Why and How to Retire in Mexico

According to the USA Social Security Office, more than 75-million retired US citizens live outside of the United States. The reason is simple for most, as they cannot live well in the USA on the pension that they receive from Social Security once they retire. The average Social Security check is only $1,300 a month and that does not go far for retirees who live in the USA.

Many USA retires choose to move to Mexico after they retire, which provides greater opportunities for living. In fact, you can cut your cost of living at least half after moving from the US to Mexico, and much more if you’re living in New York or California, with the prevalent high cost of living and high property tax in those and other states.

Beginning in 2014, the Mexican peso has depreciated by over 50% versus the US dollar, making those spending US dollars in Mexico better off. The exchange rate has moved from $9.75 pesos to $20.23 as of the date of this article.

My delicious breakfast this morning in a trendy restaurant in Cuernavaca cost $2.96 USD for a fruit plate, freshly baked rolls, scrambled eggs with chorizo, refried beans, coffee, and juice. The cost of my new 3-bedroom, two-story, home here was approximately 25% of a similar home in Austin, Texas. And, while the taxes on a similar home in Austin, would be $7,760 USD, I pay only $200 USD ($16.66 per month) in property taxes. My monthly utility bills including electricity, gas, water, telephone and Internet amount to an average of $38.63. I have a housekeeper and gardener to tend to my house at a cost of $60 a month for both. That is a total of $115.29 per month. How does that compare with your costs in the USA?

Yes, you can sell your home in the USA and buy 4 similar homes in Cuernavaca and then rent three of them as Airbnb rentals and earn a substantial income in addition to your pension. And, you will enjoy living like a king or queen.

Living in Mexico has a similar feel to the USA. You see far more new cars and full-sized SUVs being driven around town. Within walking distance of my home are Costco, Starbucks, Gold’s Gym, a 7-11 convenience store, Chili’s Restaurant, several great Italian restaurants, MacDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Office Depot, and just a short distance further are Home Depot, PF Chang, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Walmart, IHOP Restaurant and many more USA businesses. And, most have lower prices than in the USA.

For most retirees from the USA, there’s more than Mexico’s combination of familiarity, inexpensive living, and proximity to the USA. We also have perfect weather. We do not require air-conditioning or central heat in our homes due to the mild temperature which is a median 72F year-round, and further reduces the cost of living without the expensive repairs and fuel costs.

Yes, Mexico has the same problems as the USA – crime, gangs, drugs, and corruption. However, in spite of what you read from the USA government who wants – US citizens to spend their pension and vacation dollars in the USA versus Mexico – it is actually safer in most of Mexico than in the USA. The story is more complex than what you read in the news, which if you have not yet noticed is based on producing more articles of fear rather than the good aspects of any situation.

While the U.S.A. government often portrays Mexico as the most dangerous place on earth in their travel advisories, it is statistically quite safe. According to NationMaster.com which uses U.N.-based data, Mexico doesn’t even make the list of the 36 nations with the highest murder rates. Mild-mannered nations like Sweden and Switzerland top Mexico for murders.  In truth, the assault rate in the U.S. is nearly 5 times greater than that of Mexico in the independent Prominix report adjusted for the under-reported crime. That’s right, you are 5 times more likely to be assaulted on the streets of Austin, Texas (The Live Music Capitol of The World) than in Cuernavaca, Mexico, a city of comparable size!

Related: The Truth About Mexican Violence

You may be surprised to learn that the number of tourists in Mexico exceeds that of the USA. Each day, some 150,000 US citizens cross the border into Mexico. And, you may find it equally surprising that more people apply for residency in Mexico than they do for the USA. You have to ask, what do all those tourists and new residents know that others don’t know?

How to Get a Permanent Residence Visa for Mexico

Gaining permanent residency in Mexico is a great asset. As a permanent resident, you can come and go without any restrictions. You don’t need to apply for additional permissions to invest and work in Mexico. Also, your permanent residency card does not expire, and there is no need to renew it. Once you have it, it’s yours to keep. Your permanent residency is indeed permanent, unlike in many other places countries, where you are required to visit the country occasionally to maintain your residency.

The process of retiring to another country with a lower cost of living and offering a better lifestyle than the USA is usually a 3-step process of:

  • Temporary Residency
  • Permanent Residency
  • Citizenship

Mexico offers a fast-track to permanent residency, where you can skip the first step entirely and go straight to permanent residency if you are officially retired and can demonstrate your creditworthiness. Gaining permanent residency is also easy.

There are actually two ways to go straight to becoming a permanent resident in Mexico, either as a Retiree or Pensioner, or having a Family Unity with a Mexican National. As this article is about retirement in Mexico, we will not be covering Family Unity clause here other than to state that if you are currently single and want to get married to a Mexican National or if you are currently married to a Permanent Resident of Mexico, family unity offers a much lower financial responsibility level and overall cost.

Retiree or Pensioner

If you are officially retired, and receiving Social Security or a company pension, you only need to prove your income meets the immigration requirements for retirees and pensioners. The Mexican government wants an assurance that you will not become a burden on the government. This can be done in one of two ways:

  1. Original and a photocopy of proof of 6-months of individual bank statements showing a tax-free monthly income from pensions in an amount greater than $2,182.25 USD during each of the months (500 X daily minimum wage of $88.36 MXN = $44,180 MXN = $2,182.25 USD) or,
  2. Original and a photocopy of 12 months of investment receipts or individual bank account statements showing an average monthly balance equivalent to $87,287.15 USD for each of 12 months (20,0000 X daily minimum wage of $88.36 MXN = $1,767,200 MXN = $87,287.15 USD).

Note: These financials are based on the current exchange rate of $20.23 MXN to $1 USD.

Requirements

  1. Visa application form properly completed and signed.
  2. Passport or valid travel and identity document, original and a photocopy of the page containing the photograph and personal data.
  3. Two photographs measuring 3.9 cm x 3.1 cm, face uncovered, no eyeglasses, frontal view, in color and with white background.
  4. Payment of fees in cash for the issuance of the visa.

NOTE: Your current passport must have a validity that extends past the duration of the visa you are applying for by at least 3 months. In this instance, your passport should be valid for an additional nine months.

Step 1

Go to the nearest Mexican Consulate with all of your financial documents and required paperwork, including your photos and cash to pay for your fees. There you will present these to the consulate who will determine that you meet the requirements. If you do, he will issue you a visa to enter Mexico to begin your residency process. You will be required to pay for the visa in cash, leave your passport with the consulate and then return within 1 to 10 days to pick up the Visa, which will be attached to a page within your passport. The visa will be valid for 6 months, and before it expires you have to go to the city in which you would be living to begin the process changing your visa to a permanent resident visa at the local Immigration Office.

NOTE: The visa is only valid for one entry into Mexico and that must be made within the 6-month time period. The process begins after you enter Mexico and you have 30 days to report to the Immigration Office there. The process will take up to 10 weeks, during which time you cannot leave Mexico.

Within 30 days of entering Mexico, you should report to the local Immigration Office (IMN) in the city in which you will be living where you will submit the following documents:

An Immigration Form, which can be obtained online from the Immigration office website https://www.inm.gob.mx/tramites/publico/estancia.html. The form should be completed beforehand, and you will be asked to sign this form at the office.

  1. A letter requesting the exchange of the Visa in your passport to a Permanent Resident Card.
  2. Your current passport and a copy.
  3. Your FMM form, that has the canje box checked and issued for 30 days that you recieved at your port of entry.
  4. Your payment in Mexican pesos (cash) for the immigration fee, which is currently $4,828 MXN ($238.66 USD currently)

NOTE: The Immigration Office does not accept cash. You will receive a form, which you will need to take to a bank to make the payment and then bring back the receipt to the Immigration office to show that you made the payment.

The Immigration office will then provide you with a basic form, which will need to be completed. It will help if you have someone who speaks Spanish accompany you and will assist you in filling out the form.

You will be issued two series of numbers and a password, that will allow you to check on the status of your application online at https://www.inm.gob.mx/tramites/publico/seguimiento-tramite.html. Within 15 working days, you should see a note at the website to inform you that your migration has been approved and the exchange is ready to be issued.

NOTE: Immigration authorities may decide to refuse the request to enter the country if the applicant is subject to criminal process, or has been convicted of a serious crime as defined by national laws on criminal matters or provisions in international treaties or conventions that the Mexican State is party to, or if the applicant’s background in Mexico or abroad could compromise national or public security, in accordance with Article 43 of the Migration Law.

While you are waiting for the exchange to be made, you need to go to a photography studio that specializes in preparing photos for passports. You will need to have three color photos made that meet the following requirements:

  • Two photos must be taken from the front
  • One photo must be taken from the right side profile
  • The photos must be infant size, which is 2.5 cm wide x 3 cm high
  • The photos must have a white background
  • The photos must be of you without glasses
  • You may not be wearing earrings in the photo
  • Your hair must be positioned behind your ears
  • You cannot be wearing a head cover of any sort in the photos

NOTE: Do not attempt to save a few dollars by taking your own photos and having them printed out, as they will not be accepted.

When you receive the message that your exchange is ready to be issued, you must return to the IMN office to request an appointment, although it is possible that they will make the appointment on the same day, you may have to wait several days to return for your appointment depending on their workload.

At the appointment, you will be asked to sign a few documents and have your fingerprints taken.

You will be told when to return to the IMN Office to pick up your Permanent Resident Card. This may take up to a week, again depending on the workload.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

You should take a photo of your Permanent Resident Card with your cell phone and store it on your computer, preferably in the cloud, for safekeeping. You will find this to be handy should you lose your Permanent Resident Card. Keep the photo on your phone, as it will be accepted by most officials.

Do not make a color copy of your Permanent Resident Card as it may be considered as an attempt to defraud the government.

You do not have to carry your Permanent Resident Card with you when you close to your home, but you will need to carry it when traveling, especially when outside of Mexico. If you accidentally leave the country without your Permanent Resident Card, do not attempt to return to Mexico without it. If you enter Mexico and are issued an FMM Tourist Card, you will be re-classified as a tourist and as such will have to begin a new Permanent Resident process again.

Reference – The immigration information is from https://www.gob.mx

About G. William Hood

G. William Hood is a writer, fine arts painter, educator and world traveler. He lives in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
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