Mexico - Regulations for entry and stay

The General Population Act in its Article 41 considers the admission of non-immigrant and immigrant status foreigners. Furthermore, it establishes the status of immigrant for foreigners that have had immigrant status for five years (Articles 53 to 56).

The non-immigrant status is granted to a foreigner that with a permit from the Ministry of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación - SEGOB) is temporarily admitted into Mexico (from 3 days for local visitors up to a year, renewable, according to the immigration category), within the following categories: tourist, transit, visitor, religious/cult minister or associate, political refugee, student, distinguished visitor, local visitors, provisional visitor, and correspondent.

Within these categories there are special procedures for the southern Mexican border pursuant to the cross-border life that reigns in the region, regulated by specific circulars, which are: Local Visitor Migration Form (FMVL, for its initials in Spanish) valid for five years, and the Border Worker Migration Form (FMTF, for its initials in Spanish), valid for one year, but requires less requirements for its obtainment with respect to other visitors with authorised work activity.

Additionally, immigrant status applies to the foreigner whose objective is to settle in Mexico, and who complies with the requirements set forth in the General Population Act and its regulation, until immigrant status is obtained, or they have become a naturalised Mexican. Immigrant status has a validity of one year, and is renewable for up to five years. Foreigners may be immigrants in any of the following categories: with private income (rentista), investor, professional, position of trust (in companies or institutions established in the Republic), scientist, technician, family member (spouse or blood relative), artist, athlete, and military. 

If an immigrant’s five-year temporality expires, and he/she does not apply within the periods indicated by regulation for immigrant status, or it is not granted, his/her immigration documentation will be cancelled, and he/she must leave the country within the period indicated by the Ministry of the Interior, through the National Institute of Migration. Immigrant status is permanent, and authorises the foreigner to dedicate him/herself to any licit and honest activity, and it may be lost if the person remains more than three consecutive years abroad.

Immigration authorities may deny foreigners entry to the country, or change their migration status when: no international reciprocity exists; national demographic equilibrium is required; it is considered harmful to the economic interests of nationals; they have violated national laws or have criminal records abroad; have violated the General Population Act, its regulation, or other applicable administrative provisions of the matter, or do not comply with the requirements established therein; are not deemed by health authority to be physically or mentally healthy; or are set forth in other legal provisions.

It is worth mentioning that these immigration categories for the entry and legal stay of foreigners in Mexico will change substantially with the new 2011 Migration Act that came into force in June 2011. They will become three large categories based on time and objective: visitor, temporary resident, and permanent resident (Articles 52 to 57). However, the new immigration regime does not come into force until the Law’s Regulation has been issued, keeping temporarily in force the status previously described of non-immigrant, immigrant, and immigrated according to the General Population Act and its Regulation.

In the 2011 Law, visitors are divided into: a) visitor without permit to perform compensated activities (tourism, business, conventions, cultural activities, and others), b) visitors with permit to perform compensated activities, both for no more than 180 days; c) regional visitor for a stay greater than three days; d) border worker up to one year; e) visitor for humanitarian reasons, that include victims or witnesses to crimes committed in  the national territory, asylum seekers or others, until the process in which they are involved has concluded; and f) visitors for adoption purposes. Temporary residents may not be in this condition for more than four years- except students, who may obtain a permit to work for compensation subject to an employment offer. Permanent residents may stay indefinitely in the country with authorisation to perform compensated activities. Foreigners may obtain this immigration status if they meet some of the following criteria: political asylum, recognition of refugee status, complementary or stateless protection; family unity with Mexicans or a permanent resident; retirees or pensioners; by point system, or for having four years of temporary residency.