All you need to know about Iberian America

Do Not Mention Remote Work to the Migration Office in LATAM

Some odd years ago, I remember coming back to Mexico City after a brief visit to Iowa.

I was a little bit tired as I arrived to the airport and probably wasn’t thinking very clearly.

After waiting a bit in a line, my turn comes and I have to answer questions to the migration officer.

“Are you a terrorist wanting to overthrow America?!?!”

I’m just joking – this isn’t an American airport. A Mexican one…

But they did have their share of questions as always.

One of them in regards to “what will I be doing in Mexico?”

Or something along those lines…

And, being tired and not thinking very clearly, responded “yo vivo aqui.”

Immediately, the officer’s head snapped up and said “VIVIR?!?!”

The V word.

“To live.”

Do I live in Mexico?

Don’t tell them that.

Right away, I recognized my mistake and gave them the ol’ “oh sorry sorry, I don’t speak Spanish well! I misunderstood what I said!”

Thankfully, that worked.

When all else fails, rest on the typical Mexican ignorance regarding foreigners being able to speak Spanish.

Works every time.

It’s a small story I wrote about here (among other similar examples I gave in that article).

Still, it’s similar to another one I just heard not too long ago.

The Canadian Couple Aspiring to Work Remote

Not too long ago, I was at one of those “speak a foreign language, have a beer” events in Mexico City.

As I wrote about them here, they’re basically small events you find in different Latin cities where the official purpose for showing up is “to speak foreign languages.”

Usually the foreign languages most often heard are Spanish and English.

Maybe Portuguese if you’re in some parts of South America.

But, in reality, it’s mostly just an excuse to drink, make friends and maybe find a cute gal to fuck.

In practice, language learning isn’t really the focus in my experience.

Anyway, there was a Canadian couple that I met not too long ago that was talking about their recent arrival to Mexico.

But it wasn’t their first – they had been coming here for over a year now!

And, as I wrote here, the Mexican government is cracking down on us foreigners coming to Mexico to live here.

How long will the crackdown last?

We’ll see with time.

Anyway, the couple were part of the ideal demographic that the Mexican government has been cracking down on.

They’ve been through a few tourist visas already and want ANOTHER 180 DAYS?!?

How dare they!

So, having not been through Mexican migration in over 2 years as I haven’t left Mexico since then, I was curious about their experience.

Was it really as bad as what people say online?

Well, they did get a little more questioning than what I was used to.

Though, when I say “they,” I’m being misleading.

Apparently they were asked questions separately by different migration agents.

Why didn’t they get the same agent at the same time?

I don’t know.

I’ve never arrived to another country with another person so I don’t know if that’s normal but I would’ve assumed, given they are a couple, that they would’ve stood side by side when getting questioned by the same agent.

Different agents though for these two!

So the chick had no issues.

Got her line of questioning but given 90 days.

Not as ideal as the usual 180 that they’ve been accustomed to but 90 isn’t too bad given their history of visa runs and how other foreigners have gotten much worse despite never having done visa runs!

The dude?

Well, according to him, the questioning was going fine until he gave “an honest answer” as to what he does for a living.

The chick in question simply said that she is there for tourism and has savings.


The guy?

Told them that he “works online” and will be supporting himself that way to be in the country.

Once he said he “works online,” the agent supposedly went Full Autism on his ass.

Similar to the agent who had a mini seizure over me saying that I “vivir” in Mexico.

Apparently his mentioning of “working online” caused many more questions and scrutiny.

And, though he didn’t try the “I don’t understand what I say in Spanish” trick, I imagine that it might have not worked?

Who knows!

I will be fair in saying that there must be AT LEAST one migration agent in Mexico whose IQ is north of 75 that would see through the BS of a foreigner speaking Spanish but then backtracking with the excuse of “not speaking it well” afterwards when they had just shown that they speak it well.

Regardless, the dude got extra scrutiny for his response to that question.

Ended up getting 10 days.

And his chick, as I said, getting 90 days.

Their plan now?

Overstay the visa and pay the fine of 30 some bucks when exiting.

Final Thoughts

First, I think this demonstrates a certain degree of illogical behavior that you see in migration agents around the world (not just Mexico).

Why would they question each person separately?

I don’t get it but let’s move on.

Second, it’s another example anyhow of Mexico tightening the legal right to be in the country on foreigners who have been running on tourist visas.

Though, as I wrote here, they seemingly are being vindictive to some tourists with no history here also for no apparent reason other than to be dicks.

That’s a great tourism plan. High IQ behavior you got there, Mexico.

Third, the bigger lesson though here that I wanted to emphasize is a simple point: do not tell migration agents that you work online in any part of the world if you plan on going somewhere on a tourist visa.

Obviously, don’t tell them that you live somewhere either even if you do practically.

The fact is that the governmental rules and regulations – at least in Latin America but in most of the world – haven’t kept up with the reality of folks being able to travel and work abroad remotely.

The boomers still run the migration offices. What would you expect?

But it’s also a question for governments on how to deal with these people.

As we all know, governments love their tax money.

And, as we can see here, some have tried to adapt to the new reality by offering “digital nomad visas.”

“$3,000 per Month Income – You must have a “stable” income from a remote job.

Proof of Health Insurance – Your policy must cover you for the duration of the visa.

Proof of Remote Work – You must work remotely for yourself or a company established outside of Costa Rica.”

Though I would also argue that those visas are not always aligned with reality.

While plenty of digital nomads can show the money necessary to get them, many others can’t but yet are still a net positive to society financially (even if on a very small scale).

Regardless of individual finances though, we can also critique the limit of 2 years at most that the visa allows. Though I’m not sure if they can get a second digital nomad visa in Costa Rica afterwards, I would simply ask “why 2 years?”

“Up until now, digital nomads could stay in the country for 90 days and would have to leave. Now, they are being officially welcomed with their own digital nomad visa to work remotely for one year. If the digital nomad has spent 180 days in Costa Rica during the visa period, they may renew it for a second year.”

While plenty of folks do leave the country they’ve gone to after only 1 to 3 years, many others choose to stay much longer and actually live there long term.

If they can prove financial solvency and not be a burden for those 2 years, why not let them stay longer?

Typical Boomers – can’t understand that younger digital nomads might choose to stay somewhere longer term.

Next, it’s also important to realize that, for a country like Costa Rica anyhow, visa runs are still possible.

So why do the digital nomad visa right now if you don’t need to?

Of course, they might tighten down on the tourist visa run folks but then, when that happens, they could, in theory, apply for the digital nomad visa.

Why go for it now if it’s not necessary?

“But Matt, what if they tighten the requirements for the digital nomad visa by the time they tighten down on those doing visa runs?”

Fair point.

That’s the risk one has to take and, to be fair, not necessarily the risk many care about.

Plenty of folks (though not all), at least from what I’ve seen over the years, tend to leave the country they began living in after 1 to 3 years anyhow.

So who cares?

And, as I said, plenty of “digital nomads” don’t have 3,000 a month anyhow but yet still have enough money to live a normal life in Costa Rica without being a financial burden.

If, at the end of the day, they can’t afford the requirements in Costa Rica or any Latin country that adopts digital nomad visas, then that’s just how is it.

I would argue that’s an example of those governments not being realistic with the financial realities of various digital nomads but that’s a side topic I’ve already discussed in other articles.

Either way, there’s a lot to discuss with this topic.

We could go all day discussing the last point made but we’ll leave it at that for now.

Ultimately, the big tip here for the traveler that wants to put on hold any aspirations for actual residency is just not say you “work remotely” or “live in the country” when going through migration.

I’m sure plenty who have travelled around a bit already know that but, for those new to it all, just remember that.

Anyway, leave any comments below in the comment section.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


No comments yet

Leave a Reply: