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How Many Expats Live in Mexico?

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Friends dining together
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Robert Nelson Co-Founder of Expats In Mexico
Robert Nelson

One of our readers recently asked me how many expats live in Mexico because he, like many, found it difficult to believe that about 1 million expats from around the world call Mexico home.

Pinning down the exact number has always been difficult because census bureaus and state departments within countries often don’t track the whereabouts of their expats on a regular basis. We were, however, able to come up with data from the U.S. Department of State and the Mexico Bureau of Census that provide estimates of the number of Americans living in Mexico and the number of total foreign-born living in Mexico.

This is tricky, though, because of “snowbird” expats – especially from Canada – who spend just part of the year in Mexico, and those who live in Mexico on tourist visas. They generally are not counted, so the actual number of expats is probably underestimated.

We looked at several U.S. Department of State estimates of the category Private American Citizens Residing Abroad. In July 1999, the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs compiled an expat list that showed nearly 4.1 million Americans were living abroad (excluding U.S. military and non-military government employees). This type of information is rare indeed since the U.S. government very infrequently publishes estimates of Americans living abroad.

In the 1999 estimate, Mexico was by far the leading destination for expats, holding 25 percent of all American expats or just over 1 million.

Fourteen years later, the U.S. Department of State again released estimates of where Americans are living abroad. Released to the Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AAR0), the government estimate placed the American expat population around the world at over 6.3 million, about a 54 percent increase over the 1999 estimate. In fact, if all American expats were placed in one state, it would be the seventeenth most populous state in the U.S.

For Canada, its Department of Foreign Affairs estimates about 125,000 Canadians live at least part of the year in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

We also looked at Mexico’s 2010 census data, which showed a total of 961,121 foreign-born residents in Mexico, which by now may be much higher.

We may never know the exact number of expats in Mexico, but feel pretty safe in saying that there are at least 1 million total expats living in the country and quite probably many more.

Now, where do most expats live in Mexico? Our first expat survey on our site asked that question. It is not projectable data but based on nearly 900 responses, a lot of you live in the Lake Chapala area (19 percent of respondents). Other major expat communities are in Puerto Vallarta (13 percent), San Miguel de Allende (10 percent), Oaxaca (6 percent), Merida (4 percent), Los Cabos (4 percent), Mexico City (2 percent), Guanajuato (2 percent), Guadalajara (2 percent) and Cancún (under 2 percent).

But nearly four-out-of-10 of you are living in other parts of Mexico. If you live in an area that has a large expat population that hasn’t been mentioned, add a comment and let us know or send us a note through our Contact page.

Hasta proxima semana, amigos.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Please keep in mind that all who reside on the named America landmass (north and/or south) are Americans. It is more accurate and more diplomatic to refer to persons of the 50 states as United States citizens or Americans of the United States. Perhaps someday, someone will invent another moniker like United Statespersons…. Our Mexican hosts are aware of this lapse.

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for the information. We might see a large increase of Americans flee the country if,
    God forbid, Trump wins the Presidency !

  3. Been living in Yucatan since 2008, a recent multi consulate study estimated 20,000 expats live in Yucatan other Mexican studies based on INEGI and Immigration have put that number at around 14,800.

    Merida has largest concentration of Americans , Canadians , but they also live along its coast Celestun, Sisal, Chuburna Puerto, Chelem, Progreso, Chixchulub, Telchac and also some of its other colonial cities, Valladolid, Izamal,, and other smaller mayan towns and villages. Based on homes sales last couple years not takinginto account thoose that just rent or only come in the winter,, anual growth las couple years have been AVG about 1200 new residents in Yucatan

      • Hi, Everyone here in Queretaro there is a growing expat population mostly due to the growth of International business and jobs here. The expats here are a good mixture of Canadians, Americans and a sprinkling of Europeans as well. Queretaro is very often overlooked unlike our neighbors San Miguel and other nearby locations. I think it is because Queretaro is more of a working location not a retirement or vacation destination.
        I think you would be surprised by the responses, if you added Queretaro to your cities lineup as well. The response might be different, but it would be lively.

  4. I’m a dual U.S. and Mexican Citizen currently residing in the CA. I’m a licensed Enrolled Agent (federally licensed tax practitioner – U.S. Treasury) looking to live in MX part year and trying to determine what area might be best as I am looking to help U.S. expats meet their IRS tax filing requirements & to provide all tax related representation services.

    For those who currently have tax filing requirements, would you prefer to meet with someone in MX face-to-face? Do you currently handle tax filing engagements virtually (online)? What would you like in the person whom you choose to work with?

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