What is a Border Crossing Card?

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • The Border Crossing Card is issued by the US Department of State for Mexican citizens entering the US temporarily.
  • It grants multiple entries for up to 10 years for purposes of pleasure or business but does not allow work in the US.
  • Applicants need to meet requirements such as Mexican citizenship, ties to Mexico, and a valid Mexican passport.
  • The card can be converted to lawful permanent residency (green card) by meeting eligibility criteria and providing evidence of lawful entries.

The United States of America and Mexico share a crucial border, with many regularly traveling in and out of both countries. For many Mexicans, the Border Crossing Card provides the easiest way to enter the US for personal purposes. Often, the BCC is confused about the US Green Card. However, the Border Crossing Card is very different in the rights and privileges it accords to the individual.

In this article, we will explain the primary purpose of the Border Crossing Card, what it entails, and the application process for BCC.

Border Crossing Card Explained

The Border Crossing Card is an identification card issued by the US Department of State to Mexican citizens who enter the US for temporary reasons to help them realize their American dream. The card is valid for up to 10 years, with the only exceptions made for children. Children below the age of 15 can get a BCC at a reduced fee. However, it is only valid until they are 15, after which it needs to be renewed.

The card contains the card holders’ photo and biometric information, along with a scannable built-in RFID chip and an Integrated Contactless Circuit. The use of such tech makes it easy for US border and immigration officials to scan the card and identify individuals before allowing them into the country. The BCC card was previously known as the “laser visa.” Within the immigration office, the BCC is called the Form DSP- 150.

Border Crossing Card Privileges

The Border Crossing Card gives certain privileges and rights to the individual holding it. For example, every BCC individual can visit the US on a B1 or B2 status. In layman’s terms, it means that the cardholding individual can visit the US for pleasure, business, or both.

Those holding the BCC can enter the US an unlimited number of times for ten years. However, they can stay for a short duration of 30 days and move only to certain areas from the point of entry. If the individual stays in the country beyond the stipulated time, they can be legally prosecuted for being an unlawful presence in the United States. Additionally, it’s important to note that the BCC does not permit the individual to work in the United States of America.

If the individual wants to stay longer or travel more freely within the United States, they can request a Form I-94 Arrival/ Departure record from the immigration officer when they enter the country. This form is valid for up to six months and allows the individual to travel freely within the United States of America.

Border Crossing Card Requirements

There are certain qualifications that a person must meet to receive the Border Crossing Card. BCC is exclusively given to Mexican citizens and residents of Mexico. Additionally, other rules for the BCC include applying for a visa as a visitor- either a B1 business visa or a B2 tourist visa.

Here is a list of requirements needed while applying for the Border Crossing Card:

  • Having convincing ties to Mexico. This includes owning property or a business in the country
  • The individual must hold a valid Mexican passport
  • Have proof of citizenship and residence in Mexico
  • Meet the requirements for B1/ B2 visa
  • The financial capacity to support travel and stay in the US

For further information, individuals can refer to the USCIS and DOS websites.

How to Apply for a Border Crossing Card

The process to apply for a Border Crossing Card is simple. Individuals interested in getting a BCC must visit the US embassy in Mexico City or one of the nine US consulates present in Mexico. For further information, visit the website for the US consulate in Mexico.

The next step is to complete the online non-immigration visa application or the DS-160 to apply for the B1/ B2 visa. The visa application requires a passport-style photograph with particular dimensions and requirements. Make sure you have all the documents ready before filling up the form. Once you have submitted the form, take a printout of the acknowledgment slip and the application, as it is required during the visa interview.

Border Crossing Card Fees

At the moment, the Border Crossing Card costs the same as applying for a non-immigrant visa. According to the Department of State website, the fee for non-immigrant visas and border crossing visas is currently $160.

Important to note that Mexican children under the age of 15 can get a border crossing card for a reduced fee. The reduced fee for the BCC is $15. In this case, at least one parent of the child must hold a valid BCC or must be applying for a BCC. The Border Crossing Card issued at a reduced price expires once the child reaches 15 years of age. However, the border crossing card can be renewed with a full fee to receive the benefits and full duration of the BCC. Further information on the cost of border crossing cards can be found on the Department of State website.

Border Crossing Card to Green Card

A person holding a Border Crossing Card can convert their legal status to a green card holder or lawful permanent resident.

First and foremost, to apply for a green card, the individual must be eligible for the green card and meet the requirements. If the individual has valid family-based immigration connections, they can enter the country lawfully. Entering the US with the BCC guard is also considered legal. When applying for the green card status, the applicant has to provide all evidence of every lawful entry made into the United States of America. Entering the United States using a Border Crossing Card does not provide documentation with the date and location of entry. Mexican citizens entering the country with a BCC can request a form I-94 arrival/ departure record, which accesses definitive proof of the date and location of the individual at the point of entry. This can act as vital evidence of entering the United States of America when applying for a green card.

B1/ B2 visas are meant for business or pleasure travel, and are temporary visas. They explicitly mention the individual’s intent entering the United States, with details of their arrival and departure. Every individual entering the United States of America must come in with expressed intent. However, this can be subject to individual circumstances and life events. For instance, a Mexican citizen may be entering the US to meet their relatives or spouse on a B1/B2 visa with no intentions of applying for a green card. But due to the pandemic, the individual decided to stay with their spouse in the US. This can be a legal basis for applying for a green card with a BCC entry.

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The Border Crossing Card is a vital means of travel between Mexico and the United States for Mexican citizens. With many Mexicans having relatives in the United States, the border crossing card acts as a handy tool in enabling travel within the United States of America for a long duration. However, the BCC comes with its limitations and cannot be used as a replacement for the Green Card.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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