I've seen an article shared a few times on social media entitled "Here's a twist: 91% of Americans living in Mexico are 'Illegal'". It claims:

According to a study by the National Institute of Geography and Statistics, around 739,168 thousand American citizens lived in Mexico in 2015 and, according to the National Institute of Immigration, of those only 65,302 were legal residents.

The article cites a news item in Spanish which in turn references a government poll, the Encuesta Intercensal 2015. This article does not provide any links, but I did find a summary of findings from that poll (also in Spanish). I'm not finding these figures though.

Are these actual, official Mexican government estimates regarding United States residents in Mexico with and without legal permission from 2015?

  • 7
    I'd be worried about apples to apples comparison. Americans aren't clamoring to get into Mexico as Mexicans are too get into America, so enforcement may be basically non-existant. Also, Mexico's immigration policies may be opaque and easily done incorrectly or too difficult to understand. The two together can easily make this true, and neither are really true of the us, which would make this ironic, but not really meaningful.
    – user11643
    Oct 6, 2019 at 23:43
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    define "lived in". If you include vacationers who don't need a visum to enter Mexico, I'm sure you get a pretty high number. And some of those no doubt, inadvertently or not, overstay the limits of their stay (ending up in hospital for a few weeks for example, can easily cause that).
    – jwenting
    Oct 7, 2019 at 6:40
  • 9
    "739,168 thousand", LOL that's more than the entire US population.
    – DavePhD
    Oct 8, 2019 at 13:26
  • 2
    Why would the Mexican government care? Generally US citizens living in Mexico tend to spend US money, improving the local economy, and they aren't there working illegally in jobs that Mexican citizens could be doing. May 14, 2022 at 12:28
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    @RayButterworth all things being equal, any governmet should care about the people living in the territory. Eventually these US Citizens living in mexico will r use a public service provided by the gorvt. Maybe they'll need an ambulance.Or drive down the taxpayer funded street where their home is. Also, not every american is improving our economy. Where do you think the cartels get their guns from? many come to TJ just to get cheap xanax/vicodin, not from a reputable establishment. some just get high on meth over the weekend and patronize hookers. Please don't improve our economy that way.
    – hlecuanda
    Dec 4, 2022 at 8:02

1 Answer 1


Yes, these are official Mexican government numbers.

The numbers probably refer to the number of American born citizens living in Mexico that don't hold Mexican citizenship. That doesn't mean they're here illegally.

The Nitty Gritty

This data comes La Encuesta Intercensal 2015, the intercensus survey update by the INEGI or National Institute of Geography and Statistics.

This is the government agency in charge of figuring out jobs growth, measuring inflation, national gross product, etc. These are hardcore statisticians, data scientists, surveyors and economists compiling the data that shows the government where the country is headed.

The measured immigration estimator tells us the number of foreign-born persons residing in Mexico. Then there is a percentage estimator of those foreign-born residents who also hold Mexican citizenship. It is about half. You can reside legally in Mexico without holding Mexican nationality or citizenship. We make a special category for the United States because Americans are the largest foreign population in Mexico.

I can see how the category description could be mistaken for illegal residence, specially if you equate not holding citizenship with illegality while residing in another country, but that is not the case here.

  • 1
    Welcome to Skeptics! I have edited this, and in doing so removed a key table. You might like to explain how to get the 739,168 figure from the original link. I raised a meta-question justifying my edit.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 4, 2022 at 10:18
  • You might like to explain that the "739,168 thousand" figure is inaccurate (probably just a poor edit by the original author).
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 4, 2022 at 10:19
  • @hlecuanda Thanks for the answer but where exactly is the relevant data? I had a look at the "Migración" file but I don't see what you are referencing here. Is that the right file and if so, which tab? As a true skeptic, I'll accept your answer once I see what you're stating with my own eyes ;)
    – Brian Z
    Dec 13, 2022 at 18:45

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