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How will passport and customs controls work (both in the outgoing and the incoming airports of the flight) on flights to/from Tijuana Airport (TIJ) when the new Cross Border Xpress terminal on the U.S. soil becomes fully functional

How will it work for flights:

  • to/from Mexico airports,
  • to/from US airports,
  • to/from airports in other countries?

E.g. suppose I buy a ticket San-Francisco -> Tijuana. Do I have to go through the passport/customs controls in the SF airport if I intend to come out on the US side after arriving in Tijuana?

Or can I choose when I have arrived to the TIJ airport whether I wish to remain in the US or to enter Mexico?

What about going on flights like Cancun <-> Tijuana or Vancouver <-> Tijuana?

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    Does one normally go through passport or customs controls when leaving San Francisco for Mexico? If so, that would be unusual, as the US does not examine departing passengers. Also, once you land in TIJ, you're in Mexico. You can go back to the US, but there's no "remaining" there. How do you imagine it would work that way? – phoog Dec 8 '15 at 22:46
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    crossborderxpress.com – choster Dec 8 '15 at 22:47
  • It looks to me like someone flying SFO to SAN would actually leave the USA, enter Mexico, clear Mexican customs and immigration, then walk along the skywalk bridge to the USA, where they'd then go through US customs and immigration – Gagravarr Dec 9 '15 at 0:22
  • Isn't the CBX just a regular border crossing dedicated for passenger flying to and from Tijuana airport? There's nothing on their web site indicating or suggesting anything else: 'CBX is an international border crossing and all standard international requirements apply.' – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Dec 9 '15 at 0:23
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    @NateEldredge of course. But the airline checking your passport is not the same as the formal passport control that many countries carry out on departing travelers, and the question seems to be asking about that. – phoog Dec 9 '15 at 16:40
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I believe this covers all the permutations you've asked for.

Note that passing through CBX in either direction costs money. You can buy a CBX ticket on arrival, but a valid airline ticket or boarding pass in our out of TIJ is required.

If you fly into TIJ from outside Mexico:

If you're on an international transit from outside Mexico through Tijuana to an airport in a country other than Mexico, you'll simply remain in Concourse B as you do today, and board your departing flight. You do not clear immigration or collect baggage. CBX is irrelevant for this itinerary.

If you're arriving from outside Mexico and connecting to a domestic flight, you will clear Mexican immigration here, go over to the other concourse, and wait for your flight. This is also the same as today. If your layover is long enough, and you have a visa or are visa exempt, you may use CBX to visit the United States briefly. You will clear immigration in both directions.

If you're arriving in TIJ from outside Mexico and you're walking to the U.S., you'll clear Mexican immigration and customs, follow the signs for the CBX terminal, buy your ticket, and go to the U.S. You will clear U.S. immigration even if your flight originated in the United States, because you did depart the U.S. and enter Mexico, however briefly.

If you fly into TIJ from another airport in Mexico:

If you arrive in TIJ from a domestic flight and you are bound for the U.S., you'll follow the signs for the CBX terminal, buy your ticket, and walk north. After you cross into the U.S., you'll run into Customs and Border Protection and clear immigration there.

If you walk into TIJ from the United States:

You will enter the CBX terminal, buy your ticket, and walk south. When you enter Mexico, you will clear Mexican immigration and customs. You can then proceed to your departure terminal.

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CBX is basically just a bridge to the airport (it also has parking, issues boarding passes, food, etc...). It is still an international border crossing and has its own set of controls, just like any other crossing (you also need a CBX ticket and can only use it if you're flying). A passport is required to cross the bridge in either direction, and if you need a visa to enter either country, you'll need that too.

Their website has a pretty good explanation. This diagram from their press release also shows how the process works for arriving and departing passengers.

So, for your example:

  • San Francisco -> Tijuana. You'd go to the Oakland airport and check in just like any flight to Tijuana. Travel documents suitable to fly to Mexico would be required. You'd land in Mexico, clear Mexican immigration and customs (picking up any luggage at this time), cross the CBX bridge, clear US immigration and customs, and enter the US.
  • I added a link to a diagram from the CBX folks that shows the arriving and departing passenger flows. – Zach Lipton Dec 9 '15 at 4:00
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We are US citizens within Mexican permanent residency cards. We must have INM signed and stamped FMM cards to depart Mexico.
Upon return we have to show our portion of said form. When we arrived from BJX to TIJ, we easily found the INM office as we entered the baggage claim area. We were told by the INM officer that the CBX was not a border crossing and he point blank refused to process our FMM's!
The CBX agents tried to reason with him to no avail.
We crossed the bridge with great trepidation, knowing that we risked losing our residency permits without having the FMM processed for our return.

We did not return thru the CBX for that reason, choosing instead to hire a private car to drive us across the border to the airport. That worked--nobody checks papers as you enter Mexico, so as far as the government was concerned we never left their country.

We flew back home to Guanajuato.
Everything we read about the CBX is that it is a border crossing, so we do not know how in the world can the Mexican Immigration officer tells us otherwise and refuse to process our exit papers.

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