Entry/Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens
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.