What can Americans do for work in Mexico? Advice, tips & resources for how to make a living in Mexico as an American!
If you’re dreaming of a life in Mexico and don’t want to wait until you’re collecting Social Security to make it happen, this post answers some of the most frequently asked questions about how to make money in Mexico as an American.
I get it: You see people on Instagram and TikTok (maybe even over on YouTube 👀) posting about their lives abroad, but you just don’t understand how it works. How do they pay for it all??
After reading this post, you’ll know how I got started working online PLUS top-notch resources and tips to help you do the same.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links (at no extra cost to you). Please read my disclosure policy for more info.
What It Takes to Live & Work in Mexico
During the six years I’ve lived in Mexico (I moved to Querétaro in 2017), 100% of the work I’ve done has been remote. One of my greatest adventures since moving to Mexico has been my journey with working online.
The world of online work is huge & global events (here’s looking at you, Panini) have quickened its expansion. There have never been more ways to earn a living working online, and every day, there are even more.
Because people approach working online with different backgrounds & skillsets, it’s difficult to provide a definitive roadmap for how to make it work for you.
However, it’s my hope that through sharing my experience and passing along the tips and resources that worked for me I can open your eyes to all the possibilities there are for earning money online and being your own boss.
I also want to acknowledge the privileges that allowed me to pursue working for myself. I graduated from college without any student debt and that coupled with the affordable cost of living in Mexico allowed me to take on lower paying gigs when I was first starting out.
That being said, my working online journey hasn’t been without its struggles:
- I blogged for years without earning a penny.
- Editors have taken advantage of me.
- I used to wake up at 3 a.m. to teach English to disinterested four-year-olds.
But I’m getting ahead of myself now…
Th Truth About Working in Mexico as an American
Every so often, I will open my inbox or Instagram DMs to a message from someone asking for advice about how to get a job in Mexico. So, here’s my advice for getting a job in Mexico:
Unless you’re already working for a US company that’s going to transfer you to Mexico, finding a job in Mexico as an American is difficult. Temporary residency alone doesn’t give you permission to work in Mexico.
You have to find a company willing to sponsor your work visa & from my understanding, you’d need to be a very special candidate for a very unique position for a Mexican company to be willing to go through that kind of trouble. At minimum, your Spanish would need to be near bilingual.
Can you make a living in Mexico as an American?
Even if you do speak Spanish fluently AND have permission to work in Mexico (dual citizenship or permanent residency), typical Mexican salaries are much lower than what you’re likely used to coming from the US. Currently, the average Mexican salary is around $29,000 MXN or $1,646 US per month.
That’s just on average. There are many positions that pay significantly less. For example, one of the first friends I made in Querétaro was another American. She was a trained teacher with a master’s in education. The Mexican school where she worked more than 40 hours per week paid her less than $700 US per month.
My friend found it doable to live in Mexico on that salary, but it didn’t leave anything leftover for savings or paying off debt. For another perspective, this post breaks down my cost of living expenses in Guadalajara and shares approximately how much I spend monthly living in Mexico.
How to Make Money in Mexico as an American Online
Hands down, the best option for an American looking to earn money while living in Mexico is working online. But, how do you get started?
The first step is figuring out what kind of work you are both qualified to do and interested in pursuing. Remember, just because you accept one gig doesn’t mean you’re stuck on that path forever. Try something out & if it’s not the right fit, move on to the next thing.
Having some savings to live off in the meantime will give you the breathing room to find the type of online work that’s best for you. Having a plan for how you’ll earn money & enough savings to get started two of the most important item on the first-timer’s moving abroad checklist.
Getting started with remote work in Mexico
If you have no idea where to start, teaching English online is solid jumping off point. Even if you don’t have an education background, a bachelor’s degree in something and the fact that you’re a native English speaker are usually enough to get started.
When I moved to Mexico in 2017, the job that allowed me to do so was teaching English online with a company called VipKid. VipKid is an online teaching platform that connects Chinese children whose parents want them to learn English with native English speakers.
VipKid has changed a lot in the years since I worked for them. At one point (this was after I’d already moved on), the company all but completely shut down operations when the Chinese government enacted new legislation to limit foreign influence in teaching. From what I understand, the company is operational again, but if you’re interested in teaching English online, I recommend applying to another platform like italki.
My husband, Taylor, taught English on the italki platform for years & I’ve used it as a Spanish student since 2014. You can read more about my experience on the platform in this post about using italki to learn a language.
More ways to make money online in Mexico
In April 2018 (about six months after I move to Mexico), I decided that it was time for a change. Waking up at 3 a.m. to comply with the Beijing schedule just got to be too much. Given my own personal background (which includes this blog), the natural choice was to pursue freelance writing.
If you’re interested in freelance writing, this post has the specific job boards where I found my gigs plus tips for how to get your first gigs as a new freelance writer.
Freelance writing and teaching English online are far from the only remote work opportunities for Americans living in Mexico. Taylor (my husband) is a self-taught web developer. You can hear more about his journey in this interview over on YouTube.
Other ways to make money online include:
- Virtual assitants
- Video/audio editing
- Data entry
- Graphic design
- Social media management
Those are a few options—I mean it when I say that the possibilities are endless!
One of the best resources I’ve found for discovering different ways you can earn a living online is the blog Making Sense of Cents. From getting paid to take surveys to guides for how to become a virtual assistant, Making Sense of Cents is a valuable resource for people who are just getting their feet wet or looking for new income streams in the world of making money online.
Tips for Working Online in Mexico As an American
From the affordable cost of living (relative to many places in the United States) to better work-life balance, Mexico is an excellent choice as a home base for jumpstarting working online. I don’t think I would have explored making a living on the internet/working for myself were I not living in Mexico.
In this section, I share some helpful tips and advice for working online in Mexico as an American. These are things I wish I would have known before starting this journey myself, and hopefully, knowing what to consider before diving in will save you headaches & heartaches.
Give yourself time to figure it out
When it comes to getting started working online, try not to put all your huevos in one basket. It’s a lot of pressure to HAVE to start earning money NOW because rent is due soon. Even though living in Mexico is more affordable than living in the US, expenses still add up…
Most likely, getting your first gig is going to take time. When I started teaching English online, it took over a month to fill my schedule with students. Trying to break into freelance writing started out with more unanswered pitches than I care to tell you about 🙃
What I’m saying here is that, while there are a lot of opportunities in the world of online work, it still takes time to find your footing. The best way to weather this transitional period is with a nice savings cushion. Cost of living varies all over Mexico, but this post about how much I spend living in Guadalajara will help give you an idea of how much you should save before moving to Mexico.
Keep your work in perspective
So many people, Americans especially, base their self-worth on the work that they’re doing. In my experience, that’s a recipe for unhappiness.
Look, I’ve written a lot of silly things, BUT, I got paid to write them.
Sure, I didn’t alter the course of history with my listicle that ranked the Disney princes by hotness. I *probably* didn’t change anyone’s life with my guide for how to create the perfect Instagram grid.
However, writing those articles and others like them allowed me to pay for the life that I’m living in Mexico. That life is a life that I love.
This idea of keeping your work in perspective is a chance to embrace a healthier work-life balance in Mexico. Since moving to Mexico, I’ve had more time to spend with loved ones and travel. I also have the bandwidth to prioritize my health and pursue my hobbies. I’m grateful to live somewhere where I’m working to live instead of living to work.
Don’t be afraid to walk away or say no or ask for what you’re worth
Looking back on my beginnings as a freelance writer, there are some gigs that I probably should have walked away from.
However, in the back of my mind, I was scared that if I declined work or “fired a client” I wasn’t going to find something to replace that gig. I was terrified the work would dry up and told myself that some money was better than nothing…
What I know now to be true and what I want you to carry with you as you start your own journey working online is that there’s not only always more work, but there’s also always someone willing to pay you more—you’ve just got to find them.
Connect with others working online in Mexico
One of the downsides of working online and/or self-employment is that it can get lonely. I worked remotely as a contract SEO writer for over a year and never heard my editor’s voice (we explicitly communicated via Slack).
Working from home is awesome until it isn’t. There have been weeks where I looked up from my laptop on Friday only to realize that I hadn’t left my apartment since Monday. Not great! Working online doesn’t have to mean exile.
Even if you’re someone who likes alone time, get out there and connect with other people working online in Mexico. Start building your community and cultivating relationships BEFORE loneliness starts to set in.
Wherever you are in Mexico, get plugged into the remote work/digital nomad scene. This post has helpful info about being a digital nomad in Mexico including some of the best cities in Mexico for remote working.
Frequently Asked Questions About Working Online in Mexico As An American
To round out this post about working online in Mexico, I’m answering some of the most frequently asked questions I get from fellow Americans. If you have a question related to finding remote work that lets you live in Mexico, ask in the comments below.
Can you work remotely in Mexico on a tourist visa?
In Mexico, the “tourist visa” is not something US citizens (or passport-holders from one of these other countries) have to apply for. Upon entering Mexico, Americans are granted up to 180 days to stay in the country.
Travelers don’t always get 180 days in Mexico (the duration of your stay is up to the immigration official who stamps your passport), however, 180 days is the norm. In case you don’t want to do the math, that’s a six-month stay.
When you’re in Mexico on a tourist visa, you do not have permission to work. You can’t go to a cafe and legally get a job as a barista. Working online though is a gray area since you’re technically not working in Mexico. You’re working on the internet!
It’s no secret that many digital nomads work remotely from Mexico. Nevertheless, it’s not something I’d advertise to immigration. Just stick with “I’m here for vacation.”
How do remote workers get a temporary resident visa for Mexico?
For the time being, Mexico doesn’t have a specific digital nomad visa. However, if you have a remote job, you might qualify for a temporary resident visa in Mexico.
I got my Mexican temporary residency in 2021 & if you want to make Mexico your home for longer than six months, I recommend you do the same. The Mexico Residency Roadmap has helped scores of remote workers get Mexican residency. Use the code “YOUTUBE10” for $10 off this easy-to-use product that I created because I *WISH* I would have had something like it when I was navigating the residency process
In order to get a temporary resident visa for Mexico, you must demonstrate economic solvency. The Mexican government wants to know you’re going to be able to take care of yourself while living here. This part of the Mexican residency process is done at a consulate outside of Mexico.
The two most common ways to prove economic solvency are:
- Show your pay stubs/bank statements for the last six months to verify you meet the minimum monthly income requirements (exact amount varies by consulate). This way may also require a letter from your employer saying it’s cool with them that you work from Mexico.
- Bring bank account statements to your visa interview showing that you’ve had the required minimum balance (exact amount varies by consulate) in your bank account/investments for the past 12 months.
For self-employed people and freelancers, it’s often easier to go with option #2 since income can fluctuate from month to month. As of 2023 though, some Mexican consulates accept average monthly incomes.
Do you pay US taxes if you’re working online in Mexico?
Yes, I still pay US taxes even though I’m living in Mexico. Before I go any further though, let me just say that I’m not an accountant or tax expert. I recommend reaching out to an expert to help you make decisions for your own tax situation.
As a US citizen, you are obligated to file an annual US tax return regardless of where in the world you’re living. Ol’ Uncle Sam wants his cut! However, the US and Mexico do have a tax treaty that aims to prevent double taxation (basically, you shouldn’t pay taxes twice on the same income).
For more information about taxes for Americans living in Mexico, check out this tax guide from Greenback Tax Services. It provides a good overview of who has to pay taxes in Mexico, the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion & more.
Another thing to consider before working online in Mexico is paying state income taxes in the US. Prior to moving to Mexico, some Americans will change their state residency to one that doesn’t have income tax. As of 2023, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington & Wyoming do not levy a state income tax.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Money in Mexico As An American
Now know my story of working online in Mexico (what’s been written of it so far, at least) & you have tips, strategies and resources to get started on this journey for yourself.
The best piece of advice I can give someone who wants to make a living online is to just get started. When I began making money on the internet, I thought teaching English was the only option available to me. That couldn’t be further from the case. There are so many opportunities to make money online—you just have to open up your browser and discover them.
If you have any questions about how to make money in Mexico as an American, please feel free to ask in the comments below & I will answer it as soon as possible.