The Life in Mexico
Mexico is a Western society like the US and Europe, and similar to both of them, its moral constructs are broadly based on Judeo-Christianity. That makes adaptation both easier and more difficult. It is easier because fundamental liberal ideas are not challenged, and the common Classical influence is pervasive, but it can sometimes be more difficult precisely because of the subtlety of the differences.
There is a lot of the family-based (as opposed to community-based) social scaffolding that makes it different from the social structure of the individual that operates north of the border. However, the main differences have to do with the way Mexicans are more intuitive about their decisions, the way they see business transactions as opportunities to socialize, and the way they bond. Note that this is a generalization, which obviates the transnational formality of a large segment of the Mexican business population, but it is not a stretch to say that Mexican culture is generally more fun.
If Mexico's contributions in the field of socio-economics were of the same caliber as its cultural contributions to mankind, it would be a world power. Its cultural contributions to humankind in the fields of food (chocolate, tomatoes, and avocados are all Mexican), music, architecture, etc., make it endearing to so many.
The first thing that will strike the newly arrived expatriate in Mexico is the day to day adjustments he or she will have to make. Whether at home or on the street, whether at work or play, expect an emotional roller-coaster full of adventure, and sometimes frustration. The biggest mistake you can make is to rigidly hold on to your old ways and expectations. Mexicans have their own way of doing things. What may seem chaotic at first glance can actually conceal a very subtle and intricate style of interaction.
The human element pervades all aspects of life in Mexico, from simple everyday interaction right up to legal and governmental issues. This can seem daunting to most foreigners who come from countries where the law has become more and more pervasive throughout society, both in the public and in the private domain, often leaving little room for subjective digression. This is not the case in Mexico, where there are certainly very detailed laws concerning all facets of life, but where one can always count on there being a very subjective interpretation of these laws on the part of enforcers, and also on the part of those who live under those laws.
Of course, culture shock need not be so dramatic, nor so shocking. In fact it can be pleasant. Mexican people stand out for their politeness and courtesy. There is almost no social interaction which doesn't begin with a 'good day' and a smile and end with a 'thank you' and a smile. Foreigners are charmed by Mexican culture and the warmth and hospitality of the Mexican people.
Politeness even extends into the grammar of the language, with Mexicans being very fond of using diminutives. However, there's one important detail. A 'yes' doesn't always mean 'yes.' The first thing many foreigners may find frustrating is the relative ease in which Mexicans can make—and break—commitments. Mexican culture is a culture of non-confrontation, and rather than face a moment's discomfort, most people will choose to make flowery promises which often turn out to be empty ones. This can be very frustrating not only to foreigners but also to Mexicans. Much time can be wasted away, as well as much emotion and energy. Again, the 'human element' comes into the picture, which means comfort and convenience (or inconvenience as the case may be) usually takes precedence over commitment.
One should also watch out when eating in Mexico. Mexico has one of the richest cuisines on earth, and one can literally discover a new dish or type of food every day. Foreigners should of course be very careful when eating out, especially when eating food from street vendors. Like any country, Mexico has its own particular type of germs and bacteria which foreigners need to become accustomed to.
"Montezuma's Revenge". Nevertheless, with a little care and some discernment, there is a lot to discover and enjoy when it comes to eating in Mexico. Many will tell you to stay away from street food, but for those who are a little daring, street food can be very satisfying. There are hundreds of different things to find, hundreds of different types of tacos, tortas, flautas, tamales, etc… You can eat anything and everything—literally.
Another aspect of city life that will strike foreigners as different is Mexico's very vibrant street life, including vendors, mendicants, performers and even window cleaners. You can buy anything off the street, from electrical appliances to clothes, from computer software to food. Always bargain with the vendors. You can usually find exactly what you're looking for, with maybe some pleasant surprises to boot. There are also a lot of street people. One will be struck by the number of women with children begging or selling snacks on street corners.
On the other hand, an interesting spectacle can be found in the various (and talented) performers who put on little shows at major intersections: fire-swallowing, juggling, minor acrobatics. And then there are the window cleaners who come squirting soapy water on your windshield, often without warning. All of these features make street life very colorful and interesting in Mexico City, although they also point to a high level of poverty overall.
In terms of making friends in Mexico, you'll find people are generally very warm and know how to have fun. Friendships are usually based on a group of friends who have known each other since childhood and/or school and thus are usually very tight. Therefore these groups can have many insider jokes and topics which hold them together, often making it hard for foreigners to be included. Added to this is the uniqueness of Mexican Spanish, a language incredibly rich in colloquialisms and slang words, which even Spanish-speaking foreigners have difficulty getting a grasp on. Spanish in Mexico is characterized by doble sentido or 'double meaning' which can mean that one has to not only master the unique vocabulary of Mexican Spanish but also its peculiar semiotics. Nevertheless, Mexicans are extremely hospitable and will strike many foreigners as being very friendly.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Mexico can be quite low if one is resourceful and patient enough to look for the right place and right items. There are several options to choose from when it comes to standard of living. Even in major cities one can have a very comfortable lifestyle. Prices of products significantly less compared to the United Kingdom. There are definitely upscale places with great neighbors, luxurious surroundings plus a breathtaking view for those who quality living. There are also cheaper and quieter places to stay in nevertheless just as comfortable.
Food and Drinks Costs in Mexico
A single household with four family members spends around $300 usd every month on grocery items. Food and drinks in Mexico are very affordable since the country widely produces agricultural products, livestock and other raw materials. Food production is initially for the citizens although there are also manufacturing companies which aim to deliver to foreign countries primarily.
One can have a full meal of a taco or burrito and a drink for less than a Euro. There are also high-end restaurants that serve Mexican or foreign cuisines at rates averaging one hundred euros. Middle class places can serve meals to full families for under $100 usd. Prices vary from extremely cheap to high end, with a little knowledge of Spanish helpful in finding the best ones for your needs and budget.
Beef is very cheap in Mexico and it is the most popular meat product among locals. Poultry comes a solid second in terms of purchased grocery items. Mexico also produces several herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits that can be bought at very low prices outside the city.
There are a number of markets in major cities selling agricultural products like bell pepper, tomatoes, corn, rice and beans at low rates or wholesale. Mexican beer is cheap while there are also high quality drinks like tequila, tea and coffee that can cost higher.
Clothing and Accessories Costs in Mexico
Shopping for clothes in Mexico is fairly expensive but there are several great buys in department stores, flea markets and street vendors. The quality of clothes is also good if manufactured locally. There are imported products from the United States, Europe and Asia as well. Products from the latter are quite cheap and are sold in bulk. Prices for traditional Mexican dresses are around $20 usd while shoes cost around $50 usd depending on quality. The average Mexican spends $100 to $150 usd every month on clothes.
Accessories can come cheap at the right places. There are several trinkets and small gadgets for sale at markets and malls. Designer labels from Europe and the United States are usually found in malls and cost relatively the same as in the United Kingdom. Overall, Mexico is a great place to shop for locally made items.
Housing Costs in Mexico
On the average, a single person spends about $200 usd every month on apartment rentals. As the quality and space increases, prices will also become more expensive. Location is also a determining factor in price so spots that are much nearer to the center of towns as major urban area locations will be pricey.
In Acapulco and other big areas, people tend to live in 2-bedroom apartments that are priced at $300 to $450 usd. Living conditions do not include utilities and gas consumption. One can also find very cheap housing and rent outside the city and in nearby villages at $80 to $100 usd a month. Depending on where you are situated, the prices can vary as well as the layout and accommodations between the locales of Chapala, Allende or Mexico City.
Land ownership is possible even in major cities. A single house and lot unit typically costs $40,000 usd. Bigger estates and mansion are also available in luxurious subdivisions for willing foreign owners.
Mexico has a housing authority that provides for the low class citizens. Rental is automatically deducted from taxable income including utilities. Living conditions in Mexico varies just like the price. Expatriates may be most comfortable living in apartments for the first few years before planning to purchase a permanent home or property.
Services Costs in Mexico
Telephone basic service is affordable, but long distance international calls will be a painful drain on your checkbook. Call your long-distance phone company and get their rates to Mexico. If they seem high, expect to pay even more for international calls made from Mexico. Plan on using email and a fax machine if you make many calls or need to keep tabs on a business. Internet service is available from the same company that provides telephone services. Internet rates are around $20 usd every month while annual subscriptions tend to be cheaper.
Mexicans gripe that la luz (lights, power) is expensive, but by US standards it is not. Figure an average of $30 a month or $50 if you must have air-conditioning. Gas for cooking and hot water will cost $10 to $30 a month. Water may be free or just a few dollars a month.
Is it legal for a foreigner to work in Mexico?
Yes, provided that you have the right permit.
Permits are gained from the Mexican Government and are issued to people who are sponsored by companies in Mexico (or foreign companies with Mexican operations / subsidiaries), or by people with specific skills required in Mexico. You can enter Mexico to work for a foreign company provided that you do not receive any remuneration directly from a Mexican company or subsidiary.
Permits can also be arranged for investors (i.e. setting up your own company), but you'll need to invest 40,000 times the daily minimum salary* in order to qualify. Casual investors (for example, buying stocks on the Mexican Stock Exchange) can also get resident permits, although as with direct investment, you will need to invest the same amount as above.
*Multiples liable to change without notice.
These mechanisms are in place to ensure that you will not be: a) taking jobs that Mexican nationals could otherwise have and/or; b) ensure that if you don't have an immediate income, you have the means to support yourself without relying on the Mexican State in any way.
What kind of work can foreigners do?
The kind of work you do will depend on your circumstances. If you are an employee of one of the many large multi-national corporations that have offices or manufacturing facilities in Mexico, you may be assigned to the country for a specified period of time, to report to the local management and carry out duties according to your specialist knowledge. In such circumstances, your company will normally take care of all the necessary legal paperwork and the logistics of the move to Mexico. You show up at the office with a brief and work at what it is you do best.
Some foreigners decide to move to Mexico and set up a small business there: perhaps a bar or a restaurant. Some people sell consulting services, either in business development, and especially in IT and Internet related fields.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language is a popular work placement. You will need to hold the TEFL certificate (as a minimum) and with it, you'll have a chance to work in one of the many private schools and language centers based in Mexico. Learning English is an absolute requirement for Mexicans who want a professional qualification. Most private schools teach at least half of their lessons (including math and sciences) in English.
Those with specialist skills and experience, plus the relevant qualifications are more likely to succeed in finding work than those who just show up in the hope of 'casual' work in Mexico.
Some foreigners go to Mexico to take part in community and social projects. By doing so, they help local people by sharing their knowledge and experience, while gaining unique and authentic access to the local ways of life, culture and language.
Do I have to reside in Mexico to work there?
Not necessarily; this will depend on your circumstances and work requirements.
If the work you plan to undertake will only take a few days or weeks, then you can use the tourist card and enter into Mexico without the need to complete additional paperwork and pay special business visitor permit fees.
If your work requires you to be in Mexico several months or years, then you will need to consider a more permanent living arrangement.
What Permits do I need to legally work in Mexico?
There are various different kinds of work permits available, depending on how long you want to stay and for what purpose. You can check one of these, if applies to your case:
Categories of Foreign Nationals:
There are three ways for an expatriate, known as a foreign national, to come and stay in Mexico.
Mexico Banking System
Mexico has one of Latin America's most developed banking systems, consisting of a central bank and six types of banking institutions: public development banks, public credit institutions, private commercial banks, private investment banks, savings and loan associations, and mortgage banks. Other components of the financial system include securities market institutions, development trust funds, insurance companies, credit unions, factoring companies, mutual funds, and bonded warehouses.
Mexico's commercial banks also created, and collectively own, Mexico's sole credit agency. El Buro de Credito (often referred to as just 'El Buro') has enabled the banks to share information, price credit risk and develop credit markets, especially in the consumer and small business sectors. The availability of consumer credit on a mass-scale is a relatively new occurrence in Mexico; its availability is a direct result of the changes made to Mexico's banking system from the late 90's, including the formalization of this central credit agency.
Mexico's banks offer a range of financial services including current (checking) accounts, deposit accounts, credit cards, personal loans (loans for new cars are especially prevalent), a plethora of insurance services, and AFOREs – tax-efficient saving investment funds.
All of Mexico's principal banks offer internet banking for their clients. Paying bills and transferring money between accounts electronically saves having to join the lines at the bank, which are especially long on pay-day quincenas (every 15 days).
Despite new ownership, Mexico's retail banks continue to be characterized by old nuisances: long lines at branches, bureaucracy, high charges and commissions, low interest on deposits, high interest on credit cards (annual interest rates of 50% on credit cards are not uncommon here) and customer service, which although has improved in recent years, still needs attention.
El Buró: Mexico's Credit Agency
A by-product of the modernization of Mexico's banking industry is the implementation of a formal credit rating system in Mexico.
Mexico's sole Credit Rating Agency (known as "El Buró de Credito") is a private organization collectively owned by Mexico's banks. The agency has enabled credit markets - particularly credit to consumer markets and small and medium enterprises - to flourish in Mexico.
The central credit agency enables Mexico's financial institutions to share information, price credit risk and keep long-term historical accounts of borrower's financial transactions and behaviors. It is a foundation stone of Mexico's modern credit system.
El Buro is an agency which is loved and feared by Mexicans and foreign immigrants living in Mexico. Loved because of the influence it has and the power it wields to grant a person a mortgage or a car loan. Feared because its remit also extends to denying that loan, or even denying other things like the rental of a house or an apartment. Some employers also check El Buro to vet potential employees; if El Buro says that you're a poor credit risk, you may have to kiss goodbye to that job or promotion.
Credit Interest and Bank Charges in Mexico
The amount of interest you pay at a Mexican bank will vary depending not just on the rate, but on the way in which the interest is applied. There are also a number of charges, commissions and taxes to take into account when working out the real cost of the credit.
Applying for Credit in Mexico
You do not need to be a Mexican national to avail yourself of credit facilities in Mexico. However, you do need to be legally resident (showing a FM3 or FM2 visa) and be able to prove your income.
You will also need a bank or credit reference from your home country. Banks will sometimes open accounts without references, but in these cases, a significant deposit will be required to secure any credit line (e.g. credit card) the bank may afford you.
Credit may be applied for directly from a bank or, if you are buying durable goods, the credit application may be made through the company which is selling you the goods.
Whether you apply directly or via third party, you will need to provide references and the bank will make a credit enquiry via the National Credit Bureau (see El Buro, above).
If you have recently moved to Mexico, expect to be able to prove your income using bank statements, letters from a bank you already have a relationship with, a letter from your employer—or a combination of these.
Banks in Mexico appear to be somewhat expert at adding on 'value-added' services to agreements, such as insurance policies, when you take out a credit for a car or other durable good. This means that the added service(s) (e.g. insurance premium or service guarantee) is "spread out" over the term of loan ("easy terms") but it also means that the additional services are being priced at their cost plus interest. It's always better to keep these extras away from the loan account.
Sales Tax on Interest and Charges
All bank charges, aperture fees, commissions, and credit interest are subject to sales tax in Mexico. Mexican sales tax is known as IVA: Impuesto del Valor Agregado (Value Added Tax). In Mexico, your real rate of interest is the CAT (see below) plus sales tax.
Because sales tax is applied to interest, aperture charges and bank commissions, the cost of credit—whether it is on a credit card, car loan, personal loan or other any form of non-mortgage credit—is always higher than the percentage rate quoted on any marketing literature or examples of repayment schedules.
NB: Sales Tax is exempt on mortgage interest payments.
CAT - Costo Anual Total or 'Real' Cost of Credit in Mexico
Whenever you take out any form of credit in Mexico, there is always a plethora of charges, commissions, and fees to add to the total amount of the loan. For years, banks were quoting interest rates and interest charges while keeping the aperture fees, commissions and other charges tucked away in the small print of a contract.
So in May 1996, the Bank of Mexico, in an attempt to make consumers aware of the real cost of a loan, introduced a standard known as "CAT", which stands for Costo Anual Total (Total Annual Cost). The CAT must now be shown on all marketing and sales literature related to a loan
Often, the CAT calculation can add between 10% and 50% per year to a headline interest rate. It has gone some way to helping consumers understand the true cost of credit, but omits the sales tax added to interest payments, so the "real" cost is actually higher that the CAT calculation.
ny missed payments on any loan agreement, whether it's a credit card, loan or mortgage in Mexico, will be accompanied by hefty bank charges and a dent in your credit score. Additionally, if you are on a discounted rate of interest, this may be automatically revoked and the higher penalty rate of interest might be applied to the remainder of the loan. Check the small print of any loan agreement and, better still, don't miss any payments on loan agreements you enter into.
Some financial institutions provide English language translations of contracts (for example, for mortgage products) although the official version will always be the Spanish version. If you are entering into a credit agreement in Mexico, be sure you understand the terms being offered and know that, even if there is an English translation of your credit agreement, only the Spanish contract will have a basis in law in the event of a dispute with the credit institution.
Services Provided by Mexican Banks
Mexico's Banks provide a range of modern banking services.
Mexican banks will open accounts in Mexican Pesos or US Dollars. Different products are available for different uses and the charges vary enormously. Check the bank's web sites for the latest product details as well as their charges and rates of interest.
The principal services are listed below, along with some notes when considering use of the service.
Internet Access for Mexico Bank Accounts.
All of Mexico's principal banks offer Internet access so that their clients can manage their financial affairs online. Some of the banks have a long-winded process to open an internet access account but once the internet access is granted, it can make your banking chores much easier as there is no need to line up to pay bills and transfer funds from different accounts. Lines a banks in Mexico are, generally speaking, long—and very long on pay fortnights (every 15 days). Internet access enables you to pay all major bills (e.g. telephone, electric) as well as transfer funds between accounts held at Mexican banks. Internet access is usually given free to clients.
Every retail bank offers a checking account. In Mexico, these often require a minimum deposit to be made each month to keep charges low. Banks usually give a limited number of free ATM withdrawals per month (10 is about average); thereafter a commission, based on the amount withdrawn, is charged to the account.
Deposit Accounts - Sight Accounts.
Deposit accounts where the money may be withdrawn 'on sight' (no notice required) are usually accompanied by a plastic debit card for use in ATMs and some retail outlets, usually world-wide. These accounts have an aperture fee, and require a minimum balance to be held on account (usually around $1000 pesos) and pay a paltry rate of interest. If the balance goes below the minimum, a fee is applied each month, usually about $100 pesos (plus sales tax), until the account balance is restored to the minimum.
Deposit Accounts - Notice Accounts.
The second type of deposit account in Mexico are notice accounts: that is, you tie-up your cash for a pre-defined period of time: 30, 60, 90, 180 and 360 days are the most common. Interest rates on these accounts are better than 'sight' accounts, although there is no immediate access to your money. Some Notice Accounts will charge a penalty for early withdrawal, and others will simply not allow you access to the funds until the end of the term.
All major banks offer mortgage products. Mortgages come in all shapes and sizes in Mexico: some offer discount or "teaser" interest rates, with higher rates after an initial period; some offer lower aperture fees in return for higher interest payments and vice-versa. For detailed information about mortgages in Mexico, read the Mexperience Guide to Financing Mexican Real Estate.
In recent years, banks have created specific products for the financing of automobiles and commercial vehicles in Mexico. The loans are some of the most competitive in Mexico and are sold through dealerships or direct from the bank. Car loan agreements often package in the car insurance policy as well as other 'extras' you may purchase; is is best to pay these separately if you can afford to do so and if the terms of loan allow it.
The credit card market in Mexico began to take off significantly from around 2000. Mexicans and foreigners living in Mexico have willingly taken up the offers of widespread and abundant credit.
Many stores offer 6 or 12 month interest-free credit deals through credit card companies on certain goods and services. In these cases, the good or service is charged to your credit card by means of six or twelve monthly charges, equal to the purchase price. Beware that missed payments may incur penalty charges and may void any interest-free arrangements you have in place.
Interest rates on credit cards in Mexico are very high by US, Canadian and European standards. Rates of 50% (per year) are not uncommon. Credit cards (and store cards) are the most expensive means of borrowing money from banks in Mexico.
Personal loans for a specific or non-specific purpose are also available in Mexico. To avail yourself of these credit lines you will need to have an established credit history with the bank, a good credit record at El Buro and your salary payments must be deposited directly into your bank account. These loans are known as "Prestamos de Nómina" -- the word Nomina refers to payroll payments made by your employer to your bank account, thus the loan refers to the 'security' of your regular pay check arriving at the bank.
Foreign Exchange Services.
Although all banks offer foreign exchange services, they may not be the best place to change your currency.
Private Banking in Mexico.
For individuals with high salaries, or people known by the banks as "high net worth individuals", Mexico's banks offer a range of private banking services which include preferential rates for banking and credit services as well as asset and investment portfolio management services.
If you are living in Mexico and are earning a significant amount, or plan to move or retire to Mexico accompanied by significant assets, rest assured that Mexico's banks have an entire infrastructure of staff and services ready to service your individual requirements. Check individual web sites for details under the sections entitled "Banca Privada".
All Mexican banks sell and administer government-approved pension products known as AFOREs. AFOREs provide a tax-efficient savings vehicle, whereby an employer, an employee and the government each contribute to a tax-efficient savings pot which is then invested into equities and investment funds on a list of approved by the financial authorities. Note that the value of AFOREs will rise and fall depending on the performance of the Mexican Stock Market. Banks make an annual charge for managing an AFORE; people are free to move the AFORE from one fund manager (bank) to another within certain parameters and time-scales as set out by law. AFOREs are open to Mexican nationals and foreigners legally resident in Mexico.
If you plan to run a business in Mexico, Mexican banks offer a range of services specifically tailored to SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). Services include corporate credit cards, corporate payment and procurement cards, payroll services, and loans for commercial vehicles and commercial property. Business charges and rates are usually higher than charges and interest rates for personal customers.
Professional Services in Mexico
International insurance plans for foreigners in Mexico.
It is advisable to have international health insurance while traveling or living as an expatriate. Having an international health plan gives a person, family or group a variety of choices when it comes to health care. For example, a person covered by such a plan can choose a private hospital or any approved physician for their care.
For persons living between countries, an international insurance plan may cover them in both countries and even worldwide. They can choose policy limits that can cover them for medical expenses up to $50,000 USD, with options for coverage for as much as $8,000,000 USD in medical benefits.
However, not having appropriate international health coverage might expose one or one's family to a significant financial liability and impede appropriate care.
Some things to consider:
How To Evaluate and Hire a Good Attorney or Law Firm in Mexico.
The process of hiring an attorney or law firm in Mexico may seem to be a fairly simple matter, but reality and experience point to the fact that such is not the case. The first problem encountered by many clients regards communication and language issues. In Mexico, few attorneys are able to effectively communicate in English. Knowing the language is not the only requirement, as it is indispensible for the attorney to have at least a general knowledge of the client's home country. Translating and adapting Mexican legal concepts to those of the legal system from which the client originates is an important part of assimilating all of the concepts discussed in attorney/client communications. In the case of clients originating in the United States of America, this is especially important given the fact that the legal systems of such country and Mexico are quite distinct. While many concepts may appear to be the same if based on Roman Law, in reality, such concepts may be diametrically opposite, therefore, facile comparisons may serve only to heighten confusion and accentuate the lack of understanding of the legal substance being discussed in professional communications.
If you're like the average American, it's unlikely you have an ongoing business relationship with a lawyer. You may only hire an attorney a few times in your lifetime - to write a will or help with buying a house, for instance. So, when faced with a legal need, the task of hiring an attorney can be intimidating. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure you hire the right attorney.
Crime and Security in Mexico
Crime is not much different in Mexico than in other countries, and especially in large urban settings. Take the same precautions here that you would take when at home, or when travelling anywhere else. The following chart provides a quick comparison of Mexico with the United States:
People are what we would call up north, "God-fearing, law-abiding citizens". And they will help you in whatever way they can. A tried and true formula if you encounter trouble or are victimized is to ask a Mexican – pick out a respectable-looking passer-by, tell them your problem and ask what they would suggest you do or where you should go for assistance. Chances are excellent they will get a car, take you wherever they've suggested you need to go and stay with you until they are satisfied you have been dealt with properly. They will also check in the next day to see how things are proceeding.
The following comments apply more to travel in the resort areas or the large urban areas of Mexico, but they are useful to keep in mind wherever you venture, at home or abroad. The Traffic and Enforcement sections are particularly applicable locally.
Thefts occur. You should dress down, avoid wearing or carrying expensive jewellery, and carry only small amounts of cash. Keep your luggage secure at all times. In resort areas, leave your passport and valuables in your hotel safe, not in your hotel room or on the beach while you are swimming.
Try to plan your withdrawals or exchanges of money at Automated Banking Machines (ATMs) or exchange bureaus (casas de cambio) during daylight hours only, and inside shops and malls rather than on the street. Keep your credit card in sight when paying.
Do not leave anything in your vehicle in plain sight, especially if you are parking off a main street. Use public parking lots as much as possible in larger urban areas.
Incidents of assault and sexual aggression against foreigners are low but have been reported. In some cases, hotel employees, taxi drivers and security personnel have been implicated. Avoid walking after dark, especially alone, and avoid unpopulated areas. You should only frequent bars and night-clubs as part of a group and avoid separating from the group. In cases of sexual assault, police authorities will require a medical examination.
Be careful accepting food, drinks, invitations or rides from strangers or recent acquaintances. Avoid leaving your food and drinks unattended in bars and restaurants. There have been cases of travellers being robbed or assaulted after being drugged.
Kidnappings occur only in large urban areas and not to foreigners. The most common practice involves thieves working in cooperation with, or posing as taxi drivers. The thieves force victims to withdraw money from ATM's with their debit or credit cards in exchange for their release. Kidnappers target both the wealthy and middle class. Foreigners are not specifically targeted.
Criminals posing as police officers have approached tourists in large cities and asked for their passports or for foreign currency. There have also been cases of legitimate police officers extorting money from tourists or arresting tourists for minor offences. If this occurs, do not hand over your money or your passport. Instead, ask for the officer's name, badge number and patrol car number, and proceed to the nearest Agencia del Ministerio Público or Tourism Office to file a complaint.
Avoid divulging personal information to strangers. Scam artists have gathered information on luggage tags in hotel lobbies and later convinced guests to give them their contact information in their home country. Once done, they have called parents of travelling foreigners to report that their child has been detained or hospitalized and have requested that money be wired to Mexico. If this occurs, parents or friends should request the name and number of the caller and contact their embassy or consulate to carry out a check.
The traffic police are a separate agency in Mexico, called Transito. It is common for drivers (including Mexicans) to pay a "mordida" or "instant fine" when stopped for a minor infraction rather than go to the trouble of finding the right government office at which to pay a fine. However, the pay-offs are typically in the $200+ peso range, and often the fine is only $50 - $80 pesos. If you were running a yellow or red light, not wearing a seatbelt or parking illegally, ask for the ticket "Dame la multa, por favor". Be aware that the Transito officer who stopped you for one offence will likely try to up the ante by quoting other offences that he subsequently notices with your vehicle or you. For example, if you answer a cell phone while your car is running, the officer will cite you for talking on the phone while driving. Similarly, if an officer stops you for making an illegal left turn, then notices you are not wearing a seat belt, he will use both of those infractions to encourage you to pay an "instant fine". Do not hand over a photo copy of your driver's license to a Transito officer, as that could be the basis for a more serious charge (and a larger "instant fine"). Also, these officers have no authority to check your passport or travel visa, and you have no obligation to surrender these documents to them. Similarly, they cannot confiscate your driver's license, although some of the more unscrupulous try to take advantage of foreigners in this way. Do not allow them to escort you to an ATM to withdraw cash for the mordida. A good way to start a conversation with an officer who pulls you over is to take out a pen and paper and ask for their name and badge number – this will alert them immediately that you will report any wrong doing on their part.
Laws and Customs.
If you are the victim of a crime, report it immediately to the Agencia del Ministerio Público nearest to the crime scene. No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to Mexican authorities. You must present photo identification. It is especially important to report the loss or theft of your identification documents (to Mexican authorities and to the Embassy or the nearest consulate), in order to protect yourself should the documents later be misused.
You are subject to local laws. A serious violation may lead to a jail sentence. The sentence will be served in local prisons. Foreigners arrested or detained have the right to contact the responsible government office (embassy, consulate, etc...). Arresting officials have a responsibility to assist you in doing so. Consular officials can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.
If you make a statement, you should by law be provided with a translator. Avoid making any arrangements with police or court officials unless your lawyer is present. Do not sign anything in Spanish, if you do not understand the language, without first reviewing the document with your lawyer. The procedures required in legal proceedings or police investigations may be different from the procedures in force in your home legal system. Foreigners wishing to undertake such proceedings can expect to face long delays and additional efforts in order to resolve their case. Foreign governments cannot intervene in ongoing legal proceedings, unless requested to do so by local authorities. Such requests are rare.
Penalties for breaking the law in Mexico can be more severe than in your home country. Penalties for drug offences are very strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences. Avoid involvement with illegal substances or those who deal with them. Don't borrow a vehicle or pick up hitchhikers; drivers are legally responsible for their vehicle's contents, as well as for the legal status of passengers and the items carried by passengers. Do not accept any packages from strangers.
The Mexican government strictly enforces laws concerning possession, entry and trafficking of firearms. Anyone (including foreign armed forces personnel) entering Mexico with a firearm or ammunition without prior written authorization from Mexican authorities is subject to imprisonment. It is also illegal to enter the country with certain types of knives.
It is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in non-designated public areas. The minimum age at which people are legally allowed to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages is 18 years old.
Participation in political activities (such as demonstrations) by foreigners is prohibited and should be avoided, as it may result in detention, deportation or the denial of future entry into Mexico. It is illegal to possess archaeological artefacts or to export such items from Mexico.
On February 26, 2008, lawmakers approved new legislation that restricts cigarette smoking in public spaces. Violators will be heavily fined and sentenced to up to 36 hours in jail.
Enforcement in Mexico is a different matter. It is one thing to have good laws in place, but it is useless if they are not enforced regularly and equitably. The Mexican police forces are undermanned and underpaid. Therefore, they don't always respond to what it seems they should respond to, nor do they necessarily respond quickly or effectively. Speed laws on the roads are violated routinely. People driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol may or may not be tested properly when (and if) caught. Insurance for vehicles is a legal requirement, but don't assume every vehicle on the road is insured. A house break-in may lead to a response the same day or not. And don't even consider complaining to the police about someone smoking in a restaurant.
Mail System Paying US Taxes
Mail System in Mexico
The Mexican postal service is known as Correos de Mexico. In the past, this postal service has been thought to be unreliable by the residents of Mexico. However, in 2008, the Mexican government overhauled the postal system and put measures in place to help make it more reliable. If you're in Mexico and want to mail a letter to the U.S., you can choose to use the Correos de Mexico to get the letter to the United States.
How to Mail a Letter From Mexico to the U.S.
How to Receive Packages in Mexico From the USA.
Paying US Taxes in Mexico
No matter where you live be it in Mexico, the United States or abroad, you no longer have to worry about handling your US income tax return. Without returning to the US, and at cheaper rates than most US CPA's, you can have your US income taxes prepared in Mexico by a full-time tax professional. Location is not an issue!
Here is what you need:
Getting Married in Mexico
Mexico has some excellent places to get married alongside some picture perfect scenarios. From golden beaches with turquoise waters, to old colonial cities with their charm, old buildings, cobbled streets domes and archways.
Mexico is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for American and Canadians to get married, and given the opportunity to get married amongst stunning scenery, it's not hard to see why!
If you want to get married in Mexico, there is nothing legal or technical stopping you from doing so; but you will need to plan ahead and get a few documents together, fill in a few forms and pay a few fees. This guide will steer you through the maze.
If after having read through this guide you wonder if you can face the paperwork and admin, don't panic! You can hire wedding planners to take care of the detail and paperwork on your behalf in return for a modest fee.
People under the age of 18 may not get married in Mexico without parental consent. With parental consent, boys have to be at least 16 and girls need to be at least 14 years of age.
Foreigners Getting Married to Foreigners
You don't need to be resident in Mexico in order to get married here, you'll just need a passport and your tourist permit, plus some other paperwork (see below). If you plan to get married to a Mexican in Mexico, you will need additional documentation - read the section just ahead...
Chest X-rays and Blood Tests
These must be done locally in Mexico, as the results of the blood tests and the X-ray documentation must be in Spanish and the tests need to be done within a certain time frame of the Marriage Application Form being completed. Not all Mexican States require the Chest X-rays: Check locally
You will need to have 4 witnesses present at the legal ceremony, and they must have valid identification: usually a valid Passport is used, but other forms of government-issued identification are valid too.
Validity Outside of Mexico
Your Marriage Certificate will be valid world-wide, BUT you should get your certificate 'legalized' in Mexico to ensure it is legally accepted when you get back home. The process is the reverse of getting your native documentation legalized by the necessary authorities (e.g. Foreign Office / State Department) for marriage in Mexico (see below); The registry office in Mexico will tell you where. This can be done locally or if you hire a wedding planner, he/she will advise.
Two Marriages: Civil and Religious
The Civil Marriage
Only a civil marriage is recognized as legal in Mexico. You don't need to engage in a religious ceremony but if you omit the civil ceremony, the marriage will not be legal. Most Mexicans have two marriages: the civil (legal) marriage and the church (religious) one.
The Religious Marriage
If you would like to get married in a church in Mexico, this can be arranged, although additional planning and fees will be required. A good wedding planner will be able to make these arrangements on your behalf.
Each State in Mexico has slightly different laws in regard to when previously married couples may re-marry. Most places require that BOTH the bride and groom are to be are divorced (starting from the date of final divorce decree) at least one full calendar year before re-marrying.
For example, in Quintana Roo, the State where Cancun is located (one of the most popular venues), only women (not men) who have been previously married, may not re-marry there for 300 calendar days following the the date of the final decree of divorce unless during that time they have given birth or can prove "by medical dictate" that they are not pregnant.
You'll need to check with the local authorities in the State where you plan to get re-married if you have not been divorced for at least a year. Alternatively, hire the services of a wedding planner who will check this for you as part of their service.
If either party is widowed, the death certificate of the deceased spouse will be needed as part of the documentation requirements (see below)...
The couple getting married will be required to present the following documentation and requisites. Some requirements differ from State to State; check locally, but be prepared to gather together all of the documents listed below.
Important! Foreign documents listed below (with the exception of your passport and travel permit) will need to be:
In the USA, this service is undertaken by the Office of Authentication at State Department; Connect to the the page about the legalization of US documents for use abroad for further information.
In the UK, the Foreign Office undertakes this task; Connect to the Legalization page the on the Foreign Office's web site for details about obtaining this service.
In Australia, the Authentication and Apostilles section of the Department of Foreign Affairs takes care of legalization of documents. and then...
The Marriage Process
Once you have gathered this merry medley of paperwork and official documents together, you will need to pay your Marriage License fee (approx US$30*), allow the waiting period to go by (anything from 30 minutes to a few days, depending on the state in Mexico where you get married), and then the ceremony may take place and the marriage will be legal.
The least expensive option is to have the ceremony performed at the Local Registry Office. For a further fee, you can arrange for the ceremony to take place elsewhere (hotel, beach, colonial mansion, etc). You will need to make further arrangements with all parties involved, or instruct a local wedding planner to arrange this on your behalf.
Once the civil ceremony has been completed, you will need to obtain a certified copy of the marriage certificate (Acta de Matrimonio). This will prove that you have been legally wed in accordance with Mexican law, and the marriage will be recognized just about everywhere in the world where it can be, including the USA, Canada, United Kingdom / European Union, Australia, et al.
Important! You should get your Mexican marriage certificate legalized in Mexico to ensure that it will be accepted as a genuine document back in your home country. This is the reverse process of having your home-country documents legalized by the Mexican Consulate in your country; ask the local registry office or your wedding planner for details about how you can go about this.
*The price varies depending on the State and exact location where you get married. Marriage licenses in Mexico's most popular resort locations generally cost more (sometimes considerably more) than those in lesser known resorts/places. Check with the local state authorities for details or ask your wedding planner.
Marrying a Mexican National (In Mexico)
So far, the above requirements have assumed that a foreigner is marrying a foreigner in Mexico. If you plan to marry a Mexican national in Mexico, you'll need to fulfil some additional requirements:
In addition to all of the above documentation, you will need to obtain permission from Mexico's Interior Ministry - "Secretaria de Gobernacion - Oficina de Migracion" where, for a fee of around US$200, you'll need to acquire a permit to marry a Mexican national. The document is known as "Permiso para contraer matrimonio con un nacional".
The office issuing this permit must be the same office that has jurisdiction over the area where the marriage is to take place; i.e. you cannot get the permit from one state, e.g. Mexico City, and then go to e.g. Acapulco to get married.
This process can take from two days to two weeks, depending on the State and the people at the local government office: be prepared to be patient if you have to! Your wedding planner (see below), if you hire one, will be able to advise you about this in detail and take care of necessary paperwork on your behalf.
Dying in Mexico
The Final Adios
Information for foreigners in Mexico to assist family and friends in carrying out your final wishes.
Be prepared, do it now
Register with your consulate. This can be done online. If you have not already registered, go to:
Get your docs in a row! (& translated into Spanish)
Documents needed at time of death:
It has been recommended that all documents should be accompanied with an "apostille" along with an official translation of the document. An apostille refers to the legalization of a document for international use under terms of the 1961 Hague Convention. Mexico and U.S. have signed this agreement, Canada has not. In the U.S., the apostille may be obtained from the State where the document was issued. In all states you can apply on line. Whether you do this in person or "on line" the issuing state will need your copy of the document requiring an apostille.
For Canadians, documents are notarized and go through a process of "authentication" and "legalization". This is the Canadian equivalent of the apostille and is done by a notary public in Canada. An apostille with your documents will help facilitate their acceptance by Mexican authorities.
Next of Kin (NOK)
Before Next of Kin (NOK), travel to Mexico in the event of death of a family member, the NOK Identification Document(s) should be translated and have an apostille attached. This is necessary so that the NOK can identify and claim your remains and do other business (ie. fideicomiso) connected with the estate.
The relationship between deceased and NOK must be clear. Most officials here will recognize the NOK if the papers available make sense. In the case of several different family names, you might want to consider writing out all information about your NOK, names, relation to you, etc. and have this paper translated and notarized here in Mexico and kept with your other pertinent documents.
If you don't choose kin, prepare an affidavit stating who you do wish to be the person responsible for your remains and goods. Have the affidavit translated and notarized. This person must also present an authenticated document of identification. If a U.S. citizen dies in Mexico and does not have necessary documentation, the U.S. consulate can intervene to assist if the Consulate has information about the deceased registered with them. For Canadians, being registered with the Canadian Embassy will be a help and the Honorary Consul in Cancun may be able to facilitate receiving information from Canada if needed.
What is your will?
It is recommended that you have a Mexican Will to distribute possessions in Mexico. Mexican authorities are interested only in how your worldly goods with you in Mexico are being handled upon death.
This Mexican Will could be a translation of your U.S./Canadian Will. Or it could be a simple statement of your wishes of who should inherit Mexican goods. Have this paper translated and notarized in Mexico. Each Will should mention the existence of any other Will.
If you own property (real estate) through a fideicomiso, the transfer of this property to your designated beneficiary is already taken care of in that document.
The bank issuing the fideicomiso will transfer title to beneficiary on presentation of the Certificado de Defuncion (Death Certificate) and relevant identification.>
State your wishes
Cremation requires the approval of a family member or a document which clearly indicates that it is your wish to be cremated.
You may indicate this to your Consulate when registering. Or you may write out your wishes, have the paper notarized/translated (either of the Lawyer/translators can do this) and keep this statement with your other documents.
If you expect to be buried in Mexico, keep in mind that a burial spot in Mexico is usually "rented" for 3 to 10 years. At the end of that time, the body is exhumed and the bones are moved to another place.
Returning your body to your home country can be an expensive process and requires additional paper work. You must choose a funeral home in your country to receive the remains.
In the USA, this service is undertaken by the Office of Authentication at State Department; Connect to the the page about the legalization of US documents for use abroad for further information.
In the UK, the Foreign Office undertakes this task; Connect to the Legalization page the on the Foreign Office's web site for details about obtaining this service.
In Australia, the Authentication and Apostilles section of the Department of Foreign Affairs takes care of legalization of documents. and then...
This section is for those you leave behind
One of your best supports through the process of moving from death through cremation or burial, will be the funeral home. The U.S. Consulate has a complete list of funeral homes throughout the Yucatan area.
The Funeral Home can assist you through the process because this is the time when you will have to show all relevant documents with translation and apostille.
As helpful as they want to be, most Funeral Homes are not bilingual and you may want to have a Spanish speaking person with you. The Funeral Home will assist you in getting the actual Death Certificate which is obtained at the Civil Registry.
The written statement of circumstances of death from attending physician or hospital, is shown at the Civil Registry and they issue the official Death Certificate or … Certificado de Defuncion.
For a small extra fee, the Civil Registry will supply you with as many copies as you feel you will need here in Mexico and when you return to the U.S. or Canada.
It is recommended that you have an Emergency Personal Information Sheet.
The U.S. Consulate advises having a piece of ID on you at all times so that should something happen, like an accident, officials will know to contact your consulate. A trusted friend in Mexico should also have the keys for your house (and car). They should know where all documents and personal papers are kept as well as all contact information for NOK. And visa versa.
If you have a Bank Account in Mexico, make sure you have named a beneficiary with the bank.
Make sure you have some funds on hand, available to friends or NOK, to pay for the services of the Funeral Home and other expenses.
Having your document in order isn't just a good idea, it is a gift to those you leave behind.