Reader Question: I will be moving to Mexico (specifically the Cabo San Lucas Area) to retire in the next few years. I will be selling my business in the states and planning to live off the proceeds as well as my Social Security. I will have both a U.S. and foreign bank account, and plan to apply for Mexican residency. What should I do to prepare?
Hey Scott, glad you're thinking about taking the plunge!
American citizens must pay tax on world-wide income wherever they live, so you will have to continue your tax filings in Mexico, plus file an FBAR if you have a foreign bank account. We usually refer out to Taxes for Expats if you want tax advice. They specialize in these types of filings.
Depending on which state you are living in now, you may want to consider transferring your official residency to FL or NV (both very tax-friendly and retiree-friendly states) before you officially leave the U.S.
We always recommend setting up a mail forwarding service, Inc Paradise is the service that we use in NV. Make sure to drop a change of address form in the mail and do a USPS change of address online the day that you leave (and keep a copy of it). That's good evidence of a formal address change.
If you want to get Mexican Residency, it's easy if you have a pension or some other sort of passive income source, because Mexico offers a "retiree visa" that is relatively easy to get. You have to actually start the process at a Mexican consulate before you leave, though, so we recommend getting in touch with a good Mexican immigration attorney to help with the paperwork. While not difficult, it is time consuming and it is easy to forget one necessary document that you might need, and that will derail the whole process, which is aggravating (and happened to us the first time we tried to get the ball rolling)! We always recommend EDUARDO CHAVEZ FREGOSO, ESQ.
He is our immigration attorney and he also does real estate, which is important if you plan to buy a home in Mexico. Expect to pay between $750 and $1,000 USD (at the current exchange rate 20:1) for the attorney to file the necessary paperwork for you. The retiree visa is good for 4 years and will allow you to live indefinitely in Mexico and open a Mexican bank account.
You can use your US driver's license in Mexico but you won't be able to use your car in Mexico for more than 180 days without bringing it back to the US. That's not a problem if you plan to go back and forth at least twice a year (people in Baja/Cabo tend to make frequent trips, but if you end up going somewhere like Quintana Roo/Cancun, you need to think about buying a car down there).
After that, it's basically all about getting used to the culture and the climate, both of which are different but wonderful. English is widely spoken in Cabo and all over Baja so you won't have a difficult time. Enjoy your move, Mexico is a beautiful place for retirees!
Hi! We are planning a move to Tulum next year. We would like to find a nice home not too far from school as the girls are still young and we don’t feel like travelling. Also we don’t find it easy to get information on long time renting houses ? Would you have sites to recommend or a group especially devoted to that? Thank you so much. Have a great day.
Manny's Answer: Tulum is a great place for families with children. It's also very expat-friendly without being as touristy as Cancun. There are several private schools that cater to Americans and Canadians.
When we arrive in a new area, we typically rent a temporary home using Airbnb with a credit card, so our purchase is secure. We will typically rent for one month or so as we explore the region. You can rent and contact the owners of the homes to see if they will rent long-term. There are many rental options all over the Mayan Riviera. I do not recommend renting sight-unseen, no matter where you are! Don't use Craigslist or any other site where you may have to wire money without actually seeing the property first. Many people rent for a year or so before making a long-term commitment. I suggest renting an inexpensive apartment for a month or two (using Airbnb or a similar site where you can pay with a credit card and protect your purchase). Once you are in Tulum, you can search locally for larger homes or homes closer to specific areas or the beach if that's what you want.
If you want to purchase property, be VERY CAREFUL in Tulum, there are a lot of real estate scams in the area. You will want to use an attorney, a notary, and a licensed real estate agent to cover your legal bases as much as possible.
It's too difficult (in my opinion) to pick a school without being here in person. Most of the schools do not have websites, although most of them have Facebook pages. In Tulum or Playa Del Carmen you can explore on bikes, but if you want to explore the entire region (recommended) you will need a car. We DO NOT recommend Hertz Mexico, which has a reputation for being very shady. We did not have a good experience with them at the Cancun airport, and they allow time share scammers to act like employees within the business premises. Their reviews on Yelp are HORRIBLE!
Good luck on your move, Tulum is a very beautiful place.
Colegio El Camino is a bilingual, Private K-12, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization governed by a permanent board of governors. There are over 400 students from all different countries and backgrounds.
El Camino offers education in Los Cabos to students from all nationalities, religions, cultures and socio-economic standing. In addition to their bilingual curriculum they offer support services including licensed psychologists, a mentoring program, career and college counseling, a nutrition program recognized by AdvancED as an outstanding practice, afternoon academic academies, afternoon sports program, the Camino Language Acquisition Support Program (C.L.A.S.P), para-academic workshops and the IB Diploma CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) program.
Communication is a key component in any successful institution and to guarantee that parents are informed and the lines of communication are open and easily accessible we are equipped with their bilingual website www.elcamino.edu.mx.
Heath Sparrow is the Headmaster at Colegio El Camino, and you can contact him through the school's official website.
Reader Question: I live in California with my wife and young son. 5 years old. I'm so burned out on California it's for this reason I'm trying to persuade my wife to expatriate to Cabo San Lucas.
My wife is concerned about the schools; however, all of the info I've gathered the private schools seem to be terrific. Are you concerned about safety at all?
Secondly how do you create income ? What's a monthly budget in Mexico ? Lastly, are there sports for kids. Basketball Etc?
Manny's Answer: Hi Todd,
Like you, we are also California "escapees", and we love living in Mexico. The month before we moved, the quote we got for our family medical coverage was almost $3,000 per month (to continue with Aetna). So we knew something had to change, and drastically.
There are good schools and plenty of ways to live and make money down here. A lot of Americans buy real estate and just do the Airbnb or sell timeshares, or find some other job that caters to tourists.
We liked San Jose Del Cabo the best, there are lots of expats from Texas there and it's more laid back and friendly. The entire state of Baja California Sur has a lot to offer and I suggest exploring a bit if you have the budget to do so.
You can go down for a week and even rent a cheap condo right on the beach for less that $1,000 if you don't mind a 1-bedroom or a studio. Then you can explore and find out if Cabo is for you.
As for a budget, it's really all over the place. The average Mexican family lives on $400-$500 USD per month, but I doubt that is the lifestyle that you want. But you can easily live a comfortable life on 2K a month in Mexico, and that's why so many retirees flock down here once they become eligible for Social Security.
As for private schools, I can't speak for all of them. But we've had great luck and have found them to be very affordable. Our eldest son is now bilingual after only 2 years, when he was struggling with just learning English at the terrible California school he was attending before.
As for sports, there are many children's sports. Baseball and Soccer are HUGE down here, and there are plenty of other sports that he can enjoy, too. It's been a great move for us.
Do you hate the snow? Want to escape to a beachfront paradise that is cheap, beautiful, as well as close to your loved ones?
And you don't have to leave the comforts of home. Baja has modern amenities, modern homes, a Costco, Wal-marts, supermarkets--anything you need is at your fingertips and at half the price.
We just finished our exploratory trip to Baja and LOVED it! We met so many happy expats there, (most of them from California or Texas).
Baja has something for everyone--and has every type of culture and people. We met die-hard liberals and staunch conservatives; and the one thing they had in common was that they loved living in Baja.
Baja really has something for EVERYONE.
Do you love serious sportsfishing? Los Barilles is a sportsfisherman's paradise. We saw several expats weighing enormous blue marlins.
Do you love the crunchy-granola atmosphere of San Francisco? Well, Todos Santos might be the perfect place for you! Todos Santos has yoga studios, lifelong surfers, and artists and artisans everywhere!
Do you love partying and nightlife? Cabo San Lucas is full of clubs, bars, dancing, and fun. Great for young people with lots and lots of crazy energy.
Do you love golf, beautiful beaches, and want to live a calm life surrounded by beauty and other expats? Then San Jose del Cabo might be the perfect choice for you.
We had so many wonderful experiences and met so many great people down in Baja. And living here is affordable, too.
(Here's some questions that people have asked us repeatedly about Baja and Mexico in general)
1. Our family is seriously considering a move to Baja and are weighing our options. We want a family-friendly location and we plan to rent for at least a year. A 3BR/2BA works and if there's a small office in there, too, that would be a nice bonus. We are hoping to find a nice place for $2,000 or less (preferably a detached home). Do you think this is possible?
Manny's Answer: Absolutely, for that price range you can find a single-family home in a very nice neighborhood. You can also find a nice condo on the beach for that price, although it won't be detached, and you'll have neighbors very close to you, (obviously).
The method we used all over Baja was to rent a nice place for a month using Airbnb, and then we took our time and searched for long-term rentals at a nice, unstressful pace. In some places, we just continued to rent using Airbnb and racked up airline miles on our credit card. By the end of the year, we had enough airline miles for free round trip airfare back to the US for our entire family (we personally use the Amex Delta Card for this, the miles never expire). Gotta think outside the box!
The average rent (currently) for a nice 2-bedroom is about $900-$1,500 in an upscale community if that's what you want. It would be fairly easy to get a larger detached home for 2K. You can easily find studios and smaller apartments for less than $500 a month if you want to rent something small and save money while you decide on a permanent home.
Our advice: stay away from Cabo Bello (a planned community in the Corridor). Cabo Bello has serious water problems and residents there frequently go without water for several days. Research any other properties thoroughly before you sign a lease. In some of those areas, the owners are DESPERATE to sell or rent to anyone that will take a property off their hands. You can also rent a hotel for a week or so, but we like having a full kitchen and a laundry room so we rarely do that. And, no matter what you do, do NOT rent or buy anything for long-term until you see it in person.
2. What should we do with our vehicles? How hard is it to get Baja plates for our American cars?
Manny's Answer: I'll give you my opinion on this. As for cars, we didn't bother trying to legalize our used American cars. We bought a used Excursion down here for a couple thousand bucks. In our opinion, used cars are so cheap that it's not even worth it to transfer an American car and deal with the paperwork and the hassle. We sold our newer Avalanche in the US at Carmax they cut us a check the same day and that was it. We used that money to purchase a used car in Mexico with Mexican plates.
There are English-speaking insurance agents in Cabo who draft special permits for expats who want to bring their American cars down, but we didn't use those services because we discovered it would be approximately the same cost as buying a used car.
There are also regular dealerships like you can find in the US. Nissan, Mazda, Ford, and Toyota all have dealerships in Baja and you can certainly purchase a new car or a used car from a dealer just the way you would purchase one in the US or Canada.
If you want to legalize your American car, be aware that you can only legalize certain years (new American cars cannot be legalized with Mexican plates). This law changes frequently. HOWEVER, you can certainly bring your car down and drive it for approximately 6 months (or 180 days, the length of a tourist visa) while you decide what you want to do. So, you don't have to decide immediately.
You can certainly USE your own American car for a few months while you get settled, that will save you the money on a rental car. But be aware that you might have to drive it back to dump it in the US when the 180 days are over. The problem with having American license plates is that you also become a target for the police. Better to stay under their radar.
That being said, we personally haven't had any issues. Not even theft. Los Cabos is very safe overall.
3. I'm an American and I want to move to Baja and work in the tourist industry there. What is terminology when we go down to stay permanently? Are we obtaining dual citizenship? Or are we just applying for residency?
Manny's Answer: For this scenario, you will be applying to become a legal Mexican RESIDENT. You can't just become a Mexican citizen right off the bat, unless you have a Mexican parent or grandparent. So, you will be applying for the Mexican equivalent of a "green card" in the US.
This will allow you to stay in Mexico indefinitely, work for a Mexican employer, buy property and open a bank account. You won't be able to become a Mexican citizen until you are living in Mexico for at least a few years. Then, you can apply for citizenship and become a dual citizen if you want. You will not be relinquishing your American citizenship unless you want to, and to do that you have to go to a US consulate and formally renounce as well as pay a fee.
4. What should we do about bank accounts?
Manny's Answer: We do not have Mexican bank accounts because of the onerous FATCA reporting requirements, which is a legal requirement for Americans to report foreign bank accounts. Rather than deal with that hassle, we obtained an HSBC bank account. We drove all the way to Oakland CA in order to get it, because HSBC is all over Mexico and since it's a US-based account, we don't have to pay any ATM fees or have any reporting requirements when we withdraw. Santander is another bank in Mexico that also has US branches (several in New York and New Jersey). We also retained our US-based Wells Fargo account and that's how we pay our US bills when we have to.
5. And we want to use our cellphone here as well as internet. What do you recommend?
Manny's Answer: For internet, we always make sure that we rent places that have free wi-fi. Those are easy to find these days, and every hotel has wi-fi. This has not been a problem for us as DSL internet service is now common all over Mexico. However, we also invested in a KeepGO device, which is a mobile 3G hotspot that works all over Mexico as well as other countries. It's metered, so data is expensive, but we use is only when we absolutely need to and it has helped us numerous times when wi-fi was unavailable.
For cellphones, we use Cricket as our cellphone provider. We have a family plan. Two of our family members in America use their phones up there, while we use our two cellphones in Mexico. It's a flat $150 per month for all 4 lines. The phones work in the US as well as Mexico so we always have cellphone service when we come back to the US on business. It works out great and there are no "surprise" fees like there is with AT&T and Verizon. After getting hit with a huge thousand-dollar "foreign roaming" bill with Verizon, we switched to Cricket. No more nasty surprises after that, we always know what our bill will be.
We are not affiliated with any of these companies, we are just letting our readers know what has worked for us. If you find something else that works for you, that's great.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EXPATRIATING TO BAJA?
Thinking about expatriating to Baja California Sur? Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, or San Jose del Cabo caught your fancy? Then consider the beauty of Baja!
This particular book discusses Baja California Sur (BCS).
We cover the following cities:
This book also includes answers to common questions, a reference section for local schools, and several insightful interviews with local residents a well as a Mexican immigration attorney. Learn candid information to help you on your personal expat journey!
One of the major decisions that parents must make when they expatriate is the choice of schools. Thankfully, tourist regions like Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo have a wide variety of private and public schools to choose from. Private schools are affordable in Mexico, and most expats choose to enroll their children in private schools, rather than the public school system.
Note that the Spanish term “Colegio” does not necessarily translate into the word “college” the way you might understand it in the US and Canada. Often, this term just denotes that it is a school.
We hope that this makes your Google search a little easier. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.
Schools in Cabo San Lucas
Colegio Amaranto International School
Address: Km. 6.7 Carretera Transpeninsular s/n Col. El Tezal C.P. 23454 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S México
Phone: +52 (624) 145-8700
Contact Page: http://amaranto.edu.mx/en/contact-us/
Education Levels: Smart Start (nursery school), Preschool, Elementary
General Info: Founded in 1996, Colegio Amaranto is a bilingual international school committed to recognizing and building the individual talents of their students as well as strengthening their interpersonal skills.
Amaranto was the first school in Mexico to use a SMART Board in all of their interactive classrooms. This technology gives students a more interactive learning experience and develops their digital skills. The “Infoteca” builds students’ research skills while promoting personal responsibility in the learning process. The institution also believes in promoting student’s physical health through nutritious food and physical education classes.
Amaranto’s English specialists use various teaching methods supported by the Common Core standards and the Common European Framework of Reference to make sure students gain the confidence to speak and write in a second language on a variety of subjects. Sixth graders also have the opportunity to participate in an international exchange by visiting the sister school “Charlotte Country Day School” in North Carolina.
Colegio El Camino
Address: Callejón del Jorongo 210, Col. El Pedregal, Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S. Mexico
Phone: +52 (624) 143-2100
Contact Page: http://elcamino.edu.mx/contact-us/
Education Levels: Nursery, Preschool, Elementary, Middle School, High School
General Info: Colegio El Camino is a Private K-12, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization civil association. There are currently 350 students. Most of the students are Mexican nationals but there are also many international families. El Camino enjoys international accreditation with both AdvancED and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. They are registered with the Secretaría de Educación Pública and they are currently a candidate school with the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program.
El Camino’s goal is to develop students’ ability to think critically instead of memorizing and reciting facts. Their bilingual program begins at the nursery stage. El Camino also provides counseling and career planning. They also have agreements with several Mexican universities for high performing students.
Colegio LICEO / Colegio Papalotl
Address: Campus Centro: 5 de Febrero e/I Zaragoza y M. Ocampo Col Ejidal Cabo San Lucas, BCS
Campus Tezal: Fracc. 1A Y1B acceso Ppal, del Tezal Col Tezal, Cabo San Lucas, BCS
Phone: (624) 143-1636 Campus Centro; (624) 105-9000 Campus Tezal
Contact Page: http://www.liceoloscabos.edu.mx/contacto/
General info: Education Levels: Nursery, Elementary, Middle School, High School
Intro Paragraph: Colegio LICEO is a bilingual educational institution committed to developing future leaders capable of improving their own communities and society at large. Educational programs offered at LICEO include constructive mathematics, music, art, physical education, extracurricular activities, and an after school program. LICEO hires highly qualified staff and uses cutting-edge technology on its campus. There are also security cameras and nursing facilities on campus to keep students safe and healthy.
Address: Vista al Mar S/N Fracc. Brisas del Pacífico, Cabo San Lucas, BCS
Phone: (624) 105-0565 / (624) 146-4117 / (624) 143-3088
Email: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Education Levels: Preschool, Elementary, Middle School
General Info: Colegio Peninsula is equipped with a highly trained staff and adequate facilities for different educational levels, including laboratories, library, recreation areas, cafeteria and more. Colegio Peninsula has joined with the UNO International system, a program based on developing thinking skills. In partnership with Animal Planet, Colegio Peninsula usues educational software to improve students’ knowledge in both Spanish and English and the school uses Ipads for technical support. Colegio Peninsula also has an English certification from the University of Cambridge.
Delmar International School
Address: Paseo del Sol, El Tezal, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur. CP: 23454
Phone: (624) 131 5002 / (624) 105 9357
General info: Education Levels: Preschool, Elementary, Middle School, High School
Delmar International School is a bilingual institution that focuses on academic excellence and creating future leaders to make a better society. According to Delmar’s website, the institution is inspired by a “Christian vision of life, aimed at promoting personal growth through the practice of moral virtues.” The campus also has many modern facilities including smart classrooms, a robotics workshop, and an Olympic pool.
Address: Carretera Transpeninsular KM.7.7 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S.
Phone: (624) 104-3700
General Info: Education Levels: Elementary, Middle School, High School
Intro Paragraph: Founded in 2004, Instituto Baldor is committed to developing the intellectual and social skills of its students so that they will grow up to be leaders in creating a better future. Students are taught to respect one another regardless of social status or religious beliefs. Baldor has a diverse student body and the school honors this diversity by celebrating various holidays. Baldor was one of the first schools in the area to offer an MBA tourism management program because Los Cabos is a favorite for tourists visiting Mexico. Students have also won first place in Science, Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics competitions.
Address: Carretera Transpeninsular Km. 6.5 S/N. Col. El Tezal Cabo San Lucas 23410
Phone: (624) 104-3454
Facebook Message: https://www.facebook.com/InstitutoPeninsularOficial/home
Education Levels: Middle School, High School
General Info: Instituto Peninsular’s goal is help shape young people into becoming spiritually strong, technical, and scientific adults that will have a positive impact locally and globally. Peninsular provides tutoring, a library with tech consultations, and science labs. Instituto Peninsular is sponsored by the Letty Coppel Foundation and associated with the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education.
Address: Narciso Mendoza No. 2708 esq. Álvaro Obregón Col. Juárez C.P. 23469
Phone: (624) 143-3169 / (624) 143-2017
Education Levels: Nursery, Preschool, Elementary
General Info: Instituto Samarin supports the academic and personal development of its students through highly qualified instructors, bilingual education, a positive school community, modern technology, and cultural and artistic activities. With about ten years of experience, Instituto Samarin is committed to helping students develop into people who will challenge the status quo to create a more inclusive and fair society. Instead of making all students uniform, they believe that each student must be allowed to follow their own path and it is the school’s job to support them.
Schools in San Jose del Cabo
Centro Escolar Picacho (Colegio McGregor)
Address: Colegios en Los Cabos. Carretera Transpeninsular km 24.8 col Cerro Colorado, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur. Código Postal 23400.
Phone: +52 (624) 144-5595
Education Levels: Preschool, Elementary, Middle School, High School
General info: With over twenty years of experience, Centro Escolar Picacho is an educational institution that prides itself on the bilingual and multicultural education it provides to its students. Picacho has foreign and Mexican national instructors committed to providing a high level of academic training, promoting human, social, intellectual and transcendent values, and developing critical thinking skills. Centro Escolar Picacho thinks locally and globally by educating students with the hopes of building a better country and having a positive impact on the world in general.
Address: Guadalupe Victoria s/n (entre Vicente Guerrero y Francisco I. Madero) Col. San José Viejo, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico C.P. 23437
Phone: (624) 146-0252
Education Levels: Nursery, Preschool, Elementary, Middle School
General info: Colegio Alebrije is a bilingual institution committed to the intellectual, cultural, technological, and moral growth of its students. Programs offered at Colegio Alebrije include English, physical education, music, art, ecology, and human development.
Uniforms are required for all student but can be bought on campus along with books and supplies. Alebrije also has a lot of green areas and modern facilities, and every classroom is spacious and air conditioned.
Colegio Ugarte de Los Cabos
Address: Calle Julia Navarrete y Guerrero No. 1430 Colonia Mauricio Castro, San José del Cabo C.P.23400 B.C.S.
Phone: (624) 142-6235 / (624) 142-0935
Contact Page: http://www.colegiougarte.net/contacto.html
Education Levels: Elementary, Middle School, High School
General info: Colegio Ugarte de Los Cabos is an educational community that promotes Christian humanist ideals forging leaders with high academic standards and social conscience to respond to current and future challenges through transforming their environment in a positive way. On their shield are the words “order, work, joy” and they use these values in their facilities and the way they educate children.
Address: Nicolas Tamaral, Lote 5. Mza. 8, 3 blocks from Kinesis Gym, Col. Chamizal || San José del Cabo, B.C.S.
Phone: (624) 146-9401
Education Levels: Preschool, Bilingual Elementary
General info: Montessori Regina is the first Montessori preschool/elementary school established in the city of San Jose del Cabo. Montessori education is an educational approach developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical, and social development.
Montessori Regina works with children aged 1.5 to 6 years old.
No website or company has paid a fee to be mentioned in this blog. Any suggestions you see are based solely on our own experiences and personal preferences.
Just a middle-class dad and mom with three young kids, looking to escape the rat race. This is our journey!
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