tax affairs organized, to ensure that you are not unnecessarily penalized on any income or investments, either in Mexico or in your home country. Make sure you plan ahead—going home at the ‘wrong time’ of the tax year can cost your dearly.

Settling back into your old lifestyle will also require time, as you will return with a whole new perspective, and could even suffer culture shock in reverse!

See Also: Moving To Mexico

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