For 37 years, the General Population Law and its Regulations was the legislation in charge of regulating the legal situation of foreigners in Mexico, as well as the immigration processes applicable to them. For several lawyers and legal scholars, this Law was clearer and more specific, since it indicated migratory characteristics in which foreigners could be included, according to the activities they would develop in national territory. However, it is also true that this pigeonholed foreigners and limited them as to the activities they were authorized to carry out in Mexico.
It was in 2011, when the Mexican legislation took a totally different direction, being published the Migration Law, after 37 years of being used to work under the regulation of another law. Putting it into practice was a challenge for Mexican authorities. However, this law was intended to be more understandable for foreigners, and to give them much more protection. The migratory characteristics were eliminated and replaced by two migratory conditions: Residents or Visitors; we went from the migratory status of a person being governed by the activities he/she would perform, to the applicable migratory condition being defined by the length of stay and the source of remuneration.
Despite the fact that this Immigration Law is still in force and 10 years have passed since its publication, the Mexican authorities have not been able to implement it in its entirety. A clear example of this is the “points system”. According to this system, foreigners may acquire permanent residency without complying with the four years of previous residency. This has not yet been implemented because the administrative provisions governing the process have not yet been published.
With this change in legislation, the intention was to implement an immigration system of easy access to foreigners, with the purpose of promoting foreign investment and reducing the immigration procedures that could have been a “procedural wear and tear” for foreigners in our country.
Mexico is a country that has been characterized for providing easy access to foreigners, this is reflected in the high percentage of foreigners that, once their international assignment is over, decide to stay in Mexico because of the economic and tax benefits and the quality vs. cost of living. Many foreigners even decide to retire and reside in Mexico, which is why we can see large colonies of foreigners in states such as Morelos or Baja California.
During the COVID 19 pandemic, Mexico has been one of the few countries in Latin America that has not closed its borders, and was even used by European travelers to spend the 14 days requested by the U.S. government before entering U.S. territory. This issue has caused much controversy nationally due to the opening of borders to foreigners, which for many goes hand in hand with the risk of contagion for Mexican nationals. What has been more important?
During Covid’s time, the National Migration Institute remained active; and even took advantage of the situation to make internal improvements that allow foreigners to obtain their immigration documents in less time.
As we can see, the progress of the immigration legislation in Mexico has been focused on the country becoming a great receiver of migrants; encouraging and facilitating the prompt and expeditious access to a residence; however, the authorities have a long way to go.
Maria del Carmen Guevara Arellano
Karen Chavez Vivanco.