“We were stressed. It was not the most pleasant journey,” says Vanessa Richard. The New York Frenchman, who was stuck in France with her husband following the travel ban imposed by Donald Trump on Wednesday 11 March, wanted to return to the United States. She tried to go through Martinique, but Air France “pushed her back”, she and her husband, holders of O-3 and O-1 visas respectively.
They then decide to explore another option: a passage through Mexico which, unlike the Schengen area and other countries, is not covered by the US administration’s “travel ban”. “It was suggested to us by my husband’s lawyers as a possibility,” says Vanessa Richard. After contacting the airlines and the Embassy of France in Mexico, they decide to try it. In May, they go to Mexico City, where they pass the required fourteen, before landing at JFK. “The agents were cooler than usual as there were fewer arrivals,” observes even the French. The couple still goes through the control room, where an agent checks that they spent 14 full days on Mexican soil.
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As the travel ban extends between the United States and Europe, this Mexican trail is the subject of renewed interest on the part of Frenchmen who want to return to the United States. At present, only binationals, green card holders and diplomatic visas are allowed to return to the United States when they come from France. On the other hand, non-immigrant visa holders (L, H, J, E…) are not allowed to return directly from France.
Currently, Mexico (and many other countries) is not subject to a such a prohibition. According to the US Embassy site in Mexico City, air, rail and sea borders with the United States remain open, unlike land crossings (limited to essential workers). A policy recently renewed until Thursday 20 August. In theory, non-immigrant visa holders can therefore go through the Mexican box as long as they comply with a fourteen prior to travel to the United States and direct flights are offered (which is not the case for all countries not subject to a travel ban).
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With an E-2 visa, Gaby, a Frenchman who wanted to remain anonymous, made a round trip between Los Angeles and Mexico at the end of June to have his visa stamped and stay two more years in the United States. “I didn’t want to go on because the borders could be closed at any time,” he says. Upon his return to LAX, of immigration let him and his family pass by simply asking how their 24-hour stay was. Since he did not come from a “forbidden” country, he didn’t have to do his fourteen on the spot. There was a 1% chance that this would not work,” says the Frenchman. When asked if he would advise people from France to go through Mexico, he replied that “it depends on everyone. If part of the family is stuck in France, if you have the time and the means to do a fourteen in Mexico, why not take the risk? At worst, you will return to France.”
The operation remains risky. From a health point of view first, any displacement increases the risk of transmission of the virus and non-essential travel remains strongly discouraged. by the authorities. Then the “regulation changes all the time,” says Laurent Vonderweit, an immigration lawyer in California, “There are starting to be clusters in Mexico. Borders can be closed overnight. Getting out of the United States is taking a risk. It is advisable not to do so, especially if it is for holidays.” The lawyer recalls that the authorization to enter the territory is ultimately given by the immigration officer at the airport of arrival, even if a visa is already in the passport.
A restorator in Los Angeles on E-2 visa, Vincent Samarco had disapeits during his first attempt to pass. Arriving in Tijuana from France at the end of April, he tries to cross the border with his American fiancée, but immigration services stop them in their momentum, contacting Interpol to check the restaurateur’s previous trips. They must then fall back on a rental to Rosarito, a seaside resort south of Tijuana, where they will spend their mandatory fourteen. “On May 5, we managed to cross the border, and they did not control anything,” says Vincent Samarco. He entered the United States by land, an option reserved for essential workers according to the texts. The Frenchman states that he simply presented proof of residence in the United States. Everyone advised me not to do this, but I went to the nerve,” explains the contractor, who employs twelve people.
Blocked by Air France
For his part, Julien López, a Frenchman based in Phoenix, had problems leaving France. After attempting to return to the United States via the DOM-TOM, an idea that he had to give up due to cancellations of flights, this K-1 fiancé visa holder says Air France banned him to board a flight to Mexico, arguing — wrongly — that he was not allowed to do so. Other passengers obviously had the same problem as the Mexican Embassy in France saw fit to issue a press release at the beginning of June, stating that “due to errors not attributable to the governments of Mexico or France, an airline did not allow French nationals to board for Mexico without a document official justifying the trip.”
She also recalls that “to date, Mexico’s borders remain open to anyone who wishes to travel to Mexico from Europe. There are no restrictions related to the pandemic and no proof is required to fly.” Blocked by Air France, “I decided to take Aeromexico (the Mexican airline, editor’s note). They know the regulations,” says Julien López. After two weeks from Airbnb in Mexico, he returns to Los Angeles seamlessly. “The immigration officer asked me the same questions as usual,” he says. “Finally, I had more trouble in France than to enter the United States.”
“The best way to get a clean heart on what you can do is to contact the embassies,” says Richard. If her trip went well, she recognizes the share of risk she took. “We were afraid to get sick in Mexico. Especially since we did not have insurance to cover us there and the cost of health is high,” she says. “There is something absurd to having to go through a country that has many cases of COVID-19 as the situation is improving in Europe.”