Mexico: Surprising Jobs Off-Limits to Foreigners

Mexico has gone above and beyond to protect their citizens in the job market. There are several jobs — by law –that only a Mexican citizen can hold, and in some cases, that person has to be a natural born Mexican. Obviously many political positions have this requirement (e.g. president); however, Mexico has extended this to some jobs you would not expect.

I have compiled a list of the ones that surprised me the most. Most of these were taken from the Federal Labor Law (Ley Federal del Trabajo). If you can read Spanish and would like to read the law the 236 page law in its entirety, here is the link: Ley Federal del Trabajo (LFT) PDF

Some of the occupations below also include a link to the licensing requirements in PDF format.

Occupations Only for Mexicans

1. Flight attendant Mexican by birth

This one surprised me the most. This law applies to the flight crews of civilian aircraft registered in Mexico. In other words, all of the Mexican based airlines [LFT Artículos 215-218]. Licensing Requirements (Spanish)

2. Commercial pilot Mexican by birth

This applies to all pilots ranging from commercial airline pilots to crop dusters, provided that the aircraft is registered in Mexico [LFT Artículos 215-218]. A non-Mexican or a naturalized citizen is permitted to get a private pilot’s license for non-commercial use [Ley de Aviación Civil Artículo 38]Licensing Requirements for fixed wing (Spanish)

3. Air traffic controller Mexican by birth

You will not find any foreigners controlling air traffic in Mexico. Licensing Requirements (Spanish)

4. Airplane mechanic Mexican by birth

Even the person performing maintenance on the aircraft must be a Mexican by birth [Ley de Aviación Civil Artículo 38]. Licensing Requirements (Spanish)

5. Ship workers Mexican by birth

This one applies to workers on any ship or vessel that bears a Mexican flag. Mexican law requires all ship workers to be Mexican by birth. The law gives a lengthy definition of who is considered a worker under this chapter, but it basically refers to all crew members ranging from sailors to the cook. [LFT Artículos 187-192]

6. Railroad workers Mexican but no birth requirement

All railroad workers must be Mexican. [LFT Artículo 246]

Additional Labor Laws

As a foreigner with a work visa, you may think that you are on level playing field when competing for jobs not listed in the last section; well, think again. The Mexican Legislature has created several laws that give Mexicans the advantage when it comes to hiring.

Here are two examples:

Federal Labor Law Article 7 – In every business or establishment, at least 90% of the workers must be Mexican. If there are no Mexicans available with the specialized training, the business can temporarily hire foreign workers; however, the business and the foreign workers have an obligation to train Mexicans in the specialty. This section does not apply to directors, administrators or general managers.

Federal Labor Law Article 154 – Employers are obligated to prefer, in equal circumstances, Mexican workers over foreigners.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Coming from another country, these laws may seem a little unusual but you have to respect the fact that Mexico is looking out for its own people. I guess I have to give up my dream of being a flight attendant for AeroMexico (I am joking, I like being a beach bum).

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking for to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico ( sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

9 Comments on "Mexico: Surprising Jobs Off-Limits to Foreigners"

  1. A. McGill | May 22, 2016 at 7:00 am |

    Many if not all international airlines hire only in-flight crew holding home-country passports. Example: British Airways crews come from British Commonwealth countries. I worked for BA 23 years – non-crew since non-British.

    • QRoo Paul | May 22, 2016 at 7:33 am |

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. The thing that surprised me most about Mexico is that they exclude naturalized Mexican citizens from the flight jobs as well.

  2. We can fight this for any foreigner with an amparo but sadly most foreigners come to Mexico as they have not had success in their home country and have little to offer in Mexico so then they sell drugs, timeshares, teach English or sell real estate.

  3. Catriona Brown | May 23, 2016 at 2:28 pm |

    Yes I agree, the Mexicans need protecting. There is also another law that says if a foreigner opens a tourist busines involving water ways or the ocean (snorkelling, diving, canoeing, fishing etc) they must have afull Mexican partner in the company. Also a foreigner cannot own a boat in the business.

  4. Qroo Paul | July 17, 2016 at 1:26 pm |

    Yes, I am talking about rentals on the other side of the highway, but they run golf carts from this side to the other at no cost or you can drive over. A car is advisable if you are going to live here because all of your shopping will be done in Tulum or Playa del Carmen.

  5. Interesting, but the reality is a bit different.
    There’s so-called malinchismo in Mexico and a lot of people think that foreigners (from any country) are better than them… Many companies will prefer a foreigner over a mexican. I remember a woman from the Netherlands asking me if I knew a foreigner looking for a job who could replace her as she was leaving. I said I had some mexicans in mind, but she answered that her manager only wanted a foreigner. These kind of things happen all the time and I feel really bad for qualified mexican workers.

  6. I just think as an American if you are moving to mexico, you should have the income to do this, we should not be taking jobs away from the Mexican people..they already have it hard enough with prices rising fast due to americans moving to mexico…

  7. lynn cranmer | March 12, 2017 at 10:09 pm |

    Too bad the US doesn’t have the same type of labor laws, Sure would solve a lot of illegal immigration problems.

Comments are closed.