While many foreign residents arrive in Mexico for a time and return to their home countries within a few years, a significant number of expatriates do stay in Mexico long-term — perhaps for work or lifestyle reasons — but more usually when their partners and families have settled here, or when they retire.
If you’re in Mexico for the long-haul, at some stage you might choose to take your residency status to the next level: naturalization. Naturalization is the process by which you apply for and, if successful, subsequently adopt Mexican Citizenship.
Mexican naturalization offers several benefits to foreigners. Among them (in no particular order of importance):
- you can cast a vote in Mexican elections;
- you can change address or jobs without having to inform the National Institute of Immigration (INM) of your moves;
- you can avoid having to visit Immigration kiosks at airports when you leave to check-out, and wait less time in immigration lines at airports on your return;
- you avoid having to pay to change your immigration status and/or renew your visa each year to extend you stay in Mexico; and
- you can own property situated near coasts and land borders in your own name without the need to operate a bank trust (fideicomiso) — which can save you thousands of dollars in fees over the years — although some people choose to operate a trust for estate planning purposes.
There are a few matters you should be aware of in regard to becoming a Naturalized Mexican. Following your naturalization, while you are in Mexico, you are not allowed to seek consular protection by virtue of your ‘other’ nationality; so if you become caught up in any problems with the authorities you cannot rely upon your home country’s Consulate to support you. Depending on your country of citizenship, you might have to surrender your home country’s passport – and citizenship – when you acquire your Mexican nationality. (This is rare: most countries allow their citizens to hold dual or multiple nationalities.) You should also check with a financial adviser about the implications that your naturalization may have on your personal and business tax affairs.
The procedures which lead to Mexican naturalization demand a number of requirements for qualification. These depend upon an assortment of factors such as your links to Mexico, your current immigration status, and how long you have been physically resident here. Our Mexico Immigration Guide includes a chapter that covers these details; a good immigration lawyer can also help you establish your eligibility; or you might consider using our Relocation Consultancy Service for a consultation to talk in detail about your situation.
Once you file the application, the procedures take about a year to complete, and may take longer in some cases. Toward the end of the process, you will be asked to sit an exam. In years past, the exam consisted of studying 100 “multiple choice” type questions, answering 5 and getting at least 3 correct. Since January 2018 the exam process has been revised to test your knowledge of Mexican culture and history, and a reading comprehension exam to test your Spanish language. Minors, those over sixty years old, and refugees are exempt from the exam: proving that they have a basic grasp of Spanish in conversation at the naturalization interview will suffice.
At the completion of the journey that leads to your Mexican naturalization, you will get a handshake from an official at the SRE (Mexico’s equivalent of the US State Department), and a Naturalization Certificate.
With this certificate in hand, you may apply for your Mexican passport and, just as importantly, your IFE card (known colloquially as simply, el IFE) – that is technically a voter registration document, but also serves a de facto National ID Card in Mexico. The card incorporates features such as scanned fingerprints, holograms and other security devices. It’s the size of a driving license and is thus readily portable.
Residency requirement for Naturalized Mexican Citizens
If you become a Naturalized Mexican Citizen (i.e. a foreign national who applies for and gets granted Mexican Citizenship) and you subsequently reside outside of Mexico for 5 or more consecutive years, you legally lose your Mexican Citizenship.
We are not sure how this is tracked and enforced, but this restriction is explicitly documented in the legislation which governs ‘Naturalization’ of foreigners as Mexican Citizens. (Article 37, Part B, Section 2.)
Natural Mexican Citizens (Mexicans by birth) never lose their nationality, regardless of how long they might live outside of Mexico.
Need further information?
For detailed information about how to apply for Mexican Citizenship (including details about the new exam and its study guide), download the Mexico Immigration Guide.
If you need detailed advice about your specific circumstances, you might consider using this Mexico Relocation Consulting service.
You can also find extensive guides to living in Mexico here on Mexperience.
Mexico in your inbox
Our free newsletter about Mexico brings you a monthly round-up of recently published stories and opportunities, as well as gems from our archives.