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American Traveler Detained At Cancun Airport Since Sunday

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An American traveler has been detained at Cancun International Airport by immigration authorities since Sunday 26th. There is little information currently available on why the American was detained or why he has been kept in custody.

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What is known is the American arrived in Cancun on a flight from Vienna, Austria.

Reports indicate the family of the detained man hasn’t been provided with any further information from authorities, and many questions about the situation remain currently unanswered.

A Lack Of Coverage

Only one Mexican news source in the state of Quintana Roo has so far reported on this situation. Additionally, reports have only been made through their official Twitter and Facebook feeds with no article on this incident having been published on their website so far.

The lack of coverage is raising eyebrows on social media amongst locals as incidents at Cancun International Airport including foreign travelers are often thoroughly reported.

American Traveler Detained At Cancun Airport Since Sunday

Locals Criticise The Immigration Department

The locals of Quintana Roo have been quick to question the actions of the Instituto Nacional de Migración (National Institute of Migration), with one commenter saying the immigration officials’ favorite sport is to “scare away tourism”.

Another commenter that was negative in their description of the Cancun International Airport immigration authorities claimed Mexican citizens also frequently have issues at the airport, and that the attitude of the airport authorities can leave a lot to desire.

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Line for immigration at Cancun Airport

But not every view was negative, one American commenter made the case on behalf of the immigration authorities, stating that they have flown into Cancun many times and “never had any problems”.

This echoes the experience of most American travelers that arrive at the destination, with millions touching down at the airport each year the vast majority of travelers pass through immigration with no problems and are quickly on their way to their resort.

Passport control in cancun airport

Why Travelers Get Detained

There are many reasons why a traveler may be detained by immigration authorities at the airport in Cancun, these range from relatively innocent oversight right up to international arrest warrants.

Amazingly the most common reason for detention that makes it into the news is the illegal importation of firearms. Mexico does not allow travelers from foreign countries to enter the country with firearms or ammunition.

The reason for bringing a firearm into the country, whether for personal protection or hunting, is irrelevant in the eyes of the authorities. And doing so results in immediate detention, potential prosecution, and then eventual deportation.

Police outside of Cancun International Airport parked with other cars in front of a building.

Furthermore, questions around why travelers are allowed to check-in firearms in the U.S. by airlines that are aware of the differing legislation in Mexico are gaining traction. A question being asked is whether or not the airlines themselves should be more thorough in their advising of travelers on this topic.

It is worth noting that airport authorities in Cancun actively monitor for firearms, after passing through immigration control and collecting their luggage travelers are greeted by a large team of national guard officers.

These officers perform spot checks on travelers exiting the airport, as well as detaining and searching any traveler whose luggage has been flagged upon entering the country. This control measure isn’t only for firearms, but it is one of their biggest concerns.

national guard in city

How Immigration Works In Cancun

After landing in Cancun and exiting the plane, travelers will immediately need to pass through immigration control. This process is normally trouble-free and without incident, although authorities may request proof of accommodation and onward travel.

Almost all American travelers have been granted a standard 6-month tourist visa upon entering Mexico, although this is changing.

Many travelers have reported that they are now receiving a visa that lasts only for the duration of their planned trip. Immigration has become a bigger talking point amongst Mexicans in recent years, and this stricter attitude towards tourist visas is believed to be a result of this changing public opinion.

United States passport

With that being said, travelers who want to make use of the whole 6-month tourist visa needn’t worry. It is still relatively simple to receive the full 6-month term, so long as proof of onward travel can be produced and an honest explanation of the intentions while in the country can be given.

Mexico is still welcoming to foreign travelers, and while this incident is raising questions it’s an exception and not the rule.

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Friday 21st of April 2023

My boyfriend was detained and accused of being an immigrant in Cun airport just this past week. He was then deported. He had the SAE visa, hotel receipts, and shuttle receipts and return ticket. He was held in a small room with about 20 men and given no food or water or blanket for 21 hours before he was sent back. There was a toilet in the room with no doors. He was physically searched without cause. He had no weapon, alcohol, or tobacco. The only food item he had was a bar of Swiss chocolate he was bringing for me!! He said that none of the men were American and several of them had said they had paid money to immigration there. The difference here is that he flew into terminal 4. I flew into terminal 3 from the US and did not observe anyone to have problems. People flying into terminal 2 and 4 have very different experiences than Americans and Canadians overall. Our vacation is ruined and we’ve lost thousands of dollars on hotels and flights, but I’m just glad he wasn’t beaten or worse. I’m warning everyone I can to avoid this area.

Karene edwards

Tuesday 9th of May 2023

@Holly, my brother held there in Cancun from the 6 of may we have not heard from him since. No phone cal nothing we have not heard from my brother. What should I do

Paula Gashi

Friday 31st of March 2023

I literally just went to Mexico with my inlaws and we got stopped for cigarettes that they had purchased duty free in Fort Lauderdale Airport. We got fined $800 because we were "supposed to know the rules on the amount of cigarette boxes we could bring. It's so absurd and it ruined the whole trip. How can the airline not even tell us that at the Ft Lauderdale airport. It's almost like they don't want to loose money from purchases so they stay quiet.


Thursday 30th of March 2023

Millions of tourists enter Cancun every year without having any problems at all. I'm sure the immigration authorities have a good reason for detaining this person.

Patience Barton

Thursday 30th of March 2023

The one time I went I was detained for hours due to holding my friends bag (who had physically been pushed passed customs) that had a pack of cigarettes in it from duty free. I had also purchased a pack so when the searched my bag and saw it they said I had 1 too many (only 1 per adult). When I explained that they didn't let me hand his bag to him and the pack inside was his along with the receipt to prove it they told me No, you're carrying it, it's yours. No big deal right, all I had to do was pay the tax. I had no problem with that until they told me the tax in a $40 carton of cigarettes was $263. Yes you read that correctly, too hundred sixty-three dollars TAX! When I refused siting a tax is a percentage of the cost not a multiplication of the cost, they seized my passport and told me I wasn't leaving until I paid. When I refused still hours later they told me they would arrest my friend for assaulting an officer as he was pushed passed customs stating they had him on camera. I fought it but my friend got scared and paid the "tax" for me without my knowledge. He said he wasn't taking the chance and I vowed to never go back to Mexico. So, no, I highly doubt the biggest reason for detention is guns...I believe it's tourists fighting against being robbed by the officials!


Saturday 10th of June 2023

@Patience Barton, OMG! This literally just happened to me ! I purchased 2 cartons at the cancun termal 3 duty free and they came onto me and said -1 allowed per person. If you buy at the arrival duty free you’re allowed 4 or more but more than 4 you must declare! I had 2. I didn’t have any more in my suitcase. They also took away my passport after I was standing under cameras and didn’t want to “go around the corner” to pay TAXA. Guy turned purple when I took my phone out and started yelling - no phone. I am a woman and didn’t want to “stand my ground at any cost” to prove anything to them and to find out what happens next. So I also just went and paid. My TAXA was near 400$ for a 43$ carton of cigarettes. He also started searching my suitcase and that got me really worried. I watched him like a hawk but if he’s a pro he could have slipped something there or “find” something I didn’t have. I left my purse with a friend even though he was trying to not let her come and finally went “around the corner” and Apple-paid my TAXA through the phone. They even gave me a receipt that states a 692% or something like that percent of TAXA. What scared me personally is what they do with passports they take …. I don’t even want to think. There’s all your info, address etc.

Jack D

Wednesday 29th of March 2023

I've been to the Cancun international airport about 30 times. I have never been detained. That might have to something to do with the way I look and the fact that I'm wearing a suit and tie and I speak Spanish with a Mexican accent although I'm not Latino. Unfortunately, my initial thought about this article is that customs profiled this American due to his ethnicity. Additionally and unfortunately customs may have seen a red flag because this American was traveling from Europe. More than 95% of the Americans entering Mexico come from North America. They may have also been a detention because Mexican customs no longer does any search of luggage. And without attention the luggage cannot be searched. What is further disturbing is under international law and treaties with Mexico between the United States and Mexico once a American citizen is detained they have a right to see an American consular officer. There is a reciprocity in the US for Mexican nationals under the same rules . I am a retired criminal defense lawyer.

Karrie Tran

Thursday 30th of March 2023

@Jack D, great info. Thank you!!