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Researching Records in México

Researching Records in México

Author: Mike McHenry, Mexico Investigations

Availability and procedures to research the most commonly requested records within México.

Real Estate:
Records are maintained at the local level.  There are no nationwide or statewide searches. None of this information is available online. If you do not know where to perform a search, then there is little chance for finding what you are looking for.

Although these records are historically open to public inspection, it requires working with an office employee to perform the search. Computer terminals and registry books are not put out for public use. Search times can vary from a few minutes to days. Small towns offer prompt service.

In some places, these records are now not open to public inspection. This is a result of policy changes intended to prevent potential extortionists, kidnappers and burglars from finding a person's home location.  Mexico City is now one of the restricted places.

Within thirty-one miles of the Mexican coastline, real estate cannot be owned outright by foreigners. This also applies to land within sixty-two miles of international borders. It has to be purchased through a bank trust, which is a common procedure. Alternate search means are sometimes used in these instances. This restriction was created in the Constitution of 1917 after the U.S.took one-half of Mexico’s territory following the Mexican-American war.

Most offices of Registro Público de La Propiedad require appearing in person to research records and obtain copies. Occasionally, telephone arrangements are possible.

Criminal History:
Not open to public inspection. Conviction and imprisonment records are maintained by police and prison authorities. Mere arrest records not resulting in conviction are not retained according to Mexican law.

Drivers license:
Not open to public inspection. There are thirty-one states plus the Federal District. Each has its own motor vehicle department.

In Mexico City, lifetime drivers licenses are issued. Other states issue drivers licenses for varied times depending upon how long a term is purchased. We can assist with verification of a drivers license. Driving histories are not reliable because most traffic infractions are settled at the side of the road at the time of occurrence. Exceptions to this tend to be moving violations issued by the Federal Highway Patrol.

Civil Courts:
Not readily open to public inspection. Index records of twenty-four states, plus Mexico City (Distrito Federal) are available through a centralized subscription database. A search will disclose names of parties, date of a filing, case number and the court identity. There is no information in the index which will reveal the specifics of an issue.

In the remaining states it is necessary to have the name search performed by a person with direct access to the local files. This often is a cooperative court employee or helpful local attorney.

The actual court case file is an additional obstacle. Files are open to the parties and their attorneys and to law enforcement. An experienced direct appeal to a court employee often gets a result when accompanied by a gratuity.

Records will include business contract disputes, family court, bankruptcy, tax delinquencies, landlord-tenant disputes and debts.

Professional Licensing:
A prepaid government fee name search can be accomplished through the national records at Mexico City. The completion time is a full week, often longer. The search must be paid in advance at Mexico City. Records include doctors, dentists, architects, accountants and engineers. Only the person making a request can pick-up the official certified report later.

Electricity in Mexico is provided by the Federal Electrical Commission. Customer records are not open to public inspection. Accounts are in the name of the property owner and not issued to renters.

Gas service for most all of Mexico is home delivery of propane by truck. There are hundreds of independent retailers in direct competition throughout the country.

Public water is furnished at the local level, usually by municipal government. An account would be in the name of the homeowner. The records are not open to routine inspection.

Land line telephone service is furnished through Telmex. This private company has nearly all the land lines in Mexico. There are no reverse listing directories and no white pages and no online listings. There is directory assistance through an international operator, provided the complete name and city is known. Recently, telephone book white pages have been prohibited by Federal law to protect subscribers from extortion calls and kidnappings and burglaries.

Cellular service is offered by at least five providers. Their customer records are not open to the public. Most customers use prepaid cell phone cards to purchase air time. Most cell phones are not registered by owner’s name and address as required by law.

Voter Registration:
A Federal agency called INE is responsible for nationwide voter registration. Files are not open to public inspection. A registration is valid for eight years. An INE credential is the most common form of photo ID in Mexico. Proof of address is required for registration.

Civil Records:
These include birth, death, marriage and divorce filings. Access to these files is subjective. They are readily available to the parties and their designated representatives. Persons wishing a record copy without a plausible explanation may be denied. These records are not nationwide. You need to know where to look.

Not open to public inspection. The Federal government tracks the entry of each person into Mexico by air and sea. This includes persons arriving on a tourist visa. There is also a national registry of each foreigner residing in Mexico on a long term visa.

Business Records:
There are no publicly available government records that will yield information about business affiliation through a person’s name search. It is necessary to know the legal name of a business in order to determine the identities of company organizers, officers and persons in authority. Copies of these records are maintained at the local level and if the business’ lawful name is known, then a search is possible. There is no directory or data base of trade names.

There are non-public records which could yield business information through a name search if the individual’s Federal tax ID number is known.

Motor vehicle accidents:
Reports are available to parties involved and are not automatically provided to representatives of insurance companies. Accidents resulting in serious injury or death are investigated by agents of Ministerio Publico. This is an agency located in each state which investigates serious accidents on behalf of the state prosecutor’s office. See below for information to obtain these reports.

Death inquiries:
These occurrences are also investigated by Ministerio Publico when death is from other than natural causes and are not open to routine public inspection. See “General Information” (below) for more details.

Medical Records:
Mexican law restricts the release of medical records.  Record keeping is not required in some instances.

A medical record must be created and retained for five years if a person spends a night (is admitted) in a hospital or clinic. Mexican law restricts the release of medical charts, doctor and nurse notes and medicines prescribed. It also blocks the release of notes made during operations. The law says that hospitals and clinics may provide a written summary of the patient’s hospitalization. This information may include diagnosis, types of treatment and discharge information.

Although this is the law in Mexico, it is not followed consistently. There is no way to know how a hospital or clinic will respond to a request until it is presented in person. On limited occasions we have obtained medical records without an authorization. Attempts at this are discouraged as the risk of rejection is high.

Out-patients do not routinely generate medical records. This can include emergency room reception of a person for pronouncement of death.

Doctor offices and walk-in clinics routinely do not keep patient treatment records. It is not required by Mexican law. In light of the low cost of a doctor visit, USD $2.00 to $40.00, it would add overhead and raise costs to keep records. Medicines, except for narcotics and antibiotics, are sold over the counter. This availability includes anti-depressants, cortisone, diabetes drugs, blood pressure drugs, etc. Certain doctors who live in the border zone or other places where foreigners seek treatment are more likely to maintain records. They know that foreign patients need a record for insurance reimbursement. They are an exception. Walk-in clinics are required to keep a daily list of patient names, but no treatment data.

General Information:
Records in Mexico are organized through the use of both last names.

The following is an example:

Juan Esteban Ramírez García

First name
Middle name
Father’s last name
Mother’s maiden name


To properly search for a record requires both parent's last name. Indexing systems initially search for the first last name (Ramirez), then the second last name (Garcia), and finally the given name. Without a second last name a search result may be compromised or even unworkable because of too many name similarities. A woman does not change her name upon marriage.

It is also important to know a date of birth for many searches. Knowing a person’s age may be workable in some instances.

Business is routinely transacted in person within Mexico when a relationship has not already been established. It is easy and common to say, “No”, by telephone. Many offices often do not answer the telephone and some, in small towns, just do not have a telephone. With occasional exceptions, it is necessary to appear in person at the government office that maintains the desired information. A gratuity to an underpaid office worker is still very much in practice.

Certified copies of most public and semi-public records are available for a small charge.

Accident Reports:
Records of serious accident and death investigations performed by Ministerio Público are of limited distribution. For a non-party to obtain a report requires the following:

An original letter outlining the need for the report has to be signed by an involved party, an immediate family member or legal representative of an estate and the letter must be notarized. If the letter is not written in Spanish, it must be translated here by a licensed translator. The letter must specify the person authorized to pick-up a copy of the report on behalf of the interested party. A copy of the signer’s photo ID should accompany the letter. It often is also helpful to include a copy of a document that establishes the relationship between the requestor and the injured/deceased party. This could be a marriage record, birth certificate, death certificate or a probate filing. The document often has to be translated into Spanish.

This is rare, but offices of Ministerio Público have been known to reject a limited power of attorney and only distribute a copy to an immediate family member.