Living, Retirement, Working

180 Days: Living Part-time in Mexico

Interior of a colonial home

There is a growing trend among foreign residents worldwide, including those in Mexico: staying home for six months.

Some people want to leave behind the cold winters in their home country.  Others living in Mexico like to return home during the summer to avoid the sultry humidity that is prevalent at most of Mexico’s beach locations between May and October. Some enjoy Mexico for part of the year, and return to be reunited with their friends and family at home, or to take care of work or business matters there.

For Canadians and Europeans, maintaining a ‘legal residency’ in their home country by staying physically present there for at least half of the year gives them access to healthcare schemes provided by their countries’ welfare systems. Some expats prefer their home country in small doses, and love Mexico most when they only live here part-time.

Whatever the reason — they are too numerous and diverse to document in any meaningful way — part-time residency in Mexico is a growing trend among foreigners.

Mexico has long been a popular country for expats and has always hosted a mix of transient visitors and long-term foreign residents who moved here and stayed for years—and even for life.

Today, foreign residents in Mexico appear more transient than in decades past; a trend that is perhaps being driven by more affordable access to long-distance transportation, commercial trends (such as short-term and temporary work contracts), and technological shifts—in particular, the advent of independent ‘knowledge professionals’ working online: people who can ply a living by trading know-how, without having to be constantly situated in one specific place or office building.

For those who want to explore the opportunity to live in Mexico part-time, 180 days is a key number for several reasons.

If you’re planning to be in Mexico for 180 days or less—and don’t intend to participate in any remunerative activities that generate an income inside Mexico—then you don’t necessarily need to apply for a resident visa: you can live here on your visitor’s permit (FMM) for up to six months.

If you want to maintain residency status in your home country (sometimes referred to legally as ‘being domiciled’), you usually have to be physically present there for at least 180 days in a year. Check your home country’s residency rules for precise details of how it defines ‘legal residency’.

There are other advantages to splitting your year into two equal parts.  You can get better deals in Mexico when you rent property for at least six months and, if you rent your principal home to help fund your six months in Mexico, a six month tenancy is usually the practical minimum you’d rent for. This is also true if you own two homes—one in your home country and one in Mexico—it’s easier to rent out the one you’re not using for six months.

Many part-time residents—particularly under-insured Americans—also use their extended stay in Mexico to undertake healthcare procedures (or dental work) at a fraction of the price that hospitals back home are charging for the same treatments. Even some Canadians and Europeans, whose publicly-funded healthcare systems don’t cover all bases—for example, dental care or cosmetic surgery—make use of their extended stay in Mexico for the same purpose.

The disadvantages to living part-time in Mexico under the auspice of a visitor permit is that you cannot legally work or undertake any lucrative activities that generate an income inside Mexico.  You can’t open a bank account, either.  If you intend to work in Mexico and still only live here part-time, you should apply for a Residente Temporal visa.  Note that if you are volunteering in Mexico, you can do this under the auspice of your visitor’s permit.  You can learn about the different visa types of visas and the time limits associated with them on this article.

Whether you’re exploring your options for living in Mexico full-time, part-time, or for a fixed term, our guides to Living and Lifestyle in Mexico provide you with a comprehensive online resource to help research the opportunities, prepare yourself, and realize your plans.

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40 Comments

  1. Mary Eschbach says

    How do I get a Visitors Permit? FMM

  2. Phil says

    I like to drive down to cabo in my CA plated car for 6 months using a FMM.

    Can I return to USA on a one way flight for an emergency or other circumstance or do I have to drive the vehicle back over the border to leave?

    IE you must leave the way you came.

    If the answer is No you must bring back the vehicle, then I must ask..Can I fly into TJ and then walk across border over the CBX?

    Please advise

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Phil,

      Normally, a car’s Temporary Import Permit (TIP) is tied to the FMM; and you must leave Mexico with the car and the FMM you entered with before its expiry date.

      However, as you do not require a TIP to drive your car on the Baja California peninsula, your FMM will be valid for you to enter by road and fly-out.

      You can read more about bringing foreign plated cars to Mexico on this article:
      https://www.mexperience.com/bringing-foreign-plated-cars-into-mexico/

      • Phil says

        Understood.

        Follow-up question. Since I only seek a FMM with a CA driver’s license, am I allowed to buy a Mexican plated vehicle during my stay or drive a non-rental Mexican vehicle? Does my plate have to match my DL in Baja Sur

        • Mexperience says

          Phil,

          You need a WHTI-approved document to enter Mexico: most people use a passport — you can read more about that here
          https://www.mexperience.com/passport-required-mexico/

          The rules about Mexican car registration vary by state. Many states require the registrant to have a residency permit as well as a Mexican address.

          Generally, anyone can drive a Mexican vehicle owned by someone else with the owner’s permission, but you should check with the owner’s insurance company about liability in case of an accident: they may have rules about who is, and who is not, insured under the terms of the policy.

  3. Ben Boone says

    Would visiting someone every weekend, say Thursday through Sunday, for six or seven weekends in a row be an issue? I’d be flying in to MEX.

    I guess I would just get a new tourist visa every time I re-entered…

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Ben
      If you make frequent re-entries, you might have your intentions questioned when you return–you can explain that you are visiting someone for several weekends over a set time frame. And yes, every time you leave you would surrender your FMM and obtain a new one when you return.

  4. katdec says

    When you say 180 days.. is that a calendar year? I have already been there for approx 4 weeks this year but was planning on going back in Nov for 6 months?

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Katdec,

      It’s a maximum of 180 calendar days per visit. So if you stay a month and then leave, you can return and stay up to another 180 days (or less), etc.

      Under current rules, there is no time limit you have to be outside of Mexico for before you can re-enter on a Visitor’s Permit (FMM). However, see the caveat regarding this in response to Mauricio, further down the comments…

    • Christine says

      Hi Katdec

      You will in this case be going into the following year for approx. 3 months, also leaving you another 3 for the same year….. all is good! Also, not knowing where you are coming from many provinces in Canada have added a 7th month to our time we can be out in a one year period.

    • Mexperience says

      Jose Luis,

      As referenced in the article:
      “If you’re planning to be in Mexico for 180 days or less—and don’t intend to participate in any remunerative activities that generate an income inside Mexico—then you needn’t apply for a resident visa: you can live here on your visitor’s permit (FMM) for up to six months.”

  5. Elizabeth Linne says

    Question:My husband & I are searching for a non-resort beach area for residential living
    suitable for older folks who do not surf but who love to swim, kayak &
    SUP in calmer waters. We’re looking for a spot with water accessible for
    these activities from a residential property – not crazy about hauling
    boat or board. Any ideas out there? Ifso, we’d sure appreciate your words & experience. Thanks!

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Elizabeth,

      For non resort beach destinations, consider:

      San Felipe, Loreto and La Paz in Baja;
      Mazatlan, Costalegre (area), and Puerto Escondido on the Pacific coast; and
      Campeche on the Gulf Coast.

      You can find guides to all these places on the Mexperience Beaches section, here:
      https://www.mexperience.com/travel/beaches/

      • Johanna Smith says

        Hi Elizabeth, we just discovered
        Bahia de Kino which is the place you seem to be looking for. Endless beautiful beaches , hardly anyone there during the week. On weekends, especially Easter and weekends in the warm/hot months
        there is more activity because people from Hermosillo come to relax. Check it out!

  6. Nancy says

    Just like moving anywhere new, it takes time and patience to build new relationships, both with new friends and your day to day living. But the rewards are endless. I am from Ontario and lived in Florida for 7 winters because it was more “convenient”. When my husband passed away, I decided to spend my winter in Mexico…first in Chapala and now in Melaque. The first year was challenging but this year is far different. I have become more involved with my community and every day is peaceful and fulfilling.. I’m even cooking turkey this Christmas for a group of friends I have met.

    • Will says

      Nancy,what are the differences you see between Florida and Mexico. My wife and I have been doing the snowbird thing in Bradenton Florida. We are tired of the American day to day existence. The beach is wow but there there is no history or culture here. We are hungry to find life and humility in Mexico. Will and Renata

  7. jsac says

    What is the minimum monthly expenses to live down around Puerto Adventura
    for 6 months a year-October-March. Rent, food, electric etc.. etc..?

  8. Donna Melville says

    We drive every year from Gabriola Island, B.C. ( near Vancouver) and have absolutely NO trouble..just an amazing time! last time we drove down the Baja first, took the ferry to Mazatlan and in total we were on the road 4 weeks til we arrived in Zihua.. If you are a bit nervous the first time, stick to the toll roads and skip highway 200.

  9. Gloria says

    Hi Ed. My husband and I drive to Mexico often, 2-3 times a year. We have not had any problems with our travels…we tend to drive during the day because our vision is not as good as when we were younger….we both are over 80. The highways are excellent, although expensive. We typically drive from upstate IL to Mexico City. We have traveled extensively in Chihuahua. We have driven to Oaxaca and San Cristobal. The highways in Mexico are safe and usually in excellent condition.

  10. Paul Ostrof says

    What can a “residente temporal” do that a “turista” can’t do?

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Paul,

      As Residente Temporal, you can stay in Mexico beyond the 180 day limit (up to 5 years, depending on the visa you acquire) and you may also work/earn an income in Mexico (subject to the visa’s terms); you can open a bank account and you might find it easier to get rent leases and engage in other transactions which require residency status.

      See the Guide to Mexico Immigration here on Mexperience for more details about the different visa types:
      https://www.mexperience.com/lifestyle/living-in-mexico/visas-and-immigration/

    • First Last says

      Temporal can be for 1-4 years, with unlimited exit/entry. Temporal allows you to have a MX bank account- credit card, buy and register a car, work and receive wages from a MX entity. Allow you to bring a foreign plated car duty exempt for up to one year. Essentially all the privileges of a MX citizen except voting, holding an elective office and working for a government entity.

  11. Mauricio Villalta says

    If I want to stay in Mexico longer than the 6 months permitted, can I leave the country and re enter the same day to have another 6 months extra? if that can be done, how many times am i allow to do it? any answer is beforehand appreciated.

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Mauricio,
      Under current rules, there is no time limit you have to be outside of Mexico for before you can re-enter on a Visitor’s Permit (FMM). However, the entry procedures are now computerized and the immigration officials have sight of your historical border crossings. They might question your intentions upon re-entry. If you plan to live in Mexico longer term, we suggest you consider applying for a temporary or permanent resident permit to avoid any problems of this nature.

      You can find details of the different residency permit types here on Mexperience
      https://www.mexperience.com/lifestyle/living-in-mexico/visas-and-immigration/

  12. Robert Garza says

    Hello Ed,
    I spend 3 months in Zihuatanejo. In fact I’m leaving in a couple of weeks. I fly down. I do know of Americans and Canadiens who drive down with no problems at all.

  13. Patrick says

    Is getting the 180 day visa just a simple matter of putting the dates on the FMM, or do you have to tell customs upon arrival you wish to stay longer then the 30 day norm?

    • Mexperience says

      The form asks you how many days you intend to stay, so you enter that number. You’ll usually be granted 180 days by default. By law, you can apply for an extension at any immigration office to a maximum of 180 days if you are granted less than this at the border.

  14. Susan says

    I would like to find a way to live comfortably in for 2 to 3 months a year in Mexico. I am 65 and cannot tolerate the Ohio Winters. I would like more information from others who are doing this. I am concerned about navigating the culture without knowing Spanish. I have been to Oaxaca, Oaxaca and loved the climate.

    • Emily Smith says

      Hi Susan, There are places in Mexico that are easier to get by without speaking Spanish. We lived in Playa del Carmen for a year knowing only rudimentary Spanish, as it is a more touristy area. I advise you to learn at least elementary Spanish, though — a little goes a long way! You can learn online for free using Duolingo, or invest in audio lessons. There are a lot of expats living in Playa del Carmen either full or part-time, so you will be in good company. There are many furnished rentals, restaurants, and the winter weather is wonderful. It is a busy tourist town, though, so that may or may not appeal to you, but we liked that we could escape via ADO bus to other cities, like Valladolid and Merida, so easily. There’s more history and culture in those colonial cities than in Playa, but they would be harder to negotiate on a long-term basis without Spanish. If you are on Facebook, you can join the group “Expats and Locals in Playa del Carmen” if interested. Good luck! My husband is from Ohio and left just as soon as he could for warmer climes, so I understand your feelings completely.

  15. Shelli Lipton says

    Living six months in Mexico and six months in New York is the best of two worlds. The weather is wonderful when we reside in either domicile.

    • Amy Sunstrum says

      Take me with you! I am an excellent chef.i have to be busy so I clean constantly and I am now versed in Spanish. Soon I will be fluent. And as far as New York goes..Well I happen to love it so much my 2 girls were conceived there 30 years ago

  16. Arnold Thompson says

    Mexico is fantastic place to live or spend 6 months on vacation. As the article says there is fabulous hospitals, dentists & cosmetic doctors. Always get referrals from expats. We spend 4-5 months in Manzanillo & actually drive down from Calgary as do several other people. No fears we enjoy the drive. Discover Mexico as there is so much to see & visit

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