Bizav Ops to Mexican Resort Destinations – Part 3: Passports, Visas & CIQ
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week entitled “Bizav Ops to Mexican Resort Destinations – Part 2: Fuel, Catering, Cabotage & Local Area.“
This is a post by author Jorge Alva and Jana Lopez. Jorge and Jana are based at Universal Aviation Mexico, which has an FBO facility in Toluca and aircraft ground handling facilities in Cancun, Los Cabos, and Cozumel. Jorge and Jana are experts on business aircraft operations in Mexico and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
For U.S. and many other nationals access to Mexico is straight-forward and easy. However, there are considerations to be mindful of in clearing customs, immigration and customs (CIQ) as procedures and requirements can vary airport to airport.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Passports and visas
There’s no need to have six months remaining validity on passports when arriving in Mexico. As long as your passport is valid for length of stay this should not be an issue. While visas are not needed for U.S. nationals, they’re mandated for many nationalities. When a visa is required it must be obtained prior to arrival in Mexico, otherwise the passenger or crew member missing the required visa will not be permitted into the country. Note that crew who require visas must obtain these in advance. There’s no allowance in Mexico for crew to enter on the gen dec without a required visa.
2. CIQ processing
CIQ is processed within the fixed-base operator (FBO) at all above locations, with the exception of Toluca (MMTO), La Paz (MMLP) and Queretaro (MMQT) where you’ll clear in the main terminal before proceeding to the FBO. While clearance time varies by airport, plan on about 30 minutes or so if you have five passengers onboard.
All opened in-flight catering will normally be disposed of upon international arrival due to agricultural restrictions. While some airports have facilities to store GA catering not all do. If there are no approved food storage facilities available at the airport you’ll not be able to leave the airport with catering items to take to your hotel. Be mindful of declaration requirements if you’re bringing large quantities of food or alcohol to a home of yacht in Mexico. You may be limited to certain quantities and being over the limit can create issues. Best practice is to send a list of declarable items to your handler in advance so that they can notify the relevant authorities.
4. Arriving from the south
All international GA arrivals from Central and South America, as well as from Caribbean locations, must clear CIQ and a military security check at either Tapachula (MMTP) or Cozumel (MMCZ) prior to landing at any other destination in Mexico. Of the two, MMTP usually takes longer to clear, perhaps 1 to 1.5 hours. However, you will not need to shut down APU or avionics during these checks. For both of these stops be aware that you may be surrounded by armed military personnel upon landing. This security requirement can be inconvenient for some operators. For example, if your final destination is Cancun (MMUN) you’ll need to land at MMCZ and undergo security checks prior to repositioning the 36 miles to MMUN. If you’re flying from Lima (SPIM) to Los Angeles (KLAX) with a planned stop at MMAA you’ll also need to plan a stop at MMTP.
5. An experience to remember
Clearing CIQ at MMTO is probably the longest experience you’ll encounter anywhere in Mexico. Passengers will deplane at the main terminal and, later, reposition to the FBO. During your main terminal stop you’ll first be processed by immigration then walk 10 meters to the area for customs checks and baggage x-ray. Then, you will need to press a button and if the light goes “red” you’ll proceed to secondary customs inspection where all bags will be opened and inspected. After that, an Agriculture and Health officer may require the luggage for inspection. Also, the federal police will perform an independent inspection of all the bags and they’ll often do manual inspections. Be aware that you may encounter multiple detector dog checks at MMTO, as canine units are used by customs, agriculture and the army.
6. Additional Reading: Mexico Resort Destinations
Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.
- Part 1 – airports and permits
- Part 2 – aviation fuel, in-flight catering, and cabotage
- Part 3 – passports, visas, customs and immigration
If your flight involves clearing into Mexico from the south it’s best to pre-brief passengers on what they’ll experience at either MMTP or MMCZ. Having your aircraft surrounded by armed militia and having detector dogs and automatic weapon equipped handlers coming up the air stairs can be unnerving for passengers who’ve not experienced this sort of military security check in the past. Also, ensure that your crew and passengers have appropriate visas prior to entry into the country.