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First, it was a piece of perforated paper, then the option existed to create the document on-line.

For years, a standard 180 days were issued. But about a year ago, immigration officers in Mexico  began to assign everything from 10 to 90 days for some.

What are we talking about?  Every foreign tourist in Mexico can easily guess the answer: that pesky FMM, the Formato Migratoria Múltiple, known as a tourist card, the visitor visa that international tourists to Mexico had to fill out on an airplane or at other entry points.

If a flight attendant was kind, you got a pen loaned to you to fill it out; otherwise, you had to beg a fellow passenger for a loaned pen or bring your own.

As they filled it out, passengers tended to ask said themselves, “Who, in God’s name, even looks at all of this information?” and “How many filing cabinets exist to store these cards?”

Upon arrival, an immigration officer scribbled a number and slammed a heavy dated stamp on it, retaining half, and returning the other half to the international visitor.

And, lo be unto those who lost the half that was supposed to be surrendered upon exiting Mexico. “Will I be sent to a Mexican prison for hard labor?” they might ask. (The answer is no, but they did have to pay a heavy fine.)

But finally – FINALLY — thanks to technology already embedded in most passports, Cancun, Mexico’s busiest airport for international tourists, along with four other Mexican airports, began a pilot program on Friday, Aug. 19, to eliminate the use of the FMM.

According to Sergio González Rubiera, president of the Mexican Association of Travel Agencies (AMAV) in Quintana Roo, the new program reduces wait times from possible hours to just minutes.

González Rubiera said that INM officials have been trained on using the new paperless system.

The other Mexico airports with the paperless FMM system are the new Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA, which so far, is only used by one international carrier, Venezuela’s Conviasa), Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and San José del Cabo.

“The new system is reducing wait times from two-plus hours to around 20 minutes,” González Rubiera said.

He also clarified that not everyone is eligible for the simplified tourist visa.

The new system only applies to citizens of countries in the Schengen Agreement, that is, the United States and 26 European Union nations.

Those coming from non-authorized countries still have to obtain a tourist visa in their home country before flying to Mexico, as they have always done.

And the best part, all tourists who come for vacation purposes will be granted an automatic 180 days, with a simple stamp inside the passport, meaning there is nothing to fill out.

Considering Mexico has surpassed Spain as the country with the highest percentage of its GDP tied to tourism dollars — a whopping 8.5 percent — it makes a lot of common sense that someone at the General Directorate of Immigration Control and Verification finally found a way to make tourists’ first experience with Mexico a friendly one.

1 Comment

  1. “Will I be sent to a Mexican prison for hard labor?” they might ask. (The answer is no, but they did have to pay a heavy fine.)

    People DID go to detention facilities for this, though. (And still can starting Day 181.)

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