Your complete guide to retiring in Mexico: visa, housing, and healthcare
Many people dream of spending their golden years in a sunny and warm location, often heading to tropical paradises like Phuket, Ibiza, or Bali, amongst many other common destinations. But why settle for these, when you could also choose Mexico as the country to retire in?
As a vibrant country bordering the US, Mexico has plenty to offer retirees. You’ll definitely love the range of climates from the spring-like weather all year-round to the balmy and tropical coast. The pace of life is considered ideal for retirement too, as you’ll find yourself relaxing, and still be able to lead an active retirement. While stress levels vary among individuals, the laid-back atmosphere, friendly locals, mouth-watering cuisine, welcoming culture, and lower cost of living will have you listing Mexico as a top retirement destination.
To get started, this guide by Pacific Prime Latin America will take you through the visa requirements, housing options, and the country’s healthcare system to make your retirement in Mexico a true reality.
How to become a retired resident in Mexico
When seeking to enter Mexico, you’ll certainly come across a degree of bureaucracy but don’t let it undermine your goal of retiring there. It is quite straightforward. Simply apply for a permanent resident visa and you’ll soon become a fully retired resident in Mexico. Here’s what you need to know about applying for a permanent resident visa and the exclusive benefits it offers.
- Permanent resident visas (visa de residente permanente) are issued to foreigners who want to live in Mexico permanently.
- Permanent residency grants foreigners all the rights of Mexican citizenship – except for the right to vote. (You’ll have to apply for citizenship if you want to do that!)
- Permanent residency doesn’t require renewals like a temporary resident visa (visa de residente temporal) does.
- Permanent residency allows you to make unlimited border crossings without issues especially at immigration on your arrival back into Mexico.
Applying for a permanent resident visa and residency card: 4-step process
First, you’ll need to book an appointment at your local Mexican embassy or consulate. Check the embassy’s website within your current country of residency for the list of documents to prepare as well.
Secondly, fill out the application form and make sure you have all your documents ready before the appointment.
Take note: One of the main requirements is to be financially self-sufficient, which means you’ll have to prove on paper your level of economic solvency. For example, the Mexican embassy in the US requires you to bring either an:
- Original and copy of your investment accounts or personal bank accounts with a monthly balance of at least USD $32,426 for the previous 12 months ( in the form of 12-monthly bank statements); or
- Original and copy of documents showing that you have a job or pension that nets a monthly income of USD $1,946 after taxes during the previous 6 months (bring along the last 6 months of your payslips and the bank statements that show the direct deposit of your salary).
Thirdly, you’ll be asked questions about your current status, financial position, and the reason why you want to live in Mexico. (Tip: Treat it as a casual conversation. There’s nothing to concern yourself with at this point, as your intention is to retire in Mexico and live out your best years). You’ll then be informed of the embassy’s decision after a few working days or once the embassy is satisfied with your documents, status, and financial position.
Lastly, once granted the visa, you’ll have 180 days to move to Mexico before it expires and 30 days from your date of arrival to apply for your residency card at the local immigration office.
Once you have received your residency card, you’ll, without a doubt, be making lots of exciting decisions on how best to enjoy your freedom and time in Mexico. Included within your list could be destinations to explore in Mexico, as well as learning about the cost of living in Mexico. One thing’s for certain, you’ll need a place called “home”, which is what we will cover in the next part of this guide.
Finding a place to live in Mexico: buying or renting
Now that you are legally in the country, the most important thing to have is a roof over your head! Retiring in another country means having a place you can enjoy and spend quality time in.
Buying a property in Mexico
If buying a home is what you want to do then you’ll be happy to know that there are little to no restrictions on foreign ownership. This means you can hold the title in your name but do bear in mind the following:
- If the property is near the coast or an international border, however, special rules will apply.
Here are 6 steps to follow to help you buy a home in Mexico:
1. Reach out to a real estate company
As a foreign retiree, it’s safer to approach the expert of a real estate company or agency to help provide you with a list of places to choose to buy. Unless of course, you have a good foundation and understanding of the market and can negotiate directly with the owners of a property for sale. Just be sure to make a sensible offer and come to the right agreement on price. If discussed verbally, you’ll need to make sure it’s recorded on paper or electronically for referencing later on.
2. Sign the sales contract
You will be required to sign a “promise of sale” contract (promesa de compraventa, convenio de compraventa, or contrato de compraventa in Spanish). This sales contract has details of the sale including the terms and conditions, special payment arrangements (if any), and penalties for defaulting on the payment. As Spanish is the official language in Mexico, the documents presented will most likely be in Spanish. If you are unsure, you could request an English version of the contract to ensure you have a full understanding of what you are about to sign. Real estate agents will certainly have this available if you ask.
3. Pay a deposit
Housing sales typically require a deposit of 5-10% of the value of the property. However, if you are financially prepared, you’ll most likely make a lump sum payment for your home.
(A point to note: Just make sure you are protected from fraud or suspected criminal activity. This is why you are encouraged to contact a reputable real estate agent who can be relied upon to complete transactions fully and legally. Beware and don’t fall victim to anything that sounds too good to be true)
4. Transfer the previous owners land trust (Fideicomiso) into your name
The land trust holds the deeds to the property, and you and/or other named persons like spouse which you specify are sole beneficiaries to the trust (and therefore, the property). With the land trust under your name, you can do whatever you like with your property including:
- Developing the property (following local planning regulations)
- Offering the property for rent, lease, or to sell for whatever reason in the future.
5. Obtain permission to complete the transfer of ownership from the Foreign Secretary’s office
You’ll be asked to sign a statement indicating you will not seek foreign legal jurisdiction in dealings with your property transaction, which is another of saying that Mexican property law will fully govern the process.
6. Get the official valuation (Avalúo)
At this stage, you’ll need to visit the notary to arrange for the official valuation. This is important from a taxation perspective as the valuation will be used to establish the home’s value for tax purposes. Once the valuation is complete, you’ll need to sign off the Escritura to complete the transfer of ownership and then pay the taxes due and initiate the property registration process.
By this stage, you are officially the owner of your property in Mexico. Congratulations on your milestone!
(Take note: The above 6 steps merely represent the main points to consider and do not take into account other processes in between like appointments with officials for property purchases, etc. You are encouraged to follow the advice provided by your real estate agent to help you during the process of purchasing your home.)
Renting a property in Mexico
If renting is your preferred option when you arrive in Mexico, then you’ll want to learn about the types of property to rent in Mexico. These include:
- Detached houses
- Apartments and condominiums (condos)
- Specialist houses
These will vary from location to location so it’s best to do your research and contact the landlord for further details of the place for rent. Additionally, retirees will have to agree to rental contracts that range from short-term contracts (1-6 months) to long-term contracts for retirees looking for a year or longer.
To learn more about renting in Mexico and what the rental process is like in the country, you can read our published article here.
Healthcare for expat retirees in Mexico
With your visa requirements sorted and a home to make you feel safe and well, it’s worth learning about healthcare for expat retirees in Mexico. Here’s what to expect from the country’s healthcare system.
Value for money healthcare
Mexico’s healthcare system has high standards with many medical facilities and healthcare providers that are on par with what’s available in the U.S. Additionally, treatments and prescriptions are exceptionally affordable for any expat or retiree in the country. However, expat retirees may want to consider securing retiree health insurance to give them access to additional benefits like short to no wait times at private hospitals.
Public vs. Private healthcare
Mexico has a public and private health care system, and although you’ll be classed as a legal resident who can access public medical services, you may want to consider going private as your backup.
To learn why going private may be better for you, check out our published article: Healthcare for expat retirees in Mexico. You’ll be able to learn the differences between public and private hospitals in relation to accessibility, language barrier, quality of healthcare and services, and also the available support system.
Accessing healthcare services
As a retiree in Mexico, you will surely want to keep tabs on your health and this means having access to healthcare services when you need them. More so, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have to pay out of pocket, given that you are a legal resident. Below are options you’ll want to know about:
Instituto de Salud para el Biernestar (INSABI)
This public health insurance scheme available to residents who don’t already have access to the more comprehensive IMSS and is said to provide free treatment and medication. There are no subscription fees and the unemployed mainly use the INSABI. As a retiree, it’s worth registering for this so that you can access healthcare in the country.
Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS)
The IMSS is considered to be the main public health insurance scheme that most residents use to access healthcare but with one particular caveat – residents must be employed and working in Mexico. Since you would need to be working, expat retirees don’t fall in this category but can easily sign up voluntarily for around MXN $2,000 to MXN $5,500 a year. The healthcare services available through the IMSS are fairly extensive and better equipped in major cities like Mexico City and Puebla.
Private health insurance
Given that healthcare costs are affordable in Mexico’s public healthcare system, retirees can be forgiven for not seeking private health insurance. But if you want to access top private hospitals in the country and would rather not pay huge amounts out of pocket, then securing retiree health insurance is the way to go.
Premiums for you will certainly vary and costs will depend on whether you are going for a local or international plan, as well as factors relating to the level of coverage, age, and pre-existing conditions, etc. To guide you through the process, it is worth contacting a broker to help you find the best option to suit your needs and budget.
Pacific Prime Latin America is here to help
This guide offers what you need to consider before making plans to retire in Mexico. The information provided represents the experience we have gathered from working closely with expat individuals, families, businesses, and also numerous retirees making Mexico their new home.
For further guidance on other aspects of moving abroad, check out our complete guide to moving abroad as an expat.
Pacific Prime Latin America is committed to simplifying insurance and is here to help with all your insurance needs and inquiries. No stone is unturned in the search for a retiree health insurance plan that satisfies your needs and requirements.