US citizens traveling by land or sea can enter Mexico and return to the US with a passport card, but if traveling by air they will need a passport. Citizens of other countries need their passport to enter Mexico. Some nationalities also need a visa.
As well as your personal luggage, you may bring the following into Mexico duty-free:
- if entering by air, up to US$300 worth of goods
- if entering by land, up to US$75 worth of goods
- medicine for personal use, with prescription or letter from the GP
See https://embamex.sre.gob.mx for further details.
All tourists must have a tourist permit, available on arrival. Some nationalities also need visas.
Every tourist must have a Mexican-government tourist permit, easily obtained on arrival. Citizens of the US, Canada, EU countries, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland are among those who do not need visas to enter Mexico as tourists. Chinese, Indians, Russians and South Africans are among those who do need a visa. But Mexican visas are not required for people of any nationality who hold a valid US, Canadian or Schengen visa.
If the purpose of your visit is to work (even as a volunteer), report, study or participate in humanitarian aid or human-rights observation, you may well need a visa whatever your nationality. Visa procedures might take a few weeks and you may be required to apply in your country of residence or citizenship.
The websites of some Mexican embassies and consulates, including those in London (http://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/reinounido) and Washington (http://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/washington), give useful information on visa regulations and similar matters. The rules are also summarized on the website of Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Migración (www.inm.gob.mx).
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 or the US State Department (http://travel.state.gov) and US Customs and Border Protection (www.cbp.gov) websites.
Tourist Permits & Fees
You must fill out the Mexican Forma migratoria múltiple (FMM; tourist permit) and get it stamped by Mexican immigration when you enter Mexico, and keep it till you leave. It’s available at official border crossings, international airports and ports. At land borders you have to ask for the tourist permit.
The length of your permitted stay in Mexico is written on the card by the immigration officer. The maximum is 180 days, but they may sometimes put a lower number unless you tell them specifically what you need.
The fee for the tourist permit is around M$500, but it’s free for people entering by land who stay less than seven days. If you enter Mexico by air, the fee is included in your airfare. If you enter Mexico by land, you must pay the fee once you arrive or at a bank in Mexico at any time before you re-enter the border zone to leave Mexico (or before you check-in at an airport to fly out of Mexico). The border zone is the territory between the border itself and the INM’s control points on highways leading into the Mexican interior (usually 20km to 30km from the border).
Most Mexican border posts have on-the-spot bank offices where you can pay the DNR fee immediately on arrival in Mexico. Your tourist permit will be stamped to prove that you have paid.
Look after your tourist permit because you need to hand it in when leaving the country. Tourist permits (and fees) are not necessary for visits shorter than 72 hours within the border zones.
Extensions & Lost Permits
If the number of days given on your tourist permit is fewer than 180, its validity may be extended up to this maximum. To get a permit extended, apply to the INM, which has offices in many towns and cities: they’re listed on the website of Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Migración (www.inm.gob.mx/gobmx/word/index.php/horarios-y-oficinas). The procedure costs the same as the tourist permit and should only take half an hour or so. You’ll need your passport, tourist permit, photocopies of them and, at some offices, evidence of ‘sufficient funds’ (a major credit card is usually OK). Most INM offices will not extend a permit until a few days before it is due to expire.
If you lose your permit, contact your nearest tourist office, which should be able to give you an official note to take to your local INM office, which will issue a replacement for about M$500.