Last week, the presence of Mexican immigration officials at the police checkpoint on the south side of Playa del Carmen surprised a few of our expat friends who have been in Mexico less than a year. They were apparently unaware that Mexico’s immigration enforcement strategy includes random inspections throughout the interior of the country.
When it comes to immigration enforcement, Mexico is fairly strict. In 2016 alone (the last year with complete statistical information), Mexico sent 159,182 foreigners back to their countries of origin.
Linda and I have been stopped twice by immigration officials since we moved to Mexico less than three years ago. Both times, we were passing through a police checkpoint and as soon as the immigration official saw us, we were told to pull over. I’m still trying to guess which one of us looks more like an undocumented immigrant, Linda or me?
It was a bit intimidating the first time that it happened because they had us pull over behind an immigration detention van. Fortunately for us, we always carry proof of our legal presence in Mexico and we were immediately released upon presenting it to the official.
Proving Legal Presence
If you don’t feel like sitting in the back of an immigration van for 30 minutes while you wait for your significant other to send you a picture of your resident card (this happened to a friend of ours), then I recommend you start carrying pictures of your pertinent documents on your phone.
I confirmed with an immigration official that pictures of the documents would suffice to prove legal status during a random inspection.
Of course, you could elect to carry the actual documents but then you run the risk of losing them or having them stolen. Besides, if you spend most of your time in a swimsuit like we do, it just isn’t practical to have the originals with you at all times.
Let’s take a look at what documents you should have pictures of:
Temporary or Permanent Resident Card Holders
Take clear pictures of the front and back of the resident card. It is not necessary to have a picture of your passport.
Tourist Card Holders
If you’re wearing bracelets from one of the hotels and driving a rental car, chances are that you won’t be bothered by the immigration folks; however, it never hurts to be prepared.
Take a picture of your personal information page of your passport (that’s the one with your photo on it) and a picture of the tourist card (when applicable). The tourist card is Section Two of the FMM (shown below).
Let’s Wrap This Up
Statistically speaking, the probability of being stopped by immigration while visiting Mexico is fairly low. Unless of course you’re riding with us, in which case you can count on it.