Crossing the Border

People need to take advantage of dental tourism to Mexico, but are apprehensive because they don’t have their passport in hand. The truth is, if you have your drivers license and birth certificate, you can still cross the Mexican border back into the US with out a problem. Although a US passport is required at US Border crossing, the requirement is not being enforced. Please read the letter below:

An open letter from one of our patients to his Congressmen about border crossing issues.

“I am an American citizen living in Los Angeles. I recently needed medical services that were available only in Tijuana, Mexico. However, my U.S. passport had expired.

I examined easily obtainable State Department documentation pertaining to persons using U.S. border crossing points. These texts specify several forms of individual identification that are unequivocally stated to be the ones currently accepted by U.S. border crossing authorities.

Nevertheless, hearsay in this area suggests that the extreme number of passport applications being processed has motivated the State Department to, for the time being, relax its border crossing identification requirements and accept a valid U.S. drivers license accompanied by a valid birth certificate.

In addition, I’d spoken directly with U.S. Postal Service employees who process passport applications. They said that evidence of a citizen’s having applied for passport renewal — a postal receipt — was also being accepted by our border crossing officials.

On Monday, September 21, 2009, I accepted hearsay over my government’s “official information,” and spent the day in Tijuana being treated. Then, presenting U. S. Border officers with only my driver’s license and birth certificate, I uneventfully returned to U.S. soil.

Extensive follow-up since confirms that my experience is not an anomaly or happen-stance exception. It represents current practice.

The U.S. Government’s stating that it requires U.S. citizens entering the country at a U.S. border crossing point to present a passport is clearly disinformation. It is a deliberate omission of facts that substantially change the meaning of what our State Department officially presents as the law.

It’s commonly known as lying by omission. It is blatantly dishonest.

The practice should immediately be halted — as should the pointless and frivolous denial of a legitimate opportunity for U.S. citizens to, for whatever reason, visit a foreign country and return to U.S soil.

I believe our published border crossing regulations ought to be reflected in our border crossing practices!

I’m not expecting a personal response to this email. However, I do ask for 1) an acknowledgment of your office’s awareness of the border crossing issues I raise and 2) a brief summary of what steps, if any, are being taken to address them.”

New Border Crossing Regulations:

1.- You must now have a US passport to cross the border:

Just like the US Government requires everyone crossing the border into the US to have passports, the Mexican Government also now requires all persons crossing into Mexico to have a passport. Things have historically been a little lax, but now they are tightening up on the regulations. Make sure you get your passport before crossing into Mexico, to avoid any delays or hassle, by the US Customs, as well as Mexican Customs.

If you haven’t yet gotten a US Passport, we strongly recommend that you get the “Passport Card”, rather than the “Passport Book”. You can actually apply for both, or either one. But the reason the Passport Card works better than the Book, is because it has the RFID electronic chip, which qualifies you to use the faster moving “Ready Lanes” either as a pedestrian or riding in a car. Here is a link to the government website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/apply.html

2.- You will need to get a Tourist Visa at the border:

Pedestrian Crossing: If leave your car parked at the border, and are walking into Mexico, you will need to present your US passport, and fill out a tourist permit form. It will just take 5 minutes. However, make sure you keep your tourist permit on your person. In case you are stopped in Mexico for any reason, you will now have proof that you entered into the country legally. The cost of a tourist permit, to visit Tijuana for a week, is free. But, if you plan to stay for more than a week, plan to return for a second trip, or are thinking of going on to Rosarito or Ensenada, you will need to get the 180 day permit, costing $25.

Crossing the border by car: If you are stopped in Tijuana, you will need to show that you have legally crossed the border. So, even though you could just drive through Mexican Customs, and they don’t ask you for any documents, don’t neglect to first stop and get your tourist permit. The process will just take a few minutes.

When you first cross into Mexico, do NOT get into the lines of cars that are going through the lanes through for inspection. Rather, keep to the right, and go straight ahead to the area for Voluntary Declaration. Most of the cars going in here, and parking, are stopping to declare products that they purchased in the US, so they can pay the “Importation Tax”. But this is the same area where you will find the “Immigration” office, in order to get your tourist permit. Just park your car next to the others, and go into the building. Inside you will find the Immigration office, and tell them you want a tourist permit. It will be easiest if you just tell them you are coming to visit and shop, otherwise they will ask you for the exact address of the clinic, and hotel address where you are staying. Just a little less hassle.