Thousands of foreigners move to Mexico every year mainly because of the increasing cost of living in the US and Canada. Coupled with the rising tensions in politics that divide the common people. Many are looking for a better life in Mexico!
But a move to Mexico is not as easy as packing your bags, showing up, and starting a new life sipping a margarita by the beach. The Mexican immigration and bureaucracy are challenging, especially with limited Spanish. And you can get scammed by hiring the wrong people.
The good news is that you can avoid costly mistakes by following a few steps. And if I was moving to Mexico this year, these are the steps I would take.
We are starting with living in Mexico legally.
1. Do You Qualify For Residency?
The time when expats in Mexico could be perpetual tourists doing border runs every six months is coming to an end. Mexican Immigration is no longer handing out 180-day entries to every qualifying visitor.
You need residency to open a bank account, get a driver’s license, get certain private health insurance policies, work in Mexico, and for many other activities.
While there are several ways to get residency, the most common option is through financial solvency. Mexican authorities use a formula based on the current daily minimum wage of MXN172.87 to determine financial solvency.
Residency Qualifications in 2023
For temporary residency, you need a monthly income starting at $2600 USD and up to $3300 USD or $43k-$52k USD in savings. The amount varies by consulate.
For permanent residency, you need a monthly income starting at USD $4,321 and up to $5800 USD or savings/investments for the past 12 months starting at $170k and up to $280k. The number varies by consulate.
But the financial requirements are NOT the same between consulates. And they change every year. So, check the most up-to-date income requirements by Mexican Consulate. If you’re on the cusp of qualifying, I urge you to get your residency sooner rather than later because the income requirements tend to increase yearly.
And because things are changing so quickly in Mexican immigration procedures (almost daily, it seems), it’s never been more vital for you to apply for residency sooner rather than later. Just because you qualify for Mexican residency this year doesn’t mean you’ll qualify in 2024 or the following year.
My advice: apply sooner rather than later. You are not required to live in Mexico to remain a resident. So, even if you have plans to move to Mexico years in the future, I’d recommend securing your residency visa first.
While it may seem very simple to qualify for residency, unfortunately, the process isn’t. Mexican bureaucracy can be complicated and very inconsistent. Because of this, we recommend hiring an immigration facilitator familiar with local customs, laws, and requirements.
Others may tell you that hiring an immigration facilitator isn’t needed.
And while that may have been the case 10 years ago, things change so rapidly today that it’s easy to make a mistake. Oftentimes, the worst mistakes are made by the employees at immigration, who may be poorly trained. So hiring the right person who is up to date on immigration requirements and will know the law better than most is almost a no-brainer.
2. Can You Afford A Move to Mexico?
Mexico is famous for its affordable living. However, the cost of living in Mexico can vary depending on your lifestyle. Make a budget to understand how much you will need to live comfortably. Here are some cost-of-living comparisons from real people to help you.
Consider the following items:
Cost of Obtaining Residency in Mexico
While getting residency in Mexico won’t break the bank, it can be costly if you’re not prepared. Here are some of the costs involved in getting residency in Mexico. (in USD)
- Consular Fee at Mexican Consulate $51
- Travel expenses to Mexico – to finish your residency (gas, flights, lodging, meals) $400+
- Immigration Fees in Mexico $250+
- Apostille/ Certification of documents $20+
- Document Translation $50+
These are only some of the top costs of getting residency in Mexico. You may also have to consider where you get your consulate appointment or finish your residency in Mexico also matters.
Some people consulate shop- meaning they travel to a consulate that may have sooner appointments or lower income requirements.
Some people also travel to a different INM (immigration) office in Mexico to process their residency faster, which may incur an additional travel expense—another important reason to hire a reputable and recommended immigration facilitator in Mexico.
Cost of moving your family, pets, and belongings
The type and number of items like furniture will significantly add to your moving costs. For an average person, moving to Mexico from the U.S. can cost between $5,000-$10,000. If you’re using moving companies, shop around for the best quote.
Rent and house prices differ between regions. And don’t forget to consider the transaction fees when buying a property in Mexico.
I urge you to rent for six to twelve months before buying to ensure it’s where you want to live for a while because selling houses in Mexico isn’t easy.
Additional Reading: How to Find the Best Rentals in Mexico
Mexico offers excellent healthcare at affordable rates. But paying out of pocket can bankrupt you during a catastrophic event. So, it’s a good idea to get private health insurance.
Compare two to three quotes from different insurance agents before selecting a policy.
Getting private health insurance in Mexico is difficult after age 65-70. Residents can enroll in Mexico’s affordable healthcare program IMSS. However, their facilities and services are inferior to private healthcare. When you move to Mexico, you will quickly realize that many foreigners end up paying out of pocket, and having some cash reserves for medical expenses. Or, if they are from the U.S., they have Medicare when they become eligible as a plan B.
Certain pre-existing conditions will disqualify you from health insurance. If you have any health conditions, make a telemedicine appointment with an English-speaking specialist in Mexico through a website like Doctoralia. That way, you can understand the costs of medication and ongoing treatment especially if you plan to pay out of pocket.
If you’re an expat from the U.S., you may have access to Medicare in Mexico for emergencies.
Mexico has both private and public schools with varying costs. And some private schools have special accreditation with schools in the U.S., Canada, and the UK.
You can buy a car in Mexico or import a foreign-plated car.
Importing a foreign-plated car can cost about $8,000-$15,000. So, look into the costs vs. benefits of both options.
What will you do for money?
Do you have enough income from social security or savings and investments? Or will you need a new income stream?
Temporary residency visas based on financial solvency don’t come with work rights. So, you’ll need to get a work permit to work in Mexico. But remember, Mexico’s wages are nowhere near U.S. wages.
The average wage for a family in Mexico is around MXN $25,000 a month (about $1500 USD a month, depending on the exchange rate)
Remote working on jobs and businesses is popular among expats. They get the geographic arbitrage benefit of earning in stronger currencies while paying their living costs in MXN.
If you’re from the U.S., you can take advantage of the foreign-earned income exclusion, an enormous tax benefit.
3. Visit At Least Once
It’s not uncommon for people to pack their bags and move to Mexico without visiting. But it’s clear that many of the people who moved without a plan, end up moving back. Mostly because they realize living in Mexico is not for them.
I recommend planning a relocation tour covering different areas. There’s more to Mexico than vacation destinations like Puerto Vallarta, Cancún and other expat hotspots.
Visiting will help you get a sense of the vibe, facilities, and weather. You can also see if you feel safe in each place. Avoid focusing only on the cheapest places to live and find where you’d be comfortable.
To plan the scouting trip:
- Make a list of your needs and select the areas that match them.
- See how you’ll get around the country.
You can fly between some cities, drive (rent a car), or even take luxury buses like ADO, ETN, or Omnibus de Mexico. Within cities, there are taxis and rideshare options like Uber and Didi.
- Line up some rentals to visit.
It’s easier to find hidden gems in person.
- Visit schools, healthcare facilities, restaurants, and other places of interest.
- Join Facebook groups like the expat groups of different cities. That way, you can get to know others in the area and pick up some tips. Just be careful of asking for legal advice here- it’s often WRONG!
- And if you want to learn more about what it’s really like to live in certain areas without having to rent a car or plan where to go- we offer Relocation Tours. We won’t sell you anything. So you can enjoy your visit without stress.
4. Plan Your Move
You’re almost there!
Now let’s look at a few things to tick off ahead of your moving trip:
Move to Mexico with Pets
Mexico’s National Service for Health, Safety and Agri-food Quality, SENASICA, says pets (dogs and cats) coming from the U.S. and Canada don’t need a health certificate. Check their guidelines about how to transport pets and the food allowance.
If you’re flying, the airline may have its own rules and may require a health certificate. This is completely normal. To price out what you must pay, from getting a health certificate to buying a new kennel to paying your dog’s flight cargo fee, check the airline’s pet transport rules.
Speak to moving companies and pet transport companies if needed.
Some people don’t want to fly their pets in cargo. And understandably so. It’s very stressful for your furry friend. Not to mention that some airlines have strict restrictions on the breeds of animals they allow in cargo.
For this, we recommend hiring a pet transport company. But the prices can vary so much that you really need to get a few quotes.
If you need a recommendation, we have a directory of private drivers who make regular trips between Mexico, the USA, and Canada. Check out our COMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide.
Will you drive or fly?
Consider the distance, the luggage, the number of persons and pets, and the costs before deciding.
5. Hire The Right People To Help You- And Make It Easier For You
It’s tempting to do it yourself and save money. But it increases your risk of making costly mistakes. The right service providers can help you make a stress-free move to Mexico.
Here’s our Complete Mexico Relocation Guide to learn the most important basics about moving to Mexico. You will also get my directory of recommended contacts for immigration services, rentals, real estate, relocation tour guides, health insurance, moving companies, pet import, and much much more.