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Mexico Entry Requirements - Required Travel Documents for Travel to Mexico

A valid passport or passport card is required for all U.S. citizens traveling beyond the Mexican border zone - usually defined as within 20-30 kilometers of the border. Passports or passport cards are required for U.S. citizens 16 and older to re-enter the U.S. by land, and passports are required for re-entry by air. U.S. citizens who do not have a passport should apply for one well in advance of their planned travel to Mexico. The website for the Bureau of Consular Affairs is the best source of information about U.S. passport applications.

Mexican immigration may not accept washed, mutilated, or otherwise damaged passports, and require their carriers to return to the United States.

Visas or tourist cards are not required for U.S. citizens visiting as tourist for 72 hours or less and remaining within the border zones. Tourist cards are required for longer visits or for entry by air. Tourist cards can be purchased at Mexican consulates, border crossings, tourism offices, airports, and airline offices. Travelers must keep their card with them at all times, since immigration federal officers have the right ask visitors to provide proof of their legal status at any time. Travelers without the proper documentation have occasionally been detained. It is also important to have passport and tourist card photocopies in case the originals are lost or stolen.

U.S. citizens must return their tourist card when they depart Mexico. Visitors who are unable to present their card may encounter significant delays and be asked to file a police report, pay fines, and obtain an exit visa.

Travelers visiting Mexico for business must complete and submit Form FFM. This form authorizes visitors to conduct business, but not to obtain employment. Non-tourist or business travelers, or any visitors remaining for more than 180 days, must have a Mexican visa and a valid passport to enter the country. U.S. citizens can apply for a Mexican visa at the Mexican Embassy or any Mexican consulate.

U.S vehicles traveling beyond the Mexican border zone may be confiscated unless the drivers obtain a temporary import permit. Only vehicles traveling in the Baja Peninsula or vehicles with the "Only Sonora" program are exempt from this requirement. This program allows any vehicle that enters at a land border in the Sonoran region to travel without a permit as long as it does not leave the region.

Evidence of citizenship, a vehicle title, vehicle registration, a valid driver license, and a processing fee are required to obtain a temporary import permit. Drivers must also post a bond at an office of the Banjercito (Mexican Army Bank) to guarantee that the vehicle will be exported by a certain date. Cash deposits or credit card information is required, and go to a Mexican Customs office to avoid charges or receive a refund. Incarceration, fines, or vehicle seizure may result from driving into the Mexican interior without this permit. Travelers should never accept the service of individuals outside permit offices who offer expedited service.

Dual U.S./Mexican nationals should carry citizenship documentation for both countries when traveling to Mexico. Mexico considers U.S. citizens born in Mexico or to Mexican parents to be dual citizens of Mexico. Dual citizens may be required to complete a period of military service in Mexico, and may have difficulty receiving U.S. consular assistance in the event of arrest or other emergencies. Dual nationals must declare their U.S. citizenship when returning to the United States.

U.S. citizens must declare the value of any gifts they are carrying when they enter Mexico. There is a $75.00 duty free limit for entry by land, and a $300.00 limit for entry by air. Alcohol and tobacco products always incur a duty. Personal effects will not incur a duty unless they exceed certain limits specified by Mexican customs. Undeclared items may be seized by customs. Regulations are in place regarding imports, exports, and property donations, and visitors should contact the Embassy of Mexico or a Mexican consulate if they need details.

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