The Mexican Law That Makes it Harder for Foreigners to Get a Job

Photo of candidates waiting for a job interview

We receive about a dozen emails from readers each month who tell us that their dream is to move to Mexico but they don’t have the financial resources to do it without working.

Most of these readers are from either the U.S. or Canada and they tell us that their goal is to find a job in Mexico in the same field that they’re currently working in.

In corresponding with these readers, it’s clear that they share a common belief that once they get their Mexican immigration paperwork in order, they’ll be able to compete on a level playing field for jobs, even against Mexican citizens.

What they don’t know — at least until we tell them — is that there’s a federal law in Mexico that could put them at a big disadvantage in the job hunt.

A Look at the Law

La Ley Federal de Trabajo, or the Federal Labor Law in English, is a 236-page document that requires employers to give preferential treatment to Mexicans.

Here are some key points from the law:

Article 7

  • In every business or establishment, at least 90% of the workers must be Mexican.
  • In the technical and professional categories, all of the workers should be Mexican. Unless, there aren’t any Mexicans available with that specialty, in which case, the boss can temporarily hire foreign workers in a percentage that doesn’t exceed 10% of workers with that specialty. The foreign workers must then train Mexican workers in that specialty to replace them.
  • Medical doctors who work for companies must be Mexican.
  • The provisions above do not apply to directors, administrators or general managers.

Article 154

  • Once hired, employers are required to select Mexicans over non-Mexicans for positions and promotions when they are similarly qualified.

Note- “Mexican” includes naturalized citizens

Let’s Wrap This Up

Although I didn’t list them in the previous section, there are chapters of the law that completely exclude foreigners from certain jobs. The most notable deals with jobs in the aviation industry.

If you want to learn more about that, check out Why Many Aviation Jobs in Mexico Are Off-Limits to Foreigners.

As a retiree, this law doesn’t affect me at all, but I did find it interesting how much it differs from employment laws in the U.S.

I plan on doing additional articles about working in Mexico, including one about the requirements to get a work visa. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, be sure to subscribe below.

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About the Author

Qroo 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 to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

36 Comments on "The Mexican Law That Makes it Harder for Foreigners to Get a Job"

  1. Extremely Interesting! When I move to Mexico, I’ll be working in my consulting business, which IRONICALLY, is helping US companies get certified by (and approval from) the US Government (USDOL, USCIS, USDOS) to hire FOREIGN workers, mainly from MEXICO for jobs where it is difficult, to impossible, to find American workers… I am wondering what hoops I might need to go through to hire a MEXICAN, in Mexico, to help me with this job…. LOL!! But I’m serious..

    • When you’re ready to go started, there are a couple of law firms in the area that will help you set up a business and explain the employment rules to you.

  2. Kelly Roscoe | August 7, 2019 at 8:17 am |

    Paul, could you give us some insight on starting a business in Mexico and some requirements?

    Thank you.

    • That’s on my list of possible future topics too.

      By the way, that list currently has over 100 topic ideas on it…lol.

  3. Debbie Hayward | August 7, 2019 at 8:20 am |

    We have an appointment to start our temporary residency in Baja. My husband is not old enough to retire yet. He has a heavy equipment business here in California and has a General Engineering Contractors Lic. So he is self employed. Could he start a business with his equipment down there? Have Mexicans run the equipment? We just plan on coming back and forth but we would love to get out of California permanently. The cost of living here is killing us. We own property, a lot with a trailer and have house plans drawn, we also have a bank account in Baja. We are close to selling our house here in California and will start building after the first of the year. Our property is in Los Barriles.

    • Yes, there are ways for foreigners to lawfully start businesses here. I have that on my list of possible future topics.

      Until then, there are numerous law firms that will help you with the set-up etc.

  4. Joel Bennett | August 7, 2019 at 8:35 am |

    Paul- Do you see any issues with freelancers who just choose to work from Mexico while doing their work? You know, the folks that just need their laptop and wifi to work?

    • No, no issues at all. In fact, a large percentage of the expats that we know work remotely from Mexico.

  5. One thing that should be mentioned is that the wages are much lower here, so even if a foreigner could get the job, they likely wouldn’t be able to live the lifestyle that they want from that salary. People should educate themselves on the cost of living and what kind of salary they could make before trying to pursue careers in Mexico. But besides selling timeshare, selling real estate, or working remotely with a US or Canadian company or for yourself, what jobs would a foreigner take that could be lucrative enough for them to live off and plan for retirement?

  6. Mike Maldonado | August 7, 2019 at 9:03 am |

    Are there any laws regarding living in Mexico as a foreign resident while working for a company based in the US?

    • Are you talking about working remotely for a U.S. based company while living in Mexico? That is extremely common here.

  7. I was thrilled to get a job in Mexico last spring and we moved to Monterrey where I was a university professor. The pay was about what I was making in 1989, but we thought we were going to retire there eventually and could make it work. We had no debt, are in our 60s and wanted to stay living abroad like we had for the last four years in the ME. It was a well known, respected, big university – and the people were wonderful. But it was not a good long term scenario. What made it unsustainable was, initially, the Mexican bureaucracy in getting a resident visa (it took three months during which time I could not/would be paid at my job – and no one informed me until I was there) and the ineptitude of the administration of the university which made doing my job very difficult. Even at prestigious organizations like this university the dysfunction at high levels of leadership are astounding. Most of my colleagues who were not Mexican were from South America and had few options for getting other jobs so they endured the dysfunctional conditions. I could not and as an American, had other options – we are so lucky for this, something living abroad one discovers. I applied to a university in the US and was hired and here we are back in the USA. My advice would be to do your own thing, as Qroo Paul does, or start your own business that doesn’t rely on a Mexican employer. I’m not talking about American companies that have offices/facilities in Mexico… We wanted to make it work (my husband is retired), and I absolutely loved the beauty of Monterrey and the people and friends we met there, but work life was a nightmare. There was very little support or value of employees, and unlike other countries, including the USA where I have taught at university, faculty are not considered more than a kind of expendable labor force. Even with PhDs! An American friend who has had a home in Oaxaca for over 25 years and knows the culture well said to me afterwards: I wondered how you would do since they don’t respect professionals in Mexico. On another note: this is just MY experience and it could be very different for someone else or perhaps someone younger! Or, or, or….. I still love Mexico and maybe when we are both retired we will still purse a life there.

    • Thanks for sharing that. I always enjoy hearing from people who have first-hand experience in Mexico.

      • Thanks, Paul! I absolutely loved your lessons on Spanish and your blog was a HUGE help before we moved and after as well. I did learn to speak more fluently while there. And we also had some unfortunate dealings with traffic cops one who stopped us twice, and wanted 10,000 pesos to let us go! (He didn’t get it.) The second time we had a sticker on our car that basically said in Spanish, we didn’t support corruption of the police force, and he let us go. Many of my Mexican friends told me this happens to them too all the time. Anyway, keep doing this wonderful service for people who want to move to Mexico!

        • Wow, $10,000 pesos? That’s insane!

          Mexico is a great place to call home, but unfortunately, they do have a problem with corruption and it’s not limited to just the police.

          Thanks for continuing to follow the blog!

  8. In order to move to Mexico permanently do you have two Qualify financially

  9. Kim Melchior | August 7, 2019 at 9:40 am |

    If I start a company in Mexico with a Mexican partner (my adopted son), will I legally be able to work along side with my son in the actual performance of the jobs obtained there, or will I be barred from that and will have to hire Mexican employees only to do the work?

  10. Hi Paul, I was under the impression that once one has permanent residency one can work here (if one can find a job). Am I incorrect?

    • With a permanent resident card you are authorized to work for employers provided that they are registered with INM and authorized to hire foreign workers. That is easy for them to do but many businesses, especially small ones, may not want the extra paperwork and hassle.

  11. Unfortunately (writing from experience) it is not easy or readily feasible to officially set-up a business in Mexico without Mexican participation. A foreign business can franchise or expand (branch) into Mexico but the regulations to establish and corresponding compliance requirements are somewhat stringent.

    That said, business structuring (corporation, LLC, partnership) is similar to the process NOB. I 2nd Paul’s recommendation to seek competent legal counsel. My understanding????? is that a permanent resident can operate in Mexico similar to a sole-proprietor in the US.

  12. Sandi Child | August 7, 2019 at 2:09 pm |

    In your experience, what would be the minimum amount (in $) to retire in mexico and live comfortably and frugally? I am open to any advise you can give.

    • Just like in the U.S., the amount of money you’ll need to live comfortably will vary depending on where you live.

      We live in the Riviera Maya where almost everything is more expensive than it is an hour inland, or for that matter, in most if Mexico.

      In the Riviera Maya, if you’re single and plan to live frugally, we recommend $2,000 – $2,500 USD a month. That amount will fluctuate greatly depending on your housing costs.

      If you live inland or in a non-tourist area, you can shave about $500 USD off of that.

      These are our reoccurring expenses each month:

      http://qroo.us/2019/05/29/retired-in-mexico-a-detailed-look-at-our-expenses/

  13. Mmmm usa should adopt the same system then. Anyone can come here and be whatever they want. I don’t think that is fair. Panama is the exact same. It should be equal all around

  14. Judy Greenwald | August 8, 2019 at 12:54 am |

    So does your blog carry some kind of Mexican registration or approval or not necessary?

    • Hi Judy,

      This blog is just a hobby of mine that keeps me busy on rainy days and while I’m sipping my morning coffee waiting for my wife to wake up. So, to answer your question, no need to register it.

  15. Hello Paul,

    I am just curious; how did you arrive at $2000-$2500 monthly for a frugal lifestyle as your expense statement delineates monthly recurring expenses of only $531 plus annual costs under $1000?

    Dan

    • We assume that most people want to do more than sit in their house and watch the clock tick by. That amount allows people to eat out, occasionally travel, visit beach clubs for the day, go to the movies etc. It really comes down to the lifestyle of the person.

      We often quote those amounts to people who ask for a ballpark number “to live and still do stuff”.

  16. Thanks Paul,

    I reside part-time & transact some business in Los Mochis, Sinaloa where the cost of living is likely on the lower end of the scale. I suspect in your neighborhood a modest rent is above the norm and the cost for an evening out more aligned to the tourist market. That said, I am told (by my wife Magda native to Sinaloa) that the Riviera Maya is a destination not to miss; she also loves Campeche. I look forward to a future visit.

    Best Regards

    • Yes, in our neighborhood it is above the norm because we live in a gated resort community with access to the amenities at several hotels. The nearby town is very small, less than 3000 folks, so there just aren’t a lot of housing options close to us that are in the middle range.

      As far as eating out, we do pretty well in that department because every restaurant we frequent gives us discounts.

      We’re headed to Chiapas tomorrow for a week. We’ve never been there before, so we’re excited.

  17. Ronald Snyder | August 14, 2019 at 12:12 pm |

    This article is written by a non-attorney. It fails to make the law available for comparison with his interpretation. The author fails to mention Article 3 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, age, mental capacity, medical condition, religion, “immigration status”, sexual preference or marital status.”

    Yes, Mexico (like many other countries) makes it hard for alien residents to find a local job. It does not restrict those aliens from being employed by companies located in other countries. It does not stop aliens from setting up their own businesses. It provides a preference for “mexicanos”; however, that term legally includes naturalized citizens (inmigrados), who have all rights except voting.
    The law is here: https://www.gob.mx/…/1044_Ley_Federal_del_Trabajo.pdf

    • Hi Ronald,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the article and comment.

      This is not the first time that I’ve written an article about this law, and although I am not an attorney, I have spoken with several about it in my research. One of the benefits of having a popular blog is that professionals often reach out to me to lend their experience and training.

      I did not mention Article 3 of the law in the post because it does not nullify the articles of the law cited. As one attorney in Mexico City told me, Article 3 is not in conflict with any other parts of the law because the law is not discriminatory. Article 3 — as it relates to foreigners — only applies in situations where the foreigner was eligible to be hired and there is a clear showing of bias or discrimination.

      So, a foreigner could argue that it’s discrimination that he or she cannot be a flight attendant for Volaris, but that won’t change the fact that they cannot because the law does not allow it.

      As far as naturalized citizens are concerned, I didn’t get into that because the article was written primarily for Americans and Canadians who are thinking of making the move — meaning that for most of them, getting Mexican citizenship won’t be an option for several years. However, just to be clear, I added it to the article. Thanks for that.

      On a related note, there are actually jobs that naturalized Mexicans can’t hold. Here’s an example of one:

      LEY FEDERAL DEL TRABAJO
      CAPITULO IV
      Trabajo de las tripulaciones aeronáuticas

      Artículo 216.- Los tripulantes deben tener la calidad de mexicanos por nacimiento que no adquieran otra nacionalidad y estar en pleno goce y ejercicio de sus derechos civiles y políticos.

  18. I have 3 companies here in Mexico, as well as 1 other in Costa Rica and previously had a company in France. CR and France are by far the easiest to set up a company, in one day in both countries, including getting the bank account and accountant etc set up. Mexico is way behind and it varies from state to state. You can expect several weeks, and the bank account process all depends, like many things here, on the local manager. One trick to watch out for is the whether you can get foreign payments: one account we had to wait for 6 months. Only one of the 3 Mexican companies was set up with Mexican partners, but you really do need a lawyer, notary or coredor-publico, and accountant. They all cost money and the amount depends on the type of company: you can expect to pay between $7,000 and $20,000 to get going.

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