So, you've taken a vacation in Mexico and loved it! Taken in the spectacular scenery, enjoyed the beaches or maybe explored the colonial cities, and now you are wondering if you can retire in Mexico? Retirement may be a few years off, but the idea of retiring south of the border has been firmly planted! But can you really do that? Yes, you can, and more and more gringos are indeed choosing this charming country as their retirement destination. In fact, expatriates choose Mexico for retirement more than any other country in the world. Why? Primarily because it's possible to reduce your current living expenses in half by retiring here and not sacrifice, in most cases, the conveniences found at home. You might even raise your standard of living. Of course, this is not true in all areas.
Although a lower cost-of-living is the reason many people choose to retire in Mexico, it is by no means the only reason that retirement in Mexico is so appealing. With the passage of NAFTA in the early 1990s, Mexico has stabilized economically and socially. English is spoken in many areas. Access to the United States is quick, and in most cases, fairly easy. Gringos can buy and sell Mexico real estate. The weather is warm, and in some areas, the climate is tropical. There are places where the weather stays mild during the summer.
It is possible to stay in the country for longer than six months at a time without having to make a trip to the border. And maybe most importantly, older citizens are respected. Mexico beckons for all of these reasons and more!
One of the primary questions retirees have about Mexico is the quality of health care and insurance coverage. Contrary to popular belief, the health care in Mexico is very good. Many doctors have trained in the U.S. and are bilingual. One of Latin America's finest hospitals, Americas Hospital, is located in Guadalajara and has a San Diego-trained staff. It also accepts Blue Cross and other American insurance plans. It is true that Medicare and Medicaid are not accepted outside of the U.S., but many supplemental plans are accepted. And many expatriates choose to join the MSS (Mexican Social Security) plan which costs about $200 USD a year and covers medical, dental and vision. Regarding dental care, Americans and others have been coming to Mexico for dental procedures for years; typically, dental care in Mexico is one third the price of similar care in the United States.
Many gringos settle in the Lake Chapala and San Miguel de Allende areas, but North Americans can be found nearly anywhere in Mexico. You will find retirees in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Acapulco, on the Riviera Maya, in Baja, Alamos, Taxco, Tequisquiapan, Monterrey, and Yelapa. Where you decide to live depends on a number of factors, including how immersed in the Mexican culture you want to be and how inexpensive you want your lifestyle to be. Areas with a higher concentration of gringos tend to be more expensive than more remote areas, but even in the Lake Chapala area, where about 40,000 Americans and Canadians have retired, a comfortable lifestyle for two people can be had for about $1,200 a month.
Mexico has a multi-layered immigration system. Tourists with an FM-T visa (commonly known as the tourist visa) are allowed to stay in Mexico for 6 months without crossing a border to renew the visa. For those who want to stay longer than 6 months at a time without having to make a semi-annual trip to the border, the next step in the immigration process is the FM-3. You must be 55 to apply if you are outside of Mexico (any age can apply in Mexico), and you will need 6 things:
1) A completed official application form (FDN1/02) and a copy. These are available at any Mexican consulate and at the Regional Immigration Office in Mexico.
2) Your original tourist visa (it cannot be expired).
3) A current passport.
4) If spouses are applying, a copy of the couple's marriage certificate.
5) Written proof from a U.S. or Mexican bank that the equivalent of $1030 U.S. is being deposited monthly into the bank account of the applicant. For each dependent, the amount required is approximately $515 U.S. If you own property in Mexico, the amount required is reduced by one half. These minimums are set by the Mexican government and fluctuate.
6) There are two fees that must be paid to the Mexican Tax Department through a Mexican bank, using Hacienda Form #5. One is approximately $35 U.S. and the other approximately $90 U.S. These are paid separately; the first one before you apply for your visa, and the second one after you have applied and received a letter stating that your application has been received and is being processed.