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Articles

Do You Need A Passport To Go To Mexico?

Updated on May 17, 2022
Cancun, Mexico coast

Are you planning a trip to Mexico, dreaming of visiting Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, or Mexico City? and wondering, "Do I need a passport to go to Mexico?"

Well, the short answer is YES!

Yes, US Citizens need a passport to visit Mexico.

US citizens traveling to Mexico must have a valid passport book or card and an entry permit called FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple) issued by the National Migration Institute.

When visiting any foreign country, a general rule of thumb is you must have a government-issued photo id, and a passport serves as a photo id. You have to prove identity even on domestic flights.

There are some instances where you do not need a passport to go to Mexico. We will cover it in this blog.

Do I Need A Passport To Travel To Mexico By Land?

If you are traveling to Mexico by land, you will need to show documents at the Mexico border during land border crossings, and you have a few options. 

You must have one of the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:

  • A valid U.S. Passport Book
  • A U.S. Passport Card 
  • Trusted Traveller Program (TTP) Card (Nexus, SENTRI, Global Entry, or FAST)
  • Enhanced Driver's License (EDL)

The SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection) program expedites border crossing when traveling back to the U.S.

Enhanced Driver's License (EDLs) are state-issued and provide proof of identity and U.S. citizenship. As per Homeland Security, they are issued in a secure process and include technology that makes travel easier. EDLs are a low-cost, convenient option for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean through a land or seaport of entry, in addition to serving as a permit to drive.

Read more on the western hemisphere travel initiative (WHTI). It is the joint Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Traveling to Mexico By Car

If you travel to Mexico by car with a vehicle registration in the U.S., you need to apply for a temporary import permit to go beyond the border zone.

Permits are needed when driving approximately 20 kilometers beyond border zones after you enter Mexico. Permits are not required for the Baja Peninsula.  

To get the permit, you will need to leave a monetary deposit, which will be refunded upon the cancellation of the car permit when you leave Mexico.

Keep the following things in mind when getting the permit:

  • You need a valid U.S. passport book or card and an entry permit (FMM) issued by the Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM).
  • You need a valid proof of automobile registration, even if you remain in the border zone. Mexican authorities can confiscate your vehicle if you enter Mexico with an expired U.S. vehicle automobile registration.

You can apply for the permit online, at the Mexican border, or certain Mexican Consulates in the U.S. Banjercito is the government authority that issues a vehicle permit. 

What Is A Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM Card)?

FMM, commonly known as the 'Mexico Tourist Card,' is a permit issued to foreign travelers to grant entry to Mexico. It is not an actual visa.

All travelers from the U.S. to Mexico must have this tourist card.

The FMM card is only meant for tourists traveling to Mexico for recreational purposes only. 

If you are a US citizen and wish to travel to Mexico, you might need a visa in addition to the FMM card. Apply for a visa at your nearest embassy or consulate.

How Do I Enter Mexico With A Passport Card?

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A passport card is similar to your passport book, but it is less expensive and smaller than your passport book - that can fit in your pocket. It has your photo, name, nationality, date of birth, birthplace, issue and expiration dates, and your unique passport card number. 

You can reduce their wait time when entering Mexico with your passport card using the designated Ready Lanes.

Follow these steps:

  • Go to a lane that has a "Ready Lance" logo.
  • Keep your passport card in hand.
  • Display the passport card to the RFID card readers.
  • Proceed to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.

How To Apply For A Passport Card In The U.S. or Mexico?

American citizens living along the U.S.-Mexico border can apply for a U.S. passport in the U.S. or Mexico. 

If you are a U.S citizen residing in Mexico, apply for your U.S. passport at the nearest U.S. consulate.

If you are in the U.S., you can apply at one of more than 7,000 locations, including libraries, post offices, and clerks of court. 

Do I need A Passport To Fly To Mexico?

You need a passport to go to Mexico by air or to fly to any other foreign country. Your passport card is not accepted for international air travel. Additionally, children of any age traveling by air to and from Mexico also need a passport book.

When Can I Use My Passport Card?

Your passport card can be used when traveling via a domestic flight and when returning to the U.S. via land and sea from the following countries:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • The Caribbean
  • Bermuda

Do I Need A Passport To Go To Mexico On A Cruise?

Traveling to Mexico by sea is similar to traveling by land. You need to show the travel documents as mentioned before. 

You may not require a passport in case you are on a closed-loop cruise meaning the cruise begins and ends at the same US port). Instead, you can show the following documents:

  • A government-issued ID
  • A birth certificate 

However, it is better to carry a valid passport at all times, preferably one that is valid for longer than the expected duration of the trip, even for closed-loop cruises. There can be emergencies where you will need a passport. For example, your ship has to dock in a different post due to mechanical failure, or you need to fly in case you miss your embarkation.

Do Children Need A Passport To Go To Mexico?

For traveling by land or by sea, Children under the age of 16 can use their birth certificates, naturalization certificates, and certificates of citizenship to re-enter the U.S. 

For international air travel, children of any age must have a passport book.

What Are The Entry Requirements For Mexico (2022)?

Along with a valid passport, book a flight or a passport card for land or sea travel; you will need:

  • Entry permit (FMM card)
  • Completed health declaration form 

If you are driving to Mexico, apply for a temporary import license for your US-registered vehicle on arrival. 

Upon entry, a completed health declaration form is required as part of Mexico's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You will get the newest version online and get it filled online before travel.

Can US Credit Card Be Used in Mexico?

American Express cards, Mastercard, and Visa, are widely accepted in Mexico, especially at larger hotels, restaurants, and shops. 

Your US credit card use in Mexico is absolutely fine. It is convenient and lets you spend like a local.

However, just be aware that many credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of up to 3% for each transaction and ATM fees. Some merchants may also charge an extra fee for using a credit card. 

There are many credit cards with no foreign transaction fee. So go for cards that have no such fees, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Platinum Card from American Express.

There is also the currency conversion cost when you pay in US dollars called the dynamic currency conversion (DCC). DCC fees can range from 1-3% or more.

If you plan to use your US credit card abroad, inform your credit card company beforehand so that they don't freeze your account. 

While shops also accept US dollars, merchants, and vendors, the US dollar peso exchange rate is set quite poorly by the local merchants. This is because there is no regulation of the exchange rate for US dollars to pesos.

If you are paying in cash, it is better to use pesos for shopping and spending to avoid bad dollar peso exchange rates. 

Use MultiCurrency Accounts When Traveling Abroad

The major advantage of multicurrency accounts is that you can transfer, receive and hold different currencies. 

It works as an international checking account and makes payments in a foreign currency instead of opening a new bank account overseas. To do that, you can set up multiple subaccounts, each with a different currency. You also get a multicurrency card to spend overseas.

You avoid paying currency conversion costs every time you make a transaction. You don't have to worry about exchange rate fluctuations when you want to send money across international borders.

One of the most popular multicurrency accounts is offered by Wise, a digital money transfer platform. You can open a Wise's multicurrency account online and manage it in the Wise app. You can hold 54 currencies and make transfers to over 80 countries. 

Exchange rates offered by Wise are the mid-market rate with no markups, no foreign transaction fee, and no hidden fees. 

What Happens When You Travel To Mexico Without A Passport?

Mexican authorities can deny US citizens entering the country if they fail to show valid travel documents at the border.

This is the norm for all forms of travel. Border authorities will likely check all your travel documents to see if you meet the entry requirements before allowing you to enter Mexico.

Remember that when leaving Mexico, you will again be stopped at the border area checkpoint to verify your identity before being allowed back into the United States.

Always double-check that you are carrying your US passport book, US passport card, Sentri Card, or any other travel document you need to carry with you to gain entry into Mexico and then back into the US.

Conclusion

To conclude, you need to have a valid passport book or card, an entry permit, and a completed health declaration for traveling to Mexico from the US.

Before traveling, ensure you have all the necessary travel document(s) to avoid any last-minute rush depending on how you intend to travel by air, land, or sea.

Use a multicurrency account and card to save you money when spending money in Mexico to avoid poor USD to peso exchange; else, you lose money every time in the dollar exchange rate to pesos.

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