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Mexico Entry Requirements - Required Travel Documents for Travel to Mexico

A CBP agent checks a passport at the US Mexico border

Currently, a valid passport or passport card is required for all U.S. citizens traveling beyond the Mexican border zone - defined as the land within 20 kilometers of the border. There are specific exceptions for minors traveling by air or sea.

  • To re-enter the U.S. by land or sea - Passport books or passport cards are required for all adult U.S. citizens.

    Children under the age of 16, may present an original or copy of their birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate. Children under the age of 19 who are U.S. citizens traveling with a school group, religious group, social or cultural organization or sports team, may present these documents as well; however, they must also provide documentation from the supervising organization, contact information, and letters of consent from a legal parent or guardian. In both cases, a passport or passport card is still a more convenient option.
  • To re-enter the U.S. by air - Passport books are required for all U.S. citizens – regardless of age. Passport cards are not accepted for air travel.
  • Document condition matters - Passports and all pertinent travel documents must be in good condition. Mexican immigration may not accept washed, mutilated, or otherwise damaged passports, and require their carriers to return to the United States.

Regardless of how you plan to travel into Mexico, U.S. citizens who do not have a passport should apply for one well in advance of their trip. If time is short, be sure to consider expedited processing options. In some cases, registered passport courier services can help you get a passport in-hand is as few as 24 hours.

Tourist Travel

A visa or tourist card - also called a Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM) – is now required for all U.S. citizens visiting as tourist for six months. Previous exemptions for short stays (less than 72-hours) or stays within the border zone no longer apply. A tourist card is mandatory for all leisure visits by land, sea, or air. These FMM cards can be purchased at Mexican consulates, border crossings, tourism offices, airports, and airline offices.

Mexican immigration officers and other law enforcement entities have the right ask visitors to provide proof of their legal status at any time. As such, travelers are expected to keep their cards with them at all times and must be able to produce them upon request. It is worth noting that, on occasion, travelers that have been unable to produce proper documentation have been detained. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep photocopies of your passport and tourist card in case the originals are lost, damaged, or stolen.

While these tourist cards remain valid for up to 180 days, U.S. citizens must return the cards 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/or go through the process of obtaining an exit visa.

Business Travel

Travelers visiting Mexico for business must also complete and submit Form FFM. This form authorizes visitors to conduct business, but not to obtain employment. Business travelers, other non-tourist 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.

For travelers expecting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border on a regular basis, the SENTRI card issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may be worth acquiring. It allows access to speedy commuter lanes, drastically reducing time spent waiting in line at CBP checkpoints.

Similarly, the FAST card allows commercial drivers (typically trucks) access to dedicated lanes through most North American border crossings.

Vehicles

Any U.S. vehicle traveling beyond the Mexican border zone may be confiscated unless the driver is able to present a temporary import permit. Incarceration, fines, or vehicle seizure may result from driving into the Mexican interior without this documentation.

Obtaining this permit requires evidence of citizenship, a vehicle title, vehicle registration, a valid driver license, and a processing fee. Drivers must also post a bond at an office of the Banjercito (the Mexican Army Bank) to guarantee that the vehicle will be exported by a certain date. Cash deposits or credit card information is required. Posting this bond at a Mexican customs office or certain Mexican consulates will allow you to avoid additional fees and charges. You will receive a refund of your deposit as long as you leave Mexico before the permit expires.

Be warned, travelers should never accept the service of individuals outside of official permit offices or consular agencies offering expedited service. These services are largely fraudulent and lack the authority to accept deposits, issue proper documentation, or handle deposit refunds.

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.

What may be brought into Mexico

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.

Before packing, consult our guide of the items NOT to pack for an international trip.

Dual Citizenship

Dual U.S./Mexican nationals should carry citizenship documentation for both countries when traveling to Mexico. In the case of Mexico, this means carrying both a U.S. and Mexican passport.

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.

 

Still have questions about the requirements for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border? The Bureau of Consular Affairs website is the best source for the most up-to-date information about current regulations.

Should you need to obtain travel documentation quickly, be sure to visit our guides on how to expedite your passport and visa applications.

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