Immigration law update
Mexico - The full implementation of Mexico’s Ley de Migracion (immigration law) has caused quite a stir among many of the foreign nationals to whom it pertains. While some are downright furious about modified requirements, the majority seem to be quite befuddled over the personal implications. A precious few are just taking it all in stride and waiting for the dust to settle.
As promised, Chapala’s National Immigration Institute (INM) Office Chief Juan Carlos Galvan sat down late last week for an interview to help clarify key points of confusion.
"It’s understandable that many people are very disconcerted," he said for openers. "At the end of the day, it’s basically all about modernizing the law and improving procedures to put Mexico on a par with international immigration standards."
Getting down to brass tacks, Galvan honed in on several recommendations that probably won’t do much to soothe those who are most agitated and addled.
"I want to underscore that every foreigner should read the law and its regulations. It’s an obligation to have knowledge of the content — not interpret it, but be familiar with what it really says."
Additional advice: At this early stage don’t bother asking about what the changes mean for people who have foreign-plated vehicles admitted under temporary import permits. New guidelines from Aduana (Customs) have not yet been defined. Standing rules apply until that happens and no dire consequences should emerge due to the void.
The same goes for the point system mentioned in the new law as a pathway to permanent residency. It will remain irrelevant until fully spelled out in procedural guidelines.
Galvan’s final recommendation is to erase obsolete terminology from your vocabulary. This particularly refers to familiar terms for different kinds of Mexican immigration documents.
He points out that all INM papers issued prior to November 9th that remain valid according to the given expiration are automatically categorized according to the Condiciones de Estancia (conditions of stay) laid out under the new system. It’s a done deal, so there’s no need to consult or deal with INM.
Comparing new permit labels (in bold face) versus the previous ones, the conversion works out as follows:
• Residente Temporal (temporary resident): now equivalent to former status Inmigrante, No Inmigrante Visitante, Ministro de Culto and Corresponsal for a stay of one year.
• Residente Temporal Estudiante (temporary student resident): equivalent to No Inmigrante Estudiante.
• Residente Permanente (permanent resident): equivalent to Inmigrado and No Inmigrante Refugiado or Asilado.
• Visitante sin permiso para realizar actividades remuneradas (visitor without permission to engage in paid activities): equivalent to No Inmigrante Turista, Transmigrante, Persona de Negocios, Visitante Distinguido and FMM documents valid for up to 180 days.
• Visitante con permiso para realizar actividades remuneradas (visitor with permission to engage in paid activities): equivalent to Visitante con actividad lucrativa with FMM documents valid for up to 180 days.
At this point, the stickiest issue for most expats concerns steep hikes in income requirements that have come into effect for persons wishing to qualify for temporary or permanent residency as retirees or pensioners.
The rates are based on current minimum wage (SM) figures: average monthly income of 400 times SM (around $1,900 USD) for temporary status and 500 times SM (around $2,400 USD) for permanent status. Today’s SM is set at 62.33 pesos.
Alternately, proof of sufficient personal investments calculated over the previous year is acceptable. Doing the math, at the moment it works out to an average worth of around $96,000 USD for temporary status and $120,000 USD for permanent status.
"There’s logic to this," Galvan explains. "People who want to live here under either condition need to have the means to do so."
The good news is that ownership of real property may be factored into investment holdings. Also, individuals who were square with INM before November 9th as temporary residents won’t have to meet higher income brackets until the four year period they qualified for runs out. Permanent residents are totally off the hook.
On the down side, he says new guidelines do not specify considerations to lower the bar for spouses or other immediate family members. That aspect might be contemplated as policies evolve.
For the time being, local attorneys specializing in immigration matters appear to be reserving judgment on how business with INM will eventually pan out. New questions arising day to day will be answered as decisions on individual cases are resolved. Stay tuned.
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