Apr 142011

Foreigners are defined as individuals born in another country, but residing in Mexico. According to the recent census, almost a million (961,121) foreigners were living in Mexico in mid-2010. In 2000 there were only about half as many (492,617). Among foreigners, there were slightly more males than females (50.6% versus 49.4%). Under this definition, children born in the USA of two Mexican parents are considered foreigners if they currently live in Mexico. Unfortunately, the data currently available do not enable us to separate these foreign-born Mexicans from other foreigners who were raised in other countries and moved to Mexico to follow their professions or retire. Furthermore, they do not help us answer a question we have been asked dozens of times in recent years, namely, “How many Canadians and how many Americans have retired in Mexico?”

Though almost a million foreigners sounds like an impressive number, Mexico has relatively few foreign born residents compared to its two northern neighbors. Foreigners constitute only 0.86% of the 2010 Mexican population, compared to 21% Canada and 13% in the USA.

Where in Mexico do most foreigners reside? Baja California has the most foreigners with almost 123,000, followed by Jalisco (84,000), Chihuahua (80,000), and the Federal District (72,000). Tlaxcala has the fewest, with just over 3,200, followed by Tabasco with about 4,500.

The states with the highest percentage of foreigners are mostly along the US border. Baja California leads with 3.9%, followed by Chihuahua (2.3%), Tamaulipas (1.9%), and Sonora (1.7%). Interestingly, the other border state, Coahuila, has relatively few foreigners, only 0.8%. Other states with relatively large percentages are either historical sources of immigrants to the USA or retirement havens like Colima (1.44%), Quintana Roo (1.40%), Nayarit (1.35%), Zacatecas (1.22%), Jalisco (1.14%) and Michoacán (1.10%).

Tabasco has the fewest foreigners as a percentage with only 0.20%, followed by Tlaxcala (0.28%), Veracruz (0.30%), the State of México (0.33%) and Yucatán (0.36%). Yucatán is a surprise on this list because there is a very large and active foreign retirement community there. Perhaps many of these retirees were away from Mexico when the census was taken in the summer of 2010.

What states experienced the largest increases in foreigners in the last decade? The number of foreigners grew fastest in those states with relatively few foreigners in 2000, namely Hidalgo (up 402% over the decade), Tlaxcala (333%), Tabasco (281%), and Veracruz and Oaxaca (both with 272%).

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  7 Responses to “How many foreigners live in Mexico, and where do they live?”

  1. I posted this on my blog
    The often quoted number of legal gringo residents in Mexico has unofficially fluctuated between a hundred thousand and more than a million.

    Recently the Instituto Nacional de Migración, Mexico´s immigration service, posted some official statistics for the first 11 months of 2009. I extrapolated some yearly (12 months) figures:
    1 – total original FM2, FM3 and inmigrado documents issued -57,858.
    2 – total renewals of FM2 and FM3 – 127,788
    3 – Total US citizens receiving their first FM2, FM3 or inmigrado – 10,052 or 17.4 por cent.

    I applied the percentage of gringos receiving their first documents to the number of renewals -22,235.
    Total legal US nationals in Mexico 32,287.

    That number seems extraordinarily low, I had thought more than that lived just in Mexico City.

  2. Great! Thank you. Where can I get more statistics and figures on Americans and foreigners WORKING in Mexico?


  3. To the best of our knowledge, there are no published figures for the breakdown of foreigners in Mexico (in terms of working/non-working) but should we ever find any, we’ll certainly post them!

  4. Hi… your book looks great and there’s so much useful information here. This is just the article I’ve been seeking, but I am looking for the number of foreigners living in the State of Oaxaca. I can see here that it is up more than %200 from 2010 but without any kind of base number to work from I do not know what that number was in 2010. Any tips. I’ve grown so weary of long INEGI reports.


  5. 2010 figures for foreigners in Oaxaca:
    15,158 born in the US (7,844 Male, 7,314 female)
    + 1,912 born other countries (933 / 979)
    = TOTAL (all countries) of 17,070

  6. You mention Jalisco, but not specifically the Lake Chapala region. There are many expats living here (including myself and my husband). I’m told the numbers range from about 10,000 in the summer to 20,000 when the snowbirds arrive for winter.

  7. FWIW, the 2010 Census figures for the two municipalities in the Lake Chapala area with the highest numbers of non-Mexicans are as follows:

    Chapala – Total population 48,839
    Of these, 41,808 were born in Jalisco; 3303 elsewhere in Mexico; 2217 in USA; 906 some other country; 605 non-specified.

    Jocotepec – Total population 42,164
    Of these, 39,214 were born in Jalisco; 1685 elsewhere in Mexico; 690 in USA; 104 some other country; 471 non-specified

    There is regular discussion about the number of expats in the area. The figures of 10,000 (summer) to 20,000 (winter) have always seemed to me to be far too high, but (for reasons we’ve discussed previously on Geo-Mexico) it is notoriously difficult to derive reliable figures for expats from population data, immigration data, surveys, or any combination thereof.

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