|BY BRANDON HAYWARD
WON Staff Writer
It’s official: U.S.-based anglers fishing Mexican waters need an FMM visa, while crewmembers on sportboats will need an FM3 visa.
The new requirements stem from a Mexican law passed on May 25, 2011, and enacted by (INAMI) Mexico’s Immigration Department.
On May 25, 2011 a new immigration law in Mexico was enacted. According to a press release, the new law was created “in order to create in our country a framework of guarantees to protect the rights of the individuals in our country, facilitate and manage the migratory flows to and from Mexico, favoring the protection and respect of human rights of Mexicans and foreigners, regardless [of] their origin, nationality, gender, ethnicity, age and immigration status.”
What the new law means for anglers is that a visa must be obtained before fishing on both sport and private boats. Any trips that fish within 24 miles of land need to have visas for everyone on the vessel. International “safe passage” clauses allow for transit inside the 24 mile buffer without permits. Trips fishing outside of 24 miles of Mexico will not need visas. Good news: come the summer/fall offshore season, trips that fish outside of 24 miles will not need visas.
A third party, Mexican-owned company, Mex Tour Assist, has been set up to process and assist with visas. The cost of the visas for sportboat anglers will be, as of Jan. 1, per person: Three days or less: $28.00, four to nine days: $33.06, 10 to 30 days: $38.06.
As of February 1, the costs will increase, and be, per person: Three days or less: $33.06, four to nine days: $38.06, 10 to 30 days: $43.06.
The cost of the FM3 work visa — which needs a sponsor, which Mex Tour Assist provides — is $250 after the $90 handling fee to Mex Tour Assist. They are issued per boat, so if crewmembers work on multiple boats, they’d need multiple visas if fishing within 24 miles of Mexican territory.
All four San Diego landings have been set up to sell the visas — which are simply being tacked on to ticket prices — to sportboat anglers. As of press time, landings weren’t selling visas to private boaters. Private boaters can purchase the visas at Dana Landing in Mission Bay. Cost will be $35 per person, per trip. John White at Dana Landing said that it will take less than 5 minutes to process the visa. No anglers came into the landing on New Year’s Day to buy a visa and go private boat fishing in Mexico.
The other option is to obtain the visa in Mexico and bypass the handling fees. But only the Port of Ensenada’s INAMI office sells the FMM visas that are valid at sea.
Troy Williams at Mex Tour Assist told WON that FMM Visas purchased in Tijuana and San Ysidro are not valid at sea.
“They stamp them valid for land or sea. The stamps they put on in Tijuana (and San Ysidro) are for land travel only,” said Williams. “The only place (near the border) to get the FMM for sea use is in Ensenada.”
Cost is $21 if obtained in Ensenada. The visa for anglers and boaters is different from the terrestrial FMM. A “new” visa is needed for each trip. Few anglers are expected to visit Mexico to get the visas.
Passports are not needed to get the visas. In fact, John White at Dana Landing said that a credit card is acceptable identification for private boaters getting a visa. For juveniles, a school ID or library card are acceptable. National IDs are being required by INAMI. National IDs will be asked for if boarded/checked.
The visas have to be returned after the trip, and it is the responsibility of the angler to return the visa. Mailing the visa is one option. As is returning it to the place of issue.
The visa requirement has hit the 3/4-day fleet hard. It will be $123 — after visa and Mexican permit — to fish the Coronado Islands on H&M Landing’s Malihini. The boat did not get out New Year’s Day or Monday.
Rick Marin at H&M Landing said that the Malihini will do something it’s never done before — offer local 3/4-day trips that will not fish in Mexican waters. The trips will be online Monday through Thursday and cost just $70 — $123 will be the price to fish the islands on its Friday, Saturday and Sunday trips to the Coronados.
Long range boats will no longer have to check into Ensenada to fish Guadalupe Island. The visas are totally separate from licenses and permits, so permits remain the same. The Red Rooster III and Royal Polaris were the first boat to depart with the visas on Jan. 2.
Here are more details about the visa, provided by Mex Tour Assist:
• All U.S. or International tourists traveling to Mexico must have a visa to enter Mexico. This is called an FMM permit. This permit must go through a different process depending on whether one is entering by land or by sea.
• INAMI has authorized a 3rd party organization to initiate the water entry visa process at the 5 San Diego landings for tourists with passage on any SAC member vessel.
• The SAC landings will only be facilitating the visa. All other Visa’s must be obtained in Mexico.
• The cost of the visa will vary depending on the length of the trip and the value of the Peso.
• INAMI will monitor the border and execute random inspections of all vessels crossing into Mexican territorial waters, including monitoring the private marine recreational sector.
• If you are boarded by INAMI, they will ask you for a National ID and your Mexican visa.
• The visa must be processed and paid for ahead of time
• All FMM Visas are to be returned within 24 hrs upon return to the U.S.
• Vessels traveling through the territorial waters of Mexico, not engaging in activities, but seeking only “innocent passage” while enroute to international waters, will not be required to have a visa.
• Crew members will be required to have a FM3 which can be obtained through the 3rd party company or in a INAMI office.