Navigating Mexico: A Foreign Accounting
By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco — If you walk down some streets in Mexico City’s trendy neighborhoods like Polanco, Condesa or Juárez, you might assume the fifth-largest city in the world is full of foreigners from listening to the English, Chinese and host of other languages spoken.
In some restaurants, patrons sometimes have to request a menu in Spanish because the waiters are so used to attending to foreigners.
So after eliminating the tourists, just how many foreigners actually live in Mexico’s capital city fulltime?
The Mexican government offers two main types of visas to foreigners, beyond those for student and humanitarian asylum, and the typical 180-day tourist visa that is stamped on arrival from an international flight for nonpermanent visitors.
A temporary resident visa can be obtained for up to four years, which could be issued with permission to work, as well as a permanent resident visa that basically offers the same rights as a citizen, with the exception of being able to vote.
In Mexico City alone, there are 141,357 foreigners with temporary or permanent residency visas who have driver’s licenses and bank accounts, pay taxes and live like everyone else.
That number is significant.
The number of foreigners who live in Mexico City is more than the entire population of a small city like Pasadena, California, or the capital city of Colima in Mexico.
The top countries of origin for foreign residents in Mexico City in 2020, which included a representation from basically every other country in the world, were: Venezuela, with 19,346 residents; Colombia, with 14,407 residents; Spain, with 10,676 residents; and Argentina, with 8,439 residents.
China had 8,368 residents, the United States had 8,032 residents and Cuba had 7,565 residents.
Putting those numbers in perspective, the actual percentage of foreigners in Mexico city is really very low.
In fact, outside of a few expat neighborhoods and seasonal tourists, you might be hard-pressed to find a foreigner in the city.
Now, Google-map-over to Mexico’s western beaches in Jalisco, to the smaller city of Puerto Vallarta, with a population of 292,000.
Here, a much smaller number of temporary and permanent residents is made up of mostly Americans and Canadians.
Most are likely retired and qualified for residency under annual income solvency. ¿
However, in a smaller city like Vallarta, those English-speaking foreigners, living all or most of the year there, make up close to 3 percent of the total permanent population. ¿
So the 4,774 Americans and 1,778 Canadians who are legal residents of Puerto Vallarta can seem overwhelming in a small city — especially if a cruise ship or two docks with 3,000 passengers on each ship.
Some permanent residents opt to become citizens.
Over the past five years, 14,993 foreigners have become naturalized Mexicans — that is about 3,000 a year.
Yes, foreign populations play a role in most Mexican cities.
As global migration becomes more carefully tracked, Mexico will likely be even more meticulous to account for foreigners, as well as see who is over-extending a tourist visa.