Move To Mexico

Working In Mexico

Can I Contine a Career in Mexico?

Dear Lorena & Carl

So here I am, over 20 years later and looking at retiring to Baja (actually semi retiring.. more on this in a moment). I would prefer to be further south, but have chosen this spot for several reasons. Most important reason: my daughter and two grandchildren live in LA, only 4 hours away (rather than on the other side of the planet as it is now).

Now, as I may not have accumulated quite enough filthy lucre to really retire properly (having misspent a dissolute life as a grasshopper rather than the ant option), I will have to continue to work part time.

I am a Ph.D. clinical psychologist. I have read estimates that there are up to 50,000 gringos living in or near the area I'm interested in... this means a need for psychotherapy for at least 1,000 people.

I expect there are others who have had the same idea and are providing such service, but I might be lucky. Besides, I have over 30 years experience and am a kind looking female of 60. I could also do other stuff such as teaching at university, but that would require a huge command of Spanish, and no doubt be fairly unlucrative compared with providing private therapy to retired gringos.

Which brings me to a few questions. First, to set up as a private practitioner/consultant I am advised to form a Mexican corporation and hire myself, and get a tax number. What kind of immigration visa should I be looking for to work for myself (i.e. to work for my own corporation)?

I wrote to a Mexican therapist about working there and he said I would have no problems at all getting a 'licencia' as a psychologist with my qualifications, but that I would be expected to put in 500 hours of volunteer public service which all psychs do in Mexico. I like this idea and don't have a problem with this requirement.

I have also been advised by a professional living in Mexico: 1.) Don't bother to get a Mexican licencia as a psychologist, he said. Avoid the bureaucracy as much as possible 2.) form the corporation and hire myself. I asked him what type of immigration visa to get in order to work for myself, and he said "tourist visa."

Now, as I have spent time in Mexico, I know that one shouldn't be working with a tourist visa, but don't know if this is still true if I form a corporation, or what. So, is this guy giving me bad advice????

I can understand the advice about avoiding bureaucracy, and perhaps could indeed dispense with the psychologist ‘licencia’ idea, and just count on my qualifications the same as any other business person would, but I am concerned about this -- in the US and Canada and here, I would be in deep trouble for practicing without a license, as they have registration boards in every state that come under the same laws as the medicos. In Mexico, there are no such things as state reg. boards, but apparently there is some sort of national licencia... but again, how on earth do I find out if it is really essential to get this or not?

I haven't a clue where to get this info, and after the second guy advised me to work on a tourist visa, I don't know if I trust his opinion, but he could be right... who would I be in trouble with?? Doing counseling is not the same as practicing medicine.


Lorena responds: We forwarded this email to jennifer rose, an American attorney living in Morelia. Jennifer shares her extensive knowledge about foreigners living in Mexico and dealing with Mexican laws on the forums at Mexico Connect. Jennifer is also assisting us with the legal and red tape questions in our next People's Guide book: "Move to Mexico: Live, Work, Retire & Study".

Dear Val,

You'll find the requirements for having your professional license recognized in Mexico at

Come to Mexico under a no-imigrante rentista FM-3 (for retirees who can demonstrate the requisite income level, without a work permit), and live here under that status until you've undertaken the steps necessary for recognition of your professional license. Then proceed to amend the FM-3 either to obtain paid employment or under the "independent activities" designation to pursue your profession.

You'll need to get a tax number once you reach that step. Alternatively, you could come to Mexico under a FMT (tourist card), apply for the non-working FM-3 once you're here, and then take the remaining steps.

Under the "independent activities" designation, it's unnecessary to go through the charade of forming a corporation.

Under no circumstances should you contemplate working under a tourist card; doing so is just plain against the law. Working as a therapist for a corporation in which you're the sole shareholder is no different than working at Sanborn's scooping cashews; both are prohibited under the tourist card.

The Mexican therapist gets an "A" for his answer, but I'm afraid the "professional" flunks. Unquestionably, there is a level of bureaucracy that you'll have to traverse, but as a foreigner it's particularly important that you play by the rules. While there are those who advocate side-stepping procedure, doing so has its perils and usually ends up taking more time to unravel than doing it the right way the first time around

jennifer rose,


From Val to jennifer: After visit the website you suggested, I foresee a complication... universities will only send out 'certified' copies of transcripts upon official request by the authority in question, and only if signed by the student. Does the Mexican authority do this??

jennifer replies: The Mexican authorities will do nothing for you. U.S. (and the odds are at least 99% that Canadian would do likewise) universities will provide certified copies of the transcript only upon the student's request or with the student's signed release. All will charge a fee for doing so. You need to contact the registrar of each, find out what the charge is, and whether they have a form that they require to accompany the request, and send them a letter, the fee, and the form (if any). If your name has changed, provide them with your social security number, date of birth, dates of attendance, and other relevant identifying data.

Now, just before you're ready to apply for recognition of your professional license, these certified copies of the transcripts will need to be sent to the Secretary of State in each jurisdiction for an apostille. Because you'll need a freshly dated apostille, wait until you're ready before doing so. (Note: for a detailed explanation of apostilles, see jennifer rose's article.)

Jurisdiction refers to the state in which the transcript was issued, e.g. if you were graduated from college in Colorado, the Colorado Secretary of State would issue the apostille. That would be the only authority having jurisdiction to do so. Where you would be living and working is immaterial.

Val: I of course have my own copies of transcripts and have my original Ph.D. diploma (but my others were lost during transit to Australia years ago, to my dismay.)

And here's another, I expect, big complication. I have (cringe) been married and divorced more than once. (Yes I know.. I was and still am a perpetual optimist).

I think I have divorce documents still for all three marriages, but not marriage licenses. Should these divorce docs also be included; would I also need to get copies of marriage licenses, and would all these divorces go against my application for a Mexican psychologist's licencia?

I am hoping to get the support offered from the Mexican therapist that I mentioned earlier, who has offered to help with the red tape, but he wouldn't know about the marriages, that make for different names on my transcripts etc.!!

jennifer: The diploma is only a souvenir of your completion of the program requirements; it's the transcript that counts.

You can document the changes of name by presenting certified copies of the marriage certificates and divorce decrees. If you no longer have these documents, certified copies of the same can be obtained by making a request and paying the appropriate fees to the clerk of court in which each of these documents were issued. Ordinarily only the last marriage license or divorce decree would be required, but since you've had a succession of surnames, supplying all of the documents would demonstrate the changes of name.

Val: Also, I was wondering what is the advantage of obtaining an FM3 (no-imigrante) status as a first step in my progress towards obtaining a working visa as an independent professional, or is it just that there is no other way to go about it??

jennifer: The FM-3 no-imigrante provides you with the right to temporarily import your household goods and personal effects without payment of duty, to live in Mexico for a greater period of time than the FMT (regular tourist card with a six month maximum stay), and generally grants you greater legal protections than the FMT.

Val: The intricacies of all this are amazing and I appreciate your help. My hearty thanks for your help to me via email in the meantime, not to mention your good advice to all the other folks on the Mexico Connect forums which I enjoy reading.
©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens