Review of Foreigner’s Rights in Mexico

Feb 4, 2017
While  searching for current information on our rights as Foreigners in Mexico,  we found that other websites have chosen to take down their key information, key facts, and key realities.   In any case … we think our expat communities  & individual foreigners can benefit from knowing both our rights & knowing the details of Mexican Law ….

plus It’s Constitution Day, next Monday…

Fasten your seatbelts… ??

The Basics:   The Mexican Constitution states that, unless otherwise stated, foreigners enjoy all the same rights as Mexican citizens. …   e.g. These Rights include Rights to public education and medical attention etc (see below).

There are also two important exceptions:  Political activities …  and the right to own land.**

Foreigner’s Rights in Mexico
Context is important:  Let’s take a moment to see things through ordinary Mexican’s eyes:  Mexico has a long history of US invasions, along with very painful  big losses of over half of Mexico’s territory, all at the gun-point of the US Military.     As a reaction to those past centuries of multiple repeated US invasions of Mexico,  Mexico wrote laws that limit outside influences of foreigners inside Mexico.   … In those contexts,  it can be important to understand ~ our legal Rights ~  and to understand the legal restrictions ~ for foreigners in Mexico.

The Basics:   The Mexican Constitution states that, unless otherwise stated, foreigners enjoy all the same rights as Mexican citizens. …   e.g. These Rights include Rights to public education and medical attention etc (see below).  There are also two important exceptions:  political activity, and the right to own land.

**Fundamental Principles:

Mexico’s Constitution welcomes only foreigners who will be useful to Mexican society:

  • Article 9 clearly addresses foreigner’s limitations on interfering or participating in politics, rallies, strikes, or even publicly expressing political opinions:
    “Only Citizens of the Republic may take part in the political affairs of the country.” Articulo 9 

    Further, Mexico admits foreigners “according to their possibilities of contributing to national progress.” (Article 32)

  • Immigration officials are ordered to “ensure” that “immigrants will be useful elements for the country and that they have the necessary funds for their sustenance” and for their dependents. (Article 34)
  • Foreigners can be barred from Mexico
    ~ if their presence upsets “the equilibrium of the national demographics,” or
    ~ when foreigners are deemed detrimental to “economic or national interests,
    ~ ”when they do not behave like good citizens in their own country, when they have broken Mexican laws, and when “they are not found to be physically or mentally healthy.” (Article 37)
  • The Secretary of Governance (SEGOB) may at will … “suspend or prohibit the admission of foreigners when he determines it to be in the national interest.” (Article 38)**  (see June 2011 amendments below)

Mexican authorities must keep track of every single person in the country:

  • Federal, local and municipal police are required to cooperate with federal immigration authorities upon request, i.e. …  to assist in the arrests of illegal immigrants. (Article 73)~ Note how this clause of the Mexican Constitution contravenes the common gringo-repeated myths  that supposedly only Federal Officers can take actions on Customs, Auto Import Permits, Immigration status, etc… 
  • A National Population Registry must track “every single individual who comprises the population of the country,” and verify each individual’s identity. (Articles 85 and 86)
  • There is also a national Catalog of Foreigners that tracks foreign tourists and immigrants (Article 87), and assigns each individual with a unique tracking number (Article 91).

Foreigners with fake papers, or who enter the country under false pretenses, may be imprisoned:

  • Foreigners with fake immigration papers may be fined or imprisoned. (Article 116)
  • Foreigners who sign government documents “with a signature that is false or different from that which he normally uses” are subject to fine and imprisonment. (Article 116)

Foreigners who fail to obey the rules will be fined, deported, and/or imprisoned as felons:

  • Foreigners who fail to obey a deportation order are to be punished. (Article 117)
  • Foreigners who are deported from Mexico and attempt to re-enter the country without authorization can be imprisoned for up to 10 years. (Article 118)
  • Foreigners who violate the terms of their visa may be sentenced to up to six years in prison (Articles 119, 120 and 121). Foreigners who misrepresent the terms of their visa while in Mexico — such as working with out a permit — can also be imprisoned.

Under Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony. The General Law on Population Requires:

  • “A penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of three hundred to five thousand pesos will be imposed on the foreigner who enters the country illegally.” (Article 123)
  • Foreigners with legal immigration problems may be deported from Mexico instead of being imprisoned. (Article 125)
  • Foreigners who “attempt against national sovereignty or security” will be deported. (Article 126)

In addition to the Constitutional rights & responsibilities listed above, Mexico’s Constitution also binds the Government to the Human Rights requirements of each & every treaty it has signed.

Significant Changes to the Mexican Constitution that other web-sources may not include:
Mexico amended her Constitution in significant ways on June 6 and June 10, 2011  that affect all foreigners rights.  Unfortunately today’s current news has too many game-changing issues popping up, creating strong emotional reactions among some expatriates and some Mexicans. …. Since most of us are guests in Mexico**, it can be important, now, to use a little care & thought in our words & our reactions.

**Disclaimer.  The Yucalandia staff are all Mexican Citizens.

Foreigners Constitutional Rights in Mexico:
In June 2011, Mexico created additional rights and protections to her expatriates. The recent Constitutional changes affecting expatriates are both major and minor. Several wording changes now make the government not only responsible for violations of human rights, but also for its omissions.

In another significant change, the Constitution used to only require that the Government “shall have exclusive authority to expel from Mexico, immediately and without trial, any foreigner whose stay is deemed inconvenient.”  … The June 2011 changes add:
The Executive of the Union, after a hearing, may expel foreigners from the country on the basis of the law…”.

This means that foreigners are entitled to legal hearings before they are expelled.
(Articles 33 and 30 of the Mexican Constitution )

Why are these changes important?
There are a number of activities that most foreigners normally consider reasonable & likely-legal,  but they are expressly forbidden by the Mexican Constitution. In most countries, including Mexico, ignorance of the law does is no justification for breaking the law.   The consequences for breaking Mexican laws (see above the Constitutional requirements for foreigners) include up to permanent deportation, and sometimes even property seizure.

Constitutional Restrictions on Foreigners in Mexico
Unfortunately, the restrictions on foreigners’s activities are not intuitive, so, it’s important to identify some common acts that might trap expatriates and expose them legal liabilities.

“Only Citizens of the Republic may take part in the political affairs of the country.” Article 9.   …  This prohibits visitors, temporary residents,  or permanent residents from taking~making   any   action that can be construed as being political.

For example, a Diario de Yucatan 2008 article reported the story of a young man who had been watching a political demonstration in a Merida public square. When things heated-up, he stepped into a nearby tienda to shop … and escape the demonstration. The police spotted this, came & took him out of the store, arrested him, and quickly permanently expelled him from Mexico for participating in “political activities”.

How does any or all of this translate to foreigners making public statements, overheard by Mexican citizens?

How does any or all of this affect foreigners in Mexico writing on blogs… or forums… or Facebook?

… Another legal aspect that affects even Naturalized Mexican Citizens ?
Fortunately … this one is easily avoided:   Naturalized Mexican Citizens can be stripped of their Mexican citizenship if they live abroad continuously for more than five years, under Article 37, Item II. Further ….  Naturalized Citizens cannot render voluntary services to a foreign government, unless approved by the Congreso Federal o de su commison permanente, …. nor can Naturalized Citizens accept or use foreign government titles of nobility (no fealty).

Finally, Article 32 of the Constitution bans immigrants, foreigners, and even naturalized citizens of Mexico from serving as Mexican-flagged airline crews or ship crews, Military Officers, or chiefs of seaports and airports.

This above lists of requirements & restrictions are not meant to cover all legal restrictions for foreigners in Mexico,  but we offer them as simple guides to avoiding unnecessary problems …. in these recent times of political and legal turmoil.

Final Note:
Even though foreigners now get a legal hearing when accused of participating in political activities, there is no guarantee that the expat will get a winning outcome of their hearing.  This is particularly true if they get involved in political issues or  make public political statements that Mexicans find offensive

We all have opinions. … Still … we must use care … in any efforts to voice those opinions … or attempting to influence the government … and even use care when attempting to influence Mexican citizens … with our opinions.***

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
More details on these issues:
The Mexican Supreme Court has assembled a list of the changes at Reformas Constitucionales en Materia de Amparao y Derechos Humanos Publicadas en Junio de 2011.

Readers can consider reading it in the original Spanish, and as always … If you have any question about these issues … contact a good local English-speaking lawyer or notario to interpret it for you personally.

and yes… Mexican Constitution Day is in just 2 days …

Mexican Holidays … Banks … and our In-Home Workers


In troubling times…. Be happy… be content … enjoy life …

… treat everyone with kindness & respect … smile … a lot …

and … put on patience…


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© Steven M. Fry

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