Beginning on November 1, U.S. citizens planning to stay for more than seven days in Mexico must pay a $23.50 entry fee if crossing at the Otay Mesa port of entry, according to multiple accounts in Baja newspapers.
The 306 peso fee applies only to foreigners who plan to stay more than 7 days but less than 180 days. For tourists staying longer than 180 days, other visas are available from the Mexican government. For those staying less than seven days, no visa is required.
It remained unclear exactly what effect the new rule would have on the estimated 300,000 U.S. citizens currently living in Baja California.
The program will be tested at Otay Mesa, then expanded to all border crossings along the northern border, authorities said. The entry lines in Otay have already been marked to identify them.
“This is more of a security measure,” an unidentified Mexican customs agent told El Mexicano. “It's like saying to visitors: 'We don't want to bother you and we aren't going to block your passage but we want to know who you are and where you are going.'”
For Americans who want to reside in Mexico on a permanent basis, there are other types of permissions available from Mexican consulates.
Immigration officials emphasized that Americans who plan to come to Mexico for a few hours, overnight, or for the weekend would not be affected by the new rule.
There was no indication of when the program would be expanded to other border crossings in Baja California.
UPDATE 11/19 6:50 a.m.
On November 18, Mexican authorities discontinued the requirements for crossing at Otay Mesa due to protests among business and political leaders.