Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Changes in Immigration Procedures in Mexico

First I'll address a change occurring at Mexico's border crossings beginning March 1, 2010. Or at least at some of the border crossings. In all likelihood it won't affect the Lukeville border crossing for short term visitors to Rocky Point, but you should be prepared anyway.

The new regulations, announced earlier this month by Mexico's National Migration Institute, state that U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico "by air, land or sea" must present either a valid U.S. passport or passport card or other "trusted traveler" ID such as a SENTRI card, etc. U.S. permanent residents must also present documents proving their status. Since everyone needs those documents anyway to get back into the U.S. it should not be an issue.

The regulations will not be applied to short-term visitors along the northern border or to cruise ship passengers who briefly disembark at various locations. Does that apply to short-term visitors-- such as Spring Breakers-- going as far south as Rocky Point? Probably, but have your ID ready at the border anyway just in case. As always, you do not need a Mexican tourist card to visit Rocky Point for 72 hours or less (that's 3 days, bunky).

As usual, you will pull up to the border crossing, where you may or may not be asked for a passport, etc. You will get either a red light or a green light; if it's green you just pass on through, if it's red you'll be waved over to the side where a usually-cursory inspection will be made of your car to insure that you are not bringing drugs or weapons (or other illegal things) into Mexico. I can't emphasize strongly enough: DO NOT BRING ILLEGAL DRUGS INTO MEXICO! Not even a lowly roach that you may have forgotten about in your glove compartment. Just don't do it.

The regulations will also not apply (at least not yet) at the Baja California crossings at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, because Mexico lacks the infrastructure to enforce the regulations at such busy ports. That may change in the future as the federal government rolls out a new electronic inspection system, known as SIAVE, at its land border crossings as a means of detecting illegal weapons and other contraband.

Taking effect on May 1, 2010 are some broader changes in its migration procedures, recently published by Mexico’s National Migration Institute. These changes are intended to clarify, streamline and simplify processing requirements for each immigration category. Applications currently being processed and those filed before May 1, 2010 will be analyzed and processed based on current policies, practices and procedures.

These changes affect actual immigration status, such as visitor, business, permanent residency, etc.

I talked about the changes to the basic tourist visa, called the FMT, in an earlier post, A Heads Up on the New FMM Tourist Permit, and those changes will take effect on May 1. The FMT will then become the FMM. To clarify, here's what those changes mean according to Jacob Sapochnik at Visa Lawyer Blog. (There's a lot of good information in that website; you might want to bookmark it for future reference.)

All migratory forms for tourists, business visitors and technical visitors with lucrative activities, who intend to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days, will be replaced by a single “FMM” form (“Forma Migratoria Múltiple”).

The FMM will serve as evidence of the foreign national’s immigration status while in Mexico;
  • The business visitor criteria are clearly defined; This new FMM form has an option for choosing the purpose of the visit as business (negocios), which once the foreign national enters Mexico, the immigration officer will grant a 180 days stay.
  • There are 3 different options that the immigration officer might mark and that will grant the foreign national 180 days: a) Business (Visitante Persona de Negocios), b) Visitor with Lucrative Activities (Visitante con Actividades Lucrativas) and c) Visitor with Non Lucrative Activities (Visitante con Actividades No Lucrativas). Any of the previous allow the foreign national to visit Mexico for business, either for working purposes or only for meetings
  • In case the purpose of the business visit extends more than 180 days, the foreign national will have to file for a change of Immigration status to obtain the correspondent FM3.
The FM2 and FM3 booklets will also be different. First off, you will no longer be able to get an FM2 or FM3 at Consular Posts. Instead, Consular Posts will place a visa sticker on your passport once the National Migration Institute has approved your petition. That sticker will allow you to enter Mexico within 365 days of issuance, and once you're in the country you'll have 30 days to get the new FM2 or FM3 card.

There will be other, mostly positive, changes, too that will make life easier for the government and the FMM, FM2/FM3 card holders. For full details on those changes as they occur, I'd keep an eye on that Visa Lawyer Blog. There are also businesses in Rocky Point (and other Mexican cities) whose purpose is to help you through the paperwork, and these businesses can save you a lot of time and frustration. Don't be afraid to use them!

Happy traveling, and stay safe!

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