Post COVID-19 changes in Mexico

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Updated 2020-08-13 07:33

Mexico is one of the world's most affected countries by the COVID-19 crisis, with a growing number of cases every day. If you are still looking to move there after the crisis, here are the changes you should expect in terms of entry requirements and visas, employment, real estate, education, lifestyle, etc.

What are the current regulations for entering Mexico?

Taking into account the rapid spread of the coronavirus, Mexico had to implement strict travel restrictions. For now, only essential travel, that is for work, study, official and diplomatic missions, as well as medical and emergency visits, are authorised. Tourism and family visits are prohibited until further notice. Travellers arriving in Mexico have to undergo a COVID-19 screening test and provide a health declaration. They are also required to self-isolate for a period of 14 consecutive days. Passengers with symptoms of COVID-19 should report to the Sanidad Internacional. Find out more on Mexico's official portal. On the other hand, resident card applications are still being processed with a certain delay. The expiration dates of temporary and permanent residence cards are suspended until further notice. Also, holders of resident cards that will soon expire can start applying for renewal. Foreigners who are in Mexico for a business trip or other but who don't have the necessary permit to carry out a paid job and who are not able to return to their home country have to regularise their situation. They can request a Regularizació n Migratoria por Razones Humanitarias bajo el supuesto COVID 19. However, conditions and formalities, as well as processing times, may vary on a case to case basis.

Have there been any visa changes recently?

Mexico Visitor Permits (MMFs) that are generally valid for 180 days maximum cannot be renewed. In some cases, however, this permit can be exchanged for a residence permit, either if you have family ties with Mexicans or on a humanitarian basis. Most visitors have chosen to stay in Mexico with their expired MMF until the situation improves. Overstay fees, that usually amount to 500 pesos, have been suspended until further notice. Regarding temporary residence holders, it is recommended that they apply for renewal at the nearest immigration office at least 30 days before its expiry date. Those who are currently abroad cannot request the renewal. However, they can do so within 5 days following their re-entry in Mexico. Note that the renewal is valid for 60 days only. If you have a resident visa and are not able to travel to Mexico at present, can exchange it for a residence card until the expiration date. However, you are advised to travel to Mexico at least two weeks before the expiration date. Otherwise, you will have to apply for a new visa at the Mexican consulate in your home country. For more information, contact the Mexican consulate in your home country.

Is it easy to find work in Mexico following the crisis?

According to OECD estimates, Mexico's unemployment rate will drop from 7.2% in the first half of 2020 to 7.5% by the end of the year. In fact, more than 1,113,677 job losses have been recorded in the formal sector since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In June alone, there were 83,311 job losses, according to the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), which is alarming. Construction, business services and the extraction industry are the most affected sectors most. However, it's worth noting that more and more people are turning to the informal sector, which, for its part, rose to 51.8% in the past month. On the other hand, in June 2020, some sectors, such as agriculture, social and community services and electricity showed a slight improvement. Still, the unemployment rate in Mexico today is much higher than during the 2009 global financial crisis. This means that it will be even harder to find a job in Mexico as an expat after the COVID-19 crisis.

How has the local healthcare system performed during the crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis had a significant impact on Mexico's medical staff, with a high death rate, mainly due to the lack of protective equipment. Also, local authorities were slow in implementing travel restrictions and safety protocols. The rising death toll throughout the country is alarming. According to the OECD, this is due to poor investment in the local health system compared to neighbouring countries such as Brazil, Chile and Colombia. Besides, inequality in the Mexican health system makes COVID-19 care increasingly inaccessible in the public sector and more expensive in the private sector. Public hospitals are saturated, and the Mexicans have no other choice than seeking expensive healthcare services at private hospitals. While COVID-19 tests are free of charge in public hospitals, count at least 1,250 pesos in Salud Digna hospitals and 4,000 pesos in private hospitals. Admission costs amount to more than 350,000 pesos. Also, fees vary from one private hospital to another, depending on the location. In some areas, you might need more than one million pesos.

Has anything changed regarding universities and schools?

Schools in Mexico are resuming in distance learning mode as of August 24, 2020, until further notice. Mexican authorities are looking to play it safe when it comes to the health of children and young students. A new program has been developed to provide courses on TV channels until the situation improves. In indigenous communities, students will be able to follow classes through national radio stations. Also, some 140 million textbooks will be distributed freely to students across the country so that no one drops out during the crisis. At the end of August, authorities will be deciding on the reopening of all schools. Regarding Mexican universities, most of them will be reopening gradually as from September 2020.

How is the real estate market following the crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis turns out to be profitable for expats who were looking to become homeowners in Mexico, mainly due to the appreciation of the US dollar against the Mexican peso. The Mexican real estate market is world-famous for its attractive offers. However, anticipating the resumption of tourism and other activities after the crisis, some owners are currently holding on. So make the utmost use of your bargaining skills. According to Mexican real estate specialists, expats might be entitled to many incentives such as price reductions and payment facilities on construction projects and newly built properties.

Has the cost of living in Mexico changed because of the crisis?

One of the most attractive factors about Mexico for expats is the low cost of living. It's worth noting that the cost of living in Mexico is at least 49% lower compared to many European countries, for example-- which is why it is a top destination for expat retirees. However, prices have been skyrocketing over the past few weeks. The prices of fruits and vegetables, dairy products and eggs are fluctuating in several Mexican cities.

How about lifestyle? Have there been major changes in habits following the sanitary crisis?

As in most countries, the COVID-19 crisis has brought about a lot of changes in the lifestyle in Mexico. For example, only one person per household is allowed in supermarkets, provided that they are wearing a mask. Also, some of them are currently denying access to the elderly, according to expats in Mexico. Upon entry, hand sanitising and temperature checks are mandatory. While most restaurants remain closed, some have less than a dozen tables available. Also, the different States and municipalities are entitled to decide on when economic, social and educational activities shall resume. Most offices have reopened their doors, but companies are encouraging their staff to work from home. To maintain social distancing, companies and factories have rescheduled their working hours. Also, access to public parks and shopping mall is limited to small numbers until further notice.

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