Immigration officers usually won’t keep you waiting any longer than it takes to flick through your passport and enter your length of stay on your tourist permit. Anyone traveling to Mexico via the USA should be sure to check US visa and passport requirements. US citizens traveling by land or sea can enter Mexico and return to the US with a passport card, but when traveling by air will need a passport. Citizens of other countries need their passports to enter Mexico. Some nationalities also need a visa. Flights, cars and tours can be booked online at lonelyplanet.com/bookings.
Visitors are allowed to bring the following items into Mexico duty-free:
- two cameras
- 10 packs of cigarettes
- 3L of alcohol
- medicine for personal use, with prescription in the case of psychotropic drugs
- one laptop computer
- one digital music player
- cell phone
You cannot carry more than US$10,000 in cash without declaring it.
See www.sat.gob.mx for more details.
After handing in your customs declaration form, an automated system will determine whether your luggage will be inspected. A green light means pass; a red light means your bags will be searched.
Tourist permit required; some nationalities also need visas.
Every tourist must have a Mexican government tourist permit, which is easily obtainable. Some nationalities also need to obtain visas.
- Citizens of the US, Canada, EU countries, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Norway and Switzerland are among the dozens of countries whose citizens do not require visas to enter Mexico as tourists.
- The website of the Instituto Nacional de Migración lists countries that must obtain a visa to travel to Mexico. If the purpose of your visit is to work (even as a volunteer), to report, to study, or to participate in humanitarian aid or human-rights observation, you may well need a visa whatever your nationality. Visa procedures can take several weeks and you may need to apply in your country of citizenship or residence.
- US citizens traveling by land or sea can enter Mexico and return to the USA with a passport card, but if traveling by air will need a passport. Non-US citizens passing (even in transit) through the USA on the way to or from Mexico should check well in advance on the US's complicated visa rules. Consult a US consulate, the US State Department (www.travel.state.gov) or US Customs and Border Protection (www.cbp.gov) websites.
- The regulations sometimes change. It's wise to confirm them with a Mexican embassy or consulate. Good sources for information on visa and similar matters are the London consulate (https://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/reinounido) and the Washington consulate (https://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/washington).
Tourist Permit & Fee
The Mexican tourist permit (tourist card; officially the forma migratoria multiple or FMM) is a brief paper document that you must fill out and get stamped by Mexican immigration when you enter Mexico and keep till you leave. It’s available at official border crossings, international airports, ports and often from airlines. It's also available online. Important: at land borders you won’t usually be given one automatically (eg if crossing by car) – you have to ask for it; ensure you do.
A tourist permit only permits you to engage in what are considered to be tourist activities (including sports, health, artistic and cultural activities).
- The maximum possible stay is 180 days for most nationalities, but immigration officers will sometimes put a lower number unless you tell them specifically what you need.
- The fee for the tourist permit, called the derecho de no residente (DNR; non-resident fee), is M$533 (or US$27 equivalent), but it's free for people entering by land who stay less than seven days. If you enter Mexico by air, however, the fee is usually included in your airfare.
- If you enter by land, you must pay the fee at a bank in Mexico at any time before you reenter the frontier zone on your way out of Mexico (or before you check in at an airport to fly out of Mexico). Most Mexican border posts have on-the-spot bank offices where you can pay the DNR fee. When you pay at a bank, your tourist permit will be stamped to prove that you have paid.
- Look after your tourist permit because it may be checked when you leave the country. You can be fined for not having it.
Extensions & Lost Cards
If you lose your tourist permit, contact your nearest Instituto Nacional de Migración (National Immigration Institute; INM) office, which will issue a duplicate for M$500 (or US$25 equivalent). All international airports have immigration offices.