Hi again Janke,
We got our Tourist Cards on arrival at Puerto Plata airport.
It was a very simple and quick process. The queue was long, but it was VERY fast moving. Each transaction takes a matter of seconds (hand your $10 over and receive a receipt which acts as the Tourist Card). Despite being near the back of the queue, we only queued for 5 minutes or so.
Not only was it easier for us to get our Tourist Cards on arrival, but it was also cheaper for us ($10 rather than £10).
If there's much effort involved in getting a Tourist Card before you travel (or if it costs more than the $10 you pay on arrival), I'd recommend simply getting it on arrival.
Have a great trip!
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What's a Tourist Card?
A Tourist Card is a Mexican visa required of all foreign visitors.
There is only one exception to this requirement:
a visitor staying in the "border region" for less than 72 hours.
The formal name of the visa is "FM-T Visa".
Where's the "border region"?
For most visitors to Baja California this region will be the Tijuana - Ensenada - Tecate triangle. To the east the region will extend just a few miles into Mexico, with the exception of the corridor to San Felipe.
Must I show some ID?
Absolutely! There are only a few officially accepted forms of identification allowed (any exceptions to this occur at the pleasure of the immigration official). A
birth certificate and a current photo ID (see Special Note below),
voter registration certificate and a current photo ID (see Special Note below)
are all acceptable. The voter registration certificate may be a copy as long as it is stamped by the appropriate authority. An official looking stamp with a signature goes a long way in Mexico!
Will a Tourist Card cost me anything?
Yes! In September, 2007 I paid 237 pesos (about $21.65US) at the bank next to the immigration office at the San Ysidro border crossing. Mexican government officials are not permitted to collect fees directly, so the fee must be paid to a Mexican bank. The exception to this is when you're commercially flying into Mexico. In that case the airline will include the fee in your ticket price and take care of the payment.
Some travelers have reported paying an extra service charge imposed by certain banks.
Can I use the Tourist Card for another visit?
Yes, as long as the visit occurs within six months of the time the card is first validated, and you are not flying into the country. You should make sure the issuing official knows you intend making "multiple entries" and would like the visa issued for 180 days. You may have to get an extension indicated on the form when you are leaving the country, or when you make a return visit.
If you are making repeated visits by commercial airline, you'll have to effectively pay the fee on each flight into the country. No mechanism has yet been devised to separate the fee from the price of the ticket, and coordinate the paperwork with immigration.
What constitutes a Tourist Card?
The form itself has three parts: one for you to keep, one for the Mexican government, and a smaller form for the bank. Two stamps ("sellos") are required on your part of the form in order to make it official:
an entry stamp from immigration,
a bank stamp showing that the visa fee has been paid.
The time limit within which to obtain the bank stamp is not clear at this time. When the process began, it was rumored that there would be a four day "grace period" allowed. I have now seen statements that it is only necessary to get the bank stamp before leaving the country. This would mean before driving north through either of the possible immigration checkpoints (Guerrero Negro and Maneadero).
The Tourist Card form will have the following title information at the top of the form:
TURISTA O TRANSMIGRANTE
FORMA MIGRATORIA PARA TURISTA (FMT) O TRANSMIGRANTE (FM6)
MIGRATORY FORM FOR FOREIGN TOURIST (FMT) OR TRANSMIGRANT (FM6)
INTERNACION TERRESTE / ENTRANCE BY LAND
The information required consists of: full name, permanent address, sex, married/single, principal destination in Mexico, number and expiration date for a passport (if that is used for identification), occupation, and method of transportation.
Where do I get a Tourist Card?
Tourist Cards can be obtained at most border crossings.
At the San Ysidro/Tijuana crossing the office is located near the "To Declare" section of the Mexican secondary inspection (far right-hand lane as you approach the border). At night, the official may move to a small office near the walking entrance - in back of the offices lining the "To Declare" area.
One way to reach their office is to pull into the "To Declare" section of the inspection area, explain that you have nothing to declare but would like to park while obtaining a Tourist Card. I've also parked in the red curb zone early in the day when the inspection area is not congested (with the agreement of an inspection offical).
As of April, 2000 there is an office of Banco Bilbao Viscayo located in the Secondary area (next to the Migracion office) which is staying open 24 hours, seven days a week! This will make it very easy to take care of the entire transaction in one place.
Many years ago in Mexicali, you would get cards in an office right at the crossing area. If someone has current information, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I've never tried to obtain a card in Tecate. Again, anyone with current information should email me so I can provide the information here.
(Warning: Obtaining a Tourist Card in Ensenada will probably involve paying an extra fee ("fine")!) In Ensenada, the Migracion office is located just off the "short route" through the waterfront part of the city (on the old road past the boatyards). When taking the short route through Ensenada (see the "Places" Page on the Baja Highway Page), you'll make a turn to the left turning inland from the water. At the first stoplight make a sharp right-hand turn onto the old road (not a turn for large RVs!). You'll find the Migracion office just past the Capitania del Puerto building. Hours are 8AM to 8PM.
With the entrance to this part of Ensenada having been relocated, the parking is not quite so severe in the area of the Migracion office. However, it's easier to walk to a bank then have to park in a more crowded zone, and then have to return to the Migracion office for the final stamp.
Note (2007-2009): There have been several reports of the immigration officials in Ensenada charging an extra fee for issuing the Tourist Cards away from the border. One report (below) indicates that an extra 100 pesos per card was imposed in 2007, and another report indicated 55 pesos per card in 2009.
Where do I pay the Tourist Card fee?
Unfortunately, the fee must be paid at a place other than the immigration office where you first get the paperwork. (At the San Ysidro crossing a bank is located just next door to the immigration office.) The following Mexican banks have been authorized to handle this payment (taken from the back of the Tourist Card form):
Banca Serfin Citibank Mexico
Bancomer Banco Inbursa
Bancrecer Banco Industrial
Banco del Centro Banco Interacciones
Banjercito Banco del Sureste
Banamex Ixe Banco
Banco Santander Mexicano Banca Afirme
Banpais Banjo del Bajio
Banco Inverlat Ing Bank Mexico
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Banco de Tokio Mitsubishi (Mexico)
Banco Internacional Banco Regional de Monterrey
Banca Promex Abn Amro Bank (Mexico)
Banrural Fuji Bank (Mexico)
Will I be asked to show my Tourist Card?
Very likely. If you are driving the Baja peninsula, you will probably encounter immigration officials at the agricultural inspection station at Guerrero Negro.
Note: These officials may be able and willing to issue Tourist Cards, but I would not recommend counting on it. If you encounter them while driving north, they will especially be looking for the bank stamp on your Tourist Card to make sure you've paid the fee.
If you fly out of the country, you must produce a validated Tourist Card at the airport before boarding the plane. If your Tourist Card shows entry by automobile or boat, and you are flying out of the country, you may be asked to explain or document what is happening with the car or boat you arrived in (if you leave such a vehicle in Mexico, technically it must be left with a "bonded" storage yard).
In any involvement with the police you will be asked to show your Tourist Card. This could come about because of an accident, or because a policeman stops you for an alleged traffic violation.
What if I'm caught without a Tourist Card?
In recent times, the fine has been $400 pesos (about $43US in September, 1999). Of course, the matter of the fine will be accompanied by a certain amount of hassle in dealing, in an adversarial way, with the immigration officials. Be especially aware of landing in this position in La Paz - the officials there have been very tough on this matter.
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