Navigating Mexico: It’s Now a Breeze for Tourists to Pass Immigration Services
By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
Considering the high percentage of Mexico’s GDP derived from tourism dollars, you would think the government would want to make it seamless for tourists to visit and enter.
But that has not always been the case.
Finally, though, it seems another huge hurdle in that direction has taken place.
For years, Mexico had a perforated cardstock form which needed to be filled out on the plane by tourists before arriving in the country.
It was confusing which part of the form was to be handed over upon arrival and which part was for departures.
And to make matters worse, the form asked for tons of data that most likely was never reviewed by anyone.
The part of the immigration form that you needed to leave Mexico was stamped by an immigration official upon arrival along with a stamp in the visitor’s passport.
That paper indicated the number of days you were permitted to remain in the country, which was almost always 180 days in the case of Americans and Canadians.
But about two years ago, things started to change.
Visitors were reporting that the 180 days was no longer the norm.
Immigration officers seemingly made random decisions and tourist visas for just 14 days up to several months were being handed out.
Then, late last year, the infamous FMM tourist visa form disappeared.
“You don’t need to fill anything out,” incoming tourists were told.
“The immigration officials will just stamp your passport at the airport.”
However, for those in Mexico as extended tourists, the only legal document they now had was a blurry date in their passport and a handwritten number, often difficult to make out and near impossible to use at a bank or to contract cable service.
Fast forward to today, and Mexico has (finally) started implementing a new entry process for visitors from the 26 Schengen countries which is simple and quite speedy.
Upon deplaning and approaching the immigration area, passengers with passports from Schengen countries seeking tourist visas are directed by security personnel to self-service machines.
At these turn-style machines, tourists are instructed to scan their passports, main page face down, and then the machines take a photograph of the applicants.
Once the passport and the image of the person match up, the machine prints a ticket for the tourist to keep until departing Mexico.
And with that, poof, the glass doors slide open for the tourist to proceed along their way, certainly feeling more welcome than they would have had they had to fill out the dreaded FMM visa form.
It’s all pretty high tech, as well as forward-thinking.
And the end result is that tourists are left with a positive first impression of Mexico, meaning that they are more likely to spend more, stay longer and come back more often.
For now, Mexican and legal residents still have to enter the country the old-fashioned way, with an officer and a stamp in the passport.
But this new innovation is a game-changing logistical success that definitely deserves kudos.