Los Cabos Relocation Guide
Residency in Mexico
When you vacation in Mexico, you are issued an FFM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple) document at the point of entry into Mexico. The FMM document allows entry into Mexico for up to 180 days. What happens if you want to stay in Mexico for a more extended period or live there permanently?
Mexican Residency Visas
There are two types of residency visas in Mexico for those that want to remain in the country longer than 180 days. The first is called a Temporary Resident Visa (Residente Temporal), and the second is called a Permanent Resident Visa (Residente Permanente). Both will get a stamp (sticker) on your passport and a resident card, and both have minimum financial requirements that must be met.
Temporary Resident Visa
A temporary residency visa (Residente Temporal) is valid for one to four years. Typically, at the time of application, you will be granted a one-year visa, and then you can renew that visa for an additional three years. After a maximum of four years of continuous renewals, you either leave the country or may switch to permanent residency status.
The minimum financial requirements for a temporary residency visa are:
- income of 300 times the Mexican minimum wage (as of 2022, 172.87 Pesos per day) for the previous six months. As of 2022, the income requirement is 8,643.50 Pesos per month for the previous six months. This is the equivalent of $432 USD per month (@20 Pesos per USD) or $540 CDN per month (@16 Pesos per CDN).
- if using savings/investments, it’s 5,000 times the Mexican minimum wage in your bank accounts for the previous 12 months. As of 2022, the savings requirement is a balance in your account of 864,350 Pesos or more for the last 12 months. This is the equivalent of $43,218 USD (@20 Pesos per USD) or $54,022 CDN (@16 Pesos per CDN).
Permanent Residency Visa
A Mexican permanent resident visa (Residente Permanente) has no renewal requirement and is permanent. This visa has higher financial requirements than the temporary resident visa.
The minimum financial requirements for a permanent residency visa are:
- income of 500 times the Mexican minimum wage (as of 2022, 172.87 Pesos per day) for the previous six months. As at 2022, the income requirement is 14,406 pesos per month for the last six months. This is the equivalent of USD 720 per month (@20 Pesos per USD) or $900 CDN per month (@16 Pesos per CDN).
- if using savings/investments, it’s 20,000 times the Mexican minimum wage in your bank accounts for the previous 12 months. As of 2022, the savings requirement is a balance in your account of 3,457,400 Pesos or more for the last 12 months. This is the equivalent of $172,870 USD (@20 Pesos per USD) or $216,088 CDN (@16 Pesos per CDN).
To determine the specific amount for your currency, divide by the peso exchange rate when you’re applying. This amount can also vary depending on the consulate which you visit. Make sure you check out the consulate office website of the one you’re planning to visit to review specific financial requirements.
How to apply for the Mexican Resident Card
Visit the website of the consulate you plan on visiting to determine how they do the resident visa process. Some consulates take walk-ins, and some require an appointment to be made by phone or online For those consulates that require an appointment, you must make an appointment for each person applying.
Steps to apply for your visa
- Contact a Mexican embassy to set up an appointment.
- Complete the Mexico Visa Application Form.
- Collect the required documents, which at a minimum consist of:
- Visa application form printed on one page, double-sided, properly completed, and signed
- Valid passport or travel and identity document, original and a photocopy of the page containing the photograph and personal data.
- One photo measuring 3.9 cm x 3.1 cm, face uncovered, no eyeglasses, frontal view, color, and white background.
- Gather Financial requirement documents
- Apply and pay the visa fee. …
- Wait for the visa to be processed.
- Pick up your passport.
Finalizing Your Residency
This is very important as you DO NOT want to enter Mexico as a tourist, which cancels the visa you just paid
Once you are approved by the consulate and have your visa in your passport, you have six months to enter Mexico to finish getting your residency. You will get an FMM (“tourist visa”) upon entering Mexico. When completing this form, write either RESIDENTE TEMPORAL or RESIDENTE PERMANENTE (whichever applies) across the top in big block letters and show the immigration agent the visa in your passport. The immigration agent will give you 30 days on the FMM (tourist visa) and mark the CANJE (“exchange”) box. You turn in this FMM with your initial application at the Mexican immigration office to finalize your residency.
Once you have entered the country and are at where you plan to reside, you have only 30 days to finalize your residency. Failure to complete your residency within the 30-day time limit means your permanent or temporary visa is voided, and you will have to start the immigration process again outside of Mexico (and pay the fees again). Make sure you make an appointment at the INM offices before even arriving in México. Note that finalizing your residency can take up to one month, during which time you are not allowed to leave Mexico without written permission.
After you submit your application and it is accepted, you will be notified via email by the immigration office of the need to return to INM for fingerprinting and a photograph to get your card. You cannot leave Mexico while waiting for your residency card without specific written permission.
Leaving Mexico During Visa Processing
While it’s best if you plan not to leave Mexico while you wait for your residence card, sometimes it is necessary. Contact your local INM office for a “travel letter that permits you to go while your visa is processing. It is a one-time-only letter good for one exit and entry only, and you can be out of the country for no longer than 60 days.
Getting a temporary or permanent resident visa is easy with little organization and planning. There are also plenty of local resources in Cabo who can assist you with the process
Moving to Los Cabos
Should I ship my personal goods to Mexico?
If you are considering purchasing or renting a home in Mexico, the one question you every ex-pat considers is whether it is best to pack up and ship all or some of your possessions or buy new ones when you get to your new home.
One very important detail is to import household goods, you must hold either a Permanent or Temporary Resident permit. If you are a Temporary Resident, you must leave the country with anything you imported when the card expires.
Do it yourself or hire a shipping company?
Whether to import goods yourself or to hire a shipping company, there is no easy answer as both options have as many benefits as drawbacks. The one thing you need to know, however, is shipping your furniture and household goods is not as simple as just locating a truck or filling your vehicle up with goods and driving to your new home in Mexico.
Although many people transport their goods in their own vehicles as they drive down the Baja, there are still rules and regulations around importing those goods into Mexico. Also, you must be sure to secure your goods overnight or stay somewhere with 24-hour security. No one likes to wake up to find someone made off with your possessions in the night.
If you plan on bringing more than would fit in a car, you need a shipping company to transport your possessions. Although there are a lot of shipping companies that import to Mexico, do your homework. Ask for reference checks and speak with people who have shipped their goods. Insurance is essential, as well as proper packaging for the long journey ahead. Your shipping company should provide moving materials such as boxes, bubble wrapping, and protective carpets.
There are also several items that are commonly restricted items and are prohibited from entering the country, including two that can cause significant problems under Mexican law:
- Illegal Drugs
In addition to firearms and illegal drugs, Mexico also prohibits the import of:
- Money and securities
- Pornographic items
- Explosives and other dangerous goods
- New items purchased within six months (make sure EVERYTHING new is taken out if it’s original packaging).
- All medicines, including first aid kits
- Consumable items such as paper towels, tissue, white paper, and diapers, which may be subject to customs duties
- Food, including spices, tinned products, canned goods, supplements, and pet food
- Beverages, including wine, beer, and spirits
- Toiletries, sanitary goods, and cosmetics
- Hunting trophies and taxidermy items
- Cleaning chemicals, including detergents and soaps
- Collectible items, such as pens and coins
- Blank CDs, DVDs, and tapes
- Large quantities of similar items, which may be perceived as items intended for sale in Mexico
- Automobiles, boats, motorcycles
- Parts for automobiles, boats, and motorcycles
The Application Process
Whether you are using a shipping company or transporting items into Mexico yourself, importing your furniture and household goods requires a Household Goods Certificate. This document lists all furniture, linen, books, clothes, artwork, and anything else you plan to move to your new home. The Household import Certificate must be presented at your point of entry into Mexico. This certificate is only available in advance from the Consulate closest to your home.
You must apply for your Certificate at a Mexican Consulate. The applicant must attend the consulate in person. You cannot hire a third party to petition the application on your behalf.
To obtain the Certificate, you will need to present to the Consulate the following:
- Resident Visa permit
- Valid passport
- A typed letter addressed to your Mexican Consulate Office, providing the current address of your home as well as the complete address of your new residence in Mexico
- A typed list, in Spanish of ALL household goods being imported, including the quantity and description of each item as well as the brand, model, and serial numbers of electronic appliances
- Four original sets of each document signed
- Cash payment of the Consular fee
Your Household Goods Import Certificates allow up to six months from the time you first enter Mexico in which to import your possessions. You are only permitted one Household Goods Import Certificate, so make sure to get everything moved within that six-month period.
You will also require the service of a customs broker at your port of entry. Customs brokers are licensed experts on importing and are familiar with all Mexican customs and tariff laws.
The right custom broker will work for you to ensure you have met all the requirements to import your goods.
Moving to Mexico is stressful enough. If you plan to import your furniture and household goods, consult experts before you go. You will be glad that you did!
Furnishing a home
When relocating to Mexico there are lots of options concerning furnishing your new home. Although most homes here are sold furnished, the furniture may either not be your style if you are wanting some things from home.
Importing your furniture is always an option and may accelerate your settling into your new home. Many people often ship those items that make a home a home such as linens and kitchenware. Others opt to work with the furniture in place and trade out items that are not to your taste.
Shopping for furniture in Mexico is very different from shopping for furniture in places like the U.S. or Canada due to availability, style, and craftsmanship. So, what are our options:
Custom Furniture Made in Guadalajara
For the greatest variety and assortment of furniture from different materials with regular operating hours and conditions, you will want to head to one of the furniture zones in Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque & Tonala. The Tlaquepaque & Guadalajara areas have shops at all levels of quality, style, price, and workmanship. “Custom made” doesn’t cost more as everything IS CUSTOM MADE. Many of the factories in Tlaquepaque/Tonala will take your order and manufacture your furniture allowing you to buy directly from the factory passing middleman savings on to you. The Tonala area is known for beautiful leather furniture as well as upholstered and fine rustic finishes. The upside of going factory direct is you get exactly what you want, often at a lower price than shopping in a furniture store, delivered right to your door. There are even businesses you can contact to take you on a guided tour of the Guadalajara furniture manufacturers.
There are also traditional cash and carry furniture stores with fine furniture as well as more commercial lines.
Second Hand Furniture
We can’t speak for anywhere else in Mexico, but Los Cabos has a robust used furniture scene. Whether you shop on Facebook Marketplace or head to a large, modern consignment store, like Tienda 17 in San Jose. there is a large, revolving inventory carrying many items up for sale to furnish your home. Also check Craigslist as well.
Local Furniture Stores
There are a lot of local furniture stores like The Home Store, My Way Too, Casa Bonita and Galerias El Truinfo featuring both Mexican and US manufactured pieces. Prices vary depending on the store, quality, and origin of the items with Mexican manufactured tending to be less expensive than US manufactured pieces. There is also an Ashley Furniture in San Jose which carries the same inventory as the US stores, you may just have to wait for delivery.
Grocery, Big Box, and Home Improvement Stores
Most of these types of stores offer some good options, especially for appliances and electronics. If there is a Costco or a Home Depot in your area, it is worth heading to those places to look around and compare prices and inventory. Costco also carries a variety of furniture that is good quality and inexpensive. Also, many Mexican chain grocery stores carry a wide variety of household goods for purchase.
More and more, people are opting to shop online with trusted brands like Amazon, Wayfair, and Ikea. Items can be purchased online and delivered to a US freight forwarder who will import the items and bring them down the Baja, delivering them to your door for a fee. Read more about freight forwarders.
Vehicles & Insurance
When relocating to Los Cabos, people ask us so many questions about vehicles. What to do with your cars at home? How do you buy a car here? What about license plates? What’s up with all those South Dakota plates? Will I need special insurance if I bring a vehicle from home? We will answer them here as well as many more. This part of our blog is by no means fully comprehensive. Do your research based on your specific circumstances.
Foreign Plated Vehicles in the Baja
The entire Baja peninsula is considered a “Free Zone” for foreign plated vehicles. The Free Zone means you do not need a temporary import permit for your vehicle. However, your vehicle must have valid and current US or Canadian license plates with updated tags from the state of origin. Many Baja residents leave their US or Canadian plated cars in the Baja and have the plates and tags mailed to them or pick them up at a family member’s address at home. For more about the free zones and taking your foreign plated vehicle out of the free zone, check out the blog “Driving in Mexico” at mexperience.com
Residency & Vehicles
Residency and vehicle ownership are linked. All permanent residents (Residente Permanente) must be driving locally plated vehicles and have local driver’s licenses. Many permanent residents will drive the US or Canadian plated cars at their peril. If you choose to do this, you will need to carry your US or Canadian driver’s license with you in case you are pulled over. Many permanent residents in Cabo drive their US or Canadian vehicles without concern.
If you are a temporary resident (Residente Temporal) you may go either way by having a locally plated vehicle or a US or Canadian plated vehicle. However, to obtain and plate a local car, you must first have your local driver’s license.
In Mexico, there is no requirement that drivers carry insurance. You should probably have it for everyone regardless of where your vehicle is plated. Insurance from the US or Canada will not cover you in Mexico. You will need to get insurance locally, even for your US or Canadian plated vehicle. Insurance you buy here will also come with coverage for the other cars you are in a collision with who do not have insurance. When bringing a vehicle to the Baja from home, you need to have your insurance coverage lined up when crossing the border. Check with your insurer about suspending coverage while the vehicle is in the Baja at home.
Local Driver’s License
Getting a local driver’s license is straightforward. You show your license from home and present proof of your blood type. That’s right; your blood type is a requirement on your driver’s license to show first responders which type you are. Smart idea, right! The blood type test is ~100 pesos at many local labs. Once you have that in hand, you present it with your license and pay a fee, snap your photo, and voila, you have a BCS driver’s license. Now you can buy and register a local vehicle.
If your Spanish is good, you should be able to do this independently. Otherwise, plenty of local resources can help you obtain your local driver’s license.
Start with bringing a vehicle from home
The logistics may seem daunting to get your residency, then a driver’s license, and then a vehicle and plates. We often tell people if they have a good reliable older SUV at home to bring it. You’ll have wheels right away while you get the driver’s licenses sorted out and acquire and plate a local vehicle. You can go for a long while on plates from home if you come from a state or province that doesn’t require regular emissions re-certifications or safety inspections. Eventually, you can later sell the vehicle you brought from home on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. There is always a person like you coming to Cabo who needs wheels and hasn’t gone through the residency yet.
Don’t want to drive that vehicle down the Baja? There are plenty of folks who have a business of transporting cars to and from Los Cabos. Ask us, and we can give you a few people to talk to.
Alternately you can start by buying a US plated vehicle in Cabo instead of bringing one. Look for ones that have SD or South Dakota plates noted in the advertisements.
Importing a vehicle
There are plenty of blogs and internet articles regarding importing a vehicle into Mexico so that it can be plated locally. It is expensive and requires you to hire an agent to facilitate the process, and you may end up staying at a hotel in Tijuana or another border city for up to a week while the process occurs. If this interests you, there are many resources in Cabo that can assist with importing a vehicle from out of the country.
South Dakota Plates
So, you’ve seen a lot of those South Dakota license plates around Cabo? What’s that all about? Turns out that South Dakota is the only state in the union that doesn’t care if you’re a resident there to plate a vehicle. South Dakota plates are the alternative to plating US-originated vehicles when you’re finished with driving the vehicle back to that home state for emissions testing or other routine re-certification. We are far from experts in the process we just know people do it and there are resources in Cabo that can assist in obtaining plates and tags from the registry in South Dakota. For more about South Dakota plates and their history with Cabo check out this story “Why there are so many cars in Mexico with license plates South Dakota”
Buying a US or Canadian originated vehicle
Buying a US or Canadian-originated vehicle in Cabo involves finding one, getting it checked out, and then making payment and title transfer as you would at home. Look for them on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Several English-speaking local mechanics can help with the inspection and roadworthiness. One thing that Mexican mechanics are somewhat reluctant to do is road test a US or Canadian plated vehicle. It sounds terrible, but the local police see a Mexican behind the wheel of a US or Canadian plated vehicle, and the immediate assumption is that it’s been stolen. Something to think about that does help push you in the direction of a local car.
Buying a Mexican originated vehicle
There are the usual new and used car operations here, along with a robust 2nd hand market facilitated by Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. We recommend that all ex-pats enlist a local resource in your search for a vehicle. Title transfer in Mexico is more complicated than back home, and much of the additional protocols are needed to prevent theft and fraudulent registration of stolen vehicles. For example, a Mexico-originated car must have the original purchase factura and chain of custody from the new owner to register the car.
There are some pleasant upsides to buying locally. Some manufacturers will sell into Mexico at a lower price than in the US or Canada. Mercedes is one of them. We purchased a used 2014 GLK from the local dealer in 2016 for 430,000 pesos (~ USD 25k at the time) with 11,000km on it. We checked online in the US, and the exact vehicle was going for $40k. Jeeps, on the other hand, are the same new in Mexico as they are at home. Jeeps are so desirable here that of all vehicles you could have here, they hold their value the best regardless of where you got them from or where you have them plated.
Local licenses and plates/tags
Keeping your local vehicle tagged each year is straightforward, but we still prefer to have our ‘DMV guy” help with the process. Everyone is required to get their new tags each year within the first three months. So each year, we all need to have our tags updated by March 31. Drivers’ licenses need to be updated every three years. Admin fees are small, 1,000 Pesos for a driver’s license renewal and 700 Pesos for each set of vehicle tags.
Making Los Cabos Home
So, you have made a move to Los Cabos, and now it’s time to settle in. Los Cabos is a fantastic home and offers excellent weather, a unique culture, and many great experiences just waiting to happen.
Los Cabos is recognized as one of the most pleasant places on earth, with sunny days and breezy most of the time, and the average temperature ranges between 75° F and 95°F, which may drop some days during Winter to 65°F. There is a short rainy season from June through October, with a few afternoons of heavy rains in August and September. More about weather in Los Cabos.
Los Cabos is well known for its flashy lifestyle and celebrity sightings, but if you look a little closer, the area is teeming with traditional Mexican culture and customs. Notice locals gathering in downtown plazas to take a leisurely afternoon walk while visiting with friends. Local ranchers and farmers continue traditions and supply their goods in farmer’s markets, which are worth visiting. Fishing is a mainstay in Los Cabos and is heavily relied upon both for sustenance and tourist dollars.
As one of Mexico’s top destinations, Los Cabos is safe and experiences the same petty crimes any major tourist destination may experience, such as pickpocketing and cell phone theft.
For most travelers to Los Cabos, use the same travel commonsense you use anywhere. While Los Cabos is safe overall, it is possible to find trouble if you are looking for it. Remain aware of yourself and your surroundings.
Los Cabos is a mecca for great food. Whether you are looking for Mexican, American, European, Asian, or any other cuisine, there is a food option for every taste. Choose from a street vendor selling their yummy wares to grabbing a quick taco from a to-go restaurant or enjoying a relaxing sit-down meal, and the options are endless. If five-star dining is more to your taste, you do not have to look far. Some excellent 5-star restaurants are catering to those more expensive budgets. Check out our blogs for more about dining experiences.
The leading supermarket chains in Mexico are Walmart, Soriana, Chedraui, La Comer, Fresko (a La Comer brand), and City Club (a Soriana warehouse store). There are also US-style membership stores such as Costco and smaller specialty markets like Santa Carmela Market and Europa specializing in imported goods. Several small grocery stores offer staples and a good selection of fresh produce. In most cases, be sure to bring your carry-home bags or be ready to purchase them on-site. More about Grocery Shopping.
One of the favorite activities of locals or ex-pats is spending the day at the beach. Whether you pack a cooler for the day or purchase food items from street vendors on the beach, beach days are the best. Be sure to check and make sure if the beach you are going to is swimmable – most beaches in Los Cabos are not. Read the signs at the entrance to determine water conditions and whether your fur baby is welcome. More about beaches.
Everywhere you look, Los Cabos offers a variety of entertainment. Watch street performers perform shows along the marina and entertain you while dining. Make sure to put something in the hat passed around after the performance.
If live music is your thing, enjoy listening to musicians playing on street corners or local bars. If you are up for an airconditioned, high-end movie experience, Los Cabos has several luxury theaters running first releases of movies. With Mexican subtitles! If clubbing is more your style, clubs along the main drag operate until the early hours, pumping out current sounds and pouring drinks. In Los Cabos, there is something for everybody. Read more in our Food, Sun & Fun Blogs.
Staying in Touch – Phones & Internet
Sorting out phones and the Internet is an early priority once you live in Los Cabos. It can be a challenge to get yourself set up and satisfied as you were back home. Telmex is a local phone company, and they provide both home phone service, and Internet and cellular service. More about the Internet, Land Lines and Cell Phones.
Mail Services & Freight Forwarding
Mexico will give you some challenges for any ex-pat used to everyday living at home. Some things folks are all very much used to are getting mail delivered at home and getting their online purchases from eBay and Amazon delivered. Here in Los Cabos, it is different but not impossible. Read all about Mail Services & Freight Forwarding.
Communicating & Networking
As newbies to Los Cabos, you will be busy figuring things out and meeting new people. There are ways to do this effectively and efficiently. Check out our blog on Spanish, Communicating & Networking.
Dogs are welcome almost everywhere in Los Cabos. From restaurants to selected beaches, our fur friends are welcome. Please keep your pet on a leash, make sure he’s well behaved and socialized, and your pup may get a specialty-made treat where you’re dining.
Beaches require your pet on a leash, and are sure to clean up after him. Grooming is inexpensive, as are visits to the vet, and there are daycare and overnight care facilities for your pet that treat your little guy like a king. Don’t hesitate if you’re thinking about bringing your fur baby with you. Los Cabos is pet friendly!