The towns, coasts and communities of Mexico have always been a favourable destination for foreign workers. Becoming independent of Spain in 1810, Mexico has since carved its own mark on the denizens of Planet Earth, with many aspects of its culture becoming revered the world over, from its food and music to the wholesome and relaxed attitude towards life.
A big draw for western expats is the comparatively cheaper, yet still high standard, way of life that can be afforded in Mexico. There is a strong economy built on a foundation of industry, strong links with other countries and a solid community built up of natives and expats alike. In Mexico, troops of expats have set up their own mini-communities, melding their own western sensibilities with that of their new home. Mexico is both a place to come and enjoy your retirement and also a place to come and make money, expats venture from far and wide to ply their trades here, often with great success.
Employment, work permits and visas
Mexico is a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), giving it strong links to America and Canada and thus has a host of good opportunities for skilled workers seeking employment on its sunny shores. With cheaper costs than the US, companies and businesses have been known to open premises in Mexico, with a view to employing professional individuals from other countries. Expats make up a large percentage of workers in areas such as IT, management, teaching and tourism.
However, even with this powerful economy there can be problems, as companies who hire expats must often show that the roles being filled cannot be undertaken by Mexican natives. Whilst Mexico is a fairly cheap country to live in you may find that the salary being offered for a job is a little less than you would receive elsewhere. Speaking Spanish is a huge weapon for any job-seeker to have in their arsenal as it is the national language and is universally spoken in the Mexican business world.
To work in Mexico one must acquire a work permit. If you have secured employment prior to reaching Mexico then you should have your new employer complete the necessary immigration papers on your behalf. There are two types of visa that can be applied for by foreign workers. Some expats opt for the FM3 visa which allows people to stay and work in Mexico for a year, and then simply renewing the visa at the end of its term for another year. The FM2 visa is a more permanent option, does not need renewal and gives you the opportunity to apply to become an official citizen of Mexico after five years.
To qualify for an FM3 visa you must be employed by a fully registered company and you must have either a university education or professional experience in your chosen sector, or of course both. Your employer must put forth a selection of documents: their incorporation articles and any amendments, proof that they are fully paid up with all taxes, a supporting letter from a lawyer and proof of the lawyers ID. They must also provide a letter giving details of your title, duties and work location.
You must personally supply your university qualifications or a photocopy, a copy of your passport and also those of any family members who will be travelling with you. You will also need a copy of your CV, written confirmation of your employment position and salary, a birth certificate and if applicable a marriage certificate. Note that this procedure can often take up to four months to process. Upon reaching Mexico you and your family must register with Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM) within 30 days of arrival.
Once you have gone through the rigmarole and red tape of immigration you will have completed the first step in your bid to carving out a successful life in Mexico. Before you start your new job you should familiarise yourself with some of the practices and codes of conduct that will be prevalent in the Mexican workplace.
The people of Mexico like to conduct business in a formal and professional manner and put an emphasis on building strong, friendly working relationships. Dress codes generally follow line with the smart suit and tie combination. Whilst you will find that your Mexican counterparts may often be late for meetings and appointments, as an expat worker you should always be very punctual.
Even though most Mexican business folk will have a grasp of the English language, the ability to speak Spanish will be a massive bonus for you, and when having business cards made have one side printed in English and the other in Spanish. Mexicans like to have face-to-face meetings with their prospective business associates so be open to meet and greet sessions. Office hours will generally be the universal 9-5.
The cost of accommodation in Mexico is generally much lower than in the UK. Most working expats will generally live in the main city areas but if you are so inclined you will be free to live in the rural areas as well. A fully furnished two bedroom apartment will probably set you back about Mex$3,500 whilst a two bedroom house will be approximately Mex$7,000 per month.
If you are interested in buying a home in Mexico you won’t be bogged down by red-tape and will find that it is quite an easy procedure. There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Mexico.
A handy bonus of Mexico’s transport arrangement is the ability to use your existing drivers license. If you do take to the roads be wary that driving etiquette can often be of a haphazard nature, so be sure to take extra care.
Without a car you will still have a number of decent travel options as Mexico has good systems of public transport in place. Busses are plentiful within most areas, even the rural places being well covered; you can get pretty much anywhere you need to go on one of Mexico’s inexpensive buses. There is also a subway system that is just as extensive, yet bear in mind that these become more cramped and busy during peak hours.
There are also many taxis available and willing to take you to your destination. Try to reserve a modicum of caution when using them as accepting a cab ride from the wrong person could risk you becoming the victim of crime.
Within Mexico you will find that there are three different tiers of healthcare. The lowest level is for Mexicans who are unemployed, the middle level is the Mexican equivalent of our NHS, known as the IMSS, for which expats are allowed to apply. To do so you must apply in either January, February, July or August, pay a fee of around £200 per year and undergo a medical examination. The standard of healthcare in the IMSS can differ from region to region. In the rural areas the clinics and facilities may not be of as a high a standard as the more developed areas. The final level is private healthcare, as an expat if you are lucky enough to be afforded a decent wage then this option will be the most attractive as the standard of care will be much higher than with the other options.
If you are venturing on your new expatriate life with children then you will no doubt want to ensure that your young ones will receive a high standard of education. Your options will be to enrol them into a Mexican school, give them home tuition, or place them in an international school. If your children are very young and you plan on staying in Mexico for a number of years then you may opt for a traditional Mexican school, as this will immerse them in their new culture and assist them in learning Spanish.
Some of the more prestigious international schools include: The American School Foundation, which offers the world-recognised international baccalaureate, and the Greengates School which offers an English curriculum with English teachers. Other well respected schools include The Westhill Institute, Colegio Peterson and also Eton School.
Entertainment and Lifestyle
Moving to any new country will always come with a degree of culture shock, adapting to a new way of life is always difficult so it is wise to familiarise yourself with what to expect. Mexicans by their nature are very polite and friendly. This sentiment extends to the general demeanour of Mexico itself, this relaxed attitude may sometimes be at odds with the way westerners like to do things. Things move a little slower in Mexico and one should refrain from being overly demanding or rushing.
Mexico’s favourite pastime is football so if you are a fan of the beautiful game then you will be happy here! There are many local games to attend, and of course the television stations will have all the big games from the world’s leading leagues. Mexico is a very vibrant and active place and on weekends there is always something going on, from festivals to parades, you’ll see that the Mexicans have much time for celebrating! The pleasant climate tends to encourage people to enjoy outdoor life and the aforementioned merriment can be found in public parks throughout Mexico. There are also plenty of museums and cultural attractions for those who have more refined leisure activities in mind, children’s museums have recently seen a rise in numbers so if you are travelling with a family they could be a fun way to help your young become accustomed to their new home.
Many aspects of Mexican culture are revered throughout the world but perhaps none more-so than its wonderful cuisine! You will no doubt be familiar with burritos, tacos and enchiladas but only in Mexico will you be able to truly sample these famous dishes in their most authentic state.
Nightlife in Mexico is bustling and exciting, there will be a host of different establishments waiting for you to let your hair down, from flamenco bars to restaurants with live mariachis to slick upmarket bars and nightclubs. In these bars you will of course be able to sample more authentic flavours such as tequila, mezcal and khalua, drinks famous the world over yet home-grown in Mexico.
If shopping is your bag then there is a wealth of options in Mexico. In the city centres there are the usual department stores, malls and boutiques. As expected of a cultural haven like Mexico there are many unique stores and markets to experience, take the time out to wander around and you will find a host of home-made products, jewellery, clothes and maybe even exotic pets!
The Mexican embassy in the UK can be found here: http://portal.sre.gob.mx/reinounidoeng