Mexico relocation in 5 easy steps
So you want to move to Mexico? Me too! How do we do it? Expatriating has it's share of bureaucracy, and so it's best to be prepared ahead of time, especially when language and cultural difference as could add some surprises! When I began my research I had a lot of questions like...just how closely do long term foreign residents follow the visa requirements and pay their share of taxes. etc? What is the benefit of applying for an FM3 Visa and what are the income requirements for obtaining one? How long can I stay on a tourist visa? Are all of these gringos living there illegally, and is there an expat code of silence that I don't know about? If I am going to be a guest in a foreign country, I should play by their rules right? Then I stumbled upon some excerpts from the Mexican Constitution:
The Mexican constitution expressly forbids non-citizens to participate in the country’s political life.
The Mexican constitution denies fundamental property rights to foreigners.
The Mexican constitution denies equal employment rights to immigrants, even legal ones, in the public sector.
The Mexican constitution guarantees that immigrants will never be treated as real Mexican citizens, even if they are legally naturalized.
Yikes, not encouraging. But I have persevered and 'Project Expatriate' has officially begun. The most up-to-date advice I've gotten is from expatriates themselves, and it turns out that I have some things in my favor. Less is more when one wants to keep things simple. I have no home to sell or rent, I don't have children or pets in tow, and no car either, just a studio apartment. So I've deduced the process to 5 easy steps.
To FM3 or to not FM3, that was my biggest question.
It has also been the hardest to research but I've gotten to the bottom of it. The covetted FM3 is not required for an extended stay in Mexico but it has it's benefits, namely if you want to stay longer than 180 days, if you have a car, and if your goal is residency then you should start the FM3 process right away. (Note: President Calderon has signed a new "Ley de Migracion", and the FM3 will be a thing of the past. But it will take some time for the new changes to be implemented. As of now the old immigration laws still apply. See the end of this article for updates).
The FM3 is your first step in the immigration process and allows you to stay in Mexico for up to a year and then renew. You are considered a 'temporary resident' and it requires proof of income (around $1,000 per month). The main benefits are being able to import your car and all of your household items. The cost for the FM3 is around $130 u.s.
The alternative to the FM3 is a Tourist Card (like the one they give you at the airport). It's good for 180 days (six months), and a lot of gringos simply leave and re-enter obtaining a new 180 day tourist card. The downside seems to be that one has to leave every six months and only a limited amount of household items can be brought in to Mexico. One can also import a vehicle for up to 180 days with a tourist card.
There is also theFM3 work visa. Opinions vary on how easy it is to obtain a work visa in Mexico. Some say it's impossible other's say everyone they know has been approved. It seems that starting your own business may be easier than getting a company to 'sponsor' you. When you originally apply for working status, you must write a letter in Spanish describing the nature of the business you wish to start. The immigration department has the discretion to approve your application or not. You should gather letters from possible future clients who would like to employ your services. It may also be helpful to get advice from an immigration lawyer in the area where you are planning to live and work.
Moving your household stuff to Mexico
The key here is to purge purge purge, which is likely the simplest (and cheapest) way to get across the border with your stuff. There is an allowance for duty free items, like two camera, one set of binoculars, a camping tent, etc. This is a cost/benefit analysis that you will need to make, if you have a large household of things that you plan to move to Mexico then you will need an FM3. For me it should be easy as I don't own a lot of furniture or large items that I can't part with and easily re-aquire in Mexico. Think YARD SALE!
Banking & Money
The widespread availability of online banking, direct deposit and ATM's has simplified access to your money from almost anywhere. I can't remember the last time I actually went to my bank branch. It is quite common for Expats to continue banking with their U.S. or Canadian bank. I currently belong to a credit union, which I will likely keep as my main financial institution. In addition I plan to open a Mexican bank account and keep a small amount there, which should make check cashing easier. I believe the nearest bank to Sayulita is in Bucerias.
As I mentioned before I plan to get rid of everything but the essentials. I will put the rest in storage and slowly bring it over. For those of you who have a lot of household goods there are moving companies for hire that can get it door to door for you. And as I wrote above you will need to obtain a status other than tourist to bring large amounts of household items, furniture, etc.
Basic health care in Mexico is good and cheap. There are also international carriers, for peace of mind you can get Expat health coverage through a provider like MEDEX International travel medical insurance. Until I get a better idea of what the medical system is like there I will probably go that route.
There are many expatriates living all over Mexico, be prepared and don't get discouraged. You will encounter people, or internet articles that make it sound impossible to live and work in Mexico, but you can find just as many expats who have made their dream happen. Head the wise advise of Henry David Thoreau: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams...Live the life you have imagined.
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