Although going to Tijuana for dental care can save you a lot of money, the biggest obstacle for many people is the long line to cross back into the US. To help facilitate things, here are a few tips to help you cross back into the US faster.
1. Get a US Passport Card. A Passport Card is different than a Passport Book, and if you have one, you won’t need the other. The card, is an official US photo I.D., issued by the US government, at the same place you would get a US Passport book. It is the same size as a driver’s license, and costs only $40. You can get it in about 3 weeks. The main reason for using the card is, by having one; you are allowed to use the “Ready Lane”. It has a separate gate, and is a much faster line. It can save you a couple of hours wait, at peak times. The Passport Card has a RFID chip, (radio frequency identification). It allows the US Customs to scan the card, before you get to the Customs agent. (A passport book does not have the chip, so if you only have a passport book, you cannot use the Ready Lane.) Because an I.D. with an RFID chip allows you to be prescreened, they created the Ready Lane to speed up the process of re-entry into the US. If you have a passport card, or an enhanced driver’s license, you do not have to stand in the regular line. You can walk past everyone, and walk right up to the Ready Lane gate, and show your Passport Card. The wait in the Ready Lane is usually under 45 minutes.
2. Use the Medical Fast Lane to drive back into the US. There is a special driving lane, created by the Mexican Authorities, to facilitate Medical/dental tourism. You have to have a pass, issued by a clinic, to gain access. We can issue our patients a pass for the Medical Fast lane, and it is good for 48 hours. This lane will allow you to cut you in front of the line, about 8 cars from the US Customs control booths. It will take you about 15 minutes to get across the border. When you set up your appointment, our coordinator will give you simple instructions of how to find our clinic, and where to park. He will also explain how to get into the Medical Lane to return to the US. Just bring your license plate number to the clinic, and we will print you out a pass.
Important Note: Because the Fast Lane merges with the Ready Lane, in order to use a Medical Fast Pass, you have to make sure everyone in the car has an ID with the RIFD chip. The ID with a chip is a Passport CARD, a Border Crossing Card, a new version of a Permanent Resident card, or an enhanced drivers license. If you only have a passport book, or a regular drivers license, they you don’t have a chip, so you will have to go through the regular lanes.
3. Take Alternative transportation. For those without a Passport Card, and who don’t want to drive across, one option is to take a bus or van to ride back into the US. The cost is about $10 each. It may not save you a lot of time, but at least you can sit, rather than stand in line. Our receptionist can explain how to do it, when you are done with your appointment.
4. Make sure you have the proper documentation. If you want to get back across the border smoothly, make sure you have the right documents. Although US Customs cannot prevent you from re-entering the US if you don’t have a Passport, they can hassle you if you don’t have one. It is worth it to plan ahead, and get a passport, or passport card, (the card is the best option). However, there are times that patients have needed to come before they could get a passport, because of a dental emergency. If that is the case, at least have your driver’s license, or state issued I.D., plus a second I.D. like your birth certificate. Us Customs may screen you more carefully, but they will definitely allow you back into the US.
** Please note: An expired US Passport is still an acceptable form of I.D. for US Customs. It still proves you are a US Citizen, or have legal status, and it is still registered in the National Data base. An Expired U.S. Passport is much better than a driver’s license. You will only need it to show US Customs, as Mexico Customs does not require a passport to enter a Mexico border crossing.