Answers to Your 5 Most Asked Questions About Moving to Mexico
Mexico has been a favorite expat destination for several decades. For those contemplating moving to Mexico, here are the answers to your top questions about going “south of the border.”
With a rich cultural history, established communities, and many locations to choose from, expat life in Mexico becomes a great option. Understanding some of the basics can make the transition from visitor to resident less complicated.
1. Is Getting a Visa in Mexico Complicated?
The short answer is: No. However, like other Latin American countries, there are rules concerning the types of visa and residency requirements that you should be aware of.
Perhaps the most common type of visa is the “Visitante” or Visitor visa. This is intended for those who are planning to stay in the country for six months or less. Importantly, it is not renewable.
Known as the FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple), the form is supplied by airlines prior to landing in Mexico; if entry is by land or sea, the form is available at the Immigration Office at the point of entry. There is a small charge (approximately $20 US) for this visa; this fee is usually included in the price of your airline ticket.
A second type of non-immigrant visa is the FM3 (No Inmigrante) that allows foreigners to live in Mexico longer than six months. This is generally the visa chosen by expats looking to make Mexico their retirement home.
The major stipulation is that you can prove that you have sufficient funds to live there; a general estimate is roughly $1250 US per month plus an addition 50% for each dependent. Since the amount required is revised on a regular basis and dependent on which location you are applying in, it is important to keep track of any changes.
The FM3 visa is good initially for one year, with an option to renew for an additional four years. The process can subsequently be repeated every five years.
The FM2 (Inmigrante) is the visa you would apply for if your goal is to ultimately become a Mexican citizen or seek permanent residence. Upon being confirmed for this status, an identification card is issued allowing you to cross Mexico’s border as if you were a citizen.
There are a number of types of FM2 visas that depend on an individual’s situation. Retirees, investors, professionals, artists, and athletes are just some of the categories that may qualify for permanent residency. Seeking the advice of a competent immigration attorney is the best to see if your particular situation qualifies.
The Temporary Resident Visa (Visa de Residente Temporal) is similar to the FM3 in that it allows foreigners to live in Mexico longer than six months. The distinction, however, is that it is only renewable for up to a period of four years.
2. Can Expats Own Property in Mexico?
Expats and investors can buy and own property in their own name in the interior of Mexico but, at the current time are prohibited from direct ownership in the “restricted zone. This zone refers to areas within 100 km (64 miles) of international borders or within 50 km (32 miles) from the coastline at high tide.
In 1993, however, the Mexican constitution was amended to permit foreign ownership of property in these areas through a legal mechanism known as “fideicomiso,” or bank trust. Under this system, a bank is the actual title holder and the purchaser is the “beneficiary” with full rights of ownership. These trusts are granted for a 50-year period and renewable for an additional 50 years.
Expats can find a wide variety of properties available at reasonable prices. Whether your idea of the perfect hacienda is a beachfront condo, urban location, or rural retreat, Mexico offers something for every taste and budget.
3. What Is Life for an Expat Like in Mexico?
Although it borders the U.S., it is important to remember that Mexico is a foreign country with its own cultural make up and lifestyle. Daily life in Mexico varies from location to location – much like everywhere else in the world.
In the larger cities, such as Mexico City and Acapulco, expats can find most, if not all, of the modern amenities of any major U.S. city. With that lifestyle, however, comes a higher cost of living for everything from rent or property prices, food, utilities, etc.
Major tourist locations such as Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Rivera Maya are going to have a lot of English speakers (which may be a plus) and the tourist-beach vibe that a lot of expats find attractive. Again, the popularity of these places has made the price tag of living there higher as well.
For those seeking a more relaxed and rustic lifestyle, there are many smaller towns and villages that can make immersing in Mexican culture an easy task. While the cost of living is less, some of these areas may lack some of the cosmopolitan amenities of bigger cities – which is part of the trade off.
Finally, it is important to remember that Spanish is still the language of Mexico. Although many Mexicans understand and speak some English, having some knowledge of their language can make daily life much easier.
4. What About Crime?
In recent years, Mexico has made the headlines concerning the ongoing problems with various drug cartels and other criminal activities. With so much attention being given to these high profile incidents, being concerned about the impact of crime, when considering moving to Mexico, is both understandable and realistic.
While there are certain areas that seem to be hotspots for many of the incidents, the majority of the country is largely unaffected. In a real sense, a comparison could be made to urban centers in many countries that are dealing with similar issues. Doing your own due diligence when looking at a particular location can better inform you of any potential problems before making a move.
5. Is Mexico the Place for Me?
Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to spend some time in various parts of the country. Learn what living in Mexico is like and, even more importantly, see how you feel about the possibility of making it your own. There’s no time like the present to begin the journey.
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Interested in cities to retire in Mexico. Prefer to be near the coast but am curious why so many expats live in Lake Chapala. Lake Chapala seems to out in the middle of an ugly dessert.
Guys – this information changed as of mid 2014 – you might want to update it with current information. The FM1, FM2, and FM3 were all replaced with a similar, but different system which combines them.
Hey Greg, thanks for telling us. We will investigate and update the post to refectory the most up-to-date information.
The Lake Chapala area is a mile above sea level and has a very mild climate. We generally rent a place in Ajijic which is a very quaint Mexican village with many expats in the area. Ajijic has great restaurants, festivals and local attractions. We rented a hotel room which was quite nice for USA $600.00 per month. How can one go wrong? Food, is very reasonable and wonderful fruits and vegetables are available at very reasonable prices. We are looking to relocate to Mexico in 2017 and the Lake Chapala area will be our first choice. The area has great local bus transportation and reasonable taxi fairs. One does not need a vehicle in the area and we have never rented one. Guadalajara airport is about 25 miles away via taxi.