Top Ten Questions About Moving to Mexico

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    Each winter as the flutter of snowflakes begin dropping along with the temperatures in the USA and Canada, the emails begin arriving. Dozens of times a day, people are asking the same questions. Here are the most popular questions that we field on an almost daily basis.

    1. Is crime as bad in Mexico as the news report state?

    What crime? Most expats seldom see or hear about the crime in Mexico, unless they are watching cable television and happen to tune into one of the news stations from the USA.

    While Mexico makes headlines up north about ongoing problems with drug cartels and other criminal activities, these are isolated areas along the drug route from South America to the USA along the west coast of Mexico. With the ever increasing drug use in the USA, the cartels are fighting among themselves over the transport routes and yes they do get violent with each other. However, the majority of the country is unaffected.

    One could make the comparison with urban centers in any country that find themselves dealing with similar problems of drug use and violence. Mexico has very strict gun laws and very few people own guns. Looking for trouble in Mexico is the proverbial needle in a haystack problem. The people are simply not violent – but warm and welcoming at all times.

    Doing your own due diligence when looking at a particular location can better inform you of any potential problems before making a move.

    2. Are USA citizens welcome in Mexico after Trump became president?

    While this is a new question it is the most asked question since the election. The answer is that Mexicans are not a vindictive people. Yes, they have been boycotting the USA owned stores here in an attempt to put pressure on the businesses to stand up to Trump, but they are just as welcoming as they have always been.

    Don’t forget that President James Polk went to war against Mexico – whom has never declared war on any country before. In an unpopular bid – among American citizens and politicians alike – Polk decided to take 600,000 square miles of territory from Mexico, which includes the modern states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming away from Mexico.

    In 1835, the Polk ordered the invasion of Mexico in an attempt to take the country in a dispute over slavery, which was outlawed in Mexico. In the ensuing battle, 600 Mexicans were killed or wounded trying to defend their country against the armed invasion. This eventually led to the Invasion of Mexico which led to the deaths of 25,000 Mexican soldiers.

    It ended when Polk sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Veracruz and bombarded the city for  – killing almost every man, woman and child there – until the city surrendered 12 days later in rubble. A second army under General Winfield Scott then entered Mexico and marched toward Mexico City killing or taking prisoner everyone they came into contact with.

    Mexico finally agreed to grant Polk the north western half of Mexico to end the war.

    President Ulysses S. Grant, who as a young army lieutenant had served in Mexico under General Taylor, recalled in his Memoirs, published in 1885, that:

    “Generally, the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.”

    Polk was criticized in a United States House of Representatives for “a war unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States.” This criticism followed congressional scrutiny of the war’s beginnings, including factual challenges to claims made by President Polk.

    If the Mexican can get past that unjust war and the ultimate deaths of so many innocent people, they can certainly get over Trump.

    3. What’s the cost of living really like?

    The answer lies in what sort of lifestyle you want to live. Most expats live a very quiet, but busy lifestyle. Some continue to work, or volunteer, while others lead a very active lifestyle of dining in restaurants, going to the movies to see the latest blockbuster movies in English at trendy 4D cinemas (think of seats that move with the action on screen, air and water misting from the seat in front of you when appropriate) or enjoying the many active sports or going to the gym. Others go to the universities to take inexpensive courses to expand their minds, and … well, not much different than other countries, except for less money.

    The average expat own their own home with the costs of home ownership at perhaps 50 to 80-percent less than in the USA or Canada. Those that do buy their own and avoid rent can live quite well on perhaps $490 USD a month, which is currently $10,000 pesos and is equal to the salary of a Mexican college professor. The minimum daily wage in Mexico was just increased to 80 Mexican pesos, or about $4 USD ($1,720 pesos or $84.12 per month).

    If you simply want to rent an 2 bedroom apartment you can add perhaps between $150 to $650 per month. For $650 in Cuernavaca you can expect a property similar to the one in this listing from today…

    “Fully furnished 1076 square foot, 2 bedroom, 2 bath Duplex (2 story) Penthouse apartment with living room, dining room, kitchen (with stove and refrigerator). Both beds are king size. Washer hook up is in the unit. hook-up for dryer is possible. On the top floor of the 2 story apartment is the lovely 500 square foot roof terrace and a kitchen with separate stove, refrigerator, outdoor dining room and a second living room. The landscaped roof terrace has views of all of Cuernavaca and the mountains to the north all of the way to the volcano Popo. Property is safe and well lit at night. Property has very good security 24 hours a day. Included in the rent is the following: the cost of gas, electricity, water (both hot and cold water), wi-fi, cable TV with both English and Spanish channels. All bed linens and towels included. Maid service available at extra cost.”

    4. What’s life like living in Mexico?

    Daily life here in Mexico, just as elsewhere, varies across the country. Just driving across the border, you enter a foreign country with a completely different culture and lifestyle. But, what is it like? You will be greeted with a hearty handshake or warm embrace. You will be spoken to by every person you pass on the street with a smile and Buenos Dias! You will be invited to your neighbors for every event.

    English speaking adults are common in the major tourist locations such as Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, and Rivera Maya. However, in out of the way places you will find that the teenagers speak English almost as well as you do, considering that English has been part of public school education for the past 20 years.

    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. There are Spanish language schools in most mid-sized and larger cities. Cuernavaca has more than 120 Spanish language schools because it has always been the major tourist destination.

    5. What will I have to give up by moving to Mexico?

    Other than ice tea spoons, I can’t think of anything that you could not buy at the local stores. You will find the finest foods, fresh off the truck from up North and from around the world. You can buy Blue Bell or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Indian papadum, and excellent wines from Europe and Chile, as well.

    Shopping at the grocery stores is like going to any major grocery in the USA. And, there are many specialty stores that sell just about anything you can imagine. There is one large grocery store that sells only oriental products. Yes, direct from China and Japan, including the ceramic or plastic Maneki-neko – the Chinese Lucky Cat, which is the traditional calico Japanese Bobtail that beckons to visitors.

    You will find Walmart, Sams, CostCo, Home Depot, Office Depot, Best Buy, Sears, Saks Fifth Avenue, Hugo Boss, Armani, Victoria’s Secret and dozens more doing business in Mexico.

    6. Can I drive my car down to Mexico?

    If you own the car, have an insurance policy and driver’s license in your name the answer is a resounding yes. If you come in on a Visitor Visa (see No. 7 below) you can bring it in on its a tourist visa, which is good for 6 months, and then return to border to renew the visa. If you come in on a Temporary or Permanent Visa you are allowed to bring the car in for the term of your visa and then renew it when you renew you own visa or you may wish to nationalize the vehicle to make it permanent.

    7. Will I be able to work in Mexico?

    Yes, if you come in on a FM2 Work Permit. See No. 7 below)

    8. Is getting a Mexican visa 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.

    Non-Immigrant Visas

    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 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.

    Resident Visas

    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.

    9. Can I 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”, which 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.

    10. Is Mexico the Place for Me?

    Who knows? Many people come here to retire and die, then forget the dying part. Many expats live into their 90’s here, but only if you take care of yourself. There are many who move here when in their thirties or forties and never want to go home. They get jobs teaching English or another language. They open their own businesses and live a vey comfortable and happy life.

    Perhaps the best way to find the answer to that question is to spend some time in various parts of the country. You will quickly learn what living in Mexico is like in different parts of the county and find yourself falling in love with the country, its culture and warm friendly people. There’s no better time than now to begin the journey into your future.

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    G. William Hood is a writer, fine arts painter, educator and world traveler. He lives in Cuernavaca with his pet cockatiel, Pepe.