Details regarding the new Mexican visa requirement for American boating anglers are still murky, nearly a month after implementation. No one is really sure how this is going to end up, not even the Mexican government.
Effective for 2012, Mexican immigration law requires any foreigner entering Mexican territorial waters by boat within 24 miles of the Mexican coast for the purpose of recreational fishing to have a special three-day, water-entry visa.
This is different from the traditional 180-day tourist visa issued to foreigners who are crossing land borders, flying in or entering via cruise ship. The new water-entry fishing visa goes through a different application process and applies only to boat-borne anglers.
And just so you know my feelings, I believe this onerous new law is retaliation for U.S. governmental steps to tighten up illegal immigration along the U.S./Mexican border.
In the past few years, to enter Mexican ocean waters to fish, boating anglers needed only a passport and Mexican fishing license ($44.80 annually). While a Mexican fishing license is still required, the water-entry visa supplants a passport, unless a passport is used as ID to obtain the visa. Then, it must also be carried by the angler.
Hardest hit by this law are anglers departing from San Diego, California, heading south to fish Mexican waters by passenger and private boats. The Mexican immigration office has authorized a Mexican-government-owned U.S. agency - MX Tour Assist - to administer the water-entry visa process through five San Diego landings. Four are passenger boat landings (Fisherman's Landing, H&M Landing, Point Loma Sportfishing and Seaforth Landing), and only one is a private boat landing (Dana Landing). A water-entry visa can also be obtained in the Mexican Port of Ensenada, about 60 miles below the border.
According to the Dana Landing website (danalanding.com), to get a water-entry visa at its waterside market and fuel dock on San Diego's Mission Bay, each private-boat angler will need to present a personal ID, as well as the vessel name and registration number, the date entering Mexico and the date returning to the U.S. The visa can be issued on the spot, according to Dana Landing staff, and it must be returned to the Dana Landing office within 24 hours of re-entry.
Dana Landing's website lists the cost of the three-day water-entry visa as $35, as well as $250 for an annual visa for "fishermen who go to Mexico regularly." The annual visa may take up to two weeks to issue, the landing's website states.
In terms of prices, Julian Kurtz of MX Tour Assist emailed us at press time to suggest that costs may change. "You may want to delete price mentions," he wrote. He suggested that the Mexican immigration department soon "may provide a solution for short-term trips."
We visited the MX Tour Assist website - mxtourassist.com - and all we could find was an "Under Construction" page.
In the meantime, California anglers are standing by. The inner working of the Mexican government are murky at best, and its laws seem to be in a constant state of flux. To help you see through the murk, stay tuned to sportfishingmag.com.