A Mexican ID, or Matricula Consular, is an identity document issued by the Mexican government to Mexican citizens living abroad. While it is an officially recognized ID in Mexico, a Mexican ID does not authorize legal residence or give the holder permission to work in the U.S. However, some U.S. entities like banks, schools, and local governments may accept a Mexican ID as proof of identity from undocumented immigrants. But policies vary, so it’s important to check with each institution.
What is a Matricula Consular?
A Matricula Consular is an official ID card issued by Mexican consulates to Mexican citizens living outside of Mexico. It contains the holder’s name, photograph, address, date of birth, and other identifying information.
The purpose of the Matricula Consular is to provide Mexicans residing abroad with an accepted form of identification issued by the Mexican government. This allows them to open bank accounts, enroll children in school, and access other services where ID is required.
Matricula Consular cards have security features such as holograms and digital signatures to prevent forgery. They are issued by Mexican consular officials after verifying an applicant’s identity using documents like Mexican birth certificates.
Key Facts About the Matricula Consular:
- Issued solely by Mexican consulates to Mexican citizens living abroad
- Contains holder’s photo, name, address, date of birth and other information
- Widely accepted for identification purposes in Mexico
- Increasingly accepted in the U.S. as ID for migrants
- Not an official travel document or proof of legal residence
Acceptance as ID in the U.S.
The Matricula Consular card is not considered a valid form of ID for official federal purposes in the U.S. It does not authorize legal residence or convey any immigration status.
However, the Matricula is widely accepted by banks, schools, hospitals, local governments and other institutions to establish identity. Acceptance is at the discretion of each entity.
After the issuing of the cards began in 2002, many U.S. organizations moved to accept the Matricula to provide services to the large population of undocumented Mexican immigrants. Today, thousands of locations across the country accept the Matricula as ID, including:
- Hundreds of local governments
- Police departments
- Banking institutions like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citibank
- Hospitals and health clinics
- School districts
- Utility companies
- Some airport security checkpoints
Despite criticisms that the Matricula makes it easier for unauthorized immigrants to live in the U.S., its acceptance has increased as a pragmatic measure to facilitate banking, healthcare and access to services for this population.
Limitations of the Matricula Consular Card:
- Not accepted for federal identification
- Not proof of U.S. immigration status
- Acceptance and utility varies by state and institution
- Does not authorize U.S. employment
- Does not facilitate obtaining a driver’s license in most states
Obtaining a Matricula Consular
To obtain a Matricula Consular, Mexican citizens living in the U.S. must schedule an appointment at their nearest Mexican consulate. Applicants must provide proof of Mexican nationality and identity.
Required documents include:
- Mexican passport
- Mexican birth certificate
- Prior Mexican ID like a voter registration card
- Proof of address in consular district
Photos and fingerprints are also collected. The card costs around $35-60.
Because undocumented immigrants often lack these primary identity documents, some consulates accept secondary evidence of identity like baptismal records. Illegal presence in the U.S. does not disqualify an applicant from receiving a Matricula if they can establish Mexican citizenship.
How to Obtain a Matricula Consular:
- Contact nearest Mexican consulate and schedule an appointment
- Provide required documents proving identity and Mexican citizenship
- Provide photo ID and proof of address in consular district
- Get fingerprinted and photographed
- Pay required fees around $35-60
- Return on scheduled appointment date to receive card
The card is valid for 5 years after which it must be renewed by making another in-person appointment at a consulate.
Uses in the United States
For undocumented Mexican immigrants, the Matricula Consular ID card provides a recognized form of identification that enables access to services where identification is required. This greatly increases functionality and integration in daily life.
The Matricula is widely used by undocumented immigrants for:
- Banking – Opening bank accounts and accessing financial services at accepting institutions
- Education – Enrolling children in school and accessing education services
- Healthcare – Proving identity at hospitals, clinics and pharmacies
- Housing – Renting property or accessing homeless shelters
- Remittances – Sending money abroad to family members
- Communication – Purchasing mobile phone plans
- Police interactions – Identifying oneself if stopped or questioned by police
- Local government services – Accessing accepted municipal services and aid programs
Possession of a Matricula can make everyday activities like banking, enrolling in school, getting medical treatment and dealing with police interactions immensely easier for many of the over 11 million undocumented immigrants estimated to be living in America.
Table of Services Accessible with a Matricula Consular Card
|Opening accounts and accessing financial services at banks accepting Matricula ID
|Enrolling children in school, accessing school services
|Proving identity at hospitals, clinics, pharmacies
|Renting property, accessing shelters
|Sending money abroad to family
|Getting phone plans
|Identifying oneself during interactions
|Local Government Services
|Accessing accepted municipal services and aid programs
Criticisms and Controversies
The Matricula Consular is a controversial form of ID due to its widespread utilization by undocumented immigrants. Critics view acceptance of the cards as tacitly condoning illegal immigration. Some of the main criticisms include:
- Cards promote illegal presence in the U.S. by enabling access to services
- Weak document standards increase risk of forgery and fraud
- Use of Matricula undermines need to address illegal immigration issue
- Acceptance facilitates hiding identities of criminals or terrorists
- U.S. banks and entities should not recognize foreign government ID cards
Supporters counter that the Matricula allows immigrants to function safely in society, promoting financial transparency, civic trust in police, and access to hospitals and schools.
The debate centers around whether the pragmatic benefits outweigh the risk of legitimizing an unauthorized population. But with over 6 million cards circulating in the U.S., the Matricula is a reality and key form of ID for many immigrants.
Table of Pros and Cons of the Matricula Consular Card
|– Enables access to banking, hospitals, schools
|– Perceived enablement of illegal immigration
|– Allows functioning in society without status
|– Risk of forgery/fraud
|– Builds trust with police
|– Hinders enforcing immigration laws
|– Promotes financial transparency
|– May abet hiding criminal identities
|– Fulfills consular duty to citizens abroad
|– Undermines need for immigration reform
Identification for Immigrants
For undocumented immigrants in the U.S., obtaining secure, accepted identification can be difficult but is essential for functioning in society. Some other forms of ID utilized include:
- ITIN – IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number allows filing taxes without SSN
- Driver’s license – Available in some states regardless of immigration status
- Foreign passport – Some institutions accept passports as identification
- Birth certificate – May be used though barriers obtaining copies often exist
- Consular IDs – Some other countries issue ID cards through consulates
- Municipal IDs – Some cities like New York have municipal ID programs
However, the Matricula Consular remains one of the most widely used and accepted forms of foreign identification for immigrants without legal status in America.
The Mexican Matricula Consular ID card has become an important form of identification for Mexican immigrants in the U.S. Its acceptance expanded in the early 2000s to facilitate services for undocumented populations. Though not federally recognized, it is accepted by thousands of organizations and enables access to banking, education, healthcare and local government services.
Critics contend the Matricula enables illegal immigration. But supporters believe its pragmatic benefits in integrating immigrants outweigh concerns. Over 6 million cards have been issued in the U.S. Establishing identity through the Matricula Consular provides a measure of dignity and functionality for many undocumented Mexican immigrants who otherwise may live in the shadows.