In the past two years the government has implemented several changes to the main aspects of its immigration policy and criteria. The main purpose of the new Immigration Law is to protect the human rights of immigrants. In this respect, the main rationale behind immigration policy was neglected – that is, the establishment of secure and clear immigration procedures for foreign persons in Mexico, as well as the protection of Mexican national sovereignty.
Following the enactment of the new Immigration Law on November 9 2012, foreigners are authorised to carry out activities according to the terms of their immigration permits. The following categories and corresponding conditions are now in force:
- Visitor – with or without permission to perform remunerated activities in the country, a maximum stay of up to 180 days is allowed.
- Temporary resident – this category applies to foreigners performing remunerated activities who intend to stay in the country for a maximum period of four years. This category also includes students.
- Permanent resident – this category applies to foreigners who wish to stay in Mexico indefinitely; a quota and points-based system governing this category will be published in the next few months.
Immigration permits issued before the new Immigration Law came into effect that grant a legal stay to foreigners of both non-immigrant (FM3) and immigrant (FM2) status will be valid until their expiration date. Holders of these permits are considered temporary residents.
The new immigration legislation obliges companies to obtain a certificate of employer registration with the National Immigration Institute, which is a prerequisite to apply for a work permit and is mandatory for all companies hiring foreign staff. Notwithstanding this, the hiring of new foreign employees must be requested through an admission permit, since the new Rules for Immigration Procedures do not allow foreigners entering the country as visiting tourists or businesspeople to change their status to temporary residents undertaking paid activities (and therefore to receive work permits); nor will changes be allowed to the immigration status of temporary visitors or permanent residents (unless the foreigner has a link with a Mexican national).
Foreigners are therefore advised to apply for immigration permission as a temporary resident before entering the country, as this immigration status will apply to all foreigners who intend to stay in the country for longer than 180 days and up to four years while undertaking paid activities (ie, company employees). Once a work permit has been granted, the holder can apply for immigration permission for his or her family. The work permit holder must be present during the immigration permission procedure for his or her family members.
Businesspeople and technicians who travel to Mexico for a period of no more than 180 days to hold business meetings or provide technical assistance to Mexican clients or a Mexican subsidiary (on behalf of their foreign employer) should provide documentation that conclusively demonstrates the reason for their stay, since the immigration agent at the entry point will interview the foreigner and check whether he or she has such necessary documentation. Foreign employees should ensure that all documents are accurate and up to date at the time of entry in order to avoid inconvenience.
Foreigners may carry out only the activities expressly authorised in their immigration documents or permits. They must have express written authorisation to carry out any activities not listed in these immigration documents.
The new immigration rules provide for two categories of authorisation for foreign employees, according to whether they are employed by a foreign company or a Mexican company.
If the foreign employee will remain on a foreign payroll, he or she must request a temporary resident visa directly at a Mexican consulate before entry into Mexico. This is advisable if the foreign employee will be in Mexico for more than 180 days and less than four years.
If the foreign employee will be on a Mexican payroll, authorisation must be requested before his or her entry into Mexico and the following immigration procedure will apply:
- The Mexican company must first be registered with the National Immigration Institute, after which the employee may request authorisation as an employee of the Mexican company. This application will entail the submission of official documents from the foreign company and the Mexican company, in addition to the employee's personal documents. The application must be filed with the relevant local immigration office in Mexico.
Around three weeks after filing this application, the institute will send authorisation to the foreign employee to visit any Mexican consulate in order to receive his or her visa. When visiting the consulate, the foreign employee must bring:
- his or her passport;
- a copy of the official authorisation from the institute;
- photographs; and
- the visa application.
The employee will pay the corresponding fees for the issuance of the visa.
- Upon arrival in Mexico, the employee will receive the multiple immigration form and the immigration officer at the port of entry will check the box on the form labelled "visa for issue of immigration document".
- The employee will then have 30 days to request his or her immigration documents as a temporary resident from the local immigration office.
This procedure is ideal for foreigners who are based outside the country and wish to enter with ad hoc authorisation to carry on with their activities as employees of the Mexican company.
For further information on this topic please contact Edgar Mayorga at Goodrich Riquelme y Asociados AC by telephone (+52 55 5533 0040), fax (+52 55 5525 1227) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).