Americans Running South: Why We are Flocking to Mexico for Work

By Michael Wildes

Americans are moving to Mexico for work? This seems quite anomalous to many, considering that historically and currently millions of Mexicans continue to immigrate, legally and illegally, to the United States in search of a better (and more lucrative) life, not emigrate from it.

But in reality, more than one million Americans have chosen to make Mexico their home in the recent past - a trend that is showing no signs of slowing down - for a variety of reasons, such as a healthier environment in which to raise children, a warmer climate, inexpensive healthcare, an affordable and relaxing retirement destination and, more than ever before, a job.

This emerging trend should not come as a surprise. We see tens of thousands of legal border crossings every day from the U.S. into Mexico for commercial, tourist and cultural interests. More than 18 thousand companies with American investments have operations in Mexico . In fact, the U.S. accounts for 47 percent of all foreign investment in Mexico and in 2007, Mexico was the world's eighth largest crude exporter and the third largest supplier of oil to the U.S.

As such, Mexico 's economy is highly dependent upon its exports to the U.S., including petroleum, automobile parts and electronic equipment, accounting for more than 25 percent of its GDP. And while the recent economic slowdown has caused significant declines in manufacturing, exports and investment on both sides of the border, it has resulted in a jump in Americans heading south.

As unemployment in the U.S. climbs past 10 percent, what does Mexico offer to Americans looking for work? While our leadership debates health care, and as more employers cut, limit or simply don't offer health care to their employees, Mexico offers a comprehensive health care plan for a flat fee of $250 per annum. This can be very attractive to an American family struggling with limited income and mounting medical bills or an individual simply unable to afford the high premiums. And though significant differences exist in the level of medical care provided in Mexico when compared to the U.S., given financial challenges, many Americans are flocking to Mexico not only for work but also so they can afford health insurance.

Likewise, many families are willing to settle for lower paying jobs in Mexico because of the significantly lower cost of childcare, housing and food, while entrepreneurs are willing to take business risks there because they see opportunity which may not, especially now, exist in the U.S. But working in Mexico isn't as easy as uno, dos, tres. There is paperwork involved, not to mention language barriers , discrimination...many of the things that plague Mexicans - legal or not - in the U.S. today.

As in American immigration law , anyone intending to live or work in Mexico for purposes other than tourism must apply for either an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa . The Mexican Consulate in New York reports a 40 percent increase in the number of Americans inquiring about moving to Mexico. And just as Spanish-speaking immigrants in the U.S. often need a third party to help them understand the many documents that need to be filled out, it is wise for Americans looking to go south to take at least one Spanish language course before moving abroad and to consult a third party in the U.S. who can help them navigate the paperwork.

Considering the contentious history of Mexican immigration to the U.S., it's a curious turn of events to discuss American emigration to Mexico . Many of the same issues that taint American perception of Mexicans apply to Americans moving to Mexico; for example, the language barrier , economic opportunities, and whether or not proper immigration procedures are being followed. Just as they always have, people are still immigrating to new countries in search of better opportunities, especially when the domestic economy is flagging - only this time, they're heading south.

Michael Wildes , Immigration Attorney, Wildes & Weinberg ( )




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