Mexico is a country that is blessed with a vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, beautiful shorelines and so much more besides, and for many Americans, a trip down to the US’s southern neighbor is a convenient and attractive option.
However, crossing the border into Mexico is not the same as traveling domestically, so you have to make sure you carry all the relevant documents. And to help you understand what’s necessary, in this post, we have all the info you need about travel to Mexico requirements.
Travel to Mexico Requirements:
General entry requirements
Entry requirements for travel to Mexico depend on the nationality of the traveler, but in almost all cases, a valid passport is required. We’ll cover which documents American citizens need to carry to enter Mexico later in this post.
Mexican authorities require the passport to be valid for the duration of the stay, but some airlines and transit countries require the passport to be valid for more than six months, so it is best to ensure your passport has more than six months of validity remaining, just to be sure.
In addition, a visa may be required, although nationals of around 80 countries and territories can now enjoy visa-free travel to Mexico for up to 180 days.
The full, up-to-date list can be found on the official website of the Mexican government (in Spanish).
For stays of longer than 180 days, a visa will normally be required for all nationalities.
On arrival, travelers are required to fill in a form known as the Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM – this is also sometimes known unofficially as the Mexico tourist card.
Travelers arriving by air can now complete a Forma Migratoria Multiple Digital (FMMD), an electronic version of this form, before traveling to speed up the process.
The FMM documentation should be kept safe and carried throughout your stay in Mexico since it may be checked at checkpoints, and you will also need to produce it when leaving the country.
Entry requirements for US citizens traveling by air
For US citizens arriving in Mexico by air, a passport book is required – a passport card or any other type of identification will not be accepted, and if you don’t have a valid passport book, you will be refused entry into the country.
To be safe, you should ensure your passport has at least six months remaining validity to be safe, but you may be permitted entry with a passport with less than six months remaining.
However, if your passport has limited remaining validity, you should make sure you leave Mexico before your passport expires.
US citizens traveling for tourism or business don’t need a visa to enter Mexico for stays of 180 days or less. However, you will be required to fill in an FMM or FMMD, which you should keep safe and be able to produce for random checks and verification at checkpoints.
For stays of longer than 180 days, you will need to apply for a visa. You will also need to apply for a visa if you are planning to work or study in Mexico.
Entry requirements for US citizens traveling by land
In the past, it was possible to enter Mexico overland from the United States with a valid form of ID such as a driver’s license or a state-issued ID card. However, nowadays, this is no longer the case.
According to the official website of the Mexican embassy in the US, “All citizens of the United States must present a valid passport when entering Mexican territory by any means of transportation. There are no exceptions for minors.”
However, the US Travel.State.Gov website also states that passport cards are acceptable and that you can use the card’s Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to quickly pass through a Ready Lane.
Several sites online state that you may be able to travel into Mexico overland using forms of identification such as a SENTRI card or an enhanced driver’s license, but these are not mentioned on the official sites of either the United States or Mexico.
However, to cross back into the US when leaving Mexico, several other forms of ID can be used, as follows:
- Valid Passport
- Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
- State Issued Enhanced Driver’s License
- Enhanced Tribal Cards
- US Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
- US Merchant Mariner Document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business
- Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
- Form I-872 American Indian Card
If you intend to stay within around 12 miles of the border area, you don’t need to complete an FMM. However, if you plan to travel beyond the border area, you should stop at an office of the Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) to complete one.
It is the visitor’s responsibility to do this, and it is necessary to complete the form since you may be asked to show it at any time during your stay in Mexico.
Driving into Mexico
For those driving into Mexico in a US-registered vehicle, it is necessary to apply for a temporary vehicle import permit to travel beyond the border zone.
The permits are issued by the Banjercito and require a deposit to be paid. The deposit will then be refunded when you leave the country.
This is not necessary if you only plan to remain within around 12 miles of the border, and there is an exemption for Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sonora. In these so-called “hassle-free zones”, it is not required to apply for a permit for US-registered vehicles.
Carrying money and goods into Mexico
The maximum amount of cash you are permitted to carry into or out of Mexico is $10,000.
If you are traveling with over $300 worth of goods other than your own personal possessions, you are required to declare them at customs.
For example, if you were wearing a watch worth over $300 or you had a jacket worth over $300 in your suitcase, you wouldn’t need to declare them.
However, if you had clothes worth over $300 that didn’t belong to anybody in your party, you would need to declare this at customs.
Traveling with children
According to the US Travel.State.Gov website, “A parent or legal guardian departing Mexico with minor children should carry a notarized consent letter from the other parent if traveling separately.”
No special vaccinations are required for travel to Mexico, although it is recommended that you be up to date with all your regular vaccinations before traveling. These include:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Who can travel to Mexico without a visa?
Nationals of certain countries and territories (listed here, in Spanish) can travel to Mexico without a visa for the purposes of tourism, business, transit, as a correspondent or for medical treatment. For work, study or other reasons, a visa is required to gain entry to the country.
- Can you travel to Mexico with a REAL ID-compliant ID card?
No. When traveling by air, the only valid document for entering Mexico is a passport book. When entering through a land border, a passport card can also be used.
- Is it ok to not fill in an FMM when traveling further than 12 miles into Mexico?
When staying within around 12 miles of the border area, you don’t need to fill in an FMM. However, when traveling further into the country, an FMM is required.
It is up to the traveler to ensure this is done since there are no checkpoints or other borders to cross.
However, it is strongly advised that you do this because you may be asked to produce the document at any time during your stay, for example at checkpoints on roads.
If you are unable to produce this document, it is likely to land you in trouble, so it’s not worth taking the risk of not doing it, especially since it is free and easy to do.
- Does regular health insurance cover travel into Mexico?
Before traveling to Mexico, you should make sure your health insurance policy covers your trip – and if it doesn’t you should take out further coverage.
It is also important to note that Medicare and Medicaid do not pay for treatments received in Mexico.
- Can the authorities deny entry to Mexico?
Border officials will not usually cause any trouble for legitimate travelers trying to enter Mexico. However, they can choose to allow you less than the standard 180 days at their discretion if they believe there is a reason to do so.
At the same time, those who have been convicted of serious crimes may be denied entry into Mexico.
An international destination that requires proper travel documentation
Although for most trips, US citizens don’t need to apply for a visa, you’ll still need a passport book to fly there – while if traveling over land, a passport card will suffice.
There are also several other formalities to complete, such as filling in an FMM and registering your American vehicle. As a result, it’s best to make sure you know exactly what’s required before you head south to cross the Mexican border.