Planning a trip to Mexico? Coming to see if this is where you may want to retire? Actually moving to Mexico? Everyone has their own reason to visit this beautiful part of the world. The problem is, not everyone is prepared as he or she should be.
This article may seem silly for those seasoned travelers coming to Mexico, but the scenarios listed below are very real and happen on a regular basis. And these individuals I am referring to are only the ones who have contacted us for assistance. How many more are there we do not have contact with?
For those of you simply coming for a holiday, and may have booked a trip through a travel agent, everything is pretty straightforward if your flying down. On the airplane you will be asked to fill out Tourist Visa (FMT), Immigration personnel will stamp it at the airport, write in a time limit – anywhere from 10 to 90 days – and you simply give this back to the airline/Immigration officer when you leave Mexico. Don’t loose this item, as Immigration can impose a fine if you do not have it when you leave.
The major problems start to appear when folks are driving down. There are very few sources out there that give you a complete checklist of what you must do when entering Mexico. I know it can be deceiving when you cross the border. You drive across, get a green light, and continue on. Even if you get a red light, usually official make only a cursory check of your vehicle and luggage, and you continue on. And bang, you’re in the country. Simple? Not quite.
Did you know you must seek out the Car Importation office to acquire a temporary vehicle importation permit? Or the Immigration office to get an FMT (usually together with the Car Import office)? When some first timers drive across, they are simply waved through and continue into Mexico. Usually these individuals are noticed when they arrive at the 25 km check point further into the country. At that point they will be turned around and sent back for these items if they are missing. Unfortunately, some of these folks get missed.
These unfortunate individuals arrive at their destinations in Mexico, which can be many hours or days of driving, to find they are here illegally. This scenario happens more frequently than you may dare to imagine. This is very unfortunate, as the only way to normally resolve this issue is to drive back to the border and get these items. The maximum penalty for these missing items can be seizure of your vehicle and a fine.
One other unfortunate circumstance we see often are individuals who obtain FM3s (a temporary resident visa) at a Mexican Consulate in the country in which they reside. From our experience, these consulates are not very informative on the steps you need to take coming into Mexico. Remember, you must stop at Immigration when driving or flying into Mexico, and present the new FM3 to the Immigration officer. He is going to stamp the first page with an entry stamp. This is crucial, as it is required to have the new FM3 registered in Mexico. What if it is not stamped? It may mean a trip out of Mexico again only to turn right back and have it stamped properly.
For those of you driving, always remember to seek out the offices required when crossing the border to have these crucial procedures taken care of. It will save you time, grief and money if it’s done correctly. We have found that the earlier you cross at those very busy border crossings, the easier and faster it will be, as the crowds have not yet started their crossings.
These are the first things to remember to make you trip an enjoyable and memorable one. Simple due diligence and common sense in a foreign land will make those travel dreams a reality.