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We are in Ft Collins, CO and want to retire to the Lake Chapala area soon. We have run a food cart business successfully here for five years, selling authentic Maine Lobster Rolls, hot dogs and brats. Our cart is stainless steel, 4.5 x 7.5 feet, towed by our car. 

We want to bring the cart and make a small monthly income. 

Can anyone guide me to information on if the cart would be allowed across the border with us, how can we assure the border agents we are not bringing the cart to be sold, are there laws against us making money in Mexico by selling street food? What licensing is necessary? Would it be less of a headache to have one built in Mexico? 

Thank you for any guidance, suggestions!

 

 

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This is a really complex question.  Of course there is street food everywhere in Mexico--but sold by foreigners?  I've never seen that, anywhere. 

IMHO, it would be far more practical to have a cart built to your specifications here, rather than bring it here with you.  The complications of bringing one could be enormous.

You are required to have a work permit in order to earn money in Mexico  Work permits (not cheap) are available to people with either a Residente Temporal or Residente Permanente visa, but not to anyone with a tourist card (the 180-day or less permission to enter Mexico as a visitor).  It is possible to apply for a work permit to be self-employed, but you'll need to ask at your Mexican consulate to find out the ins and outs of that, and if the rules apply to this kind of work.  Then there is the question of licensing a cart--here's some information in Spanish about how to go about that in Mexico.  Note that in the information linked here, you will only see rules for Mexican citizens--you may not be eligible at all.  
https://www.gob.mx/tramites/ficha/permiso-transitorio-para-comercio-ambulante/SEMARNAT39

If your intent is to continue to sell hot dogs, brats, and lobster rolls, you need to consider where you might find what you need to prepare them.  Hot dogs here are not what you are used to in Colorado, brats are not made here and are very difficult to find, and Maine lobster is all but nonexistent.  Even the bread for a lobster roll will be extremely difficult to find here--our bread is different from the bread in the USA.  Maybe you bake your own--I see that bread making is one of your interests.

Have you ever been to Lake Chapala, or elsewhere in Mexico where you might have thought about settling?  If not, you definitely want to come spend some time here to see how life is, before you make a plan to move here.  Life is not the same here as it is in the USA.  You need to investigate whether you will be eligible for a Residente Temporal or Residente Permanente visa.  There are income requirements you must meet in order to apply for those.  Visit the Mexican consulate nearest you to get some solid information.

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Everything More Liana says is spot on. I just want to focus, though, on the actual food side of things. Street "dogos" here are the worst kind of wieners. But since most people smother food like this in crema and hot sauce and ketchup, it doesn't really matter that you'd have a hard time getting a supply of good ones. And they sell for a buck, so there's no money in it. Same with brats. You'd really need to investigate some kind of purchasing and inventory connections to do better than buying your basic ingredients at CostCo. The few local places that have tried to make a living selling "designer dogs" have failed miserably within a few months. And as More Liana pointed out, there's no lobster here, let alone the right kind of roll. The majority of bread here consists of tasteless air, especially dog and burger buns. So again, you'd be looking to make some deep connections before even considering such a thing. Heck, I'd kill for a decent steamer at a fair price, but I am forced to make my own using Kirkland wieners and lousy buns.

As for the rest of it, most definitely spend six months here checking out the street scene. We have a few food trucks that are not strictly Mexican-owned, but all seem to have Mexicans involved by marriage at the very least. Now, expat-owned restaurants... well, that's different. And a majority of them fail, too, usually because they don't know their audience, don't want to pay their staff properly, and try to charge "up home" prices in an area that is financially depressed (outside of the retirees).

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You might also want to consider the reaction to your attempted competition in the local scene......"local solutions" are effective and generally swift.  I would not dare to try what you suggest in most areas, even if I thought I could handle working 10 to 10 on the street. Then, there would be the problem of logistics; where to drop the wagon, and where to put the tow vehicle. Most of Mexico was not designed for vehicles, and definitely not for parking them.

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I started a paddle boat business many years ago, got all the permits (wife is Mexican), fees, bribes, etc. First time we rented them, the "boat people" of Chapala came and were about to take all my boats, as they were not happy with the competition. They did get the local police to take one of my boats (for 3 months) until I got a lawyer to help get it back. (I had all the permits, but that made no difference, what could I do? 5 years later, I still had my boats and sold them to a "connected" Mexican young man for 3 times what I had spent on them in total. I was lucky, and soon he sold them to the boat people. I came out really good in the end, hope he stuck it to the "boat" people ! 

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You would not ask the Mexican consulate regarding working in Mexico as you will be denied a pre-approved temporary resident visa.

Once you have a temporary resident visa fully issued in Mexico you may apply for permission to work. That is not expensive. The fees are on my web site. You would first need to register with SAT for taxation before your work visa. 

As to your business model, as the others noted, unfortunately, the chance of success is extremely poor. Come and explore different places in Mexico including San Miguel for livability relative to your lifestyle and expectations. Only then would I recommend you consider business models. There are opportunities here and some expats have had amazing success so do not be discouraged. 

Also, on my web site you will see the requirements for a temporary resident visa and our book comparing various locations in Mexico . www.soniadiaz.mx

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