The northern border of Mexico, where the crisis of migrants trying to enter the United States does not let up, is usually at the center of immigration news. Meanwhile, a movement in the opposite direction is also growing, although with diametrically opposed characteristics: that of Americans settling in the neighboring country.
In the year 2022, a total of 11,518 Americans received a temporary resident card in Mexico, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior (Segob) of the Latin American country. The figure implies an increase compared to the previous year, when a total of 9,086 had been recorded. In 2020, the year of the pandemic, meanwhile, the number had been 5,393 (down from 6,564 in 2019 ). In other words, from 2020 to 2022 the number was close to doubling.
Almost 7,000 of the cards from last year corresponded to students, according to the classification made by the organization. They are followed by the cases of rentiers, about 3,500, and then those of workers who are estimated at about 2,300.
The Americans who obtained the temporary residence card in 2022 represent almost 20% of the total number of foreigners who had the green light with this procedure (59,156 exactly). They are the country from which more people have processed this documentation, followed by Colombia and Cuba.
The upward trend coincides with an increase in the total number of foreigners who settle with the authorization of temporary residents in the country, which went from around 35,000 in 2020 to around 59,000 in 2022.
According to the State Department, about 1.6 million Americans live in Mexico.
Mexico City, a haven for digital nomads
One factor at play for Americans is the rising cost of living in their country, which in 2022 recorded its worst inflation rate in 40 years.
The increasing costs of buying and renting housing, as well as food and services, have led Americans to settle in Mexico City, in many cases taking advantage of the possibility of teleworking. This allows them to charge in dollars, a business for the pockets of Americans.
This is how Professor Fernando Bustos, from the Anahuac University, sums it up: “They move here because it is cheap, not because they really want to participate in the local culture or because they are interested in Mexico.”
The Economist, which every year publishes a list of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, last year included 22 Americans out of a total of 172. Among them were New York, California, Portland, Boston, Chicago and Charlotte.
Mexico City, meanwhile, was recently ranked eleventh among the most expensive cities in Latin America, according to the 2022 ranking of the global mobility company ECA International . It is cheaper than many other capitals in the region such as Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Lima and Quito, and also cheaper than giants such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
“In San Diego my apartment cost US$2,500, it was a studio. Here I have a one-bedroom apartment for US$800,” Erik Rodriguez , one of the many immigrants living in the Mexican capital who is officially as a tourist.
For him, who barely spoke Spanish, the change was not about connecting with his Latino roots, but about an equation. However, he feels comfortable. “It’s beginning to feel like home. I’ve been here for several months now,” he said.
High-cost immigration for locals
The change is business for the Americans, who arrive with their strong currency, but not necessarily for the locals, who despite the injection for the economy that the arrival of new inhabitants with purchasing power supposes, have also seen the housing prices increase due to foreign demand.
That is the case of Sandra Ortiz, who for years had a family restaurant in the popular neighborhood known as Roma. As prices rose, it became impossible for them to sustain and they ended up evicted, their belongings on the sidewalk at any moment. Ortiz was left without business, today she works in another restaurant and has not returned to her area before her. “A lot of pain,” she says.
Mexicans are also struggling against high inflation: it closed December at 7.82 at the annual rate and in January it showed no signs of falling. To this is added that, according to experts, in 2023 the country would not reach the growth levels of last year, which was 3%.