Our Experience Getting Stopped at a Surprise Immigration Checkpoint in Mexico

Today we went to Playa del Carmen for a doctor’s appointment. As we approached the police checkpoint on the south side of town, we realized that it was also manned by immigration officials — which is rare. There were also two caged immigration detention vans parked there, so it was pretty clear they were planning on making some arrests.

As we slowed to go over the speed bump, an immigration official looked at us and immediately signaled us to enter the secondary inspection area. I guess we looked like undocumented immigrants to him.

The immigration officer walked over to the passenger side of the car and asked us if we spoke Spanish. When we answered that we both did, he then began questioning us about our legal presence in the country. I told him in Spanish that we were legal residents and handed him our Mexican resident cards. After taking a photo of both cards, he released us. He was very polite and friendly.

I originally wrote an article about surprise immigration checkpoints back in June. In case you missed it, you can read it here: Mexico’s Policy of Random Immigration Inspections.

We have driven by a few surprise immigration checkpoints over the last year, but until today they were always too busy with other foreigners to stop us.

Let’s Wrap This Up

This is a good reminder to always carry some type of legal proof of your lawful presence in Mexico. That might be in the form of actual documents, copies of documents or even photos of the documents kept on your phone.

In this case, we were only detained for a couple of minutes because we could easily prove that we were here legally. A friend of ours was stopped at a similar surprise checkpoint a couple of years back but he didn’t have any proof on him. He was detained in an immigration van until his girlfriend was able to send a picture of his resident card.

Just so you know, these checkpoints appear and disappear quickly. We were stopped around 09:30 A.M. and when we went back by the same location at noon, the immigration officials were gone.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget. In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times.

10 Comments on "Our Experience Getting Stopped at a Surprise Immigration Checkpoint in Mexico"

  1. If you are on a tourist visa would it also be wise to carry it with you? I know you need it to leave the country and I would hate to lose it. Would a photo of the visa and your passport on your phone suffice??

  2. I am a resident, living in Puerto Morelos. A couple of years ago my wallet was stolen whilst I was waiting at the ADO for a bus. Big big problems following this, as they had my residente temporal, driving licence, debit card for Mexico and my UK debit card, Not only the problems of stopping your bank cards asap, but replacing the resident card and Mexican driving licence….I could not do that until I had replaced the the residents card. It happened in May and my relaced card was ready by the end of July!….So best take copies, it’s just too awful to try and replace everything and it is costly!.

    Whilst I am here, I requested the name of the dermatologist, but have not heard anything…Would you mind sending me the contact details please Many thanks

  3. Angela Underwood | September 28, 2016 at 9:20 pm | Reply

    I plan to visit for about 3 months beginning next week. I’m wondering what I will need to show them.

    • If you get stopped, just pics in your phone of your passport and the tourist visa they will give you with the date of entry.

  4. I just got my passport done in Canada for temp residence card up to 4 years, is there a place in Playa del carmen I can go and do I need an appointment? Have to be there within the first 30 days. Is there a phone number I can call and make appointment for next Tuesday or Wed?

  5. I often go to Mexico and live in Playa for 3-4 months at a time. I have never been stopped or asked for proof that I have a visa… and good thing because it is always in the condo safe with my passport! Great idea to take photos of both passport and tourist visa with my phone – thank you!

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