Everything You Need To Know About Border Crossing Cards

an immigration attorney sitting on her desk

A Border Crossing Card (BCC) is an excellent way to enter the United States for many Mexican citizens. However, many people don’t understand the meaning of these cards. A Border Crossing Card is not the equivalent of a U.S. green card, and there are several restrictions attached to it. 

Are you experiencing issues with your immigration or visa status? At Brudner Law, we have the experience to help you with your citizenship, visa, or other immigration processes!

What Is a Border Crossing Card?

A sample United States border crossing card
Image Source: Visa Journey

A Border Crossing Card is a laminated card that allows the holder to cross the U.S.- Mexico border as a visitor with a B-1 or B-2 status, meaning you can enter the United States for pleasure, business, or both. Compared to a driver’s license, the BCC looks the same as a credit card. 

During a 10-year period, the BCC is valid for unlimited visits into the United States. The holder is not allowed to stay for an unlimited amount of time. The BCC will enable stays of 30 days or less, and there is a restriction on the travel areas. Like a one-time visitor visa, the BCC does not authorize the holder to work within the United States. 

If you are both a Mexican resident and a citizen, you can apply for the Border Crossing Card. Like a one-time B-1 or B-2 visa, the eligibility rules are the same. These requirements include:

  • Have a valid Mexican passport
  • Have financial resources to pay for your travel and visit
  • Have ties to Mexico, such as owning a business or property
  • Meet the eligibility standards for a B-1 or B-2 visa

With those requirements met, you can apply for a Border Crossing Card. 

Is a Border Crossing Card the Same as a Visa?

A Border Crossing Card does serve as a B-1/B-2 visa for Mexican citizens. The Department of State (DOS) issues the cards for Mexican citizens to enter the United States for a temporary visit. This card has machine-readable biometric information and a photo of the holder. The Border Crossing Card also features a built-in RFID chip. With that, the immigration officials at the border can scan and admit the holder at the port of entry. At one time, these cards were known as a “laser visa.” While the Border Crossing card is similar to the visa, it is slightly different. 

Many people applying for nonimmigrant visas are temporary visitors coming to the United States for pleasure or business. The State Department issues B-1 visas for short-term training and business issues. The B-2 visa is also given for those who want to visit the country. With both of the visas, the applicant must specify where they will live and travel in the application. They must have established plans before they can enter the United States. With a BCC, there are limitations to where the holder can travel. The DOS can issue a combined B-1/B-2 visa in the form of a BCC or affix a foil on the individual’s Mexican passport. 

Related: What Are Some of the U.S. Citizen Requirements?

How Far Can You Travel With a Border Crossing Card?

Aerial view of San Diego

With a BCC, there are travel limitations. A Border Crossing Card only allows the individual to travel up to 25 miles beyond the border of Texas and California. In New Mexico, the holder can travel up to 55 miles from the border. For those crossing into Arizona, the limit is 75 miles

If you want to travel farther, you must request an I-94 form at the port of entry from the Customs and Border Protection officer. There is a small fee for the form. The I-94 will specify how long you can stay in the United States. With a BCC, you will have a B-1/B-2 status. The I-94 was issued in a card format, but they are electronic at sea and airports. Anyone entering by land will receive a paper vision of I-94. To fill out the form, you will need your name, birth date, date of entry, passport information, and type of status. 

Related: How Long Does It Take to Get Citizenship After You Apply?

How Much Is a Border Crossing Card?

There is a fee for a Border Crossing Card. These fees are the same as most nonimmigrant visas. The current fee schedule of a Border Crossing Card is as follows:

  • Age 15 and over (Valid 10 years): $160.00
  • Under age 15; for Mexican citizens if parent or guardian has or is applying for a border crossing card: $15.00

The child must have one parent with a valid BCC for the reduced fee. These reduced fees expire on the child’s 15th birthday. If the total fee has been paid, the child will receive a Border Crossing Card valid for the entire 10 years.

Can a Noncitizen Fly Domestic?

With a Border Crossing Card, there are travel restrictions. While you can fly domestic, many flights are further than those limitations. For the most part, citizens and noncitizens can fly domestically in the United States with a valid form of identification, such as a passport. Without that, you will not be able to enter the boarding area. However, if you plan to travel longer and further into the United States, you must state your plans at the port of entry and fill out the I-94 form. After that, you can travel into the United States without some restrictions. 

Related: How Much Does it Cost to Apply for U.S. Citizenship? 

Conclusion

construction worker using a drill

Border Crossing Cards might seem similar to visas, but there are some restrictions. These cards are open to residents and citizens of Mexico, and they only allow the holder to travel a certain distance or stay for a limited time. A Border Crossing Card does not grant the right to work within the United States. With these cards, the individual can visit for business or pleasure in the United States without hassles. 

Do you have an immigration issue that requires experienced assistance? At Brudner Law, our team can help answer your questions about visas, green cards, and other immigration issues!