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Ideas for Mexicans Desiring to Come to U.S. as Citizens

Updated on September 3, 2011

Some Ideas to Consider

November 15, 2006

The citizenship process for Mexicans is the same as that for people from other nations desiring to immigrate to the United States and become a citizen. The only difference is that Mexico shares a border with the U.S. making it closer to the U.S. than most other nations.

Let me state up front that I am not a lawyer and that I am only providing ideas to explore, not how-to advice on the process.

The law is both extremely complex and totally illogical. This, combined with the fact that every case is different, makes it difficult to give advice other than in the most general terms.

However, I have gone through the process twice, first when I adopted my, then infant, son from Honduras 22 years ago and, second, when I successfully navigated the system to bring my, then fiancée, and her two children to the U.S. to marry her three years ago.

My first piece of advice is to go to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service) website (see link module below) and become totally familiar with this site. It contains a wealth of information as well as down loadable forms, on line application procedures and a tracking feature that allows you to follow your case through the system.

If you are a Mexican who has been living in the U.S. for a number of years as a legal resident alien, all you have to do is apply for citizenship as you have probably already met the residency requirements Here are the requirements for citizenship as listed on the USCIS site:

Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is conferred upon a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The general requirements for administrative naturalization include:

  • a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;

  • residence in a particular USCIS District prior to filing;

  • an ability to read, write, and speak English;

  • a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;

  • good moral character;

  • attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and,

  • favorable disposition toward the United States.

Some Additional Ideas for Mexicans in the U.S. Legally but Without Immigrant Status

If a Mexican is not here as a legal resident alien, but is either in Mexico or here on a non-immigrant visa such as a tourist visa, student visa, limited work visa, etc. here are some ideas for obtaining citizenship:

1 Try to Change Your Visa Status. If you are already in the U.S. with a non-immigrant visa, check to see if there is any way to either apply for permanent residence and citizenship under your present visa.

With some types of visas you can, but with others you can't.

Another option is to try to change your visa status. If there is no way to change your visa status or apply for permanent residence then you probably have to return to Mexico to initiate the process to become a citizen from there.

2 Join the U.S. armed forces. You do not have to be a citizen to be a member of the armed forces (at least at the enlisted level, officers are probably required to be citizens) and service in the armed forces with an honorable discharge provides the opportunity to become a citizen without the usual wait for an immigrant visa.

3 Apply at the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate for a visa to immigrate to the U.S. This can be a very long process but it is the most straight forward method. Basically, get in line and be prepared to wait.

4 Play the immigration lottery.

Each year 50,000 names are drawn from the pool of immigration lottery applicants. Each of the 50,000 “winners” is allowed to apply for U.S. permanent residence which gives them the right to live and work in the U.S. permanently.

If the person meets the requirements for permanent residence (winning the lottery is not sufficient by itself) that person, along with their spouse and any of their unmarried children under 21 years of age, are allowed to move to the U.S. immediately.

5 Marry an American citizen.

This is another relatively fast track route to citizenship. There are two routes to follow here. Find a potential mate in the U.S. and gain entry under a K-1 Fiancée Visa which gives you 45 days to marry your fiancée and start the residency process.

If you are the custodial parent of unmarried children under 21 years of age, you can bring them to the U.S. with you under a K-2 Visa.

The marriage must be legitimate or you will be deported and you must stay married for at least two years or be deported. There are some exceptions to the no divorce rule for for cases of spousal abuse.

For Mexicans this might be easier than for nationals in other nations as, due to Mexico's close proximity to the U.S., it would be easier to establish a sound love relationship before coming to the U.S. and marrying.

BE CAREFUL IF YOU ARE IN THE U.S. WITH A NON-IMMIGRANT VISA (STUDENT, WORK, ETC.) AND MEET AND FALL IN LOVE WITH AN AMERICAN. Check the rules carefully before marrying to make sure you follow the proper procedure in marrying and applying for citizenship or you may find yourself both married and permanently barred from becoming a citizen or staying here for more than six months at a time as a visitor.

The second option for marrying is to meet and marry an American abroad. This is a different process involving a K-3 Spouse Visa and K-4 visa for children. These visas are much harder to obtain than the K-1 and K-2 Visas and the rules are much stricter. The process also takes longer and is more complex.

6 Check to see if you have a relative in the U.S. who is an American citizen and have that person sponsor you. This can often speed up the process and avoid waiting in the immigrant visa line.

7 Check to see if you are already an American citizen. This is a very long shot, but a U.S. citizen is anyone born in the U.S. (regardless of the nationality of their parents); born outside the U.S. to an American mother or born outside of the U.S. to an American father WHO IS LEGALLY MARRIED TO THE MOTHER AT THE TIME OF BIRTH.

Given Mexico's close proximity to the U.S. it is possible a person was born in the U.S. while their parents were in the U.S. for whatever reason (possibly including illegally).

It is also possible that an ancestor was an American citizen. There are, and have been many Americans living in Mexico, some for generations.

While a long shot, it would not be the first time a foreign national discovered that they had dual citizenship due to circumstances at birth or a generation or more before birth.

There are probably additional options depending upon individual circumstances, which is why it is important to become very familiar with the USCIS website and other sites on the web (use these for ideas to check out as many are inaccurate and many that were once accurate are no longer accurate due to changes in the law.)

While the complexity and illogic of the law can be very frustrating, it is because of this very complexity and illogic that one can often find a legal loophole that enables them to jump to the head of the immigration line.


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