New Mexican Immigration Law comes into effect in November

One important factor everyone needs to consider about the new Immigration rules is that, after November 9th of 2012 nobody will be granted RESIDENCY from within the country! This doesn’t mean that we can get RESIDENCY at the border, we will actually have to register with the MEXICAN CONSULATE from outside of Mexico in order to get Temporary or Permanent Residency, if you don’t already have an FM3 or FM2.

The Regulations for the 2011 Mexican Immigration law were published this morning and after reading through them and taking some notes, I wanted to publish a basic summary of the points that I thought were pretty important for the expat community here in Mexico. This summary is going to be, as I said, basic and I’ll try to update some of the more detailed information as time passes.

Immigration filters

There are going to be basic immigration filters or checkpoints at airports, seaports and terrestrial border crossings, very similar to the border crossings now. For many foreigners, we WILL NOT need a visa prior to entering Mexico, because Mexico has signed treaties with various countries that Visas aren’t needed for their citizens. You can check that list, in Spanish, here (American citizens and residents don’t need visas, neither do most European countries):

http://www.sre.gob.mx/tratados/visas.htm

Once you get to the immigration filter the immigration authority will give you a temporary document that will prove your migratory status. At the time that you are given this document you will be asked the purpose of your trip to Mexico and the document will reflect that purpose, be it work, pleasure, etc. If you plan on staying in Mexico for more than 30 days you will have to trade the temporary document in at the immigration office closest to your home in Mexico.

At these immigration checkpoints, your may be asked to provide your passport, personal information, reason for trip, place of residence outside of Mexico, where you plan on staying in Mexico, who you will work for in Mexico, be that the case, activities in Mexico, income sources and how you are planning on leaving Mexico. It seems to me that this information is going to only be required from you in doubt about your intentions for coming into Mexico: children, families or well dressed tourists and business people probably not get hassled; arriving in the airport after finishing a few too many on the plane might get you an entrance interview. Use common sense.

Temporary and Permanent Residency

One of the major changes in the new immigration policy is the Temporary and Permanent residency instead of the FM3/FM2. This is the part that most interests the majority of the expat community and upon reading these sections I think everyone is going to be pleased.

**On a more technical note, I was a little displeased about some of the ambiguity in the wording in this section. There was a lot of talk about the removal of discretionary decision-making by the immigration offices, but in my opinion that still exists: in many parts of the regulations the wording “can be issued” is present instead of a more definitive “will be issued”.

Lets get into the nitty-gritty, but first, let me calm the fears of all of the expats who had FM3’s before now and were told (by me, sorry) that their FM3’s would not transition nicely into Temporary Resident documents: They will, the regulations made a distinction that holders of No-Inmigrante Visitantes documents (FM3) will, upon expiration of their FM3, receive a Temporary Resident Status.

Temporary Resident

The Temporary Resident document will be issued for periods from 1-4 years, based on the decision of the immigration authority. Temporary Residency does not confer automatic permission to work in Mexico, although it may be granted upon request of the foreigner and pending a job offer. People who currently hold FM3′s and FM2′s and who do not fall into any of the categories allowed for Permanent Residency will be eligible at the time of renewal for Temporary Residency.

According to the regulations, and congruent with the law, people in ANY OF the following situations will be eligible for Temporary Residency in Mexico:

  • People with a marital or common-law link to a Mexican citizen or a person who holds a Temporary or Permanent Residency status
  • People with job offers
  • People registered in the federal tax registry who are trying to work independently in Mexico
  • People who have been invited by a government or private institution to participate in a non-lucrative activity
  • People who can prove their economic independence
  • People who own real estate in Mexico above a certain value*
  • People who have invested a certain amount* in stock in a Mexican company, production machinery or other assets in Mexico or economic activities(ambiguous)

Permanent Resident:

Permanent Resident is actually a permanent status, except for children under 3 years old who need to renew their documents yearly until reaching 3 years of age. Permanent Resident status includes express permission to work in Mexico, but changes in employer and updates of activities are required.

The following people are eligible to become Permanent Residents in Mexico (ANY OF THE FOLLOWING):

  • Refugees and political prisoners
  • People with a marital or common law link to Mexicans or Permanent Residents (after 2 years of Temporary Residency)
  • Retired people*
  • Grandparents, parents, children or grandchildren a Mexican who acquired their nationality by birth
  • People who have a certain number of points* based on the following criteria:
    • Level of education
    • Work experience in vital areas with high demand
    • Other work experience
    • Investments in Mexico
    • Aptitude in science or technology
    • International recognitions or prizes
    • Fluency in the Spanish language
    • Knowledge of Mexican culture

*These parts of the regulations have been left very ambiguous and will apparently be cleared up via further publications in the Diario Oficial de la Federación, at a later date.

Visitors

The law talks about visitors as people who are allowed to be in Mexico for up to 180 days and then must leave, specifically saying that after the 180 days they must leave the country. This still applies. Anyone who does not ask for Temporary or Permanent Residency prior to entrance to Mexico will not be able to change from their Tourist Status to Temporary Resident, UNLESS they acquire a matrimonial link to or have another familiar link to a Mexican citizen or Resident. This could be important for people moving to the country, because they will need to make sure to ask for Residence prior to entry.

I somewhat expect there to be exceptions to this rule, but as of right now I can’t find any. We shall see how this evolves.

Penalties

I had heard that there were some tough penalties for non-compliance with the new rules, basically because the time periods given for the documents was much more than before. In my opinion, the new penalties aren’t too much worse than the old penalties, but it is important to be aware of them:

  • If you are caught performing unauthorized activities your document CAN BE cancelled and you CAN BE asked to leave the country.
  • If you fail to notify the immigration authority of changes in your marital state, address or work situation within 90 days of the change you can be charged a fine of between 20 and 100 days of minimum wage in Mexico City (about $1220-$6100 pesos as of September 2012).

All of these rules come into effect on November 12th of 2012, therefore any transactions that are turned into Immigration before that date will still fall under the old rules. After that date any document renewals or applications will fall under these rules.

As I said, this is a very basic overview of the new system and I have left a lot out of the new regulations, mostly things concerning refugees and human rights issues that aren’t completely of interest to the readers of this blog. There will be much discussion on this law in the next few months and everyone’s understanding of the rules will change as we actually get a chance to interact with the new system. Stay tuned.

The original decree of these regulations by the Secretaría de Gobernación in the Diario Oficial is here:

http://dof.gob.mx/nota_detalle.php?codigo=5270615&fecha=28/09/2012