-- For the past few months, I have been receiving emails from the U.S. about Mexican Immigration, many from people that want to compare Mexican immigration to the U.S – often with the intention of verifying their existing prejudices and prove that Mexico’s treatment of immigrants and immigration compares unfavorably to the U.S. Most of the comments and questions I have received reveal at best an unfamiliarity with Mexican law, so in the interests of clearing up some of the myths and misconceptions, I have put together some basic information about Mexican nationality, citizenship, and immigration.
Nationality and citizenship are under the oversight of the Secretary of Foreign Relations (Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores – SRE) and immigration is under the oversight of the (National Institute of Immigration - Instituto Nacional de Migración) which is a department of the Secretary of Government (Secretaría de Gobernación – SG).
There is a distinction in Mexican law between nationality and citizenship. Nationality cannot be lost, but citizenship (political rights) can be.
According to Article 30 of the Mexican Constitution, “Mexican nationality is acquired by birth or by naturalization.”
MEXICANS BY BIRTH ARE:
· “Those that are born in the territory of the Republic, whatever the nationality of their parents.”
· “Those born outside Mexican territory of one or both parents that were born in Mexico. “
· “Anyone born outside of Mexico of one or both parents that are naturalized Mexicans”
· “Those born on board Mexican ships or aircraft.”
This means that anyone born in Mexico has Mexican nationality by the simple act of being born in Mexican territory. Anyone who has one or both parents born in Mexico is a Mexican national. There is a simple procedure for verifying this nationality. Anyone born in the U.S. that has at least one Mexican parent has dual nationality in Mexico.
According to Art. 37 of the Constitution, a Mexican cannot lose his nationality. This is part of the reforms of 1998 that permit dual nationality. Anyone that renounced his Mexican nationality to acquire another nationality can recover it, because he no longer can lose it.
MEXICANS WITH NATIONALITY BY NATURALIZATION ARE:
· Foreigners that request and receive a “Letter of Naturalization” from the SRE – Secretary of Foreign Relations (see the Law of Nationality for the requirements and details).
· The foreigner that contracts matrimony with a Mexican and complies with the requirements stipulated in the Law.
According to article 34, a citizen is a man or woman with Mexican nationality, who:
· Has reached the age of majority, and
· Lives honestly.
Remember Mexico, like most other Latin countries, and European countries has a legal system based directly on the ancient Roman legal system. This distinction in Mexican law is directly related to the same distinction in Roman law.
The results of not living honestly, (being convicted of a crime, not completing military service, using titles of nobility of foreign governments, for helping a foreign government in an action against Mexico, being a drug addict,) are grounds for loss of citizenship while the condition remains. Mexican citizenship is more closely synonymous with political rights and political rights are privileges based on compliance.
*The Constitution of 1917 is the basis for all Mexican law, laws are initiatives debated and approved by Congress and signed by the President, the cabinet of the Executive branch (the Secretarías) are assigned the oversight to Federal laws, the Regulations are issued by the appropriate Secretary and contain the procedures for complying with the law. NATIONALITY and IMMIGRATION are under two different cabinet level Secretaries of the Federal Executive branch of government.
Is the law that regulates Mexican Nationality, citizenship, and naturalization. This law was published in the DOF in 1998 and the last reform was published on January, 12, 2005. This law, which is under the oversight of the Secretary of Foreign Relations (SRE), details the procedures for verifying and recovering Mexican nationality – it expresses the new objective of Mexico’s nationality policy. The ongoing debate in Mexico is, that although a person cannot lose nationality obtained by birth, he can lose citizenship or political rights by acquiring a new nationality. At the moment a Mexican national that acquires U.S. citizenship can vote in Federal elections (not municipal elections), but cannot run for political office without renouncing his acquired nationality. A loophole appears to be the person born in the U.S. of one or both Mexican parents can run for political office without renouncing U.S. citizenship. Another point, which I think may be corrected in the future is the fact that a person born outside of Mexico to at least one parent who was born in Mexico has Mexican nationality. Since those persons were not born themselves in Mexican territory, there children born outside of Mexico do not have Mexican nationality, but it specifically stipulates in the Law of Nationality that the children of a person with nationality by naturalization have Mexican nationality.
The new Law of Nationality was published in 1998 and has been reformed several times; the changes that permit dual nationality are not fully developed. In fact, although the new law mentions the Regulation of the Law of Nationality which must be issued by the Secretary of Foreign Relations, the Regulation still has not been issued. I think some of the points I mentioned in the previous paragraphs will first be addressed at the constitutional level before the new Regulation is issued.
In order for the foreigner to request naturalization:
· he must have resided for five years in national territory and complied with the requirements of the Secretary of Government – (Visa FM2)
· Two years of residence is required when
· He is a direct descendant of a Mexican national by birth,
· Has children that are Mexican by birth,
· He is originally from a Latin American country or the Iberian Peninsula,
· He has contracted marriage with a Mexican national and lived with the spouse for two years before the request,
· or one year for adopted children.
Immigration is under the oversight of the (National Institute of Immigration - Instituto Nacional de Migración - INM) which is a department of the Secretary of Government (Secretaría de Gobernación – SG) and is regulated by the Law of Population (Ley de Población).
In Mexico, there are 3 distinct immigration statuses. They are:
· No Inmigrante – Non immigrant – FM3 VISA – some short term visits of a non immigrant nature are not issued an FM3, these conditions are stipulated in the Law of Population.
· Inmigrante – Immigrant – FM2
· Inmigrado - Immigrated person – Permanent resident
FM3 VISA - A Non immigrant – is person who enters the country temporarily, for several days or several years for various reasons, but without the intention of residing permanently in Mexico.
The NON IMMIGRANT VISA is issued in eleven different categories, most, except for short term visits, require the application for an FM3 VISA, these are stipulated in the Law of Population, which are as follows:
1. TOURIST: This category grants a simple paper Visa and does not require applying for an FM3. Tourist is the person that enters the country for recreation, health, artistic, cultural or sports activities – activities that are not profitable or compensated. This permit is issued for a maximum of six months and is NOT renewable.
2. TRANS MIGRANT: is the person in transit to another country that travels through Mexico for up to 30 days, this permit is NOT renewable.
3. VISITOR: is the foreigner that enters Mexico for a specific profitable or non profitable activity and is granted for up to one year.
4. MINISTER OF A RELIGIOUS GROUP OR ASSOCIATION: is renewable every year for five years.
5. POLITICAL ASYLUM: This is for the foreigner that enters Mexico to protect their “liberty or life from political persecution in their country authorized for the term that the Secretary of Government deems appropriate.
6. REFUGEE: This is for the foreigner that enters Mexico to protect their “life, safety, or liberty when they have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights.. that have obligated to flee to another country. The Secretary can renew this permit as many times as deemed appropriate.
7. STUDENT: is the foreigner that enters Mexico for initiating, completing, or continuing studies. *note, the person who completes a degree in Mexico under a Non immigrant Visa must change to an immigrant visa if they want to practice the profession in Mexico.
8. DISTINGUISHED VISITOR: Is the foreign scientist or humanist of international prestige. The Secretary may grant these visas for up to six months and can renew them.
9. LOCAL VISITOR: is the foreigner authorized for visiting maritime ports or border cities for less than 3 days.
10. TEMPORARY VISITOR: Are all foreigners that the Secretary authorizes for up to a 30 days stay when landing at maritime ports or airports.
11. JOURNALIST: is the foreigner that enters the country for journalistic activities.
“INMIGRANTE” – VISA FM2 – IMMIGRANT VISA
An immigrant is the foreigner that enters Mexico legally for the purpose of remaining permanently in the country, until he obtains the Immigration status of “Inmigrado” Immigrated person or permanent resident. This status requires applying for an FM2 VISA. The FM2 Visa is extended (refrendo) every year until completing five years. At the end of five years, the foreigner can apply for another FM2 visa or request a “Declaration as an Immigrated Person” (Declaratoria de Inmigrado) Once the status of ‘INMIGRADO” is granted, the foreigner can live and be involved in any legal activity in Mexico. This status is permanent and does not require further renewals or extensions. There are 9 categories of immigrant visa (FM2); they are as follows:
1. INDEPENDENT INCOME. This refers to the foreigner who wants to reside permanently in Mexico and live on resources brought from outside the country. These resources may include interest produced by the investment of capital in certificates, stocks, and bonds of the State or the national institutions of credit or others determined by the Secretary of Government or from any permanent income that comes from outside the country. The minimum amount required is presently 400 times the daily minimum wage (19,468 pesos) in the Federal District and 200 hundred days minimum wage (9,734 pesos) for dependent family members.
2. INVESTORS. Foreigners that seek immigration in order to invest their capital in industry, commerce, provided that it contributes to the economic and social development of the country and that is maintained during the time of the residency of the foreigner at a minimum amount of $40,000 pesos times the daily minimum wage in the Federal District.
3. PROFESSIONAL. The foreigner who immigrates in order to exercise a profession. The foreigner must document their credentials for that profession. They must validate any studies or university degrees in Mexico.
4. POSITIONS OF CONFIDENCE. The foreigner who immigrates in order to assume positions of supervision, sole administrator of a corporation, or others of absolute confidence in companies or institutions established in the Republic.
5. SCIENTIST. The foreigner who immigrates in order to direct or perform scientific research or diffuse scientific knowledge, to prepare researchers or perform work as docents.
6. TECHNICIAN. The foreigner who immigrates in order to perform research applied within manufacturing production or perform technical or specialized functions.
7. FAMILY MEMBERS. The foreigner who immigrates in order to live under the economic dependence of the spouse or a blood relative, “Immigrant”, “Immigrated person”, or Mexican in direct lineage without limit of degree or transversal up to the second degree.
8. ARTISTS AND ATHLETES. The foreigner who immigrates in order to perform artistic or sports activities.
9. ASSIMILATED PERSONS. The foreigner who immigrates that has had or has a Mexican spouse or child and that are not found to be covered in the latter sections. What is interesting is that if a foreigner comes to Mexico and has a child, they are eligible for immigrant status under this section, and are eligible for naturalization as a Mexican national after two years.
INMIGRADO – IMMIGRATED PERSON
The FM2 Visa is extended (refrendo) every year until completing five years. At the end of five years, the foreigner can apply for another FM2 visa or request a “Declaration as an Immigrated Person” (Declaratoria de Inmigrado) Once the status of ‘INMIGRADO” is granted, the foreigner can live and be involved in any legal activity in Mexico. This status is permanent and does not require further renewals or extensions. The person with this status can request Naturalization from the Secretary of Foreign Relations or stay with this status permanently.
In Mexico, the declared objective of immigration law (the Law of Population) is to regulate immigration as to volume, structure, and distribution. One of the goals of immigration law is to distribute within Mexico, immigrants with the skills and abilities needed in different areas. Mexican immigration policy is designed to maintain the integration within the fabric of Mexican society of those persons who have left Mexico and assumed other nationalities, and to facilitate their participation in the political and social life of the country. It is all about eliminating those obstacles and barriers to remaining part of the Mexican extended community.