Important Due to Covid-19, processing times for passports are taking longer than normal for both standard and expedited services.

Do I need a passport for a cruise to Mexico?

by Michelle
(CIncinnati, Ohio)

Question: I am going on a cruise in two weeks and have never had a passport. I'm aware I can have one expedited using a service but don't want to incur extra costs, if not necessary.


Do I need a passport to get into Mexico off of a boat that sailed out of the US and returns to the US? Also, is there a place in Cincinnati that I can go to directly instead of using a service on the Internet?

Answer: While a valid passport book or passport card is generally required to travel beyond the border zone of Mexico and to travel by sea, there are exceptions.

First, the consular services section of the Mexican embassy states, "U.S. citizens entering Mexico by sea may enter without such documents if they are visiting port towns for a short visit. They should present a valid passport or passport card if they travel beyond these port towns."

Second, passengers of closed-loop cruises are also not required to a passport to re-enter the United States. A closed-loop cruise is one that begins and ends in the same port city.

Having said that, a valid passport may still be required. It depends on 1) whether or not the cruise will stop at other locations that do require one and 2) whether or not the cruise line on which you will be traveling require you to have a valid passport.

If your cruise will stop at other places, please verify the foreign entry requirements for each destination. You should also contact the cruise line concerning their travel document requirements.

Finally, if you are required to obtain a passport, you would either have to visit a regional agency or employ the services of a reliable passport expediter in order to get it within two weeks.

There is no agency in Cincinnati. You would be required to travel to either Detroit, Chicago or, possibly, the location from which your cruise depart (e.g., Miami).

If you do need the assistance of a passport expediting service, you should apply asap in order to get the best rate. Note, you can use a passport card on a cruise which has a much lower application fee.

Return to Passports for Cruises.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Mailing delays are impacting passport processing. The Department of State's processing times begin when applications are received at a passport agency or center and not when you mail them or apply at a local acceptance facility. Standard service may take between 8 and 11 weeks. This timeframe does not include delivery time. Mailing times vary across the country.

Expedited service takes from 5 to 7 weeks exluding mailing times on the front and back end. Mailing delays may be significant so requesting 1-2-day mailing may greatly help.

Regional passport agencies are offering extremely limited in-person services if you need to travel internationally in the next 5 business days. Those with qualified life-or-death emergencies are prioritized.

Life-or-death emergencies are serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (parent, legal guardian, child, spouse, sibling, and grandparent) that require you to travel outside the United States within 5 business days.

If you need to travel due to a qualified life-or-death emergency, please call the National Passport Information Center for an appointment:

Mondays through Fridays 8 AM to 5PM, call ET 1-877-487-2778 (TDD/TTY:1-888-874-7793) Outside of these hours, 202-647-4000

You can schedule your appointment up to 2 weeks before your international travel but the date of your appointment must be within 5 business days of your international travel. If you need a foreign visa, the date of your appointment must be within 10 business days of your international travel.

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