Tag Archives: Retirement

Immigration to Mexico

28 Mar

seal-of-mexicoIn keeping with my pledge to learn what I can about immigration to the countries we are visiting, in case family and friends wish, or are forced, to leave Trumpland, I have been greatly aided in Mexico by the fact that we’re staying in an ex-pat community. The Lake Chapala Society here in Ajijic has an immigration officer in the office every week to answer ex-pat’s questions!  She has sheets printed out with all the details of acquiring both temporary and permanent residency. The requirements are by far the easiest to fulfill of all the places we have visited so far.

First of all, it is possible to stay in Mexico on a tourist visa for 180 days. It is then possible to cross back into the U.S., stay for a few days, and come back again for another 6 months. As I understand it, one can even purchase property here while visiting on a tourist visa. If one wants to stay for more than 6 months, or is planning to move here permanently, it is better to apply for either a Temporary Residency or a Permanent Residency. Both require application via a Mexican consulate in one’s home country; the nice woman advising us at the Society said with a bit of embarrassment that each consulate has different interpretations of the requirements, and has discretion to change what is required to apply. But generally, the required documents and qualifications are as follows:

residencyreqs_mexico_mar28

The notes on the sheet are mine, and have to do with application fees, which range from 5300 pesos ($278) for a 1-year temporary residency visa, to about 9300 pesos (about $490) for a 3-year visa. The proof of income figures are encouraging:  32,000 pesos–the monthly amount required to qualify for a temporary residency–is about $1700, and means that one must prove that one has that amount coming in every month for the last 6 months. For a permanent residency visa, that figure is about $2,000/month. To my amazement, according to the immigration agent, a temporary residency visa entitles you to work in the country, and to have access to Mexican health care. The only glitch for couples is that each spouse must apply separately and show proof of that income. But the agent explained that should one spouse not have the required income, arrangements will be made once the other spouse has qualified.

Bottom line:  if you have any assets at all, it’s pretty easy to move here and gain residency status. No wonder there are so many ex-pats here that own properties! The only other advice that this lovely immigration agent made involved cars. It is apparently more complicated to bring your own car here than to buy one in Mexico and insure it.

More information can be found at https://www.mexperience.com/lifestyle/living-in-mexico/visas-and-immigration/

¡Viva Mexico!

Further impressions of Ajijic

16 Mar

One of the main reasons we like to stay for at least a month in all these places we visit is that it gives us enough time to accumulate experiences in the location so that we can weigh up the pros and cons, balancing the things we like with the things we don’t like.  Right now we are vacillating a lot between those pros and cons. Ajijic is so Americanized–well North Americanized, since the majority of the ex-pats are Canadian–that it is still a little unsettling for us that we hear more English, see more blondes, and shop in stores that are filled with products from “home.” Every week, Ajijic has an organic farmer’s market filled with supposedly organic products. We would have seen more Mexicans by far at the farmer’s market in Pasadena than we saw here, even as vendors. Mexicans wouldn’t be so spend-thrift as to pay the prices here in any case–about double what the same products would cost in the regular Mexican markets. Just my musings about the place. Is this really Mexico?

I can certainly understand why Americans, and especially Canadians, would find Ajijic to be paradise on earth: the weather is absolutely splendid, with lush vegetation, cooling breezes from Lake Chapala, and clear skies almost every day. Because it’s at such a high altitude, it never gets humid, either. To us, Southern Californians that we are, these benefits are not so overwhelming; it just reminds us very strongly of San Diego.

Of course, there are great benefits to being in such an Americanized place:  The Lake Chapala Society offers all the cultural advantages of home, with a library, cafe, lectures, bus tours, musical performances, Spanish classes and information about medical facilities and access to all kinds of information and discounts that would be hard to find on one’s own. We have become members for one month (100 pesos–$5)!  Ajijic itself has only one tiny bookshop, no museums, and no cultural institutions to speak of. Tomorrow (our 43rd anniversary!) we will go to Guadalajara–35 miles away–for the first time, and may find that the city will provide a source of intellectual sustenance.

What this place has also made us realize, at least in our thoughts today: we are not ready for a retirement community! None of the Americans/Canadians here are under 50, and even 50 is quite young. I haven’t seen a single American young person or child. Without nearly perfect Spanish, we miss having a variety of ages and  access to Mexican families and students. Even with the language, it is difficult to imagine how we could easily have those experiences. I’m hoping that when we visit other parts of Mexico, we might see if those kinds of interactions are possible.

Here are the very real positives for us:  the costs of things!  George is now writing up a detailed list of “Stuff in Ajijic”, which he will (hopefully) post as a blog soon. As some of you may remember if you have been reading our blogs all along, we have started this round of travels for two reasons: first, in the decision to rent out our house again, our immediate reason was that we felt we had to be out of the country for this odious administration’s first 100 days, in hopes that we could escape the unbearable effects of the destruction of American democracy (we can’t) and find out possible places of refuge if and when family and friends needed to flee. We will indeed write up the steps needed to come to Mexico on a long-term basis, should it come to that.

postcardtotrump_ajijic

Sending my Dump Trump postcard to the White House on the Ides of March. Word is it will probably take two months to get there.

Our second reason is a more practical one: since we have both retired, we can no longer afford to live in our Californian home. We are consequently seeking out places that may be more affordable for us; I know we are not alone in this search. Since it is easy to rent out our house to Huntington scholars and others, we can cover those expenses while (hopefully) living elsewhere for less money. And for this reason, Mexico is indeed the winner so far: we can live much more cheaply here, and it’s only a three-hour flight to Denver to see our kids and other family.  So today, one week into our one-month stay, we are still tossing up all these factors. Still on the agenda, after Mexico, is another visit to Europe (which, let’s be honest, is where we really want to be!), some forays into small-town California, and even Taos, New Mexico.You can see, then, that we are adrift, still wandering gypsies who would really like to be settled.

Meanwhile, the sun shines, we have a construction site next door with pounding sledge hammers, the birds on the lake and surrounds are a delight, and the ATMs sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Finally, for those friends who want to know where my picture of cats is:  we have only seen one cat on the street, an adorable kitten who rushed right up to us in hopes of finding food. There are lots and lots of stray dogs on the streets of Ajijic, which may be why there are no cats!

kitty_ajijic_mar12

First impressions of Ajijic

11 Mar

horses@lazarocardenas_ajijic_mar10

The picture above is a perfect metaphor for our first impression of this lakeside town. The horses, from a corral just down the street from our rental, are brought up here to graze on the grass in front of the entirely gated community across the street from our house here in Ajijic.  The gated community could as easily be in Palos Verdes or San Diego. The place is a fascinating mix of Mexican rural/small town and North American (mostly Canadian) ex-pat community. In the morning, we see very proper, usually older, country-club English speakers walking their little dogs along the street. In the afternoon, young charros come and sing to herd the horses back to the corral, and later men in cowboy hats ride the same horses down the same street. We really like watching the seamlessness with which these two very different worlds coexist.

lakechapalafromajijic_mar10

Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest natural lake, is right down the street–the photo shows the view from our third floor balcony.  The lake is, alas, rather polluted, but the walk along the malecon–the boardwalk–is very pretty. Ajijic itself is small, filled with restaurants, boutiques, and charming street scenes. While the town, according to a big mural in Centro, was founded by the Aztecs in 1472, there are few colonial buildings here.

To the north of our place–we are in Upper Ajijic–are the mountains–Sierra de San Juan Cosala. Unlike many mountain ranges, we are finding these gentle hills to be embracing, protecting, and benevolent.

mountainsfromourhouse

rentsigninenglish_ajijic_mar10A sign of how overwhelmingly North American the place is:   almost all the signs are in English, including the For Rent signs! Our landlord for this wonderful three-story house with all the mod cons is from New York via Florida and has lived here 14 years. He’s the perfect landlord: here if we need him and not here if we don’t need him.  A very laid back place.

gb&leslie_ajijic_mar10

We have been well looked after by my dear Facebook friend Leslie, another American who has lived here for 12 years. She picked us up at the airport in Guadalajara, she brought us food, and has shown us the ropes in town. Today she is taking us into Chapala, the bigger town on the lake, where we will go to the markets and learn how to take the bus back to Ajijic.

Finally, in another sign of how ex-pat the place is, the grounds of The Lake Chapala Society is the prettiest place in town. One has to become a member to have access to libraries, lectures, classes, and bus tours to other parts of Mexico. The grounds include a pond, a pavilion, and lovely gardens.

There are more AA meetings here than you would find in a comparably sized American town, both in English and in Spanish!  I’m set!