HOW CAN I OWN PROPERTY IN MEXICO?
There are different rules of “owning” property in Mexico than in other countries. In Mexico a foreign citizen owns title to the property in a form of a trust called “Fideicomiso”. A U.S. citizen or most foreigners can hold title to a property, house, hotel, commercial building etc., through a Fideicomiso held by a Mexican bank. This is required in order to purchase Real Estate in Mexico within a certain distance from the different oceans or seas. In the Baja, the requirement is different because of its close proximity to the water’s edge. Permission to obtain a Fideicomiso is given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Once you acquire the chosen property, the property is placed in a trust. The title will be held by a designated Mexican bank – usually of your choice. With a Fideicomiso, the property is legally your property to do with as you please such as build on, improve or sell as you desire. Attorneys are people who can help you work with a Notario Publico in order to make sure all your paperwork is in good order. A Notario Publico, is a specially licensed attorney who is fortunate enough to have been assigned this position after a minimum of five years of practicing law. Do not confuse a Notario Publico in Mexico to a Notary Public in the U.S. or Canada – they are vastly different. When buying property in Mexico, it’s best to think of a Notario as someone like the county recorder, recording the legal documents in the book signed and witnessed by the Notario. A person should always contact an attorney to seek any legal advice. From time to time these rules and regulations may change. An attorney can give you up-to-date legal advice. We always recommend consulting an attorney before you purchase any property in Mexico
THE MEXICAN PESO
The unit of currency used in Mexico is the Mexican Peso. The exchange rate varies daily. A rule of thumb can be around 12 pesos equal one US dollar. The use of foreign personal checks are not usually accepted in Mexico except at the banks. The bank will generally place a hold on the check for somewhere around 10 days before giving you access to your funds. Major credit cards are accepted at some establishments, i.e., car rentals, some tour agencies, some restaurants, some grocery stores, etc. Travelers Checks can be exchanged at the local bank for pesos but not accepted at most businesses. Most businesses and people will take the U.S. dollar but will use their own exchange rate – typically a lower rate than the bank will give. ATMs are an easy way of obtaining pesos. Potential buyers of property in Mexico should open a bank account in either a dollar or peso account. After establishing a Mexican bank account, funds can be transferred from your foreign bank account.
REQUIREMENTS FOR RESIDENCY AND TRAVELING IN MEXICO
Visitors traveling into Mexico (traveling more than 90 miles into Mexico) must obtain permission to enter Mexico. A tourist card can be obtained at any Mexican Consulate or Mexican Immigration Office upon entering Mexico. If traveling by commercial airline, the cost of the tourist card is included in your airfare and will be handed to you on the airplane. Tourist cards are valid for up to 180 days.
Foreigners may reside in Mexico on a permanent basis if they meet Mexican immigration requirements. If the foreigner has real or personal property in Mexico, they should apply for a FM-3 or FM-2 (a particular immigration status). A FM-3 does not grant permanent residency to the foreigner. After holding the FM-3 for five years, the foreigner can apply for a FM-2 (permanent residency) and then after another five years, apply for citizenship. Consulting the Mexican Consulate or Mexican Immigration Office will provide you with up-to-date current regulations.
Keep in mind, when traveling by air, most air carriers include the price of a tourist card (around $26 US each person) in the airline ticket. If you already have FM-3 or FM-2 status, you are entitled to a refund or discount of the tourist card fee. You must present your FM-2 or FM-3 to the ticket counter and make the request. Your air carrier will give you the rules pertaining to how they provide the refund, if any.
Property tax is a local tax based on the assessed value of a property. The concept Mexicans use is much like the U.S. but the taxes end up costing much less. There is also capital gains tax in Mexico but it is only due when property is sold or transferred to another party, normally at a higher price than what you paid based on your profit.
Sales tax is called I.V.A. – a national sales tax. I.V.A. is charged differently in mainland Mexico than in Baja. Currently, Baja is charging 11% on the purchase with another 3% being charged in Baja California Sur for hotel stays.
DOING BUSINESS OR WORKING IN MEXICO
With the passing of NAFTA, foreigners can own businesses in Mexico as sole proprietors or as a Foreign Owned Corporation without having to have a Mexican partner. You should be sure and check with your attorney, an accountant and Immigration before you start any business in order to get all the facts on running a business in Mexico as a foreigner. A work permit is also required to work in Mexico.
There are several competent doctors and dentists in Loreto. If there is a problem that the doctor or dentist cannot handle, a referral will normally be made to a doctor or dentist (or specialist) in La Paz. Loreto has a new hospital with some state of the art equipment. Mexico also offers inexpensive health care through IMSS for a very nominal amount per year. This policy covers ambulance service, pharmaceuticals, office appointments and hospital expenses. Supplemental coverage can also be acquired. Some doctors, in Loreto, will still make house calls for around $20-30 U.S. dollars. It’s a good idea to ask around town to get recommendations from other people on which doctor you wish to choose.
Telmex is the leading national telephone company in Mexico. Telmex offers land lines, Internet DSL and WiFi services. Sending a FAX also can be achieved easily providing you have the correct equipment. AT&T is also available in Loreto. Other U.S. cell phone companies claim to have coverage, but you should check with your cell phone provider and make sure you specify Loreto B.C.S. before you commit to a plan. Loreto has a Post Office, however, even though the Mexican government continues to strive for better service, it is still slow by U.S. standards. Some packages can be sent/received using ESTAFETA, Baja-Pack or DHL.
IS MEXICO (LORETO) SAFE
Violent crimes are rarely heard of in Loreto. Everyone should take the usual precautions normally practiced in order to ensure their safety as in their home country. Rape, drug use and mugging are considered uncommon in Loreto. Loreto is a very family-oriented society with peaceful safe streets that can be walked without worry. The City of Loreto does not tolerate crime and violators are quickly apprehended. A quick check with the local police department should give you peace of mind.
GETTING TO LORETO
Alaska Airlines has round-trip direct flights from Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to Loreto (LTO) currently on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Other airlines such as Aereo Calafia, Volaris and Aero Litro also serve Loreto within Mexico.
Some people drive the Baja to Loreto. It is about 700 miles, 14 to 16 hours, from the border at Tijuana to Loreto. Baja offers assistance for vehicle problems through the “Green Angels” who travel up and down the Baja to assist travelers in need. The “Green Angels” have the ability to perform most mechanical repairs to get you going again and also carry gasoline. Another option would be to take the bus. “Aguila” and “ABC” buses travel from Tijuana to Loreto. The buses are very modern and comfortable and the “express” route is about 18 hours.
COST OF LIVING
Loreto is considered having a higher cost of living than most parts of Mexico, although compared to most U.S. standards it’s still very low. Specifically, because most foods, convenience items, equipment, etc., must be brought over from the mainland or imported from the United States. When computing just how much it costs living in Mexico, a good rule of thumb is to figure about $1,200 per month will cover most of your basic living expenses including some entertainment. Many variables reflect this amount so you should do your homework before you commit.
It is always best to follow the rules and not be coerced into doing something that you know is not legal. Consulting an attorney can clearly provide you with clarity of the laws. Make sure you do your homework before you make any wrong decisions or listen to someone who really does not know the laws.