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MEXICO: Changes in Mexican Immigration Law

Sixteen months after passage of the new Mexican Immigration Law, regulations were published in the Official Bulletin in Mexico on September 28, 2012. Implementation is expected soon. The new law involves significant changes to the current immigration regime.

Main Points of the New Immigration Law

- Provides three main groups of conditions of stay -- Visitor, Temporary Resident, and Permanent Resident -- which will replace more than 30 migratory status and characteristics included in the General Population Law. The new groups will focus on the status of nonimmigrant, immigrant, and permanent resident.

- Immigrants will be granted access to education and health services regardless of their immigration status.

- Immigration officials will include the Ministry of the Interior, the National Immigration Institute, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National System for Integral Family Development.

- Auxiliary authorities on immigration affairs will include the Attorney General's Office, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Tourism.

- The judges or officials of the Civil Registry must not deny to immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, the authorization of acts of civil status or the issuance of certificates related to birth, recognition of children, marriage, divorce, and death.

- Foreigners must personally submit a visa application to the appropriate offices.

- A visa application can be made through the National Immigration Institute's offices when the application stems from the right of preservation of the family unit, a job offer, or humanitarian reasons. In these cases, the National Immigration Institute and Mexico's consular offices abroad can authorize the visa. The consular office may ask the Institute to review its approval if it considers that the applicant may not meet the requirements of this law, regulations, and other applicable legal provisions. The Institute ultimately can resolve the case without liability to the consular office.

- Conditions of stay as a visitor, temporary resident, and permanent resident include:

  • Visitor without permission to engage in lucrative activities. Authorizes a foreigner to travel or stay in national territory for 180 consecutive days, without obtaining permission to perform activities subject to remuneration in Mexico. 
  • Visitor with permission to engage in lucrative activities. Authorizes a foreigner who has a job offer with an invitation by any authority or academic, artistic, sporting, or cultural institution that provides remuneration in the country, and a foreigner who comes to Mexico to engage in a remunerated activity for a seasonal period under an interagency agreement signed with a foreign entities, to stay in national territory for a continuous period up to 180 days.
  • Regional visitor. Authorizes a foreign national or resident of a neighboring country to enter border areas with the right to enter and leave Mexico as many times as he or she wishes as long as the visit does not exceed three days, and without permission to receive remuneration in the country.
  • Visitor border worker. Authorizes a foreigner national of a country with which the United Mexican States share territorial boundaries to stay up to one year in such a state as determined by the Ministry. The visitor border worker may engage in activities within Mexico related to the job offer and may enter and leave Mexico as many times as he or she wishes.
  • Visitor for humanitarian reasons. Foreign nationals in any of the following circumstances may receive authorization if he or she:
  • a) is the victim or witness of a crime committed on national territory;
  • b) is an unaccompanied immigrant child or adolescent under Article 74 of the law;
  • c) has made a request for asylum, refugee status, or complementary protection of the Mexican State until his or her migratory status is resolved; or
  • d) needs to enter Mexico for humanitarian or public interest reasons, in which case he or she will receive permission to work in exchange for payment.
  • Visitor for adoption purposes. Authorizes a foreign national linked to a process of adoption in the United Mexican States to stay in the country until a court decision is dictated. If it is a positive order, the foreigner may stay in Mexico to register the new birth act of the adopted child or adolescent in the civil registry and to remain until the passport is issued, as well as to follow procedures to guarantee the departure of the child or adolescent from the country.
  • Temporary resident. Authorizes a foreign national to remain in Mexico for no longer than four years with the possibility of obtaining a lucrative work permit in the country, subject to a job offer, with the right to enter and leave the country as many times as he or she desires and also the right to preserve the family unit.
  • Temporary resident student. Authorizes a foreign national to remain in Mexico for the duration of courses, studies, research, or training projects that will take place in educational institutions belonging to the national educational system; to obtain the corresponding certificate, record, certificate, diploma, or degree; with the right to enter and leave the country as often as desired; and with permission to engage in lucrative activities in the case of persons engaged in college-level, graduate, and research work.
  • Permanent resident. Authorizes a foreign national to remain in Mexico indefinitely, with permission to work. Permanent residents are entitled to the preservation of the family unit, so they can enter with, or subsequently request the entry of, spouses, parents, brothers and sisters, and partners.

- Visitors, except those who entered for humanitarian reasons or have links with Mexicans or foreigners with regular residence in Mexico, cannot change their condition of stay and must leave the country once they conclude their authorized term.

- Mexicans have the right to the preservation of the family unit, so they may enter with, or eventually request the entry of, foreign spouses, parents, brothers and sisters, and partners.

- The Ministry may establish a point system for foreigners to acquire permanent residence without complying with the four-year residence requirement through general administrative rules to be published in the Official Journal of the Federation.

- With the exception of those applying for asylum or the recognition of refugee status determinations or stateless persons, foreigners must process their resident credentials within 30 calendar days after entering the national territory.

- Foreign nationals, regardless of their condition of stay and without permission from the Institute, may acquire personally or by proxy fixed or variable assets and may make bank deposits. They also may acquire urban real estate and real rights over property, with the restrictions set out in Article 27 of the Constitution and other applicable provisions.

- No foreign national may hold two conditions of stay simultaneously.

- The Foreigners National Registry houses information on all foreigners who acquire temporary resident or permanent resident status.

- Foreigners must inform the National Immigration Institute of any change in marital status, nationality, address, or workplace within 90 days after such change occurs.

- Foreigners must accredit their regular immigration status in the country in legal acts which require the intervention of public notaries, those who substitute them or their equivalents, with regard to real estate issues.

- The Institute may conduct verification visits to confirm the accuracy of data provided in immigration procedures.

- The immigration authority must issue a resolution on immigration procedures within 20 working days from the date the applicant meets all formal requirements provided by the law, regulations, and other applicable administrative provisions. If a decision is not made within 20 days, it will be deemed negative.

- Visa applications filed at consular offices must be resolved within 10 working days.

- If the applicant does not meet the requirements, the immigration authorities will indicate them in accordance with the Federal Administrative Procedure Law and will provide a period of 10 working days after being notified to address any missing requirements.

- Foreigners may apply for regularization of their immigration status in cases established by law.

- The Institute has 30 calendar days to decide an application for regularization of immigration status.

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