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Saturday, April 3, 2010

NEWS & POLITICS - Mexican Passport Law

New Mexican Passport Law
by Lynn Russ
The new Mexican passport law went into effect February 28, 2010. The law requires U.S. and Canadian citizens to present passports when entering Mexico by land, air and sea. However, there are exemptions, which directly apply to the border towns. Visitors to the border regions, which the law defines as areas encompassing 20 kilometers or 12.5 miles south of the border, and also visitors planning to stay less than 72 hours do not need to worry about the new passport requirement.

Those who visit and do business with border towns, along with those who depend upon those visitors, are breathing a sigh of relief, as the new passport law would have presented more difficulties and delays for those who wish to tour or do business in border towns only. Cruise ship patrons who disembark in Ensenada are also excluded and can expect to see no change in the requirements to enter the country. The Baja California Tourism Secretary has assured area businesses that they should have no worries about disruptions or lost business.
There are already border issues that have had a negative impact on commerce between the U.S. and Mexico. The federal government has been working to install new inspection systems that will detect contraband or weapons more effectively than before. This has led to border delays. With the current amount of resources available at busy ports such as San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, enforcing the new passport law for those only visiting border towns for short periods of time would only have led to longer delays and more frustration.
The law should not adversely affect the typical U.S. or Canadian citizen in the long run even if they plan to visit further into interior Mexico. Changes in U.S. policy have meant U.S. visitors typically have passports or passport cards in hand when they visit Mexico anyways. Roughly 90 percent of all U.S. and Canadian travelers to Mexico use a passport to cross the border and go back home even before the law went into effect.
For those who come into the border towns without a passport but then later decide to stay beyond the 72 hours and travel further into the country, they will need to obtain a tourist card. These can be found at the border or at the Mexican Consulate.
The purpose of the law is to coincide with the requirements already adopted by the U.S. and Canada. With the legal exceptions for the border towns included, citizens of Mexico’s border communities can rest assured the borders are being kept secure and commerce and tourism will be able to flow freely just as before.