TIJUANA, Baja California — If you have traveled out of the country, you've probably been handed an official entry tourist card before going through U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
For those traveling to Mexico the form is handed out even when crossing by foot. Most importantly it is a form that is free of charge, if you are traveling for 7 days.
Last month, several students from San Diego State who crossed the border on foot were heading to Tijuana to enjoy a day in Mexico. However, as they crossed the San Ysidro Port of Entry, they were stopped by Mexican immigrant agents who charged them $20 each to fill out a tourist card that is given for free to any traveler.
The tourist card is an entry immigration form that details your visit to the country and travelers are to fill out these forms and hand them over to immigration officials of that country in order to be given entry.
“The immigration officials charged these students $20 to cross into Tijuana, when these things happen and I heard this happening to my students' friends, I wrote a complaint to the Mexican tourist center in Tijuana,” said Victor Clark, who is a professor of the U.S.-Mexico border course at San Diego State University.
He says the students did not want to speak on camera because they frequent Tijuana and fear for their safety.
“This is obviously corruption and it seems like this has been happening since 3 years ago,” said Clark. To avoid problems with INM officials, students handed them $20 each. According to Clark, being charged to fill out this entry form is not new. He also adds that less experienced travelers can be easy targets.
“Most cases people don’t want to go to the authorities because not only is it a small amount but they are also travelers who head to Tijuana all the time and don't want to risk it,” said Clark.
According to the official Mexican tourist card website, these forms are free if the stay is no longer than 7 days. If it is longer the charge is approximately $30. It even gives the option to print them out for free to expedite your process when traveling.
CBS 8 reached out to the Mexican tourist authorities in Tijuana about these scams, but gave no response.
We also reached out to the Mexican consulate in San Diego, to inform them of what is happening but they have yet to respond to an interview.
What is a Tourist Card and why I need it?
Information provided by the Mexico Tourist Card website:
The applicant acknowledges herein that the FMM has a maximum validity of 180 calendar days and shall be valid for one entry only.
The applicant acknowledges herein that the validity term of the FMM shall start upon the migratory stamp is fixed, provided with, he/she should comply with the requirements to enter Mexico.
The applicant shall print and bring the FMM to the facility aimed for the international transit of persons where he/she wishes to enter through.
The applicant acknowledges herein that the fees paid to obtain the condition of stay, is not a guarantee to enter Mexico.
If you are visiting Mexico you need a Tourist Card which is an Entry Immigration Form that details information about your visit to Mexico. The Tourist Card is per person regardless of age and how long you will stay in Mexico. The information you provide in the Tourist Card is kept by the Mexican Immigration Authority as an official record of your visit to Mexico.
How much does it cost?
The Tourist Card is totally free. You don't have to pay anything to get your Tourist Card online.
Do I need to send my passport for inspection?
No, you do not need to send us your passport. On the application form we will ask you for the information we need from your passport in order to process your Tourist Card. When you land in Mexico you will be required to present your passport and your Tourist Card to enter Mexico.
How long do I have to keep my Tourist Card?
There are two parts of the Immigration Form, the Entry Form & the Exit Form. We will email you both forms already completed with the proper information and when you arrive in Mexico you will immediately proceed to the immigration booth at the airport where the immigration officer will keep the entry part of your form and he/she will stamp the Exit Part of the form which you will keep while in Mexico. When you are checking in for your flight back home, you will present the Exit Part of your form along with your passport.
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