Moving to Mexico – A Guide for Immigrants, Expats & Digital Nomads

Moving to Mexico – A Guide for Immigrants, Expats & Digital Nomads

January 25, 2024 12 min read

Two people hugging in Mexico

Thanks to its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, world-famous cuisine, and rich cultural heritage, it’s no wonder that Mexico has increasingly become a destination for expats from around the world.

Whether you’re planning to work in Mexico as a digital nomad or considering it as your next long-term destination, one thing rings true: moving to another country is no small feat. Even if you’ve done it before, there are still so many factors to consider — so let us help. This guide covers the basics of moving to Mexico so you can start making your dream a reality. 

Things to do before moving to Mexico

Before you start booking plane tickets, review this checklist for moving to Mexico.

Get the right visa

Once you have a valid passport, make sure you get the right visa.

Visitor visa

People coming to Mexico for non-monetary purposes — like volunteering, tourism, meetings, or studying — can enter on a visitor visa. It lasts for up to 180 days, although the exact period depends on the immigration officer’s decision. 

However, only people from certain countries need a visitor visa. Here’s a complete list (in Spanish) of the nationalities that do require a visa. Note that there are some exceptions to that rule. 

Travelers of any nationality do not need a Mexican visitor visa if they have a valid visa from:

  • Japan
  • Canada
  • The United States of America
  • The United Kingdom
  • Any country in the Schengen Area

Travelers of any nationality do not need a Mexican visitor visa if they have a valid permanent resident card from:

  • Japan
  • Canada
  • The United States of America
  • The United Kingdom
  • Any country in the Schengen Area
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Peru

You can also look for your country of origin on the list of nationalities (in English) that do not require a Mexican visitor visa. 

Regardless of whether you enter Mexico with a visitor visa, the immigration officer may ask you for additional documents like an itinerary or a return ticket. As a digital nomad, you might not know exactly how long you’re staying or have a flight home. However, some airlines won’t even let you board without that return ticket to ensure you avoid any immigration problems. 

An easy workaround (without committing to residency) is to buy a return ticket from an airline that offers free cancellations and then cancel your flight once you’ve entered the country. If you do this and plan on an extended stay, just make sure to apply for temporary residency once in the country so you can continue your stay legally. You can’t renew the visitor visa without physically leaving Mexico, so residency is the only way to stay longer than 180 days — or however long the immigration officer gives you. 

Temporary resident visa

Temporary resident visas are relatively easy to get and are valid for up to four years. You can apply for one at the Mexican consulate located in your home country or, if you’re already in Mexico, at the National Migration Insitute (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM).

There are several different types of temporary residency visas based on the purpose of the visit. Each lasts 1-4 years and has its own application requirements (make sure to check the Mexican consulate website of your country for specific costs and requirements).

Depending on your country of origin, you can also secure a temporary visa for other activities like scientific research. Note that you can only legally work in Mexico with a work permit. This specifically applies to paid positions specifically for a Mexican company or person, so digital nomads working for foreign companies can still continue their jobs regardless of their visa type.

Permanent resident visa

You can renew a temporary resident visa, but not indefinitely. If you would like to stay for several years, consider switching to a permanent resident visa, which never expires. Some applicants (retirees and those with Mexican dependents) can even skip the temporary resident visa and apply directly for permanent residency. 

Mexico processes permanent resident visas for pensioners/retirees or through family unity. You may be able to apply for a permanent resident visa as a ‘retiree’ if you meet the financial requirements. Again, make sure to check the Mexican consulate website for financial requirements in your local currency.

Consider learning some Spanish

You can live in Mexico without any knowledge of Spanish, considering there are many tourist areas and people often travel to Mexico to learn the language. However, having some Spanish fluency can be invaluable if you wish to fully immerse yourself in the country and its culture.

Make sure you’re financially prepared to move to Mexico

Moving from one country to another is a big step and isn’t necessarily cheap since you need to pay for a hotel room and food from restaurants until you find a place to rent and settle in.

Here are some costs to consider budgeting for:

  • Travel to Mexico
  • Travel for pets (make sure to check the Mexican consulate website for your country to find the requirements)
  • Visa and passport (also consider any financial requirements for residency visas)
  • Shipping or storage
  • Customs duty
  • Hotel/apartment/house
  • Food
  • Transportation in Mexico

Mexico’s cost of living is fairly low, ranked 75 worldwide. However, your monthly costs depend on your lifestyle. A single person can live in Mexico comfortably with a monthly budget of about USD 653, while a family of four typically needs USD 2,360.

Keep in mind, though, that some of the resident visas have income requirements. Even if you spend less, you might still need to prove a high monthly income or certain assets.

It’s also a good idea to have some extra money tucked away in an emergency fund. A good rule of thumb is to save at least three months’ worth of living expenses before making an international move (more is even better). 

In case of an emergency, a service like Ria can allow your friends and family back home to provide you with financial assistance to send money to Mexico.

The first things to do once in Mexico

Once you arrive in Mexico and enjoy your first margarita, it’s time to get down to business. 

How to find a place to stay in Mexico

Foreign nationals are welcome to purchase property in Mexico. However, renting a home for a while could be a good idea. This way, you have the flexibility to try different housing types and neighborhoods before making a long-term commitment. 

There are plenty of rental properties available throughout Mexico. Expats can use sites such as VivanunciosMercado Libre, and Homie to find suitable rental properties — or enlist the aid of a real estate agent. 

Another way to find a place to rent is by visiting your favorite neighborhoods in Mexico and looking for signs that say “se renta” — “for rent.”

How to set up your finances in Mexico

In Mexico, many banks allow foreign nationals to open a bank account. They usually require a Mexican ID card to confirm your identity, but some banks accept a valid visa. Other typical requirements include proof of address (like an electric bill) and a valid Mexican visa. You may also need proof of income if you’re trying to open a credit line.

To fund your account, you’ll need to deposit or transfer your money. Services like Ria make it easy and quick to perform a Mexico money transfer. Learn more about Ria’s services. 

How to find a job in Mexico

Mexico does not allow visitor or temporary resident visa holders to work for a Mexican company or individual. If you want to work in Mexico, you need to apply for a working permit with temporary residency and present an official job offer. Temporary residents can apply for a work permit in Mexico. However, if you only have a visitor visa, you must leave the country before applying for temporary residency with a working permit. 

These working restrictions do not apply to digital nomads working for foreign companies.

How to connect with other expats, Immigrants, and remote workers in Mexico

If you’re feeling homesick, there are many ways to meet other expats, immigrants, and digital nomads in Mexico. Many social media groups and online forums are set up specifically for this purpose. In addition, organizations such as the American Benevolent Society and InterNations Mexico City organize events to help people connect. 

In addition, expats generally tend to find each other through word of mouth. Don’t feel shy about asking where other expats from your home country tend to get together.

How does healthcare work in Mexico?

The 2023 CEOWORLD Health Care Index gave Mexico a score of 49.6, ranking it 57th globally. Many doctors in large cities even speak English because of the large expat population. 

Digital nomads traveling to Mexico for up to six months should consider purchasing a private insurance plan to cover emergency medical costs.

Temporary or permanent residents can qualify for coverage through Mexico’s national healthcare system. If you work for a Mexican employer, they will enroll you, and your contribution to the system will be automatically deducted from your paycheck. Retired and self-employed residents must apply for coverage independently and pay a small regular fee.

What are the best cities for expats and digital nomads in Mexico?

The answer depends on what type of environment you enjoy. Here are some popular destinations:

  • Puerta Vallarta: Located on the Pacific Coast, this area boasts world-class dining and shopping, award-winning golf courses, plus easy access to outdoor adventure. 
  • San Miguel de Allende: This desert area is a favorite for expats who love the town’s picturesque views, vibrant arts scene, and dry climate.
  • Lake Chapala: This area is home to Mexico’s largest lake and offers many outdoor adventures. 
  • Mérida: Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mérida has a rich cultural heritage and pristine beaches.
  • Mexico City: As the country’s capital, Mexico City is the most populous city and offers many historical landmarks.

Frequently asked questions about living in Mexico

What’s the cost of living in Mexico like? 

The cost of living ranks 75th globally, meaning it’s considered an affordable place to live. Individuals can usually live comfortably with a monthly budget of under USD 700

What will I need in order to move to Mexico?

To move to Mexico, you will need a valid passport and a temporary resident visa (if you’re planning to stay longer than 180 days). Review the different types of visas and requirements, and make sure you save some money before the move.

What are taxes like in Mexico?

Any ‘tax resident’ in Mexico must pay taxes. These include people who stay over 183 days in Mexico or have economic ties to the country. Mexican residents must also pay income taxes based on their worldwide earnings, with rates ranging from 1.92-35%. There are also local tax requirements for expats; rates usually fall between 1% and 3%. Finally, Mexico also charges a value-added tax (VAT) on most goods and services. The standard VAT rate is 16%.

Keep in mind that you may still be required to file a tax return to your home country, so check the requirements. 

What’s the currency in Mexico?

Mexico’s currency is the Mexican peso. 

How long can I stay in Mexico without becoming a citizen?

If you become a permanent resident, you can stay in Mexico indefinitely without becoming a citizen. There are no renewal requirements for permanent residency visas, and they allow you to travel in and out of Mexico at will.

What will I need to become a Mexican citizen? 

There are several ways to become a Mexican citizen, such as through residency or marriage. Explore the different types of naturalization pathways and their requirements here. In general, though, you’ll need the following:

  • Completed citizenship application form
  • Original residence care and two copies
  • Original birth certificate and an apostilled copy translated into Spanish
  • Original passport and two copies of every page
  • Letter signed under oath detailing all of the exits from and entries to Mexico in the last two years
  • Criminal record clearance certificate

It’s possible that you may be asked to provide other documents, depending on the circumstances.

Does Mexico offer digital nomad visas?

No, Mexico does not offer digital nomad visas. However, you can stay for up to 180 days on a visitor visa — or without one if your country is exempt or you meet the exemption requirements. 

How much does it cost to move to Mexico?

The cost of moving to Mexico depends on many factors, such as where you’re traveling from and what (or who) you’re bringing. You also need to factor in the cost of accommodations while you look for a more permanent location. Try to have at least a few thousand USD set aside, if not more. 

Is Mexico a good choice for European expats?

Yes, Mexico is a popular destination for European expats. You’ll find large communities of European nationals in major cities such as Mexico City, as well as in towns such as Merida and San Miguel de Allende.

Is Mexico a good choice for U.S. expats?

Mexico is a top international destination for expats from the U.S. You’ll find Americans living in practically all corners of the country, including Puerta Vallarta and San Miguel de Allende. Playa del Carmen, Mexico City, and Mazatlan are especially popular.

Is Mexico a good choice for Asian expats?

Mexico has long been a popular choice for Asian immigrants. Visitors from China, specifically, are expected to increase in the coming years. 

Is Mexico safe?

The World Population Review states that Mexico’s crime rate is 54.19 (per 100,000), ranking it 38th worldwide. While higher than many European countries, Australia, and the United States, this crime rate is fairly low for Latin America. Typical safety precautions — such as being aware of your surroundings and keeping tabs on your valuables — are recommended.

Can I move to Mexico without knowing Spanish? 

It’s not necessary to know Spanish to stay in Mexico — especially if you remain in areas geared toward tourists or want to go to a language school. However, if you plan to live in Mexico long term, you should consider learning the language. In addition, if you want to become a citizen, you must take a Spanish proficiency test.

Can a U.S. citizen live full time in Mexico? 

A U.S. citizen can live full time in Mexico for up to four years with a temporary residence visa and indefinitely with a permanent residence visa.

Is it worth moving to Mexico from the U.S.?

Where to live is a very personal choice, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Mexico could be a worthwhile choice for U.S. expats, especially if they enjoy the cuisine and culture. Mexico is also attractive due to its lower cost of living.

Is it worth moving to Mexico from Europe?

Many European expats love living in Mexico due to the country’s warm climate and lower living costs. However, deciding where to settle is very personal, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Useful resources for expats in Mexico

Here are a couple of resources that expats may find helpful when planning a move to Mexico — or when already there:

About the author

Lisa Hong

Lisa Hong is Ria’s Web Content Specialist. Born in the U.S. with relatives in South Korea, she enjoys helping others connect with their loved ones through education on remittances and tech.

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