In the past few years, Cancun has become one of THE places to vacation. The warm weather, beautiful sand, and crystal clear turquoise water beaches have made it one of the top tourist spots in Mexico. In fact, there were nearly 6.48 million arrivals at Cancun International Airport between January and August 2022 alone (a 38.1% increase from 2021), and nearly 100% occupancy rates this past summer.
Airlines in the U.S., Canada and even Europe have noticed the increased interest in visiting Cancun and have ramped up how many flights they offer to the popular area. More people flying into Cancun has resulted in long delays at Cancun International Airport; border and customs officials, already short in supply, can’t keep up with the high numbers of visitors.
However, relief should soon be on the way.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) has chosen Cancun International to participate in its new Electronic Gate (eGate for short) program. As part of the program, U.S. and Canadian travelers, who make up the vast majority of Cancun’s visitors, may soon be able to cross the Mexican border without being interviewed by an immigration officer.
eGates (sometimes called Automated Border Control systems, or ABCs) are automated self-service border checkpoints available at international crossings like airports and train stations. They use data stored in the chip in your biometric passport and a photo or fingerprint taken when entering the eGates to verify your identity. After completing the process and verifying your identity, the gate or turnstile opens to let you through. If your identification isn’t verified or the system malfunctions, then the gate or turnstile doesn’t open and an immigration officer comes by to meet you. When safely implemented, eGates decrease bottlenecks and therefore long waits, since passengers can easily scan their way into countries without talking to a border patrol agent (you also no longer get a stamp on your passport. [Sad trombone]).
It takes around 6 seconds for the scanner to read the passport and fingerprint and a few more seconds to identify the passenger as they walk through the system. If there’s a problem, a silent alert is signaled through a computer to an immigration officer, so they can meet the person. If not, the traveler is free to pass. The total passenger processing time is said to be around 30 seconds, which is a whole lot less than now.
The eGates trial (which will also be piloted in Mexico City) is on the heels of Mexico eliminating its mandatory FMM immigration form, which travelers had to fill out, by hand, before going to passport control.
With 9 million guests expected to visit Cancun during the next peak season (January through April), Mexico has decided this is the perfect time to test pilot their new eGates at Cancun International Airport.
They’re probably right. 😉
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary