Checking In & Out of Mexico By Boat
Downwind Cruising Guide Pages. 18-19
San Diego, CA
CHECKING IN & OUT OF MEXICO BY BOAT – GET ONLINE FMM!
American visitors descend on Mexico in great numbers – for business, recreation, health and family affairs. Mexico must continually prepare for American visitors and foreign visitors too from the entire world. With the experiences of COVID, plus their own need for social and economic development they continually evolve in their responsibility to Visitor Entry into Mexico – with their major focus in visitor compliance for Health, Immigration, Customs and Port Authority.
Americans still do NOT need a “visa” to visit Mexico, however, today as visitors beyond the border towns, each must have a visitor entry permit that legally allows for a single entry up to 180 days. This entry permit is called FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple or Multiple Migratory Form) and is issued mainly to Americans and Canadians, who fall under the category FMM (Visitante Sin Permiso para Realizar Actividades Remuneradas) or FMM Visitor without permission to undertake remunerative activities. FMM is issued to US/Canadian tourists, whether arriving by car, boat or plane (your airline/cruise-ship ticket price to any Mexican destination will also include this FMM fee for you to be in Mexico legally.) If arriving by private boat, the application for and pre payment of the FMM can now be performed online, using the following link to the appropriate section of the Mexican Immigration web page: https://www.gob.mx/inm/acciones-y-programas/ven-a-mexico-practica-pesca-deportiva-y-disfruta-del-turismo nautico/ and select the line within that page that takes you to the FMM application and payment page, …or use this link: https://www.inm.gob.mx/spublic/portal/inmex.html.
Pre-payment of the FMM visitor form was initially intended to get the immigration payment from the U.S. sport-fishing fleet from San Diego that entered Mexican waters to fish and did not land at any Mexican port. This was expanded to include the private yachts and sailboats entering Mexico with the intent to make the clearance into Mexico ports easier, and truthfully, even faster. The Mexican government recommends that everyone pre-pay online, but it is not mandatory to do so prior to arrival at a Mexican port, especially if you plan to arrive in Ensenada to clear-in as you enter Mexico from the north. Yet consider using the Banjército website to pre-pay this fee, it’s simple to navigate and allows users to make the current $687 MXP peso/person payment with a credit card. (Sept 2023 USD conversion with current exchange rate of 0.057: $687 MXP = $40 USD.) You are half-way to securing your FMM when you hold the paid receipt of the FMM fee.
However it’s 2023 and the process for Visitor Entry into Mexico keeps evolving to something usually better from than what has worked well in the past.
Immigration Requirements One Can Process Yourself Prior to Arrival in Mexico by Private Boat – 4 Steps For direct explanation of the current Immigration check-in process, review pg.4 on Mexico’s immigration requirements in this link to the 2023 AMMT Visitors’ Brochure – Visiting Mexico by Private Boat. Here you will also read that upon your arrival at first port of entry, will meet with Health and Immigration agents, who will examine your passport and reasons for visiting Mexico. Upon landing, the process is to first visit the Immigration Office (Migración), or a marina with immigration services, and present a valid passport (with green card if applicable) for every person aboard and make application of the FMM with payment of the Immigration Fee ($638 pesos/person) or show the pre-payment receipt(s) for FMM to cover the Immigration Fee owed. See, every individual on board still needs to pay the FMM fee and you can pay upon arrival … but if already paid for some or all crew, then show the paid receipt(s) for those who have paid. The major change this year is that upon verifying your paid FMM fees, you will NOT be given a paper FMM! Instead your passport will now be stamped by an agent with authority to grant your Approved Entry into Mexico… as is done worldwide when one is approved to enter a foreign country… It is now your Passport stamp that validates your entry into Mexico.
On another note, the 4 steps for immigration that you find in the brochure will still need to be completed online by all whose vessel only takes them into Mexican waters for fishing, diving, or whale watching, etc.; i.e. those who are NOT intending to make ANY landing into Mexico during their travel in Mexican waters. For such entry into Mexican waters the immigration process is called Maritime FMM. (For more on legal entry ONLY into Mexican waters – for fishing and offshore water activities see page 29.)
Back to arrival at your first port of entry,
Here are the steps to follow to clear into any port in Mexico. Be aware that ports all run somewhat independently of each other, often with different priorities, but all basically providing you their best service. Health inspection may occur at Migración or the Port Captain’s office – wherever it happens, the inspection will focus on any health concerns facing the port you enter. For now COVID assessment has backed off, and there is currently no critical health advisory for travel to Mexico. It is always helpful for persons to carry their personal vaccination cards when traveling to foreign ports, and vaccination cards are often checked in Mexico; currently vaccination check is not mandatory in Mexican ports, however such check can be at the discretion of the Port Captain who is responsible for the welfare of the port. Some ports might still check for fever, but at present it’s usually not mandatory. Make it your discretion to determine your own best health protection, check the CDC website for its vaccine and other recommendations, before and during your travels in Mexico at: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/mexico
Note here that the Port of Ensenada is highly recommended for a cruisers’ entry in southbound travel to Mexico. Your FMM clearance here then allows you to stop along the Baja coast, (which you officially cannot do until you First check-in with Migración!)
The next entry with immigration services after Ensenada is Cabo San Lucas! Sometimes lucky folks will visit Isla Cedros when there is sometimes an immigration official on hand for check-in, but by reports this courtesy is generally made ready for commercial vessels only and is not always extended to private yachts. If you’re turned down here, then you must go back to Ensenada or proceed directly to Cabo without stopping anywhere.
Another clearance form for arrival by sea is the “Crew List for Spanish Speaking Countries”, or Despacho, the official crew manifest (see page 30). Visiting vessels must complete such form and have at least four copies when checking into port with the other documentation. The crew manifest is for the travel periods when the boat is at sea. The names on this list must match up with the persons on board. When the boat is in port the Crew List serves only to show that the boat is legally checked into the port. The people named on the Despacho do not need to be on the boat while in port (but crew touring off boat must possess valid documents and
FMM.) Crew manifests must be kept current. It helps to have blank crew manifests in reserve if you expect to make crew changes. Usually each Despacho will eventually have 2 sets of stamps, the one applied when the boat leaves a port and one put on when the boat enters the next port. Although currently Mexican protocol provides that cruisers need only check into their first port-of-call and check out of their last port-of-call in Mexico; actually that provision only holds true if there is no change in the Crew List. If crew changes are made at any port you visit, you must make out a new Crew List to reflect the change and have it approved by Migración and the Port Captain (Capitania del Puerto) because your boat is accountable for where crew have gone or what crew has been added (with their FMM clearance) before your boat can leave that port. For such documentation during your cruise of Mexican Ports, keep one copy of each Crew List and any port entry and fee receipts in an accessible file, with most recent documents on top. Another recommendation is to have passport copies of each crew member and copies of plane tickets, etc. that show the travel plans of any crew that leaves your boat, and especially document where, when and how many of your boat’s crew officially leaves Mexico.
Upon entry you first visit Migración and then the Port Captain (Capitañia) to review and sign your boat documents and pay the port “clear-in” fee usually related to your vessel’s size/weight, and then back to Migración to drop off a copy of Crew List signed by the Port Captain. The port “clear-in” fee is only charged upon first entry into Mexico and can be paid by credit card. Without credit card for this fee, protocol directs cruisers to fill out a form to take to the bank (Banjército) and return with the form stamped by bank as proof of payment. You must also contact Aduana (Customs Office) upon Port entry for vessel inspection to determine if anything aboard is NOT allowed in Mexico or requires duty payment to be allowed. Visit Mexican Customs for help in identifying items that are routinely prohibited for cruising visitors to bring into Mexico, as well as a list in types and quantity of personal items that will be duty-free.
Other required documents are boat registration with proof of ownership of the vessel or proof to identify who is legally authorized by the owner to function as captain of the vessel. A Temporary Import Permit (TIP) should also be obtained online before arrival in Mexico or at your first port of entry, contact the Customs Office (Aduana) no matter how long you intend to stay in Mexico. This document does not change vessel registry; it establishes the vessel’s ownership within Mexican waters and allows your vessel to stay in Mexico legally for up to 10 years and not be impounded. A TIP is obtained with a one-time fee of @$50.00 USD and is not issued in all ports, as it requires a special Banjército CIITEV office for processing. Port cities of Baja CA with such office include Ensenada and the ferry terminal at Pichilingue (La Paz). (For more details on TIP see page 26).
Port offices are all closed on weekends and holidays. If you arrive at this time and your crew must leave the boat before you can clear Migración, make sure you have a copy of their FMM and their plane ticket available for officials to inspect so there is no question that such person(s) were a part of your crew. Many registered marinas can clear boats in and out of port for their clients, providing better hours of service to cruisers during the marina’s longer working day. This service applies only for entry to and from ports within Mexico or internationally by way of a Registered Ships Agent. Check with each port on any further regulations for such clearance as it varies. Although port clearance is no longer required when traveling from port to port after your first entry into Mexico, it is highly recommended that you hail the Port Captain by VHF or visit the office as a courtesy upon arrival in any new port and inquire what contact with that port’s office might be required. The safety of all port visitors is the top priority for this port agent. Find contact info for Port Authorities in link to Directory of Port Captains below.
Link: Directory of Port Captains:
Open this Complete Directory filled with
information on the ports and port captains of all
coastal regions of Mexico. Here you will find
Shortcut-Links provided to contact the regional
Port Authorities, including those found in the
“Peaceful” West Coast of Mexico.
VHF Net Schedule Table
for Cruiser Anchorages in Mexico: