Taking a lesson from the phone-sex and dial-a-psychic industries, the US State Department has hit on an ingenious scheme to squeeze a little extra cash from Mexicans seeking US visas — one that may serve the bonus function of screening out those who can’t afford to pay, reports PACIFIC NEWS SERVICE.

Recent Must Reads

8/24 – Dancehall deviants

8/23 – Stoners are better drivers

8/22 – Depleted uranium dumped in UK

8/19 – Rickets rebound

To enter the US legally, Mexican citizens need visas, which require an apppointment at the US embassy. Since 1997, one can only make an appointment by calling a 900 number that charges US$1.20 a minute — no small sum in a country where unemployment is high and wages are typically one-tenth of what they are north of the border.

Telscape International, the (of course) US-based company that handles the calls, makes an estimated $20 to $30 million a year from Mexicans seeking a more comfortable way to get to Houston than hiding under the floorboards of a delivery truck.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

  • Vince Beiser, a former Mother Jones senior editor, has reported from more than 30 countries—on troop training in Iraq, natural disasters in Haiti, and prison conditions in California.