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Pat McDonell's Blog

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Latest on Baja paperwork
Sunday, April 15, 2012
427.9 yellowfin off PV

Tourist card update: FM3 an option for sea and land travel
Work permit an option

It’s not easy putting on a tournament in a foreign country, and I direct two of them in Cabo and Ensenada. As a private boater who loves to fish the Baja coast and islands, and an angler on partyboats with three WON charters in Baja waters on the books, I’m in the thick of the discussion on the “new” sea travel permits required.

I’ve been on the phone and e-mail hell all week with readers, captains, Mexican officials, Sportfishing Association of California President Ken Franke, Baja fishing clubs and the agency that holds the rights to issuing the sea/border tourist permits now required. I did a lengthy column two weeks ago on the specifics of what we know right now on all tourist cards and Mexico paperwork. As Franke and others told me, it was the best researched piece they have seen on the situation. That felt good to hear. I am trying to get my arms around this new sea travel/immigration requirement like the rest of you. You can see that piece on my blog by CLICKING HERE.

Franke’s job as the head of SAC and a member of the Recreation Committee of the Port District is to sort out this situation relative to all boats, not just SAC partyboats and landings. A meeting one evening last week with one of the top immigration officials and Franke will be one of many in the coming months. A key clarification I received from Franke is that SAC crew members can obtain required FM3 worker permits from a list of agencies on any side of the border, and they can use that FM3  on any boat. That’s a big deal for our partyboat industry.

The update e-mailed from SAC really held few surprises, but there was one item that I asked Franke about. It dealt with FM3s, work permits, that were being obtained by private boaters as a way to avoid having to obtain the new FMM each time they wanted to cross the border in a boat. Sailboaters, yacht and crew captains, average anglers with skiffs. The FM3 can be obtained at the border or other agencies or clubs for between $250 and  $400 a year depending on where you obtain it. What people are finding is that the ultimate tourist card works on all forms of travel. For a full year.  

The FM3 work permit  trumps the new sea tourist visa required for crossing the border in any vessel including a partyboat, and works for all land, sea and air travel.  WON staffers have to get them each year for tournament work. For details, ask Baja travel clubs like or go on www.mxtourassist.

What is required? It’s not a wham/bam process. Julian Kurtz of MXTourist Assistance said that for his agency, you have to submit the following to MX Tour Assist:
    - FM3 request form
    - FM3 terms of agreement
    - Copy of passport book information page or passport card
    - 4 photos, 2 from front and 2 from side.  3cm x 3.5cm.
    - Cash or credit card, $400 per person.   

Or…. you can obtain an FM3 at the immigration office on the Tijuana side of San Diego-Tijuana border. The cost is less, and it likely will take two trips to get it done. Walk across. As I understand it, there is a letter you need from an U.S. business, on letterhead, and translated into Spanish, explaining your work role in Mexico on behalf of the company. The office is on the left side of the pedestrian bridge, hours M-F 9 a.m. 1 p.m. What else they require, I don’t know.

One other item of interest for all boaters crossing from the U.S. to Mexico. You can take a direct shot to Ensenada to get your sea tourist permits but you can’t stop in the 24-mile immigration zone. I hoped we might be allowed to fish on the way down, but unless you have the sea travel permit, you cannot fish if you are within 24 miles of the coast.

I hate to keep saying this, but If you trailer down your rig to fish, all you need is a normal tourist pass, free for seven days or less at the office on the right (stay in your right lane!) as you cross the border, but if you skip the border, you will need to obtain them in Ensenada for a $23 fee. Stop and get a freebie and save some money. Again, you can see that piece on my blog by CLICKING HERE for the blog I wrote that explains the paperwork requirements.  

Finally, on this side of the border, www.mxtourassist is the sole agent, at this time, for getting the sea travel tourist visa (FMM) for longer than 3 days. Two landings, Dana and Fisherman’s, sell them over the counter for three days or less. You can go online at to buy any tourist permits, FMM for any length trip or FM3 for the year,  and have them mailed. Or arrange for pickup at their new office in S.D. Bay at the Kona Kai (K dock access) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m  to 1 p.m. for now, with longer hours planned. (619) 301-6899.

That’s it for now. I’m going fishing, for crying out loud. See ya when I get back from Puerta Vallarta.   

Pat McDonell is editor of WON and directs three WON saltwater tournaments in Cabo, Catalina and Ensenada.. and prefers to think about catching fish than filling out paperwork. He can be reached at

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