Crossing the Border

This page provides information on the legal necessities to successfully visit Mexico and return to the United States. The primary focus here is on overland travel, crossing the border at Cd. Juarez. There is likewise, however, information for those electing to travel by plane.
(Use the discussion tab for questions)
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Mexican Customs Office – Cordova Bridge, El Paso/Juarez (Looking North towards the US while the taxi parks)

PASSPORT:
New US laws have gone into affect that require U.S. citizens to have a passport in order to re-enter the United States after having traveled to Mexico. These laws make the less restrictive documentation specified under Mexican law irrelevant to American travelers. To read about the US policies, visit the U.S. State Department website: http://www.travel.state.gov/. A passport is a convenient document for demonstrating citizenship and residence, and you will find it invaluable for any international travel as well as applying for future jobs. In other words, it’s a good document to have beyond your Conexiones experience. You can get the forms from the U.S. government website; most post offices have the necessary forms as well. Because of the high volume of passport applications in recent months, you should submit your application as soon as possible! If you are unable to get a passport, you should notify the program directors immediately to discuss possible options.

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TOURIST PERMIT:


To travel to Mexico, US citizens need only a TOURIST PERMIT (also known as the Migratory Tourist Form (FMT), the Tourist card, or “su tarjeta”). In July 1999 a new system for issuing Tourist Permits was adopted along with an updated format. The bureaucracy is still adapting to the change. The new card is a multiple entry card good for up to 180 days. Everyone who is issued a card must pay a $190 peso fee before leaving Mexico. (note: No shots or inoculations are required. [UNM student health has information and advice regarding health considerations for international travelers - http://shac.unm.edu/travelserv.html]) Each student should make a photocopy of his/her tourist card once it is stamped (see below). You can then leave the original in a safe place (In your room in your Morelia host family's house, for example) and carry the copy. Dealing with a lost Tourist Permit is a real pain.

Air Travel and the Tourist Permit

If you travel by air from an American airport, the airline will provide the card and instructions on filling it out. You will have the card stamped by a Migracíon officer when you land in Mexico. For air travelers, the $190 peso fee is included in your ticket price. Following instructions the airline will provide, you will surrender your Tourist Card on your return flight.

Overland Travel (by bus) and the Tourist Permit

Overland travelers, should ordinarily get their tourist card at the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque (400 Gold SW, 247-2139). The consulate is open from 8:00 - 2:00 M-F. Each person will need to present a passport. The consulate will issue you a card which you fill out. You must present this completed document along with your passport at the Migracíon Office when you cross the border. An officer at that border office will ask you to sign the card. He will then then stamp the document twice, keeping one copy and handing you another. This stamped document is your permit to enter Mexico as a tourist. The document is not legal unless it is stamped by a Migracíon officer at the border. (There is a possibility that CONEXIONES might be able to get the cards for the entire group, we will let you know as soon as we hear from the consulate on this...) If we do get you the cards, you must remember that they are not legal until a Migracion officer at the border Migracíon office stamps them.


WARNING!!! DO NOT TRAVEL PAST CD. JUAREZ INTO MEXICO WITHOUT A TOURIST CARD THAT A BORDER MIGRACÍON OFFICER HAS STAMPED. PEOPLE (CABBIES OR BUS DRIVERS FOR EXAMPLE) MAY TELL YOU THAT YOU DON’T NEED A CARD OR THAT YOU DON'T NEED TO HAVE IT STAMPED BY MIGRACÍON OR THAT THEY NEVER HEARD OF IT OR THAT YOU CAN GET IT LATER. THIS IS NOT TRUE. YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED THE CARD AND IT MUST BE STAMPED BY A MIGRACÍON OFFICER. WITHOUT THIS STAMPED DOCUMENT, YOU ARE AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT.



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After getting tourist cards stamped, find a Casa de Cambio (the "Dollar Boy" Casa de Cambio" in the photo is in the same building as the Migracíon office)and change some dollars for pesos. You can leave the cab parked. When you have your pesos, you are ready to get back into the cab and head to the Central Camionera (if you are continuing by bus ) or the airport (if you are flying out of Cd. Juarez).

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The Central Camionera in Cd. Juarez


Postscript: Paying the Tourist Permit Fee and Leaving Mexico (For overland travelers)

At some point during your visit to Mexico, you’ll need to go to a bank and pay the 190 peso Tourist Permit fee. The bank will take your card and adorn it with a seal that indicates that this fee has been paid. You need to do this before you leave Mexico unless you plan to continue to use the card for another visit before the expiration date. You MUST make this payment before your tourist card expires (ordinarily a tourist card is issued for 180 days). If you have firm plans after the end of the program to return to Mexico within that time period, you can keep your card and use it to re-enter Mexico as often as you want until the day of expiration. If you do not have such firm plans, you will need to pay the 190 peso fee during the time you are in Mexico for the Conexiones Program. Then, as you leave the country you will need to present the card along with your passport at a border Migracíon office. There, you will surrender the card and an officer will stamp your passport.

If you fail to pay the fee, the Migracíon Officer will not accept the surrendered Tourist card. If you fail to surrender your tourist card, nothing will happen until the next time you attempt to visit Mexico and get a tourist card. At that point, when you present the information for a new Tourist card, sophisticated computer tracking of your identification information will tell the Migracíon Officer that a tourist card issued to you and stamped by Migracíon in July 2010 has expired and that you have failed to surrender it. The officer will then inform you that a hefty fine (about $10 US dollars per day) has been accumulating since the date of the expiration of your July 2010 card. The Chief Officer at the Migracíon Office can and usually will reduce the fine (to about $1 US dollar per day) and issue you a new tourist card... but the process is costly in time (often taking hours) and heartache.