Mexicos passport rule in effect tomorrow
Visitors staying less than 72 hours will be exempt
By Sandra Dibble,
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.
Online: For more information about Mexicos rules for people entering the country, go to uniontrib.com/passport
TIJUANA—A new Mexican federal regulation requiring U.S. and Canadian visitors to present passports when entering Mexico goes into effect tomorrow, but the majority of travelers to Baja California wont be affected.
Exempt from the new rule are visitors to border regions who remain in the country for less than 72 hours, according to Mexicos National Migration Institute. In addition, cruise ship passengers who briefly disembark in Ensenada will not be required to present a passport.
For us, its business as usual, said Oscar Escobedo, Baja Californias tourism secretary.
When announced earlier this month by Mexicos federal government, the regulations stipulated that all U.S. and Canadian citizens entering Mexico by air, land and sea must carry passports. The measure was quickly modified to exempt border zones after protests by tourism officials and business groups in Baja California and other northern border states.
Mexican immigration authorities do not routinely screen visitors entering at land crossings. Opponents of the new rule feared that enforcement would generate lengthy delays at already-congested border crossings such as San Ysidro, and discourage cross-border commerce and other exchanges.
Most U.S. citizens who cross into Mexico already carry passports because of U.S. travel regulations requiring the documents when they re-enter the United States.
Mexican immigration authorities say the new passport measures are intended to clarify and formalize requirements for U.S. and Canadian visitors to the interior of Mexico. In the past, the criteria were flexible, and the determination was often left to individual immigration agents whether to accept documents such as a drivers license.
Yet the application of the new rules at the border remains somewhat ambiguous. In a statement from Mexico City earlier this month, Mexicos Interior Ministry said the new rules do not apply to foreigners who visit the border zone, nor those aboard cruise ships.
The National Immigration Institute in Tijuana issued a statement defining the border zone as 20 kilometers, or about 12 miles from the border.
But Baja California tourism authorities say foreign visitors may travel as far as Ensenada without a passport.
Those traveling beyond that point or remaining for more than 72 hours are required to present a passport and obtain a tourist card, or FM-T, available at the border and at Mexican consulates.
The new passport rule comes as Mexico has taken steps to increase security at border crossings. Mexicos customs authorities have been working to tighten inspections along the northern border, installing equipment to electronically screen all southbound vehicles for weapons and other contraband.
Although not yet fully installed, the measures have created unprecedented lines to get into Mexico at the San Ysidro border crossing. Businesses say that enforcing the passport rule there would have compounded the problem, driving down commerce on both sides of the border for areas already suffering from slow sales.
Its part of a huge snowball, said Jason Wells, director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce.