When planning a trip to Mexico you might wonder how hard is to cross the border from Mexico to the USA. It is easier than you might think (provided you are willing to cross legally).
Though Trump Wall is now in everybody’s mind and is set to stop illegal crossings, the truth is that this border is already the most heavily crossed in the world (both legal and illegaly). Along its 3,185km, there are more than 350 million legal crossing every year. How many? Yes indeed, close to 1 million crossing every-single-day. So, there must be an easy way to do it.
Passport, visa and I-94 permit
To be fair, provided you have the proper red tape it is very straightforward though time consuming. Mexicans, as most of Latin Americans, need a visa to enter the US. However, most Europeans, Australians, Japanese, Canadians and a few other nationalities can enter with no other document but their passports.
There are 48 official entry points between the two countries. Every day long queues are formed early to cross from Mexico to the US, but also on the evening when many people return from their jobs back home. Queues in a normal day can take up to 1 hour. But if you are the unfortunate soul willing to cross the border on a Mexican or American holiday, may the force be with you. Times up to 4hours are standard in such dates. So please, beware of dates when crossing.
Mexicans can cross with no other permit if traveling up to a certain number of kilometers from the border (25 miles). If a Mexican is willing to travel by car all the way to Houston (311 miles), then a permit (I-94) should be obtained as soon as crossing the border. This can also be time consuming.
What if am not Mexican, American or Canadian?
Foreigners (i.e., non-Mexicans, -Americans or -Canadians) need to obtain that permit regardless how far they want to travel into US soil. For instance, if you are traveling from Tijuana and want to visit San Diego, though just across the border, you will need the I-94 permit.
Let’s say you are an Australian traveling in the same car with your Mexicans friends from Monterrey. You are going to spend a day shopping at the malls in McAllen (Texas). Sadly you will have to stop and get your permit though your Mexican friends would be able to skip it.
This permit is no big deal to get it as you will not need a plethora of documents, just your passport. However, it can be time consuming (anything from 15min to 3 hours).
Once in American soil, provided you are going further the 25-mile mark, you might be asked for a vehicle inspection. Just remember carrying guns and drugs is a felony, here, there and everywhere.
And that is it. You are free to continue your road trip in America or just do a one day visit.
What is the right queue?
The largest entry points have different kind of lanes for different purposes. The fastest one is called Sentri.
This is to be used if you hold a US identification or a Sentri card. The latter is linked to a registered license plate of the holder’s car. It is only issued to Mexicans and Canadians. Getting one takes months, so not an option if you are just traveling for a few weeks.
There is also the Ready Lane. This should be used only by US citizens or holders of US visa card called “laser visa”. Instead of having the American visa stamped in your passport, you are given a card with all personal details and a chip. That chip is read in the ReadyLanes, speeding the crossing border for about 2min. Useless if you do not have this so-called laser visa.
Some crossing points have pedestrian lanes, not all of them. In fact, out of 5 bridges crossing to Lared county (Texas) only one is open for pedestrians. Anyone can cross through them. They are normally faster than crossing by car but you are left with few transport options once you are in the US soil.
A border crossing for an aiport
Tijuana’s airport lies just 50m across the border. In 2016 a pedestrian bridge was built from the airport over the fence dividing the countries into USA. It costs US$20 each way but saves you a lot of time if going to San Diego.
What about the Wall?
The wall already exists especially dividing urban centres. It is not a matter of “will they every build it”, but of “is it ever going to be completed?”. Some cities such as Tijuana – San Diego or Mexicali – Calexico are divided by a wall. Others such as Reynosa – McAllen or Piedras Negras – Eagle Pass are divided by Rio Grande river, where a wall as such seems unlikely.