Do I need a passport to visit Baja California?

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The simple answer for all visitors from the U.S. and for most visitors from Canada is No, you don’t need no pinche passport. Here at the border, we see people crossing all the time without one. Across the border, at Across the Border, Anna Cearley has been collecting up reports from readers whose experiences confirm what we say.

And yet people continue to ask and the Internet’s self-appointed experts continue to give the same mistaken answer. The confusion has been caused from what both governments have been telling us. The U.S. government puts up frightening-sounding websites like “GetYouHome.gov” to talk about their “requirement” for “WHTI-compliant documents” and the Mexican government talks about enhancing security in order to continue the disastrous war on drugs. Nonetheless, people keep crossing into California and Baja California just as they have always been doing.

Those of us in The Real Tijuana cross the border, collectively, pretty much every day. We are Mexican citizens, U.S. citizens, and dual citizens. Our documentation varies but only the Mexican nationals among us use WHTI-compliant identification (laser visas and green cards) – the rest of us cross with expired U.S. passports, one of which is more than thirty years old. We have never been sent to Secondary for not being WHTI-compliant. We often see other people crossing with just a birth certificate.

Since the same questions have been cropping up over and over again, we thought it might be helpful to present a FAQ on the subject as it applies to our beat, the border between California and Baja California.

We do not intend to discourage the use of passports – we agree with the Mexican government that the passport is the “ideal international identity document” – but we disagree with irrational impediments to tourism and we are categorically opposed to any restriction on fronterizo culture. Since it is to the government’s benefit that its citizens carry passports, it behooves our governments to facilitate our access to this document. And yet both the Mexican and the U.S. governments place escalating burdens on the individual citizen instead.