Every year, millions of Americans visit Mexico. We’re not just talking about a few million, either – in 2015, there were more than 28 million trips made from the US to Mexico!
With so many people traveling to Mexico each year, we get a lot of questions about the passport requirements to visit Mexico. The answer to that question will depend on how you plan to travel to Mexico. Are you flying to Mexico? Are you sailing to Mexico, or visiting Mexico on a cruise? Or are you planning to cross the US/Mexico border by land?
Flying to Mexico
Unless you live near the Mexican border, the fastest way to get to Mexico is to fly. You will need to have a valid passport book if you plan to fly between Mexico and the US. In fact, passport books are needed for all international travel by air, regardless of your destination!
Your passport book will need to be valid when you enter Mexico. We recommend that it be valid for at least six months past your trip to Mexico. Is your passport close to expiring? Renew it now!
Cruising to Mexico
Under the law known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, you can use either a valid passport book or passport card to enter Mexico by sea. Most travelers who visit Mexico by sea are passengers on cruise ships. When you enter Mexico for a shore excursion, you may or may not be asked to show your passport, but you should carry your passport book or passport card with you in case you are required to show it.
Many cruise lines want passengers to have a valid passport book, even when visiting countries like Mexico where a passport card can be used to enter by sea. This is because you’d need to have your passport book with you if you had some sort of emergency that required you to fly back to the US.
Sailing to Mexico
Are you planning to sail down the Pacific coast on a private yacht? Or are you joining a sail race across the Gulf of Mexico? Travelers who will enter Mexico by sea can use either a passport book or passport card to enter.
Interestingly, you’ll need to have your passport with you any time you enter Mexican waters, even if you don’t plan on docking and going ashore! Mexico enacted a new law in 2015 which requires all sailors and offshore fishermen to carry a passport when they enter Mexican waters. If you are the skipper of a boat that plans to enter Mexican waters, you’ll need to apply online with the FMM (Mexican immigration) for a permission document. This permission document will have to list the names and passport details of all your passengers and crew.
Crossing the Mexican Border by Land
The most popular way to visit Mexico is to enter by land. You can enter Mexico by car, by bus, or even on foot!
There are several items you can use to prove your US citizenship when you cross the Mexican border by land:
- A valid passport book
- A valid passport card
- A SENTRI card – this is a Trusted Traveler card issued by the US government that’s meant for people who frequently drive back and forth to Mexico
When you enter Mexico by land, your passport may or may not be checked. For many years, passport enforcement by Mexican officials at border crossings has been lax, but they are becoming increasingly strict about checking passports. Don’t forget that you will also need to have your passport checked by US authorities when you return. The US is even considering levying fines on US citizens who try to cross the Mexican border without a passport!