Yes, you can work in Mexico, but unless you own your own business there, it won’t be easy and probably not very lucrative. Remember, the average minimum wage in Mexico is half or less of what it is in the U.S. Many workers in Mexico earn much less than minimum wage. There is stiff competition for jobs, and you will not be allowed to do a job that will take work away from local employees.
Officially, to get working papers, you must have a job offer from a company that will process for you a temporary resident visa for lucrative purposes. If you want to start working right away, you can either start your own business and set up a Mexican corporation, or you can try to prove that:
1) Your endeavor is unique and only you are capable of doing it (you’d be surprised at what qualifies)
2) You will be creating employment for Mexicans.
In your favor, Mexico welcomes foreign investment and offers countless opportunities for new businesses.
Getting a Work Visa
Several FM-3 business designations have been created since the passing of NAFTA. For short business trips, a 30-day visitante representative comercial visa can be obtained for free at the border or airport. If you will be in Mexico longer than 30 days, or repeatedly, get the visitante hombre de negocios FM-3 business visa from any Mexican Consulate.
Setting up Your Own Business
Mexico is a largely First-World country, with good infrastructure, fast and reliable telecommunications, and excellent healthcare. It welcomes foreign investment and makes it easy for foreigners to get residency and set up a business there—even if you’re a small entrepreneur. And foreigners can own 100% of a Mexican corporation. If you’re from the U.S. or Canada, Mexico is quite simply your closest, most convenient expat destination.
The negative media and the recession—which helped make Mexico Latin America’s hardest-hit economy in recent years—spell opportunity for you. Talk to the immigration authorities in your area about your options. We also recommend that you consult with a local Mexican attorney. NAFTA has made living and doing business in Mexico easier than ever before.
A fun way to fund your vacations is by having an import-export business—it’s not as complicated as it might sound. It could be simply buying local products in Mexico, like handicrafts, and selling them back home when you return. Mexico makes so many handicrafts that you have plenty of options, from Mexican rugs to silver to pottery and more.
Several regions of Mexico are particularly known for their handicrafts. The state of Oaxaca is one of many villages (within an hour’s drive of the state capital of the same name) to specialize in handicrafts. Here you’ll find hand-loomed rugs; the famous black-glazed pottery; fantastical wooden animals called alebrijes; beaten-tin mirrors, boxes, Christmas-tree ornaments and wall decorations; and pottery figures for tables and gardens.
The Colonial Highlands is another handicraft-rich area. Taxco specializes in silver, including jewelry, crucifixes and other items. San Miguel de Allende has striking tin stars studded with glass that are used as lamps. Pátzcuaro is known for articles made of copper, while other towns specialize in pottery wall decorations, blown glass and leather goods.
And San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the southern state of Chiapas, is known for weaving, pottery, furniture and amber jewelry, among other things.
For the best prices, go directly to the craftsmen themselves. Locating their workshops and meeting the best craftsmen can be an adventure (or a vacation) in itself.
Naturally, you need to do your homework beforehand, too. Study your home market to see what kinds of handicrafts may sell—and where you can sell them. And in Mexico, especially at first, buy a good sampling of styles and colors to see what sells best back home.
Of course, Mexico isn’t the only country with a wealth of craftsmen creating the type of items you can buy up and sell at home for a profit. Do a little research before your next trip, regardless of your destination, and see what turns up.
Finally, try to avoid the biggest pitfall of the import-export business—liking your merchandise so much that you don’t want to part with it!