By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
Lots of foreigners have worked in Mexico long enough to have contributed to a Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) pension.
In Mexico, accreditation is calculated in terms of weeks worked, 500, if you started to work anytime before 1997, when the law was changed to require more weeks from younger generations.
So if you worked for about nine and half years in Mexico, you most likely qualify for some retirement benefits.
Both you and your employer allegedly paid in to the IMSS system. The typical route after going through all of the paperwork to obtain your monthly IMSS pension is to take one final step: to bring your bank statement to your clinic so it knows to which account to deposit your monthly pension.
What if you no longer live in Mexico? Sure, you can make a trip every year to Mexico and withdraw or do a bank-to-bank wire transfer periodically if you set that up with your Mexican bank. But both of these options involve expenses and potential income flags if the withdraw is a large lump sum.
Another route might be to set up to have your monthly pension deposited in your home account if you live in Argentina, Canada, Italy, Spain or the United States, the countries with which Mexico has such agreements.
There is a small downside, however: You will have to go twice a year to the closest Mexican consulate to declare you are alive through a document called a supervivencia in Spanish. In fact, believe it or not, up until about five years ago, all Mexican pensioners had to periodically present themselves at an IMSS window to prove they were still alive in order to continue receiving their monthly payments.
With the combination of online banking and the sharing of the death certificate among different Mexican government agencies, the need to physically present oneself was eventually eliminated. Upon issue of the death certificate in Mexico, all bank accounts and pensions are frozen.
However, in the case of those living outside of Mexico, the government might never learn of the pensioner’s death. So while the provision of deposit to a bank outside of Mexico is now a possibility, it also comes with the requirement of proving one is still alive.
And yes, if you think you qualified long ago for a Mexican pension and now you are 60 or older, you can come back to file for it.
But what if you contributed but did not work long enough to qualify? Good news! If you are now 60, you can come back to request the lump sum that you contributed.
This option always existed as a legal possibility, but required individually suing in court to obtain the funds, a costly and time-consuming exercise for what could have been a small amount contributed.
However, as of Nov. 13, 2020, there was an actual court case published in the Mexican Federal Judicial Weekly that declares foreigners may claim funds deposited for retirement and housing when they have not worked in Mexico long enough to claim a pension.
Just when you think you have learned of all of Mexico’s oddities, you learn a new one.