If you are about to apply for an E-3 visa in Mexico, David Ford shares his experience and offers some advice to other Australians during COVID-19.
David Ford has renewed his E-3 visa three times in Sydney. However, with COVID-19 quarantine and travel restrictions, David chose to apply for an E-3 visa in Mexico.
In the video interview, David speaks to his personal experience in preparing his paperwork, securing an Expedited Appointment, his travel to and from Mexico, concerns over COVID-19 and personal safety, plus taking time to travel outside of Mexico City.
I successfully renewed my E3 visa in Mexico City in October 2020. It took 4 months of document preparation, but the actual travel and interview process was a very smooth 4+ days!
DISCLAIMER: This video is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. David has generously shared his personal experience in traveling from New York to apply for an E-3 visa in Mexico, however, everyone’s situation is different, and your experience may not be the same. Please contact an Immigration professional for specific legal advice regarding your individual situation.
Travel to Mexico from New York:
- The actual travel to and from Mexico City was very smooth. I booked a one-way ticket a week before traveling, and booked the return when I had a sense of when the passport would be returned.
- You may feel more comfortable booking through an Agent, especially if you want to add on travel within Mexico.
- Delta separates the middle seats and you have to wear masks, but there’s no actual temperature screening at the airport – just checkboxes during online check in declaring you don’t have symptoms.
- Arriving in Mexico City, there’s a paper COVID-19 questionnaire asking about the places you’ve been in the last 14 days and if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, but no-one actually collected that. Nor did they collect the customs form, but all bags were scanned. Transiting through the airport did not have any additional delay.
- Uber from airport to downtown is an easy $5-$15, the App worked seamlessly in Mexico.
- My T-Mobile plan included Mexico, (plans differ so check before leaving) and the connection had high-speed data.
- I recommend staying within walking distance of the Consulate. Reason being is while you can take a phone to the first ASC appointment (as long as you turn it off), you can not take ANY electronics or bags or even a smartwatch to the consulate interview. So you’ll have to navigate without a phone if traveling solo. Only take your passport and folder of paperwork (not even a briefcase. Wallet and keys are ok). There are bunch of hotels from $50-200/night within a few blocks.
- US Consulate location: https://goo.gl/maps/jvUT1PQJzW36m3qB6
E-3 visa Interview Process:
- ASC interview: 7AM, still dark, 30+ people lined up around the block. Everyone was wearing a mask, but not 6 feet apart until they reached the front of the line where the staff were screening people. Line moved quickly. In and out in 30 minutes.
- Consulate Interview: 8:30AM, 50+ people standing for two hours. I arrived 20min early, but it didn’t make any difference really. A staffer took my passport, DS160 confirmation page, and LCA while in line.
- Once inside, the interview was 5-minutes. I saw a bunch of other Aussies also renewing E-3s. The staff were friendly and were familiar with the E-3 visa. I received a confirmation paper slip and they retained the passport, saying they would email when ready. They approximated it would be two days, but couldn’t confirm.
- Two days later I received an email saying the passport was ready for collection. You have to sign into the appointment website again to schedule a time to pick up from the ASC. They’re not open for collection on weekends (despite their website saying so). Collection was super quick – I actually arrived an hour early and it took 2 minutes to pick up. No line.
Mexico During COVID-19
- I felt as safe in Mexico City as I do in New York. 95% of people were wearing masks on the street. All Uber drivers, hotel staff, waiters etc. wore masks. There are many temperature checks and hand sanitizer when entering hotels and restaurants etc. QR codes everywhere for menus.
- That said, get travel insurance. I went through Allianz.
- About half of the cultural institutions and venues are open, but I mostly laid low around the hotel.
- Favorite restaurants:
- I booked a car from Alamo next door to the Consulate and had a great trip 2-hrs outside of Mexico City at a beautiful lake called Valle de Bravo for several days while waiting for the passport to be returned. There are isolated outdoor activities like mountains and waterfalls (and paragliding and RZRs if you really want higher adrenaline). But mask usage around the streets in this more rural area was closer to 20%, so I avoided markets and ate outdoors and favored takeaway back to the hotel. There was no-one else in the entire hotel! The pool and view were gorgeous and it was great to be outside the concrete sprawl of Mexico City.
- General COVID-19 questions were asked when checking in at Mexico City airport.
- Before entering the security line, you have to scan a QR code and complete a COVID-19 questionnaire (where you’ve been, if you have symptoms etc.). When you submit the form it gives a confirmation QR code, but they don’t scan it, they just ask you to screen shot it for your records (had difficulty translating this one!)
- Eat before you go on planes or buy food at the airport to carry on – they only serve bagged snacks and small bottles of water. So much plastic. Lame food. They do have beer and wine though.
- Anecdotally, I did notice people towards the front of the plane were more disciplined about wearing masks in between removing to eat. Towards the back of the plane there were some people who just didn’t wear a mask for the majority of the time.
Arriving at JFK:
- JFK has implemented facial recognition for entry. If you’re a citizen you don’t even scan your passport. For a visa holder you still line up at an in-person counter (and they’re still stamping two years from point of entry for E-3s) but there’s no paper customs form or immigration forms to fill out.
- Don’t forget to check that the visa category and departure date on your I-94 was correctly entered. Mistakes happen! https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home. Contact your Immigration Attorney immediately if there is a mistake!
- No customs or bag checks on the way out, but they are handing out one COVID-19 questionnaire per household (can submit either paper or QR copy). But again, they were very lax and said “just submit it when you get home”. This is a New York State requirement to quarantine at home for two weeks, not a Federal requirement, so it will vary by state.
- Get a rapid test at CityMD for peace of mind (results emailed in 20-min), but you still have to quarantine for two weeks regardless.
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