Mexico offers two paths for permanent residency: You can become a naturalized citizen (meaning Mexican, but not by birth), or you can be an Immigrant (meaning that you enjoy most of the privileges of being a Mexican citizen except the ability to vote, and you retain your previous citizenship). Whether you choose to become a citizen or immigrant depends primarily on what kind of relationship you wish to have with your native country. As an Immigrant you must still notify Immigration whenever there is a change in your status and there are restrictions on the amount of time you can spend outside the country.
Mexico allows dual citizenship, although you are supposed to hand over your foreign passport when you are given citizenship. If you become a Mexican citizen, you lose your right to appeal to your native country for aid under any circumstances while in Mexico. When outside Mexico, you are free to travel on whatever passport you choose, and in theory can appeal to the Mexican government for aid, although if you are not traveling under your Mexican passport it is not clear whether your request will be honored.
For Americans, note that the U.S. respects dual nationality in the case that a person has a non-American parent or marries a foreigner. However the U.S. does NOT allow dual nationality if a U.S. citizen voluntarily seeks citizenship in another country. U.S. citizens who apply for citizenship to another country can potentially risk losing their U.S. citizenship.
For both citizenship and immigrant status you must start by getting an FM2, which will put you on track to immigrate (either option). You can get an FM3 for as long as you want before getting an FM2, or request one immediately upon entry into the country. Make the decision to switch to an FM2 from an FM3 only if you are sure you wish to immigrate, as the terms are more restrictive. With an FM2 you cannot leave the country for more than 18 months (cumulative, total) during the 5 years from the day you are given your first FM2 until the day you are either granted citizenship or immigrant status. You must also register and pay taxes for any foreign vehicles. (More information about getting your FM3 is covered in the post Mexican residency: getting an FM3 or FM2.)
Information about citizenship is well presented on the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores website (http://www.sre.gob.mx/). On the left hand side, under “Tramites y Servicios”, click on “Nacionalidad y Naturalización” for a list of different naturalization option links which will tell you what the requirements are for each and provide links to application forms. The main ways of becoming a naturalized citizen are by having a Mexican spouse, child, or parent, or by being adopted by a Mexican family (all of which require 2 years in the country with an FM2) or by simply living in the country for 5 years with an FM2. There is also a lower (2 year) time requirement for foreigners who offer special skills or are conducting activities with special cultural, social, technical, scientific, artistic, sporting, or commercial value to Mexico. If your FM3 says “Tecnico” or something similar relating to one of these categories, you may be eligible for this exception. However, this classification is apparently difficult to obtain, and you may need to show significant benefit to the country at a federal level or hire a very good lawyer.
The requirements vary depending upon which path you select, and you should carefully read the instructions on the website when preparing the documents. In general you will need to download the application form, present original and copies of your FM2 showing five years living in Mexico with less than 18 months out of the country and at least 6 months left on your current FM2. You will also need to provide a letter specifying all the times you left the country and for how long. Additionally they will ask for a birth certificate, apostilled and translated by a certified translator. If you are American, the apostille can be done in the state you were born and sent by mail. If you are English, this is called a legalisation process and is done by the Foreign Commonwealth Office in London, and can also be sent by mail, sorry, by post. The translation should be done in Mexico by a state certified translator, and of course you will need photocopies made. Your passport will also be presented and will need to be exhaustively photocopied. Add to that passport size photos for your new identity card, and proof that you have no criminal record, in the form of a “certificado de no antecedentes penales” which you can get in Oaxaca City for about 100 pesos.
If you are applying for citizenship based on having a child in Mexico, you will have to show certified copies of their birth certificates which you can obtain from the Oficina del Registro Civil Mexicano (http://www.rcivil.df.gob.mx/). If you are applying for citizenship based on marrying a Mexican, you have to present a certified copy of the marriage license that shows you have been married for at least 2 years (also from the Registro Civil if married in Mexico) as well as proof of Mexican citizenship for the Mexican, and a declaration that you have been living together as a married couple for at least 2 years. For applicants who are Tecnicos or can demonstrate some special value to Mexico, you will need “documents from universities or public organizations demonstrating that you offer a service or have carried out valuable work”, which you may need help putting together properly. There are similar requirements for the other options.
In addition to the document requirements for citizenship, you must also demonstrate the ability to speak Spanish at a basic to intermediate level and pass a written test on Mexico’s history and culture. The test has 100 multiple choice questions and covers a wide range of subject matter that includes basic history including names and dates of famous figures, battles, and other events; geographical knowledge about the different states, and elements from Mexican popular culture. Fortunately, the test is available online. Poke around a little and you can get the answers as well.
Note that the test does change from time to time.
Becoming an Immigrant
Information about becoming an immigrant can be found on the Instituto Nacional de Migración website (http://www.inm.gob.mx/). There is no direct link to the frame-based display; click on the link, and then do the following:
1. Click on “TRAMITES MIGRATORIOS” on the left hand side.
2. Enter in your home country, as written in Spanish (i.e., Estados Unidos de America)
3. Click on number 2, “Vivir en Mexico”.
4. Select “De manera permanente”.
5. Select “Inmigrado”.
The displayed page contains a short explanation and a link for the specific documents necessary for the procedure. According to the website, in order to be an Immigrant, you must have been living in Mexico for 5 years with an FM2. You should apply to be an “Inmigrado” after applying for your fourth renewal of your FM2, and if your documents are accepted you will be awarded immigrant status at the completion of that (your fifth) year with an FM2. You must have at least 6 months left on your current FM2 to be eligible.
Once you are an immigrant, you still have to notify Immigration whenever your status changes, although you won’t get charged. You can also lose this status if you leave the country for more than 3 years, or if the time spent outside the country adds up to more than 5 years in any 10 year period.
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