|Helping those in need is one of the reasons Americans decide to stay|
But obtaining a Mexican tourist visa, is very easy for most Americans. All you need to do is be an adult, have a passport, and not be looked for for a crime. The visa will be valid for six months and is given with basically no questions asked.
There are some Americans that don't go back before their 6-months visas expire. They decide to stay in Mexico longer for different reasons. Some of these reasons are:
a) They just like the culture or the way or living in Mexico better.
b) Senior citizens in particular, like that in Mexico, they get much more respect than in the USA.
c) Life expenses are cheaper for a good quality of life. Every middle class person is able to hire a maid.
d) Some Americans find an opportunity to make a difference.
e) Some Americans with family in Mexico decide to relocate.
In addition, the Mexican government doesn't keep track of Americans under tourist visas, so when your visa expires, nobody will come get you. Also, in Mexico, an undocumented American is not considered "illegal," but "irregular." This is like losing your driver's license, you can't drive, but you are not fined or jailed for it.
Some Americans get jobs. Like Mexicans in the US, many of them are hired by closed friends or relatives, or they get their salaries under the name of someone they trust. There is a strong demand for native speakers in English schools, and a few of them hire these Americans under the radar. Another common profession, specially in tourist areas, for Americans is bar tending.
The downside is that they can't hold jobs. However, aside from working under the radar, most Americans work for their American companies over the Internet or have retired and have a pension and savings. Also, many of them go back to the US twice or more a year anyway, so they leave before their visas expire and just get a new 6-month visa when they go back to Mexico.
What happens if an American is caught working with no papers? Not much. He'd have to pay a $500 fine, which is cheaper than the cost of becoming a regular. In theory, he could get deported, but it never happens.
If an undocumented American takes a plane out of the country, he only pays a $50 fine, and that is only if the clerk at customs decides to bother. At a last resort, some Americans have bribed an official to get a stamp with dates "corrected." Such corrections cost about $100.
Of course, most Americans who have decided to stay just follow the legal process, although this is long and expensive. However, for Americans who haven't decided yet to stay, this is very unappealing.
How many undocumented Americans are there in Mexico? Nobody knows, precisely because they're undocumented.
Robert Ervin is a freelancer who writes about healthcare, medical tourism, and living in Mexico.
If you're considering traveling to Mexico for healthcare or retiring in Mexico, you may want to get yourself a copy of The English's Speaker's Guide to Doctors and Hospitals in Mexico in order to find a good doctor or hospital in the main towns and cities of Mexico, or The English Speaker's Guide to Medical Care in Mexico, to understand how the Mexican healthcare system works.