By Pamela Taylor for The Eye Magazine
Mexico is a fantastic country to visit: the beaches, the wildlife and of course, the country’s unique culture and people. It’s not surprising that so many Canadians and Americans are making the decision to cross the border and set up a new life for themselves or to enjoy spending their hard-earned retirement pension.
If you’ve decided to take the plunge, get ready for some intense planning activity. The first step is to get yourself a three-month (at the very least) countdown checklist. You could even print this page and keep it nearby to make sure you remember absolutely everything.
Three Months to Go…
Getting your Passport and Visa in Order
Unless you are a pensioner or satisfy certain other criteria, in which case you may be able to organize a permanent residency permit straight off, you will need to apply for temporary residency and, if relevant, a work permit first. All of this is now organized via the Mexican consulate in your country or, should I say, Mexican consulates – be prepared for a different service and different rules depending on where you decide to apply!
Your whole move hinges on getting your visa approved in time, so you have to keep your eye on the ball throughout the application process. You will only be allowed to apply for a visa if you have a minimum of one year left on your passport so prioritize renewing your passport if necessary.
To Take or to Leave Behind
We all accumulate way more stuff than we think we do, so the sooner we get to work separating what we are going to take with us from what needs to be sold, donated or recycled the better. It is wise to get a breakdown of costs from your Mexican moving company so you can make a judgement on whether the cost of moving larger items is worth it. Fortunately, since Mexico’s electricity supply is similar to that in the US and Canada we don’t necessarily have to get rid of our widescreen TVs or computer towers or mess around with adaptors.
Selling or Renting your US or Canada Home
Moving house interstate can be stressful enough so moving to Mexico can really pile on the pressure. The key is to prepare well in advance and to carefully time crucial steps (closure, signing of rental documents, giving notice, etc.) Hint: Don’t actually do any of these things before you have received your visa approval!
If you are selling your home, you really need to have it on the market as soon as practical though. You will probably need to leave the closing to an agent or a trusted representative so this is the time to get all that in place. If you are renting it, decide on furnished versus unfurnished).
If you were thinking of just driving your US or Canadian-plated car straight into Mexico then think again. Recent changes require all foreign cars to be imported (unless you will be staying only in the border areas or other free zones) and this has to be arranged in advance. You will need to get in touch with a customs agent to do this and actual costs involved will depend on the particulars of the vehicle you intend to import. In some cases, it may be better to service and sell your vehicle instead but that will depend on your circumstances.
Last, but definitely not least, if you are going to be bringing your pet into Mexico, they will need to have a state vet-approved health certificate and be immunized against rabies and distemper at least 15 days prior to arrival. Some pets (e.g. reptiles, fish, rodents) may need import permits too. If you will be flying with your pet, there may also be restrictions imposed by the airline. Start the ball rolling as early as possible so all is in place well in advance.
Two Months to go…
Now is the time to start thinking about which moving company you are going to use. It is advisable to choose one with plenty of experience of moving clients from the US and Canada to Mexico since they will be used to dealing with the red tape. One part of the move involves creating your ‘Menaje de Casa.’ This is an inventory of all items you will be bringing with you, including their value. It has to be written in English and Spanish and is presented at the Mexican border. Your Mexican moving company can advise you further about this.
Start getting all necessary paperwork together including passports, birth certificates, bank statements, pay slips, share certificates, etc. Speak to your tax advisor about the best framework for your new circumstances and consolidate your finances (pay off credit cards, apply for Mexican bank accounts and close down existing accounts where necessary, etc.)
If you are flying in, book your tickets and check weight restrictions on luggage to help you plan what to take with you.
One Month to go…
Your passports and visas should all be approved by now and you should have a clear moving date in mind. Use this to organize your house sale; arrange closing (or new tenant arrival) for the day after you move to give the cleaners and moving company plenty of time to work in.
Inform all third parties about the move. For those that need it, give your new Mexican address or temporary holding address and begin closing down/transferring all services. Some of those you may need to advise are:
· Local authorities
· Cell phone/cable provider
· Gas, water and electric suppliers
· Banks and insurance companies
· Car registration, insurance and breakdown companies
· Newspaper and milk deliveries
· Gym and club subscriptions
· Health services (doctor, dentist, therapist, etc.)
During this period you should also obtain copies of any med prescriptions and any school documents (grades, reports, etc.) that may be needed.
Your final week should be spent in donating or recycling anything you have not managed to sell, labeling all items you are bringing with you, ready for your Mexican moving company, and double checking all sale/rental arrangements. Organize a professional cleaning company to arrive early on moving day.
Try to give yourself the last evening off, perhaps by booking into a hotel or staying with friends (remember, you may not even own a bed by this stage!) Then it’s over to the cleaners and movers. Providing they specialize in international moving, your moving company will be more than capable of ensuring a seamless transition over the border. Just make sure you don’t pack your visa, passport or money in the removal trucks!
Arrival in Mexico
You’ve done it! You are standing on Mexican soil and your new life begins here. There are some simple formalities to go through when you arrive, namely lining up to get your documents checked and visa stamped, but then it’s off to your new home to settle in. Just make sure you register your visa at the national migration institute (INM) within 30 days of your arrival; they will then sort out your resident’s permit card for you.