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Working life

In spite of Mexico’s fast-growing economy, opportunities for expat workers can be fairly limited.

To give you the best chances of landing your dream job, you’ll need to be fluent in Spanish and a highly qualified specialist in an in-demand area of the economy.

Senior management positions (particularly those in manufacturing, mining and IT) and other professional roles (e.g. engineers) are those most likely to be filled by international employees. But unlike other growth economies such as India, Mexico’s tertiary education system can largely keep up with demand for well-educated bilingual (Spanish-English) professionals.

The best places to look

The most common way for professional expats to find work in Mexico is to transfer there from within a multinational for which they already work, or to find employment opportunities through their professional networks.

However, the recruitment industry in Mexico has grown hugely in the past few years, as businesses have sought to reduce their recruitment costs while ensuring a supply of good quality candidates. The largest and most reputable agencies will have websites through which potential candidates can search for jobs, and the benefit of undertaking a job search at a distance is that you do not need to be in Mexico.

The majority of recruitment agencies require candidates to prove their qualifications and fluency level in Spanish prior to registration, with some requesting a CV and preliminary video conferencing interview. Most will need evidence that candidates already possess, or are eligible to apply for, a work visa for Mexico prior to taking on new clients. In addition, many require a commitment to an agreed length of exclusivity (i.e. an agreement that candidates will not approach other agencies simultaneously) to ensure that the hard work they do on a candidate’s behalf is not wasted effort. It’s not usual for agencies to charge an up-front fee for registration as they earn a fixed fee from the employer, in addition to a percentage of the annual wage of the placed candidate.

Immigration to Mexico is strictly controlled and entering the country to work without the necessary visa and other official registrations is illegal (please see the section on visas below). As is now standard practice in many other parts of the world, preference for job vacancies is given to natives, so businesses wishing to employ overseas employees are required both to prove that the role cannot be filled by a Mexican national (i.e. that no Mexican has the required level of skills, knowledge and expertise) and to “sponsor” the international employee by submitting a work permit application on their behalf. They must also ensure that, at all times, the conditions of the visa issued are complied with for the entire duration of their employee’s residency.

This is the case for all businesses employing non-Mexicans, from small and medium enterprise (SME) employers, such as those in the tourist areas of Mexico, to established Mexican companies and large multinationals operating in the country. If a sponsored international employee is found in breach of the terms of their visa at any point during the course of their residency in Mexico, the worker will be extradited and the employing company will be heavily fined.

The recruitment process 

For international candidates applying for jobs on their own initiative (i.e. not through an internal transfer or through a recruitment agency), the recruitment process is very similar to that seen in English-speaking countries — a CV, covering letter and (usually) online application form. CVs should be no more than two pages in length, but may be presented in a slightly different format to international standards in order to highlight suitability for the post applied for (i.e. educational achievements may appear further down the CV, while work experience is more prominent). However, it should be noted that education is highly valued in Mexico, so care should be taken to properly explain the content of, and skills derived from, any formal study or training undertaken. CVs should be submitted in both English and Spanish, and the usual submission format is as a single PDF document. There are some excellent online resources to help jobseekers tailor their CVs to the specific requirements of the Mexican economic culture.

Assessment centres are not yet common practice in Mexico, as they are in the U.K. and U.S., for example, and the majority of employers do not engage in pre-screening activities but invite selected candidates directly to interview. Mexican interviews also tend to follow international standards, but candidates should be prepared to answer questions about their personal life and situation, as well as their professional networks, since this is often seen by employers as a means of assessing a candidate’s method of relating to others and the extent (and value) of their professional networks.

Social status and educational prowess are highly valued in Mexico, so interviewees should be prepared to talk about their higher education (HE) experiences and to explain how their (overseas) university might fit into the educational hierarchy. It’s likely that employers will be familiar with world-famous HE institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, but graduates of less well-known universities should expect to highlight the academic renown of their particular institution."

Other employment options

Teaching English

Native English speakers without the education, professional skills or experience required to obtain professional sponsored employment in Mexico may be able to find work teaching English. But with native English speakers flooding the market, wages have fallen and the expectation of provable and official teaching qualifications, such as a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate, has risen. For qualified teachers, the best opportunities are offered by international schools, but language-learning centres and private tutoring are also options to consider. The sponsorship requirements for teachers/tutors employed in Mexico are the same as for any other work role involving non-Mexican employees.

Entrepreneurship 

Another possible route into work for expats is self-employment. Entrepreneurial spirit is greatly valued in Mexican culture and, as in other developing economies, the majority of businesses fall in the small to medium enterprise bracket. Tourist areas offer potential opportunities for hospitality and catering work and the cities offer all the usual retail and services options for enterprising individuals with money to invest and a hard-working attitude. Would-be entrepreneurs are advised to conduct thorough market research before attempting to establish a business, as rates of failure of new businesses in Mexico are similar to those in other countries (approximately 50% of new businesses do not survive the first 12 months of trading), and establishing a business or running a struggling one in a foreign country presents even more challenges than it would at home.

Work permits

As a foreign national, you’ll need a job offer or a contract from a company in order to obtain a work permit — and you can’t work in the country until you have one. Your company will apply to the Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM or Mexican Immigration Control) on your behalf, submitting a range of documents about their business along with a copy of your ID (usually your passport). While this is taking place, you may stay in Mexico on a tourist visa, but you’ll need to return to the consulate in your home country for an interview and to collect your work permit. You can then apply for residency.

Visas

You’ll need a permit and a full passport (with at least six months’ validity) in order to enter the country.

There are three types of permit:

  • Non-immigrant permit.
  • Non-immigrant temporary resident visa.
  • Permanent resident immigrant visa.

Non-immigrant permit

This is generally issued to tourists and business visitors for a temporary stay – usually for a specific purpose and for no longer than six months. You are not allowed to undertake any work with this permit, even voluntary.

You’ll need to complete a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM), usually issued in-flight, at the port or at the border, and you’ll need it to leave the country. It’s valid for 180 days and cannot be renewed. A small fee is payable (although sometimes this is included in the air fare – please check with your airline).

Non-immigrant temporary resident visa

For those who would like to stay in the country from six months to four years, this visa must be obtained outside Mexico through the consulate in your home country. It’s initially issued for one year and then renewed for up to four subsequent years. The terms of the visa are set from the beginning, according to your circumstances and intentions, and you may be able to work or undertake specific activities but this depends on its classification. You’ll need to prove that you can financially support yourself throughout its tenure, whether that’s by earnings or savings. After four years, you must either leave the country or apply for a permanent resident visa.

Permanent resident immigrant visa

This is for those who want to stay longer or want to eventually apply for Mexican citizenship. It’s not necessary to be a temporary resident first if you fulfil one of the necessary criteria:

  • Close family or other significant connections in the country.
  • Enough funds/monthly income if you’re applying for retirement status.
  • You have four consecutive years’ temporary resident status.
  • You’re married to a Mexican national or foreign permanent resident and you have two consecutive years as a temporary resident.
  • Claiming political asylum or residency for humanitarian reasons.

Mexico is also currently developing an immigration points system, in a similar fashion to many other countries around the world.

Please note

There are controls in place regarding travelling to Mexico through the U.S. and with minors who may not appear to be your own (if they have a different family name or appearance, for example). The advice is to do a little research for up-to-date information before you travel.

Tax

Expatriates working in Mexico will need to file a tax return. With regard to the income you’ll pay tax on, the situation differs depending on whether you are considered resident or non-resident. If your primary home is in Mexico, you are considered resident and could be taxed on your worldwide income. As a non-resident, you’ll only be taxed on what you earn in Mexico.

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