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MEXICO: Efforts to Reduce Backlogs and Improve Processing Time Frames

Extensive efforts to reduce backlogs and improve processing time frames are evident eight months after enactment of the new Migration Act.

After considerable backlogs accumulated during the first half of 2013, the National Immigration Institute (INM) has taken significant steps to enhance the processing time frames in all regional INM offices in Mexico.

Noteworthy changes include the acquisition of printers in all Mexican INM offices to issue new Temporary and Permanent Residence ID cards on site, to reduce the delivery time frames. Formerly, the ID cards were issued at the National Printing Office and eventually sent to the INM for collection, taking 5 weeks on average, compared to the 1-3 business days it takes with the new process.

In addition, the INM office in Mexico City has created special desks to process visa renewal applications and registrations for foreigners who arrive with pre-approved immigration status as temporary or permanent residents. This has reduced the processing times to 1 week in average, compared to the 4 to 6 weeks it used to take.

A new immigration regime has been in existence in Mexico since November 9, 2012, after almost 40 years under the previous scheme.

The changes in the law have caused significant processing delays in visa applications submitted at the INM, also given the immediate change in the Mexican presidency less than a month after the enforcement of the new law, which was followed by the substitution of many of the officers at the INM. Such drastic change in the regime resulted in processing delays due to new policies and ambiguities in the law. As a result, the new officers variously interpreted the criteria as they got used both to their new faculties and the changed policies.

Delays also resulted from the massive dismissal of public servants working at the INM for failure to pass compliance and trust tests, as part of the Mexican government's anti-corruption efforts. Official sources announced in July of this year the dismissal of more than 620 people working at the INM during the current administration, which has been in office for 6 months.

In addition, the government offered special training by mid-July to immigration officers who are transferring from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work in Mexican consulates. The training is designed to prepare consular staff to adjudicate visa applications. There have been delays as the consulates acclimated to their new role. Training is expected to help make the process more efficient.

A steady application of the law has become evident during the second half of 2013, and we expect a stricter application of the law, its regulations, and the guidelines that support the practical application of the new Migration Act. Many of the policies initially contemplated in the Act have yet to be enforced, such as the negativa ficta (i.e., a work visa application is considered denied if no official response is received within 20 business days), the implementation of the points-based system that grants direct access to permanent resident status for highly qualified foreigners, and the quota system.


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