We just got off the phone with Fito Espinosa, harbormaster at Marina Coral in Ensenada, who was bringing us up to date with an important clarification in the procedure for acquiring a tourist visa for cruisers entering Mexico. In the past, cruisers have been able to get a tourist visa for everyone on their crew list through the online system, then saving the receipt to present to immigration at the first point of entry. Upon review by Mexican government officials, this procedure is no longer going to be available to cruisers entering Mexico, and will only be available for those entering Mexican waters and not going ashore, i.e. fishermen and others who might sail from San Diego into Mexican waters and return.
The revised procedure is intended to have cruisers check in at their first port of entry with immigration and then the port captain’s office. You will need to pay for the tourist visas for each member of the crew at immigration — a receipt from prepaid visas obtained online will no longer suffice. If you’re already in Mexico and have your tourist visas acquired with the receipt from prepayment made earlier, you’re fine. If you’ve already paid for your visas online, haven’t yet entered Mexico and are hoping a grace period will be allowed, it’s not clear what kind of buffer will be allowed. The worst case scenario is likely that you’d just have to pay the 500-peso fee again.
Your first port of entry could be Ensenada or Cabo, or wherever you sail in with both an immigration office and a port captain. You can see the list here (in Spanish) though not all are staffed to handle recreational cruisers or convenient to reach. If you’re relaxed and just cruising it might be easiest to enjoy some time in Ensenada and take care of the paperwork there, as both offices are located in the same building.
As always, the only constant is change. This is a recently announced clarification of how the policy is currently being interpreted and you should proceed accordingly. We’ll let you know as further clarifications arise.