Some people want to move to Mexico, but don’t know where to start. A proper move is a big deal, costs a lot of money and involves a lot of legal paperwork. If your intention is to enter the country for six months as a tourist then leave, you won’t need much of this information.
However, if you are wanting to make a permanent move but are doing so “without plan or reason”, it is not, in my opinion, the smartest way to go. I continually read about people who “just want to move to Mexico” as though it’s a trip to the mall. They’ve not put much thought into a move, they just simply want to do it. Mexico isn’t exactly a place where you can pick up one life from another country and plop it down. It doesn’t work that way.
For anyone wanting to move to Mexico, here are a few strategies you’ll need to figure out.
Location: Choosing a place to live
You will need to choose a city or town in which to live. If you are retiring, you can live pretty much live any place that you feel is safe and affordable. If, however, you are intending to work, you will need to choose accordingly. If you’re accepting a work transfer, then you will move where the new job takes you.
If you are moving to Mexico with the intention of picking up a local job, you will need to find a company that is willing to hire you. Then you will have to prove yourself on paper. INM will request a lot of paperwork including certificates, college / university degrees, even high school transcripts and anything else them deem necessary.
Once you get a letter verifying a job offer from a registered INM company (Mexican companies have to be approved by the government immigration (INM) to offer jobs to foreigners), you can then apply for a work permit along with your residency — or have the hiring company do it for you.
When searching for a job based on location, places with high rates of tourism are a good start as are corporate headquarters (such as Mexico City). Coastal towns and cities with a lot of tourism have more employment opportunities than say a small fishing village that would be ideal for retirees.
If you need to work at a Mexican job, you’ll likely move to where you can find work instead of the other way around. If you enter the country and take up a job without a work permit, you are working illegally and will be deported if caught and the company, fined. The deportation ban against you lasts for 10 years.
Please note that Permanent Residents of Mexico do not need permission to work, they only need to notify INM of any changes in employment.
Here are a few of the online job agencies that are popular in Mexico:
Should I rent or buy first?
Rent. Always rent first. I’m not a big mover, but I’ve lived in three different places in two cities and ended up hating the initial houses. First was a house in central Cancun that I thought I would love. A year later I couldn’t wait for the contract to end.
Second was a townhouse in a private condo community. Again, it started out well, but as the community grew (I moved in as #12 on a street of 59 houses), it became terrible. A lot of low-income people began to arrive. Neighbor bickering, loose dogs and garbage everywhere combined with bad management made for a hellish four years.
When and if you buy and change your mind, it can take an average of two years to unload your property. At least that’s the market here in Playa del Carmen. If a property is exceptional — good price, furnished, in a desirable neighborhood — you’ll sell quickly, otherwise, don’t get the moving boxes out just yet. A sale could take awhile.
If you rent and want to leave, you can simply walk away by forfeiting your deposit. It’s not a good legal strategy and is not a recommended one, but it has been done by people who have very bad landlords. To do it legally, simply walk away at the end of your contract.
A few common websites where you can look for places to live:
How to choose a neighborhood in Mexico
This is where it’s good to shop around. First of all, a majority of rental properties are listed online, but not all. A lot of the good ones simply have a sign in the window and are left to chance — a passerby or word-of-mouth — which works here and is why they do it.
If you can’t drive around to look for rental signs in windows, then you’ll have to hit up the Internet. You will need some basic Spanish to narrow down your searches by region, town, house or apartment, etc.
A word of advice: like most cities, Mexico is no exception to “you get what you pay for”.
In Cancun I rented a small, slightly dilapidated house in the center of town for several thousand peso a month (under 5,000 a month for rent). It was loud and insecure. The concrete roof leaked. There were drug dealers outside on my street most weekend mornings. The neighborhood had very unstable water and electricity. Loose dogs ran everywhere and there was always garbage flying around the streets.
I rented a brand new townhouse in the suburbs of Playa del Carmen, also for several thousand peso a month (under 5,000 peso a month for rent), and ended up living in a low-class “condo” community that was horribly mismanaged. Cracked streets, continual turnover of security staff, barking backyard dogs galore and green water in the community swimming pool were only some of the daily issues. The worst part was the lack of quality of the homes. Windows leaked when it rained, metals doors became stuck for no apparent reason, second-story windows cracked (but only on one side of the street) and in many (including mine), an entire room of tiles lifted from the floor. While the electricity supply was okay, the area had a very unstable water supply.
A new suburb community also meant no trees in the yards (so no shade), super-skinny streets (bad for parking or for visitors with large vehicles), small yards with zero space between you and your neighbor and no access to public transportation. To get around, residents had to walk to the next community to catch a bus.
I now live in an established neighborhood, again in the suburbs of Playa del Carmen. I picked this community and intentionally waited for the five months it took to get in. I knew of the community when I first arrived here years ago, but could never afford to live in it. When a house became available that met my requirements, I was ready with the cash needed (the same day of viewing) to secure the house to be mine.
Although I pay nearly double the rent, I have a spacious 2-bedroom home on a 250 square meter lot in a secure, private residential community within walking distance to the beach. Our community is professionally managed by a governing board of inside homeowners. My neighbors are educated and hard working. We all respect the strict rules about barking dogs and no maintenance noise before or after certain times. We have regular garbage collection, tight 24/7 security and very few problems with water or electricity.
Our community has its own large treed park with benches, walking paths and playground for kids and teens. It’s well maintained with poo bags for dogs at every corner. Gardeners are on site 6 days a week to tend to the park. Neighbors here, including myself, rarely lock their doors. It’s just not necessary. You can leave personal property — a bicycle, new yard material from Home Depot or a new fridge in the plastic — outside your home and one will touch it.
These things may not be of importance to you, but after experiencing other types of neighbors and neighborhoods, I learned what matters and what doesn’t. I’m much happier living in a community where neighbors watch out for one another rather than watch out for “opportunities”.
I’m not guaranteeing that paying more to live someplace will come without problems. I’m simply pointing out my experiences between renting a budget house (where lower-income people live) compared to a more upper-middle class community. For me, it was an invaluable experience worth every peso.