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FAQ About Mexican Law and Lawyers in Playa del Carmen

Can foreigners buy real estate in Mexico?

Yes. According to article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, foreigners can buy real estate. However, there is a restricted zone in which foreigners may not acquire direct ownership of the property, covering a strip of one hundred kilometres (62 miles) at international borders and fifty kilometres (31 miles) on the coasts. Nevertheless, it is possible to acquire ownership of property in this area indirectly through other legal entities such as trust or through a Mexican corporation with foreign capital and partners.

How does a trust work?

According to the General Law of Mercantile Titles and Credit Transactions, a trust is an agreement in which one person transfers to another certain goods or money for a specific and legal purpose. In Mexico, only certain financial institutions can act as a trustee, which gives additional security to the parties involved in the contract. This contract can be used for many purposes, and is commonly used by foreigners to acquire a property in the restricted area. Using this “Irrevocable Trust Contract of Domain Transfer”, the trustor (seller) contractually transfers the ownership of the property irrevocably to the trustee (bank), who can only act in respect to that property with the express instructions of the beneficiary (foreign buyer).

What are my chances of being evicted like the “Punta Banda Case” in Baja back in 1999?

The chances are the same as in any country – people acquiring ejido land, land subject to litigation, or land acquired through a “private assignment” are at risk of being subject to a similar situation. The best way to avoid or minimize this risk is to seek the advice of an attorney who is expert in the field prior to engaging in any agreement. It is imperative that your attorney reviews the legal status of the land and clearly explains the risks involved, in your own language, so that you may evaluate for yourself whether the investment is worth the risk.

Can the Mexican Government expropriate my property?

Expropriation is a legal instrument that exists not only in Mexico, but in several countries under different names such as eminent domain, compulsory purchase, resumption, etc. As in any nation, there are rules in these matters, and the most important is that such expropriation must be founded on public interest, and the owner must be compensated. These two rules are critical and provide legal certainty to those who fear they could suffer an event like this. If these two conditions are not met, expropriation cannot occur. There is no difference between being Mexican or a foreigner in this case, the same rules and conditions will apply to both.

Should I use the attorney recommended or provided by the seller/ realtor/ developer?

When you are acquiring property in Mexico, it is important to ensure that the legal advice you receive is purely objective and in your personal best interest. The surest way to avoid a conflict of interest is to retain legal counsel that is independent of any other parties involved in the transaction, including realtors, sellers, and/or developers.

How do I find the right attorney for my particular needs?

Besides personal recommendations, these days there are numerous ways to find the right legal advisors for your needs. The Internet provides a wide range of options, including blogs where people with similar requirements have found a solution, international directories that specialize in law firms around the globe, and social and business networks that can provide detailed information on prospective choices. Be sure to review the attorney’s resume and experience, the firm’s profile, confirm that they do not represent your counterpart, and visit them in person if possible prior to retaining their services. Ultimately, the best attorney is the one that understands your needs and concerns, and is able to provide alternatives.

I have been told that Mexican Notaries are Attorneys, is this true?

Yes, Mexican Notaries are attorneys, invested with public faith, that are liable for their actions and have the obligation to review each case passed before them. By law, Notaries are required to be objective and impartial, and therefore in a transaction, they should not look to the interests of one of the parties involved, but to the validity of the act passed before him/her. We recommend that your attorney review, in detail, the act that will be passed before a Notary before you sign anything; there is nothing better than having an expert looking out for your interests.

Is Title Insurance available in Mexico?

Yes, it is available. Due to the differences between our legal system and the Common Law system, you may find that is not very common, and Mexicans may not be familiar with this type of insurance. However, there are a few companies that have established offices in several cities in Mexico, such as First American and Stewart Title. Although this type of insurance is very interesting, we recommend that your attorney review your policy in detail before you pay your premium, and explain you the exceptions that your insurance will not cover. Fewer exceptions results in more protection for you.

Can foreigners own Mexican corporations?

Yes, according to our General Foreign Investment Law, foreigners are now allowed to form 100% of the partners of Mexican corporations. The only restrictions apply to the purpose of the corporation, as certain activities are reserved for the Mexican Nation and others for Mexican citizens. Mexican companies with foreign capital and/or foreign partners (in any proportion) are subject to the same rules as 100% Mexican-owned companies, as well as certain minimum standards for registration and statistics such as registering the company at the National Registry of Foreign Investment.

Can a Mexican lawyer practice throughout the country?

Yes. When a person receives a Law Degree (Licenciatura en Derecho) and the appropriate professional certification card issued by the General Direction of Professions of the Ministry of Public Education, they may practice their profession throughout the country, while observing the rules in effect within the state where they will provide their services.

What is an Ejido?

An Ejido is a type of collective social organization and property. The Ejido is composed of a certain number of people called “Ejidatarios”, and its main authority is called the “Comisariado”, comprised of a President, a Secretary and a Treasurer. Once the Ejido is recognized by the Federal Goverment and its territory is defined, the Ejido will include three areas: urban areas where the ejidatarios will settle (commonly known as Urban Lots “Solares Urbanos”); areas dedicated to labor purposes (Parcels “Parcelas”); and areas that belong in common to all members of the Ejido and serve to establish roads, schools, etc. (Communal areas). Agrarian Law regulates the Ejido and each of the above types of land has different regulations under the agricultural system.

Is it possible to acquire ownership of Ejido land?

It is possible in some cases, but sometimes it is not. It is important to understand the particular case. Depending on the type of land and the purchaser, we will know if the transaction can be carried out; on the other hand, we will also know what is required to reach the point where the land is available for full ownership (is released from the agrarian regime) and can be purchased by anyone.

Can foreigners adopt Mexican children?

It is possible, however, it is a long process and the adoptive parents should be highly available to prove eligibility.

What do I need to get married in Mexico?

In all of Mexico, marriages are legal only if they have been granted by a competent authority. Marriages celebrated in any church in Mexico are not valid. Rules about marriage in Mexico vary from State to State and requirements may be different, at the corresponding time.

What immigration documents do I need to live in Mexico?

There are different types of documents and immigration status. To determine which one is appropriate for you, we will need to know if you have any link with a Mexican, what the intent of your permanence in Mexico is, and the place where you plan to stay most of the time.

What do I need to obtain Mexican nationality?

According to the Constitution of the United States of Mexico, Mexican nationality is acquired by birth or through naturalization. By birth, it can only be acquired by those who are children of a Mexican father and / or Mexican mother, or those who were born within the national territory. Mexican nationality through naturalization can be acquired by anyone who has completed the requirements of the General Population Law, which establishes the requirements for foreigners that want to stay in the country, their immigration status and the appropriate terms to be met. Length of time may depend on the particular case of each foreigner. Citizenship is obtained when a Mexican turns 18 years old and completes other constitutional requirements.

For help with these or any other questions you may have about Mexican Law, please contact our team of business consultants and lawyers in Playa del Carmen for more information.