**Disclaimer for Getachew & Ansari Immigration Attorneys, P.C.:**
Getachew & Ansari Immigration Attorneys, P.C. specializes in United States immigration law. Information regarding Mexican immigration on our website is for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. For specific Mexican immigration matters, consult a licensed Mexican immigration attorney. For U.S. immigration issues, contact our team for professional assistance.
US immigration law receives much press, usually in relation to Mexico, the top origin country of the US immigration population. But how about Mexican immigration laws vs US? Mexico receives hundreds of thousands of immigrants annually. What is the experience of people looking to make Mexico their home versus those chasing the American Dream? This post comparing Mexican and US immigration laws will help you gain useful insights.
Residence and naturalization
Mexico offers temporary resident visas and permanent resident visas. The former is approved for one year and renewed for 1 to 3 years. After four consecutive years as a temporary resident, you may apply for a Permanent Resident Visa if you wish to continue staying in Mexico.
To settle indefinitely in Mexico, you’ll need to meet some of the criteria listed below:
- Retire in Mexico provided you don’t work or get an income in the country
- You have close family relations in Mexico
- You have a child who belongs to or was a Mexican citizen or permanent resident
- At least one of your parents is a Mexican citizen or permanent resident
- Your have an adult step-parent who is a Mexican citizen or permanent resident
- If you’re a sibling of a Mexican national or permanent resident
Who can apply for a Mexico resident visa?
Investors: Investing in services or industries is a pathway to a residency permit.
Professionals: You can verify your certifications with the Mexican consulate in your country, and once deemed a certified professional, apply for a Mexico resident visa.
Esteemed in your field: If you’re a scientist, journalist, sportsman, researcher, artist, or humanist who is well-recognized in your field with international acclaim, you can get residency in Mexico.
Retirees: If you will not be working and receiving income overseas, you can apply for permanent residency. But your income and assets must meet the Mexican government’s financial requirements.
How do you become a Mexican citizen?
To apply for Mexican citizenship, you need to show you’ve had temporary or permanent residency for five straight years. Plus, you must demonstrate that you’ve lived in Mexico for a minimum of 18 months within the two years before applying.
How does it work?
- Present your application to the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and give up your original citizenship
- Prove your knowledge of Spanish and Mexican history and culture
- Demonstrate your integration into the national culture
- Provide copies of your passport, Mexican ID, and resident card
The United States has a vast system of visas, including immigrant visas for those intending to live permanently and non-immigrant visas for temporary stays. There are several ways to get permanent residency or citizenship in the U.S., such as through family support, employment, or a lottery program. To become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you have to fulfill a few requirements. You need to live lawfully in the U.S. for a few years, have a good reputation, understand English and U.S. history, and take an oath of loyalty.
Refugee and asylum seeker protections
Mexico has laws and procedures in place for handling refugees and asylum seekers, in accordance with international standards. The country accounted for 10 percent of all new individual asylum applications in the Americas during 2022, the fourth highest in the region. The country also ranks fourth globally, after the United States, Germany, and Costa Rica, with 118,800 new asylum applications in 2022.
The Mexican law on refugees and asylum seekers protects individuals threatened by generalized violence, including those who don’t qualify as refugees under the 1951 Convention. It also views gender-based persecution as valid. Plus, it doesn’t require refugees to go back to any country where they may face persecution and ensures there’s no discrimination. .
If the individual does not qualify for refugee status, the Ministry of the Interior may grant complementary protection. It halts the return of the individual to a country where their life may be in danger.
The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) takes in those refugees who are determined as being extremely vulnerable and in need of safety through resettlement in a third country. Individuals can seek access to USRAP under three principal categories:
Priority One: This includes people who urgently need protection, or resettlement appears to be the best solution. They are recommended to the U.S. by UNHCR, a U.S. embassy or a non-governmental organization.
Priority Two: This refers to groups that are of unique concern to the U.S., chosen by the State Department with input from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, UNHCR, and certain NGOs. These groups consist of individuals from Burma, Iraq, and the former Soviet Union.
Priority Three: These are family members – parents, spouses, or minor unmarried children of refugees already living in the U.S. The relative in the U.S. must submit an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) and undergo processing by DHS.
The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program allows immigrants from dangerous home countries to live and work in the US temporarily, although this can be extended. Even though they aren’t considered permanent residents or US citizens, many have been in the US for over twenty years. The labor rate participation of TPS holders is over 80%. Under the Biden administration, the number of immigrants who’re eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has expanded.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program
Deferred action refers to delaying the deportation of an undocumented immigrant for a certain period of time. It is worth mentioning in a discussion of Mexican immigration laws vs US.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the US offers protection from deportation and a work permit to undocumented immigrants. Young undocumented immigrants in the US may qualify for this program. They can apply for DACA even if they are currently facing deportation or have a final removal order. DACA status and work permit is renewed every two years.
Mexico does not have a similar program designed specifically for undocumented individuals who arrived in Mexico as children. Most DACA recipients are from Mexico.
Annual limits on total number of legal immigrants
The US has the highest number of immigrant populations in the world. The US immigrant population is notably diverse, with people from virtually every country represented in the population. As of 2021, the US was home to an estimated 37.2 million Hispanics of Mexican origin. It includes Mexican immigrants who can trace their family ancestry to the country.
The country grants up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas annually across various categories. There are limits on the annual admission of US citizens’ spouses, parents, and children under the age of 21.
The overall limit for permanent employment-based immigrants is 140,000 annually. It includes immigrants as well as their eligible spouses and minor children. This puts the actual number of employment-related immigrants at fewer than 140,000 annually.
Caps apply on the number of immigrants from any single country in a fiscal year. A 7% per-country ceiling also applies.
Unlike some countries, Mexico does not have strict caps on immigration numbers. Rather, it evaluates immigration applications based on individual circumstances, such as the type of visa or residence status being sought and compliance with eligibility criteria.
According to available figures, in 2018, Mexico received 39, 000 new immigrants, 18.5% more than in 2017. This figure consists of 15.1% labor migrants, 50% family members, and 14.9% refugees. About 2,900 permits went to international students with tertiary level education and 36,000 to migrants arriving for seasonal or temporary work.
Illegal entry a felony?
Illegal immigration is considered a civil offense rather than a criminal offense in the United States. Entering or remaining in the US without proper authorization is a civil violation of immigration law. Anyone in the country without legal status can be fined, deported, or banned from re-entry. If the misdemeanor is repeated after being deported, then it is punishable as a felony.
Illegal entry is considered a criminal offense when it involves the smuggling or trafficking of people for financial gain or any criminal activity unrelated to immigration.
Until 2008, the illegal Mexican immigration was treated with iron gloves and punishable by up to two years’ jail term under Mexican law. A reform in 2008 made undocumented immigration a minor offense punishable by a fine of up to $2,400. The reversal came amidst Mexican lawmakers’ acknowledgement that they were in no position to criticize the US immigration system if they did not address their own.
Remain in Mexico policy
Another aspect of Mexican immigration laws vs US has to do with whether asylum seekers can stay in the destination country when their applications are processed. Under a Trump-era immigration program called Remain in Mexico, migrants seeking asylum were required to remain in Mexico until their US immigration court date. When the Biden administration took over, it ended the policy, but following legal battles, the Supreme Court in December 2022, restored the policy.
Immigrants in the United States can generally stay in the country while their immigration applications are being processed. This is so long as they have a valid legal status or an immigration benefit that allows them to stay in the country during the application process.
Similarly, immigrants can stay in Mexico while their immigration applications are processed. Upon arriving in Mexico, immigrants must attend their local immigration office within 30 days of arrival and exchange their permanent resident visa for a Permanent Resident permit.
The US immigration process is complex and involves several steps. Here’s a simplified overview:
- Sponsorship: The foreign national seeking a US immigrant visa must be sponsored by a prospective employer or an immediate relative who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- Petition: The sponsor files the petition on the foreign national’s behalf with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Application process: Once USCIS approves the petition, the foreign national completes pre-processing with the National Visa Center (NVC).
- Interview: The final step is the visa interview at the US Embassy or Consulate. At the end of the interview, the visa officer will tell you if your visa is approved or denied, or whether additional information is needed to make a decision in your case.
The process for your initial Mexican residence visa starts at a Mexican consulate outside of Mexico. You fill up the Mexico resident visa application form. Then, prepare the documents required with your initial application. All the details will be available on the website of the consulate you will be using. You will most likely need to make an appointment thereafter at the consulate, although walk-ins may also be permitted.
After receiving your visa from the consulate, you need to complete the process inside Mexico. Your visa will be valid for 180 days and have an expiration date on it. You must enter Mexico before it expires to finalize your residency.
The processing time for a US immigrant visa depends on the type of visa being applied for. An application for permanent residence can take anywhere from 6 to 33 months. Family sponsorship can take between 14-19 months. Applicants from countries that submit a high volume of applications, such as Mexico and India, have the longest waiting times for all categories.
In case of Mexican immigration, the consulate usually issues the Temporary Resident visa sticker within 10 working days following your appointment date. The timeframe to exchange from a visa to a residency card is typically 2-3 weeks.
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Getachew & Ansari Immigration Attorneys, P.C. can help with a range of immigration issues. Our practice areas include asylum, citizenship, DACA, immigration appeals, and more. Talk to us now to handle all legal details of your immigration to the US.