How Do Mexicans Enter the US LEGALLY?

I’m assuming Mexican citizens need a passport to enter the US. Do they need visas as well? If so, does the US government have strict guidelines as to how many visas they give out, to whom they give them, etc.?

It seems to me that, for a Mexican who wants to enter the US, the cost of getting a passport (and a visa, if necessary) has to be less than the cost they pay smugglers to bring them across the border - and less risky.

On the subject of visas, are any nation’s citizens allowed to enter the US with a passport only, and not have a visa?

NOTE: I may be wrong in my understanding of passports vs. visas. As I understand it, some countries allow citizens of some other countries to enter with only a passport, while others require you to have a visa. For example, when I went to Europe some 20 years ago, I did not have to have a visa to enter the UK. But I did have to apply for and receive, in advance, a visa from France. So my understanding is that a visa is a sort-of pre-emptive “permission slip” to enter a country. If I am wrong on this, please correct me.

Up until a few days ago, Canadians didn’t even need a passport to enter the US. They certainly don’t need a visa.

Mexicans need a visa, and it’s very hard to get one. For instance, they have to prove they have a significant financial reason to come back to Mexico.

Twenty seven nations participate in the US Visa Waiver Program, allowing thier citizens to travel to the United States for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

Work visas and student visas need to show a US cititzen or buisness sponsoring the applicant. A person without such a sponsor, therefore, may feel that they need to jump the fence.

The visa application process can take quite some time, and someone who needs a job asap may opt to jump the fence instead.

I think we’re still allowed to cross the land boundary between Canada and the US without a passport until 2009.

I recall reading a newspaper column that discussed this issue. It was an op-ed piece, so it was trying to make a political point. I will try to find the article.

At any rate, the writer said that if a Mexican citizen wants to emigrate to the United States, he may visit the US embassy or the local consulate. There is an application. The US permits a fixed number of Mexicans to immigrate legally into the United States. If the application is approved, the Mexican citizen’s name is added to the waiting list of those wanting to move to the United States.

The list is more than forty years long.

To my mind, that makes illegal Mexican immigration a whole different thing. If I am speeding in my car, I am violating the law. I can make a different choice and live comfortably within the law. However, a Mexican needing to come to the United States can attempt to follow the law, but he will be unsuccessful. There is no reasonable way to obey the law.

Well, this is of course outside the scope of GQ, but the answer to this would be that immigration is always a privilege, not a right. No one has the right to immigrate to the US, or to any other country, and an independent country would be entirely within its rights if it decided to bar entry to any immigrant, or even to any immigrant from a specific place.

Ensuring the well-being of Mexican residents is the responsibility of the Mexican government. The fact that it doesn’t seem to be able to do this successfully, with the result that some Mexicans feel that they, as you say, need to immigrate to the US, is another thing, but from a strict international relations viewpoint, this failure doesn’t give the right to Mexican residents to immigrate to the United States.

I was to El Paso (on business) a few years ago-what amazed me was the HUGE volume of daily commuters from mexico into the USA, and back again-for example-many of the wealthy mexicans send their kids to school in El Paso, and they come home every night. the daily traffic is so huge that I (and my rep) would walk across the border crossing (our mexican rep would meet us on the other side)-if we tried to drive, the wait at the crossing would be over 2 hours! I imagine the same situation prevails at the other border towns. Of course, if you were a mexican who wanted to (illegally) enter the USA, you have over 1800 miles of open land in which to do so-the problem is that crossing the desert is dangerous-you could die of thirst, or get shot by drug gangs, or turned in by coyotes (human smugglers). The sheer ingenuity of people willing to take the chance says to me, that we need to revamp our immigration policy.

Oops. Yes, I knew that - I had a brain fart as I was typing my message (I haven’t been driven across the border for a great many years, so I always think in terms of flying).

You and I may agree more than disagree. However, I apologize for injecting my poliitcal viewpoint inot a GQ thread and I will refrain from arguing my point. I will continue my search for the op-ed piece and make sure my facts are correct (at least as far as the column is correct).

It’s not terribly hard if you can demonstrate that you’ve got a clean police record and substantial reason for not wanting to stick around the United States. Essentially, be middle class or better. In my wife’s family, everyone has a tourist visa except the Mary Kay saleswoman-sister. My wife’s parents had permanent, life-long visas, but the USA converted all of those to 10-year visas. My niece is in Spokane right now as a student (may be different criteria). None of them have any connections with the US government.

Given all that, my wife was rejected twice for a tourist visa prior to applying for her fiancée visa.

Yes, there are limits to the number of employment-based visas and family-based visas that are given out every year. There are very strict rules as to who gets them. As far as your basic tourist visa, this is very hard to obtain for the class of people who typically cross the border illegally. For those Mexicans with money, property, and a very good job it’s not a problem because they can more easily demonstrate that they have strong reasons to return to Mexico, or in the alternative no strong reason to overstay (like poverty). Getting a tourist visa is ardous, expensive, and very far from guaranteed for those who don’t have the means. In the case of a good friend who wanted to come visit me in the US, I’d also have to personally guarantee his return to Mexico or face jail time.

Well, the costs are outlined above, but as far as risk you don’t want to be putting down information on a Department of State form that may be fraudulent in order to get a tourist visa if you ever plan on legally immigrating to the US.

People don’t typically enter the US from Mexico illegally because they don’t know how, it’s because they have no viable options to come here legally. My friend I mentioned? He’s an unmarried brother of a US citizen. His priority on the list is very low, even though he could immigrate legally, strictly speaking. Except he’d have to wait about 15 years. His mother went through the entire process (which meant going to Juarez from Cuernavaca several times, not easy if you know how far that is) for consular interviews, etc. She was approved to come to the US and get her green card, but couldn’t obtain a Mexican passport because she has no Mexican birth certificate (a long story, I’ll explain if you like). No passport, no border crossing. Doesn’t matter that she has a visa.

Because she can’t come to the US and eventually get her citizenship, that means she can’t sponsor her son, either. So he remains stuck in Mexico.

Yes, a visa shows you’ve been given permission to enter (although you could still be turned away at the entry point). For the visa waiver program, citizens from those countries don’t need a visa to enter the US because they have demonstrated historically that they don’t tend to overstay. You do still need a passport, however.

Many upper and middle class Mexicans living on the border hold what’s called a Border Crossing Card or Laser Visa. It’s a combination of a tourist/business visa and biometric identification card that’s good for ten years, and entitles the holder to enter into America for up to 30 days at a clip. Just like any other visa, the holder has to demonstrate the he/she has reason to return to their home country, usually done by providing employment and financial records.

As you note, the volume of routine back-and-forth at the border is pretty impressive. Many Americans will hop over to Mexico for inexpensive dinners or perscription drugs, while Mexicans will often come to America to buy consumer goods. Joint business ventures are common, and its not unusual at all for families to have various members on both sides of the border. It’s not at all the thick black dividing line on a map that most people think of it as.

What does it cost for a Mexican to get a tourist visa?

The application fee is $100.00. In addition,

Also, it should be assumed that a Mexican would have to travel to a “Visa Issuing Post”, as they would likely have to be interviewed before the visa would be issued. This would mean travel to Juarez, Guadalajara, Hermosillo, Matamoros, Merida, Mexico City, Monterrey, or Tijuana.

Now, a hundred bucks may not seem like much to you, but my friend had a college education and a “good” job. He made $6US a day. Imagine having to spend your whole paycheck (assuming it covers two weeks) just to apply for the visa. And if the State Department loses your application, you’re SOL. If they deny you, you’re SOL.

What’s he do, and where at? The engineers in my business (and the suppliers’) in Mexico earn $12 to $24 dollars per hour, and that’s “competitive” meaning not too far above the average for the areas.

Hell, given what I make in the USA, $100 still ain’t no gosh durn chicken feed here.

He’s working in a paint factory.

At least he was. He was talking about crossing last I spoke to him. Who knows, he’s probably in Los Angeles now…

…and I may add to go work in the maquiladoras as managers, quality engineers, etc.

There are some key jobs that pay comparable to US since these jobs require high technical/educational/trained skills that are not easy to find in the internal job market in Mexico. But. Not all college-required jobs are high paying jobs. My niece who is a school teacher earns about $600 a month and she is on the high paying end for entry level teachers. So. Paying a **non-refundable fee ** of $100 is no small change for her.