¡Órale! Here’s How You Can Work and Travel in Mexico
There’s nothing like a vacation to recharge your batteries and energize you for returning to the daily grind. Especially a vacation in a relaxing place like Mexico!
Get a tan, drink some margaritas and enjoy the waves.
But what if you enjoy your time away so much… that you don’t want to go back home?
There’s a certain type of traveler who likes to live and learn beyond the two-week holiday. A flexible job, career change or volunteer work can turn a vacation into an extended stay.
For those tempted to call Mexico’s warmth and beauty home, here are a few ideas to help you get started working and traveling around the country.
Why Choose Mexico?
A better question would be… Why not?
Gael Garcia Bernal, a famous actor and director from Mexico, famously said, “I’m never going to be able to leave Mexico, really. It would be foolish of me to do it. I would be wasting such a great opportunity…”
What kind of opportunities await you in Mexico?
History and food. Pyramids overlooking the sea. Carnivals, festivals and holidays. Numerous aspects of Mexican culture make an extended stay here magical.
The economy heavily relies on tourism but also presents plenty of options for employment in a variety of industries and locations. Many visitors work, live and explore this compelling country for extended periods of time. You can, too, by following this guide.
Mexican Travel and Resident Visas
The permits you need depend on what passport you have, what you want to do in Mexico and how long you plan to stay. The following is a quick introduction to the paperwork required to work, volunteer, travel and study in Mexico.
These rules tend to change every few years, so check with your nearest Mexican Consulate for current details.
The Mexican visa most commonly held by foreigners is the visitante (visitor’s visa). This visa is advantageous because visitors carrying certain passports can apply for one immediately upon arrival, and it’s valid for 180 days.
The Forma Migratoria Múltiple (Multiple Migratory Form, or FMM) that you fill out on the plane, on the boat or in the car is essentially your visitor’s visa application. You have the option of applying for a visa before you leave, as well.
Most volunteer assignments and seasonal jobs fall under the six-month period. The visitor’s visa is also the visa of choice for vendors, musicians and performers who want to keep their schedules flexible and avoid the complicated paperwork of a resident visa.
The visitor’s visa provides a lot of flexibility! The only real limitation to this visa is the time limit. It’s non-renewable, which means you have to leave the country and come back to get a new one if you want to stay in Mexico longer.
Temporary Resident Visa
If you plan on staying more than six months, it might be better to get a visa de residente temporal (temporary resident visa).
This visa allows a stay in Mexico for up to four years and requires a more complex application procedure. To be eligible, you must prove either that you have sufficient funds to support yourself or that you’ve been offered a job in the country.
Foreign English teachers usually hold this visa because Mexican schools tend to hire teachers for one-to-two-year contracts.
The application process for a temporary resident visa begins before you leave for Mexico. Retirees who plan to stay for several years must present bank documents to prove they have a steady income.
If you have a job offer, you must present a formal letter from your employer to the nearest Mexican Consulate about a month before your departure date. Any training documents or diplomas must be certified by a notary and stamped by the Consulate.
The visa is pre-approved by the consulate in your home country and your passport gets a special green sticker. When you arrive in Mexico, you’re required to visit a local immigration office within 30 days. You will then receive your official temporary resident visa card.
¡Órale! Here’s How You Can Work and Travel in Mexico
All of the following jobs can be done remotely, have flexible locations or provide extended seasonal breaks. That makes them ideal for travelers!
Public Wi-Fi and charging stations are common in Mexico, so don’t be afraid to bring your laptop or tablet for work. Mexico is friendly to independent entrepreneurs and people who work for themselves, so it’s a great country for those who want to experience running their own business.
Trying to narrow down your options? Check out job boards at websites like Transitions Abroad and Just Landed for information and job options in Mexico.
If you’re interested in a specific field of work, either paid or volunteer, there are organizations that will streamline the process. These include One World 365 and Projects Abroad, among others.
1. Volunteering and Internships
Volunteer work and internships in Mexico have a few things in common.
They’re usually unpaid positions and are arranged in cooperation with a larger institution, like a charity or non-government organization (NGO). You can use a regular tourist visa for these endeavors, as they rarely extend beyond the six-month mark.
Mexico is still a developing country, and communities welcome helpful volunteers from all over the globe. Conservation sites, children’s organizations and grassroots projects are always looking for more help.
Choices in this field are vast and can be found in virtually any part of the country. GoAbroad provides volunteer listings for health and nursing, early childhood education and mentoring and marine conservation, among other things. Many of these overlap into professional career development and internships.
There are internship opportunities in Mexico for business and hotel management, health and child care, the culinary arts, marketing and more.
Worldwide Internships has more information on where and how these programs are organized and what they include. Sometimes your internship includes meals or accommodation so you can spend more money exploring.
2. Teaching English As a Second Language (ESL)
English teachers in Mexico must speak English as their first language, so a vast majority of positions are reserved for foreigners from English-speaking countries.
Teaching English in Mexico often requires certain types of degrees and certification.
Those with an ESL certificate, bachelor’s degree and at least a few years of teaching experience can work at a university. The pay and benefits are much better than at regular public schools, and you would have plenty of travel resources during your holiday time.
Other perks include Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (Mexican Social Security), health coverage and a Mexican bank account.
You can work at a school for a single semester, but institutions often demand a longer commitment and a temporary resident visa. But there are worse things than living in and traveling around Mexico for more than six months!
It definitely helps you land a job if you’re conversational in Spanish, but it’s easy to find programs that integrate learning Spanish and ESL certification courses. These organizations also help you find a job after you complete the program.
3. Hospitality and Tourism
Internships aren’t the only way to get involved in Mexico’s most prosperous industry. You can still travel and work independently as a translator, cook, artisan, chef, event planner or desk clerk.
Jobs in this field can fit into a flexible time frame and are often the first choice for those who want to keep moving during their Mexican adventure. Depending on which job you choose, travel might even be required.
You can work on the coast in winter and move to a job in an inland urban center for the summer months. Seasonal jobs are sometimes confined to coastal areas, but big cities like Guadalajara, Mérida and Mexico City always have opportunities for foreigners who are looking for work in hospitality or tourism.
Big hotel chains like Hyatt or upscale resorts such as El Cid often have jobs posted on their website. The jobs postings are varied and call for experts in various fields.
4. Selling Artisan Products
There’s a long and proud history of handmade art, cosmetics and other goods throughout Mexico. Natural products, artisan pastries and handmade jewelry were common in the shops and markets of Mexico before the trend hit the rest of the world.
Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte (Natural Cosmetics from Mazunte)put the small coastal town of Mazunte on the map some time ago. This grassroots organization develops and sells handmade goods and works with the local community.
Artistic projects overlap with internships and the hospitality industry, and this line of work is even an ideal pick for entrepreneurs. Sell your wares in a shop, from a market stall or while walking along the beach. You can set up your handmade incense stall between a group of drummers and a tarot card reader. The more rare and unique your creations, the better.
No credentials are needed, just some creativity, talent and perhaps a vendor permit. Depending on how long you plan to stay you can work just using a visitor’s visa, which also includes a provision for “business visitors.”
5. Working in the Digital Economy
Freelance writers, designers, photographers and other professionals only need an internet connection to get their jobs done. These gigs make up the digital economy.
If all you need is an internet connection, you can use programs like Skype and WhatsApp to stay in touch with clients and submit your work.
Besides internet, the only essentials are insurance, a bank account and a steady stream of clients. You’ll be working from your laptop on a Mexican beach in no time.
The traveler who comes to Mexico for vacation but decides to stay long-term is an all-too-common tale. It’s easy to stretch your time here by working to support your extended stay!
Which type of job sounds perfect for your new life in Mexico?
Kristy Ambrose has been writing professionally since 2010. She dabbles in various genres, including everything from short blog posts to serialized novels. Her inspiration comes from gamers, beachcombers, foodies and of course her fellow travelers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Victoria.