How to Enter Mexico

Do I need a passport or visa to enter?

For the latest entry requirements, visit the Mexican National Institute of Migration's (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM) website, the Secretary of Tourism's Manual on tourist entry, or contact the Embassy of Mexico at 1911 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006, telephone (202) 736-1600, or any Mexican consulate in the United States.

Since March 1, 2010, all U.S. citizens – including minors – have been required to present a valid passport or passport card for travel into Mexico. While documents may not be routinely checked along the land border, Mexican authorities at immigration checkpoints approximately 20 to 30 kilometers from the U.S. border will often conduct vehicle and document inspections and require valid travel documents and an entry permit or Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM). All U.S. citizens entering by land and traveling farther than 20 kilometers into Mexico should stop at an immigration checkpoint to obtain an FMM, even if not explicitly directed to do so by Mexican officials. Beyond the 20-30 kilometer border zone, all non-Mexican citizens must have valid immigration documents (an FMM or temporary or permanent resident card) regardless of the original place of entry. Failure to present an FMM or other valid immigration document when checking in for an international flight departing Mexico can result in delays or missed flights as airlines may insist that a valid immigration document be obtained from Mexican immigration authorities before issuing a boarding pass.

All U.S. citizens traveling outside of the United States by land or sea (except closed-loop cruises) are required to present a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document such as a passport or a passport card to return to the United States.

Travelers with passports that are found to be washed, mutilated, or damaged may be refused entry to Mexico and returned to the United States. We strongly encourage all U.S. citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel. U.S. citizens can visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs' website or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for a passport.

All U.S. citizens entering Mexico by sea, including U.S. citizens engaged in recreational or commercial fishing in Mexican territorial waters, are required to have an FMM or other valid immigration document. Additionally, boats engaged in commercial activities in Mexican waters, including sports fishing vessels, must be inspected and permitted by the Secretariat of Communications and Transportations (SCT), which publishes Spanish-language information on Mexican boating permit requirements.

All U.S. citizens departing Mexico by international flight for return to the United States must present a valid U.S. passport.

While WHTI compliant documents other than passport books are sufficient for re-entry into the United States by land or sea, they may not be accepted as entry documents by the particular country you plan to visit; please be sure to check with your cruise line or countries of destination about foreign entry requirements.

Mexican immigration regulations allow the use of the passport card for entry into Mexico by air. However travelers should be aware that the card is only for use at United States land border crossings and sea ports-of-entry, and may not be used to board international flights to or from the United States. Further information on the passport card can be found on our website.

Legal permanent residents in possession of an I-551 Permanent Resident card may board flights to the United States from Mexico.

Minors: Effective January 2, 2014, under Mexican law travel by minors (under 18 years of age) must show proof of parental/guardian permission to exit Mexico. This regulation applies if the minor is traveling by air or sea; traveling alone or with a third party of legal age (grandparent, uncle/aunt, school group, etc.); and using Mexican documents (birth certificate, passport, temporary or permanent Mexican residency). The minor is required to present a notarized document showing the consent to travel from both parents (or those with parental authority or legal guardianship), in addition to a passport, in order to leave Mexico. The document should be in Spanish; an English version must be accompanied by a Spanish translation. The document must be notarized or apostilled (for information, fees, and how to make an appointment for notarial services at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City please click here). The minor should carry the original letter (not a facsimile or scanned copy) as well as proof of the parent/child relationship (birth certificate or court document such as a custody decree, plus photocopies of both parents’ government-issued identification).

According to INM, this regulation does NOT apply to a minor traveling with one parent or legal guardian, i.e. a consent letter from the missing parent is NOT required. In addition the regulation is not intended to apply to dual national minors (Mexican plus another nationality) if the minor is departing Mexico using the passport of the other nationality. However, if the minor is departing Mexico using the Mexican passport, the regulation does apply. The Embassy nevertheless recommends that dual nationals travel prepared with a consent letter from both parents.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City has received numerous reports of U.S. citizens being required to provide notarized consent forms for circumstances falling outside of the categories listed above, and/or being asked for such permission at land border crossings. Therefore, the Embassy recommends all minors traveling without both parents carry a notarized consent letter at all times in the event airline or Mexican immigration representatives request one.

Travelers should contact the Mexican Embassy, the nearest Mexican consulate, or INM for more information.

Business Travel: Upon arrival in Mexico, business travelers must complete and submit form FMM which grants them the right to conduct business, but not employment, for a 30-day period. Travelers entering Mexico for purposes other than tourism or business, or for stays of longer than 180 days, require a visa and valid U.S. passport prior to entry. U.S. citizens planning to work or live in Mexico should apply for the appropriate Mexican visa prior to traveling at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, or at the nearest Mexican consulate in the United States.

Vehicle Permits: Foreign tourists wishing to travel beyond the border zone with their vehicle must obtain a temporary import permit. If they do not, they risk having their vehicle confiscated by Mexican customs officials. At present the only exceptions to the requirement are for vehicles traveling in the Baja Peninsula and those vehicles covered by the "Only Sonora" program in Western Sonora. This program generally covers the area west of Mexican Federal Highway 15 between the Arizona border and the Gulf of California, ending in Empalme. Foreign vehicles entering Mexico through land border crossings in Sonora do not need temporary import permits if they remain within the zone established by the program. All foreign tourists, however, must have their valid immigration documents with them at all times while traveling through Mexico regardless of whether or not they must register their vehicles, and the registered owner must be in the vehicle. For details on the program, visit the "Only Sonora" website (Spanish only).

Changes to Mexican immigration and customs laws will likely affect customs regulations on the importation of vehicles. U.S. citizens can find information on Mexican customs regulations at the following websites: www.aduanas.gob.mx and for English readers: http://www.aduanas.gob.mx/aduana_mexico/2008/pasajeros/139_10179.html.

To be eligible for a temporary import permit, one must submit evidence of citizenship, the vehicle title, a vehicle registration certificate, a driver's license, and pay the processing fee at either a Banjercito (Mexican Army Bank) branch located at a Mexican Customs (Aduana) office at the port of entry, or at one of the Mexican consulates located in the United States. Pursuant to recent changes in Mexican immigration law, foreigners with temporary or permanent resident immigration status may not obtain a temporary import permit (this change does not apply to temporary resident students). Only tourists who come to Mexico for less than 180 days are eligible to acquire a temporary importation permit for their vehicle.

Mexican law also requires depositing/posting a bond at a Banjercito office to guarantee the export of the car from Mexico before a date determined at the time of the application. For this purpose, drivers will need to make a credit card or cash deposit of between $200 and $400, depending on the make/model/year of the vehicle. In order to recover the bond, travelers must depart the country before the expiration of the allotted temporary import time period and request their refund at any Mexican Customs office immediately prior to departing Mexico.

Regardless of any official or unofficial advice to the contrary, vehicle permits cannot be obtained at checkpoints in the interior of Mexico. If the permit is not obtained before entering Mexico or cannot be obtained at the Banjercito branch at the port of entry, do not proceed past the border zone. Travelers without the proper permit may be incarcerated, fined and/or have their vehicle seized at immigration/customs checkpoints. In addition, Mexico also requires an emissions certificate for vehicles being permanently imported into Mexico. There are also restrictions on the age of vehicles being permanently imported butno such restrictions for cars under temporary permits. For further information about all vehicle import issues, visit the English-language website for Mexican Customs (Aduanas) at Acerca de Aduana Mexico ("About Mexican Customs").

Travelers should avoid individuals who wait outside vehicle permit offices and offer to obtain the permits without waiting in line, even if they appear to be government officials. There have been reports of fraudulent or counterfeit permits being issued adjacent to the vehicle import permit office in Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Juarez, and other border areas.

Dual Nationality: Mexican law provides Mexican citizenship both to people born in Mexicoand those born abroad to Mexican parents. U.S. citizens who are also Mexican citizens are considered by local authorities to be Mexican. Dual nationality status could result in the delay of notification of arrests and other emergencies or hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide consular services. Dual nationals are subject to compulsory military service in Mexico; in addition, dual national males must register for the U.S. Selective Service upon turning 18. For more information, visit the U.S. Selective Service website. Travelers possessing both U.S. and Mexican nationalities must carry with them proof of citizenship of both countries. Under Mexican law, dual nationals entering or departing Mexico must identify themselves as Mexican. Under U.S. law, dual nationals entering the United States must identify themselves as U.S. citizens.

Customs Regulations: For information about U.S. customs, please refer to our Customs information page. U.S. citizens bringing gifts to friends and relatives in Mexico should be prepared to demonstrate to Mexican customs officials the origin and value of the gifts. U.S. citizens entering Mexico at land borders can bring in gifts with a value of up to $75.00 duty-free, except for alcohol and tobacco products. U.S. citizens entering Mexico by air or sea can bring in gifts with a value of up to $300.00 duty-free. Please refer to Mexico's customs guide for passengers for more specific information, including requirements related to declaring cash or other financial instruments exceeding the equivalent of $3,000 U.S. dollars.

Personal Effects: Tourists are allowed to bring in personal effects duty-free. Per Mexican customs regulations, in addition to clothing, personal effects may include one camera, one video cassette player, one personal computer, one CD player, 5 DVDs, 20 music CDs or audiocassettes, 12 rolls of unused film, and one cellular phone. Tourists carrying such items, even if duty-free, should enter the "Merchandise to Declare" lane at the first customs checkpoint. Travelers should be prepared to pay any assessed duty on items in excess of these allowances. Failure to declare personal effects may result in the seizure of the items, plus the seizure of any vehicle in which the goods were transported for attempted smuggling. Recovery of a seized vehicle may involve payment of a substantial fine and attorney's fees. See also the "Firearms Penalties" section below regarding Mexico's strict laws and penalties regarding the import of firearms or ammunition.

Temporary Imports/Exports: Mexican customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or exportation from Mexico of items such as cars, trucks, trailers, antiquities, medications, medical equipment, business equipment, etc. Prior to traveling, contact the Mexican Embassy or one of the Mexican consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Donations of Goods: U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico with goods intended for donation within Mexico, or traveling through Mexico with goods intended for donation in another country, should be aware of Mexican Customs regulations prohibiting the importation of used clothing and textiles or other used goods into Mexico, even as charitable gifts. The importation of all medicines and medical equipment for charitable purposes must be approved by Mexican Customs in advance; failure to obtain the proper import permit(s) will likely result in the confiscation of the medical supplies. Expired medications cannot be imported under any circumstances.Individuals or groups wishing to make charitable donations should check with Mexican Customs for the list of prohibited items, and should hire an experienced customs broker to ensure compliance with Mexican law. The individual or benevolent group, not the customs broker, will be held responsible for any fines or the confiscation of the goods if the documentation is incorrect. For further information, visit the website for Mexican Customs (Aduanas).

Mexican authorities require that all international transit through Mexico of persons and merchandise destined for Central or South America enter Mexico only at the Los Indios Bridge located south of Harlingen, Texas on Route 509. The U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros is the nearest consulate to Los Indios Bridge and may be contacted for up-to-date information by calling 011-52-868-812-4402, ext. 273 or 280, or by checking their website, which lists in English the most common items prohibited from entry into Mexico.

Special Travel Circumstances in Mexico

Weather conditions in Mexico vary as they do in various parts of the United States. From June to November, the country may experience strong winds and rains as a result of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico or along the Pacific Coast. Some areas may experience earthquakes. It is prudent to leave a detailed itinerary, including local contact information and expected time and date of return, with a friend or family member.

Water Sports: Visitors to Mexico should carefully assess the potential risk of recreational activities. Recreational facilities such as pools may not meet U.S. safety or sanitation standards. Swimming pool drain systems may not comply with U.S. safety standards and swimmers should exercise caution. Several U.S. citizens have died in hotel pools in recent years. Do not swim in pools or at beaches without lifeguards. Parents should watch minor children closely when they are in or around water. U.S. citizens have drowned or disappeared at both remote and popular beaches along the Mexican coasts.

Warning flags on beaches should be taken seriously. If black or red flags are up, do not enter the water. In Cancun, there is often a very strong undertow along the beach running from the Hyatt Regency all the way south to Club Med. Several drowning and near-drowning incidents have been reported on the east coast of Cozumel, particularly in the Playa San Martin-Chen Rio area. In Acapulco, avoid swimming outside the bay area. Several U.S. citizens have died while swimming in rough surf at the Revolcadero Beach near Acapulco. Despite the presence of U.S.-trained lifeguards, several U.S. citizens have drowned in the area of Zipolite Beach in Puerto Angel, Oaxaca, because of sudden waves and strong currents. Beaches on the Pacific side of the Baja California peninsula at Cabo San Lucas can be dangerous due to rip tides and rogue waves and not all hazardous beaches in this area are clearly marked. Swimmers, waders and even people simply walking along the beaches have been washed into the ocean by rogue waves. Several have drowned and others have disappeared. Encounters with sharks have occurred all along Mexico's coastline.. Surfers and other water sports enthusiasts should always inquire about local conditions before going into the water. Do not swim alone in isolated beach areas. Beaches may not be well-marked, and strong currents could lead to dangerous conditions for even the most experienced swimmers. Do not dive into unknown bodies of water, because hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death.

Rented sports and aquatic equipment may not meet U.S. safety standards or be covered by any accident insurance. Scuba diving equipment may be substandard or defective due to frequent use. Inexperienced scuba divers in particular should beware of dive shops that promise to "certify" you after only a few hours' instruction. There are several hospitals and medical centers with hyperbaric decompression chambers to treat the effects of nitrogen narcosis (commonly referred to as the "bends") in Mexico. These tend to be in large cities and near tourist destinations where scuba diving is common, such as the Yucatan Peninsula. Please note you will be expected to pay for service up front and likely in cash. A number of tourists have died in parasailing accidents after being dragged through palm trees or slammed into buildings. U.S. citizen tourists have also been killed in jet-ski accidents, especially in group outings when inexperienced guides allowed clients to follow each other too closely. Accidents involving breaking zip-lines have also occurred.

Boats used for excursions may not carry adequate life jackets, radios, or tools to make repairs and may not be covered by accident insurance. Mariners preparing to depart from a Mexican harbor should visit the harbormaster and leave a detailed trip plan, including intended destination and crew and passenger information.

Resort Areas and Spring Break: Over 3 million U.S. citizens travel to Cancun and other Mexican beach resorts each year, including as many as 120,000 during "spring break" season. Excessive alcohol consumption, especially by U.S. citizens under the legal U.S. drinking age, is a significant problem. The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, but it is not uniformly enforced. Alcohol is implicated in the majority of arrests, violent crimes, accidents, and deaths involving U.S. citizen tourists. See also the section above entitled "Sexual Assault."

Mountain Climbing and Hiking: Travelers who wish to climb Pico de Orizaba in Veracruz should be aware that summer droughts in recent years have removed much of the snow coating and turned the Jamapa Glacier into a high-speed ice chute, increasing the risk of death or serious injury. At least 17 climbers have died on the mountain and 39 have been injured in recent years. Rescue teams operate without the benefit of sophisticated equipment. Any medical treatment provided in local hospitals or clinics must be paid in cash. While regulation of the ascent is minimal and guides are not required, the U.S. Embassy recommends hiring an experienced guide.

The Popocatepetl Volcano, located 40 miles southeast of Mexico City, and the Colima Volcano, located approximately 20 miles north-northeast of Colima city in the state of Colima on the southwestern coast, are two of the most active volcanoes in Mexico. The area surrounding Popocatepetl has been declared off-limits by the Mexican government for several years. When visiting volcanoes, Stayin designated tourist areas and observe all safety recommendations from the Mexican Proteccion Civil that monitors the conditions. Ash emitted from these volcanoes can cause respiratory problems and can occasionally disrupt air travel.

When departing on an outing to backcountry areas to hike or climb, it is prudent to leave a detailed itinerary, including route information and expected time and date of return, with your hotel clerk or a friend or family member.

Marriage and Divorce Requirements in Mexico: In general, to marry a Mexican national in Mexico, a U.S. citizen must be physically present in Mexico and present any documents required in the local jurisdiction where the marriage will take place. U.S. citizens who marry U.S. citizens or other non-Mexicans are not subject to a residence requirement, but are required to present their tourist cards. For additional information on marriages in Mexico, contact the Mexican Embassy or nearest Mexican consulate in the United States. Divorce requirements vary according to jurisdiction. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens consult an attorney and/or the Mexican Embassy or nearest Mexican consulate for information on divorces in Mexico.

Real Estate and Time Shares: You should be aware of the risks inherent in purchasing real estate in Mexico and should exercise extreme caution before entering into any form of commitment to invest in property there. Mexican law and practice regarding real estate differ substantially from the United States. Foreigners who purchase property in Mexico may find that property disputes with Mexican citizens may not be treated evenhandedly by Mexican law enforcement authorities and in the courts. Consumers should consult a Mexican attorney before undertaking a real estate transaction.

U.S. citizens should exercise caution when considering time-share investments and be aware of the aggressive tactics used by some time-share sales representatives. Buyers should be fully informed and take sufficient time to consider their decisions before signing time-share contracts, ideally after consulting an independent attorney. Mexican law allows time-share purchasers five days to cancel the contract for unconditional and full reimbursement. U.S. citizens should never sign a contract that includes clauses penalizing a buyer who cancels within five days. Note that time-share companies cannot be sued in U.S. courts unless they have an office or other business presence in the U.S. The Department of State and the U.S. Embassy frequently receive complaints from U.S. citizens about extremely aggressive sales tactics, exaggerated claims of return on investment, lack of customer service, and questionable business practices by time-share companies, resulting in substantial financial losses for time-share investors.

A formal complaint against any merchant should be filed with PROFECO, Mexico's federal consumer protection agency. PROFECO has the power to mediate disputes, investigate consumer complaints, order hearings, levy fines and sanctions for not appearing at hearings, and do price-check inspections of merchants. All complaints by U.S. citizens are handled by PROFECO's English-speaking office in Mexico City at 011-52-55-5211-1723 (phone), 011-52-55-5211-2052 (fax), or via email at the link above. For more information, please see the PROFECO website.

Ownership Restrictions: Under current Mexican real estate law, Investment restrictions prohibit foreigners from acquiring title to residential real estate in so-called "restricted zones" within 50 kilometers (approximately 30 miles) of the nation's coast and 100 kilometers (approximately 60 miles) of the borders. In all, the restricted zones total about 40% of Mexico's territory. Nevertheless, foreigners may acquire the effective use of residential property in the restricted zones through the establishment of a 50-year extendable trust (called a fideicomiso) arranged through a Mexican financial institution that acts as trustee.

Under a fideicomiso, the foreign investor obtains all rights of use of the property, including the right to develop, sell and transfer the property. Real estate investors should, however, be careful in performing due diligence to ensure that there are no other claimants to the property being purchased. Fideicomiso arrangements have led to legal challenges in some cases. U.S. issued title insurance is available in Mexico and a few major U.S. title insurers have begun operations here. Additionally, U.S. lending institutions have begun issuing mortgages to U.S. citizens purchasing real estate in Mexico.

Labor Laws: U.S. citizen property owners should consult legal counsel or local authorities before hiring employees to serve in their homes or on their vessels moored in Mexico. Several U.S. citizen property owners have faced lengthy lawsuits for failure to comply with Mexican labor laws regarding severance pay and Mexican social security benefits.

Human Smuggling and Trafficking: Mexican authorities may prosecute anyone arrested for trafficking or smuggling of people into or out of Mexico in addition to any charges they may face in the other country involved, including the United States.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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