Byline: Taylor Hill
A new immigration law in Mexico comes with a price for U.S. anglers to pay, as all U.S. citizens fishing in Mexican waters — whether at sea or on land — are now required to obtain a visa.
The law was enacted May 25, 2011 by Mexico’s immigration department (INAMI) “in order to create in our country a framework of guarantees to protect the rights of the individuals in our country, facilitate and manage the migratory flows to and from Mexico, favoring the protection and respect of human rights of Mexicans and foreigners, regardless of their origin, nationality, gender, ethnicity, age and immigration status,” INAMI stated in a release.
According to INAMI, Articles 33, 44, 46, 50, 153 and 154 of the new immigration law require that all foreigners entering Mexican territory — which includes Mexican territorial waters and contiguous waters 24 miles from shore — must have a visa.
The cost will be added on top of the $11 Mexican fishing license fee U.S. anglers already pay when heading into Mexican waters for fishing.
Enforcement began Jan. 1, and anglers have been given several options to obtain the visas — which will cost from $33 for a three-day visa up to $250 for a FM3 work visa good for one year.
Option 1: For anglers fishing aboard Sportfishing Association of California (SAC) member vessels, FMM visas can be obtained through a program sanctioned by INAMI that is being administered at five sportfishing landings in San Diego: Fisherman’s Landing, 2838 Garrison St.; H&M Sportfishing, 2803 Emerson St.; Point Loma Sportfishing, 1403 Scott St.; Seaforth Sportfishing, 1717 Quivira Road; and Dana Landing, 2580 Ingraham St.
SAC represents more than 200 commercial passenger fishing boats in Southern California from San Diego to Ventura and has been working with MX Tour Assist — a Tijuana-based company created to administer the new visa program — since the law’s implementation.
All anglers going out aboard San Diego’s sportfishing fleet vessels will be responsible for purchasing a visa on top of their regular charter fare, if that boat goes across the border.
Option 2: Private boaters can go through the visa process at Dana Landing, which has purchased three-day visas from MX Tour Assist for distribution to private anglers. Dana Landing is the only location currently offering visas to private boaters.
John White of Dana Landing said the three-day visas cost $35.
Troy Williams, MX Tour Assist liaison to the United States, said that Fisherman’s Landing has also been involved in discussions about offering the visas, and it may sell private boater visas in the future.
Option 3: Boaters can report to the Port of Ensenada point of entry and contact the INAMI office to obtain a visa there. The cost for a visa obtained at Ensenada is $21, since there are no handling fees.
Entry points along the U.S./Mexico border will only be able to issue “land” stamps to the FMM visa, which will not be accepted while fishing in Mexican waters.
“Sea” stamps are required on all visas administered by Mexico’s immigration office for fishing in Mexican waters, and they will be processed by MX Tour Assist. The turnaround time for a sea-stamped visa is expected to be about three days from the date of purchase. It will be issued to boaters upon arrival at the landings. A form of identification is required upon issuance of the visa, but a passport is not required.
An option for anglers who choose to go out on a last-minute fishing trip without getting a stamp is to start the visa process prior to leaving. They will be issued a stamp upon return.
“That was included for rare occurrences when someone decides to go fishing last-minute, and doesn’t have time to complete the process,” Williams said. “It’s not expected to be a part of the normal operation.”
Williams said MX Tour Assist will look into creating more ways for private boaters to gain access to visa applications, but wanted to give the San Diego sportfishing industry the first opportunity.
“If the landings want to issue them to the public, then we’ll let them do that — but if they choose not to, then we’ll start doing it ourselves,” Williams said. He added that online or mail applications could be future options for MX Tour Assist.
The added cost of the visa will mean increased costs for charter boat trips and private boat trips into waters south of San Diego. Enforcement of Mexico’s new visa requirement began on the same day that the South Coast Marine Protected Areas closed 15 percent of California’s coastal waters to fishing.
The new rules laid out by INAMI include:
* All U.S. or international tourists traveling to Mexico must have a visa to enter, called an FMM permit. This permit must go through a different process, depending on whether visitors are entering by land or by sea.
* INAMI has authorized a third-party organization (MX Tour Assist) to initiate the water entry visa process at five San Diego landings for tourists with passage on any SAC member vessel.
* The cost of the visa will vary depending on the length of the trip and the value of the Mexican peso.
* INAMI will monitor the border and execute random inspections of all vessels crossing into Mexican territorial waters, including monitoring the private marine recreational sector.
* If a visiting boat is boarded by INAMI, they will ask for a national ID and a Mexican visa.
* The visa must be processed and paid for ahead of time.
* All FMM visas are to be returned within 24 hours upon return to the U.S.
* Vessels traveling through the territorial waters of Mexico, not engaging in activities, but seeking only “innocent passage” while en route to international waters, will not be required to have a visa.
* Crewmembers will be required to have an FM3, which can be obtained through the third-party company or in an INAMI office.
The price of a visa (FMM permit) is based on peso value and will be adjusted on the first of every month. Visas will be issued per trip, with three tiers: one- to three-day trips, four- to nine-day trips and trips from 10 to 30 days.
Prices for January per person: Three days or less: $28; Four to nine days: $33.06; 10-plus days: $38.06.
Prices for February per person: Three days or less: $33.06; Four to nine days: $38.06; 10-plus days: $43.06.
Crewmembers will have to have an FM3 work visa, which can be obtained through MX Tour Assist for $250.
According to Williams, the FM3 permit “trumps” the FMM permit, so anglers who already have an FM3 permit will not need to apply for an FMM permit.
For more information, contact MX Tour Assist representative Troy Williams at (619) 318-3118 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.