Moving to Mexico: The Complete Expat’s Guide for 2022

If you’ve dreamed of moving to Mexico, you’re not alone.

In fact, there are an estimated 1.5 million Americans 1 residing in Mexico at the time of this writing. And Canadians aren’t far behind. A survey conducted among readers of a publication called Expats in Mexico found that 54% of their Canadian and American respondents 2 were seriously considering a move there in the next few years.

Plus, over the last two decades, more Mexicans have moved back to Mexico (from the U.S. and Canada) than to the United States. Approximately 1 million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans 3 born in the U.S. relocated from 2009–2014, and this trend has continued.

If you’re among those contemplating relocating to Mexico, this guide will introduce you to the immigration process and what you can expect from life in Mexico.

Moving to Mexico

A brief overview of Mexico

Mexico borders the U.S. to the north, the Gulf of Mexico to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Guatemala and Belize to the south. It also has maritime borders with Honduras and Cuba. The country is known for its ancient ruins, diverse cuisine, vibrant cities, artist enclaves, and incredible landscapes from mountain ranges to sandy beaches.

  • Size: 758,450 sq. mi. (1,964,375 sq km)
  • Capital: Mexico City
  • Major cities: Tijuana, Ecatepec, Leon, Puebla, Ciudad Juarez
  • Population: roughly 128 million people
  • Foreign-born population: roughly 0.4% of total
  • Official language: Spanish
  • Demographics: 62% Mestizo, 28% Amerindian, 10% European

Can a U.S. or Canadian citizen move to Mexico?

Canadian and U.S. citizens can move to Mexico if they meet the requirements for a visa and go through the proper channels.

What are the requirements to move to Mexico?

Citizens of Canada and the U.S. do not need a tourist visa to enter Mexico. To enter, you will only need a valid passport issued by your home country. Most people who are moving to Mexico will need a temporary resident visa, which is good for stays between 180 days to 4 years.

To qualify for a temporary resident visa, one of the following must apply to you:

  • You are financially independent: If you have regular income from investment or a pension, you may be able to move to Mexico as a “rentista.” You’ll need to show proof that you have an average monthly balance of $2,460 in a banking account for 6 months, and a letter from the deposit provider that says you will continue to receive the money. This requirement is waived if you can show that you have an investment account with an average monthly balance of $41,000 or more for 12 months before visa application.
  • You work in STEM: If you’re a scientist or engineer, you may qualify to move to Mexico. You will likely need to show proof of your credentials, such as a copy of your college degree, and have a letter from your employer printed on official letterhead.
  • You own real estate in Mexico: If you own property in Mexico worth more than $267,000, you may qualify to move to the country. You will need to show the original stamped and signed deed.
  • You are an immediate family member of a Mexican citizen, temporary resident, or permanent resident: If you are the spouse, child, or parent of someone who has residency or citizenship, you must show proof of the relationship, such as a birth or marriage certificate.

In addition, you will have to obtain a “Forma Migratoria Múltiple” (FMM). You can get one at a port of entry or apply for one online. Within 30 days of entering the country, you must go to a Mexican immigration office with your passport, visa, and FMM to get a residence card.

How do you get a visa to move to Mexico?

To get a visa to move to Mexico, schedule an appointment at the closest Mexican embassy or consulate in your home country.

You will need to bring:

  • completed application form
  • passport
  • supporting information to prove your eligibility to enter, such as a bank statement, letter of employment, or marriage certificate
  • photograph measuring 3.9 cm by 3.1 cm

You will pay a fee of $48 for the service.

Does Mexico offer digital nomad visas?

Digital nomad visas allow you to move to another country and continue to work for your employer remotely. Mexico does not have a special digital nomad visa. However, people who can show proof of continuing employment outside of the U.S., such as a contract or letter from an employer, may be able to qualify for a temporary residence visa. Contact your nearest Mexican embassy or consulate for more information.

Can you live in Mexico permanently?

Unless you are married to a close relative of a Mexican citizen, you will need to hold a temporary residence visa for four years before you can apply for a permanent resident visa.

Your initial temporary residence visa will usually be good for one year. You must renew it within 30 days of its renewal, and you can choose a renewal term of 1, 2, or 3 years. Requests for permanent resident visas must be made in person at your local Mexican immigration office.

How much money do you need to move to Mexico?

The cost of flying or driving to Mexico depends on where your trip begins. If you’re planning to fly, try to avoid the peak tourist season from June–August, and December–January to get the best deals on airfare. If you’re driving, factor in the cost of gasoline, food, and overnight accommodations during your trip. Plan for fees at the various borders.

International moving companies charge for the cost of shipping by container, which includes inspection and customs’ fees. As a result, the cost can run into thousands of dollars.

Expat forums like ExpatExchange will have up-to-date information from others about the cost of moving, as well as recommendations. In general, the amount you’ll pay will depend on the distance you travel and the total weight and size of what needs to be moved.

Once you arrive in the country, factor in the cost of initial accommodation in a hotel or hostel as you search for a residence.

How much monthly income do you need in Mexico?

Where you choose to live in Mexico will determine how much money you need every month. At the time of this writing, the average monthly expenses for a family of four in Mexico City are around $1,970 plus around $1,420 per month to rent a three-bedroom apartment in the city center. For single people, monthly expenses average $540 per month plus monthly average rent of $750 for a one-bedroom apartment.

The cost to live in Puerto Vallarta, a popular city for American and Canadian expats, is slightly lower. The average monthly expenses for a family of four are around $1,855 for a family of four and $520 for a single person. Average rents are around $700 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,175 for a three-bedroom.

What type of government does Mexico have?

Mexico is a federal republic, a group of states unified under a federal government with officials at the state and federal-level elected by citizens. The Mexican head of state is the president, who is elected for a six-year term by a plurality vote. They have the power to veto laws, negotiate treaties, command the military, and select justices to serve lifetime appointments on the country’s supreme court.

The legislative branch of Mexico consists of a two-house parliament. The upper house, called the Congress of the Senate, comprises 96 members elected by a plurality vote and 32 members elected through a representation system. In the lower house, called the Chamber of Deputies, there are 300 officials elected by a plurality vote and 200 elected through a representation system. Members of both houses serve three-year terms.

Is there a U.S. embassy in Mexico?

Mexico has good diplomatic relationships with the U.S. and Canada. Both countries have embassies in Mexico City and consulates in Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Tijuana.

The U.S. also has consulate offices in Ciudad Juarez, Hermosillo, Matamoros, Merida, Nogales, and Nuevo Laredo. Additional Canadian consulates are found in Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Mazatlan, Playa Del Carmen, and Puerto Vallarta.

Is Mexico a good place for North American expats?

U.S. News and World Report ranked Mexico 33rd out of 78 on its list of the best countries to live in. A North American expat can enjoy a low cost of living, plenty of recreational opportunities, and some strong social services in the country. Downsides to life in Mexico include high rates of poverty, job scarcity, and high crime rates in some areas. English is also not widely spoken outside of areas frequented by tourists like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cabo San Lucas.

How safe is it to live in Mexico?

Safety varies from state to state. The U.S. state department reports that Campeche and Yucatan are generally safe and require no precautions beyond ordinary safety measures like locking your doors, securing valuable items, and avoiding dark, isolated places at night.

Mexico City and Nuevo Leon are identified as areas where there is a slightly elevated risk of violent crime and kidnapping.

Check with locals, read up on life in the area you’re moving to, and take sensible precautions.

What is the cost of living like in Mexico?

Overall, the cost of living in Mexico is significantly lower than in the U.S. and Canada. It costs 61% less to live in Mexico City than New York City, and rents are about 81% lower. Consumer prices are about 50% lower in Mexico City compared to Vancouver, and rent is around 64% less.

What is the education system like in Mexico?

U.S. News and World Report ranks Mexico as the 37th best country for education out of 78 countries. Children in Mexico begin to receive free, compulsory education at the age of six with primary school lasting for six years. Then, students can choose between technical and general, three-year, lower secondary public schools.

Finally, students proceed to a three-year upper secondary school. Although Mexico has a literacy rate of 91%, the quality of education at public schools varies. Some people in the North American expat community choose to send their children to private international schools, which provide instruction in English and teach Spanish as a second language. The International Schools Database has a search tool for finding international schools in Mexico.

For post-secondary education, residents of Mexico have many options. The country is home to 713 public postsecondary schools and 1,179 private postsecondary institutions.

Some of the top colleges and universities in the country include:

What is the healthcare system like in Mexico?

CEOWorld Magazine Health Care Index ranks Mexico’s healthcare system as the 29th best in the world, putting it behind Canada at 23rd and above the U.S. at 30th.

Mexico’s healthcare system is divided into three sectors:

  • Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS): Provides health insurance for private-sector employees and their families, covering about 57 million people.
  • Private insurance: Healthcare that Mexican residents pay for out-of-pocket or through deductions made from payroll by their employers.
  • Social programs: Low-income individuals and those who belong to certain ethnic groups may receive free or low-cost care through a variety of programs.

Although many Mexicans have health insurance, policies often do not pay for everything. Mexicans pay for about 45% of their healthcare costs out-of-pocket on average.

Mexican expats who aren’t covered by employer health insurance may voluntarily register for IMSS at a Mexican immigration office. You’ll need to pay for the cost of coverage out-of-pocket. The IMSS website has information about rates.

Moving to Mexico

What is the climate/weather like in Mexico?

About 56% of Mexico is arid or semi-arid with little rainfall throughout much of the year. Another 37% is subhumid with more rain, and 7% of the country has a humid, wetter climate.

In Mexico City, average temperatures range from 43–80°F (6–27° C) due to elevation. The weather is much hotter in many other parts of the country.

What is the quality of life in Mexico?

The quality of life in Mexico varies dramatically from region to region. There are high rates of crime and poverty in many cities and states. Overall, Mexico ranked 46th on the 2022 World Happiness Report, putting it behind Canada and the U.S., which ranked 15th and 16th, respectively.

Can I get a driver’s license in Mexico?

Many Mexican cities offer public transportation. In Mexico City, you can easily find taxis in most neighborhoods, and both the public bus and metro system are affordable transportation options. Buses can also take you from city to city in many parts of the country.

However, many expats prefer to drive in Mexico so that they have the freedom to travel. If you have a valid U.S. or Canadian driver’s license, you can usually legally drive for up to 180 days in Mexico. If you apply for a Mexican driver’s license before that time, you normally won’t have to take a test to exchange your license for a Mexican license.

Laws vary from state to state. You will need to contact the Secretaría de Transporte et Viadidad or Dirección General de Seguridad Pública y Vialidad for your state to find out when and how to exchange your license.

Is it easy for Americans and Canadians to find a job in Mexico?

In 2021, the unemployment rate in Mexico was 4.4%, meaning jobs are not scarce in the country. However, depending on your visa, you may not be able to legally work in Mexico. Also, your employment options are likely to be limited if you don’t speak Spanish.

What are some things to do in Mexico? Exploring your new home

As you would expect with a country that boasts around 5,797 mi (9,330 km) of coastline, Mexico has many beaches.

Some of the most popular beach destinations in the country include:

  • Cancun
  • Cozumel
  • La Paz
  • Manzanillo
  • Playa del Carmen
  • Playa Zicatela
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Punta Mita
  • Sayulita
  • Tulum
  • Zihuatanejo

Enjoying the sand and surf is just one option. Other top tourist attractions in the country include:

Mexican culture: what to know

Some notable customs and traditions of Mexico that you should know before you travel include:

  • Holidays: Christmas and Three Kings Day are two important holidays celebrated every year in Mexico. Other key religious holidays include:
    • Candelaria
    • the Day of the Dead
    • Holy Week
    • the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe

The country also has national civic holidays like Constitution Day, Benito Juárez’s birthday, Labor Day, Independence Day, and Mexican Revolution Day.

  • Quinceañera: Parents and families throw large celebrations called quinceañeras to celebrate girls’ 15th birthdays. The parties usually include dancing, food, and drinks, and the guest of honor dresses in a formal gown complete with a tiara.
  • Public affection: Even casual reunions of friends and family on the street in Mexico typically include handshakes, hugs, and kisses, both when you greet each other and part ways. Mexicans also don’t shy away from public romantic displays of affection, so don’t be surprised if you see two people sharing a passionate kiss.
  • Flexible timing: Appointment and meeting times are often considered approximate in Mexico. If you make plans with someone, don’t be surprised if they arrive 30 minutes to an hour after the time you agreed upon.

What are the best places to live in Mexico?

Just as Mexicans have different preferences when it comes to where to move to in the U.S., the best places to live in Mexico are largely a matter of personal opinion. Your age, marital status, whether you have children, your employment and income, and your tastes and hobbies are all important considerations as you compare options.

For retirees

U.S. News and World Report lists Puerto Vallarta as the top place to retire in Mexico. The country’s beaches and pleasant weather give you plenty of options for outdoor recreation, and there are also many golf courses in the area.

Because the city is a hot spot for expats, you’ll find many people who speak English. There are many good hospitals and clinics with English-speaking doctors in the area, as well.

For families

For families looking for access to top international schools and plenty of cultural enrichment opportunities, Mexico City is a top place to live. Safe, popular neighborhoods for expats with families in the city include:

  • Coyoacan
  • Roma
  • Condesa
  • Polanco

These areas tend to have many restaurants and service businesses, and you’re likely to find other English-speaking expats among your neighbors.

Lake Chapala is another top destination for Canadians and Americans. Boasting the largest concentration of U.S. expats in the world, the city is home to many English speakers. The elevation of the city is similar to Denver, so temperatures are comfortable all year. There are many opportunities for recreation along Mexico’s largest lake, and there are theatrical performances, concerts, and other events held year-round.

For young singles

Mexico City can also be an ideal place for young singles to call home. Zona Rosa is one of the top neighborhoods for younger expats because it is home to many bars, clubs, and restaurants. The area also has a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. Rent and cost of living tend to be less expensive in Zona Rosa, but crime rates are a little higher, so use caution when you’re out late at night.

Guadalajara is another top choice for young singles relocating to Mexico. Although the cost of living is lower than in Mexico City, the city offers plenty to do in the form of cultural activities and nightlife. The city is also home to the University of Guadalajara, which awards graduate-level degrees and certificates to those looking to gain more education.

How to find a place to live in Mexico

To get access to rentals in highly desirable areas, consider enlisting the help of a real estate agent in Mexico. If you prefer to search for apartments and houses to rent on your own, Realtor.com International is a good starting point. Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, and other expatriate forums can be a rich source of information for finding housing.

How to set up a bank account in Mexico

In order to make purchases and receive payments from a pension, employer, or family that wishes to send money to you in Mexico, you’ll need to have a Mexican bank account. While you can get cash from an ATM with your home country debit card, you’ll need the convenience of local banking for your permanent residency. The peso is the national currency of Mexico. You’ll need to transfer your American money into pesos to purchase items in the country as most places won’t accept U.S. dollars.

The Corporate Finance Institute names the following financial institutions as the best banks in Mexico:

Remitly is a trusted app for transferring money between accounts in your home country and your Mexican bank. With international money transfers, your U.S. dollars will automatically turn into pesos that you can use electronically or withdraw from an ATM.

About Remitly

Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Since 2011, over 5 million people have used our secure mobile app to send money with peace of mind.

Visit the homepage, download our app, or check out our Help Center to get started.

1 Blaser, Janet. (2022, July 2). These Americans all left the U.S. for Mexico—here’s how they found their ‘perfect location’ and made it happen. CNBC Life. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/07/02/these-americans-all-left-the-us-for-mexico-how-they-found-their-perfect-location-and-made-it-happen.html
2 (2021, March 30). Survey finds greater interest in moving to Mexico among US, Canadian citizens. Mexico News Daily. https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/survey-finds-greater-interest-in-moving-to-mexico-among-us-canadian-citizens/
3 Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana. (2015, November 19). More Mexicans Leaving Than Coming to the U.S. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2015/11/19/more-mexicans-leaving-than-coming-to-the-u-s/