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Mexico Entry Requirements - Required Travel Documents for Travel to Mexico

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A CBP agent checks a passport at the US Mexico border

It is one of the most common questions we have received over the past 20 years helping readers like you with their travel document needs:

Do you need a passport to go to Mexico?

The simple answer is yes . US citizens are required to present a valid passport book or passport card when entering Mexico.

There are also some alternative travel documents that can be used in place of a passport depending on where and how you plan to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Mexican authorities have made a real effort to strengthen border security. As such, there are strict rules about considered a valid travel document to visit Mexico.

The following items are considered valid identification documents for traveling to Mexico:

  • A U.S. passport book (required for all international air travel to Mexico)
  • A U.S. passport card
  • An enhanced driver's license (EDL)
  • A trusted traveler program card (NEXUS card SENTRI card, FAST card, or Global Entry card)
  • An enhanced tribal card (ETC)
  • A military identification card (only for members of the U.S. armed services on official maritime business)
  • A Military ID with official orders that require travel to Mexico or through the country's borders

The items listed above are all considered WHTI compliant documents (more on this later). While a passport book is the only acceptable document for international air travel, the rest of these options can be used at most land and sea ports of entry to Mexico and back into the United States.

Note : Not every port of entry has the RFID card readers required to accept any WHTI compliant document other than a passport book. When planning travel to Mexico, travelers should be sure they have the proper type of identification documents accepted by the customs and border protection services at their planned port of entry.

The following documents are not acceptable substitutes for a valid passport:

  • a birth certificate
  • a standard driver's license
  • an automobile registration
  • a naturalization certificate
  • any other government issued photo ID that is not expressly a WHTI compliant document

While many of these are required documents for getting a passport , none of them are considered a valid travel document on their own for entering Mexico.

Currently, a valid passport book is the best option for all U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico . It is the most reliable and versatile way to travel internationally. If you have a valid passport book, you can be sure it will be accepted at every US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Instituto Nacional de Migracion (National Migration Institute) checkpoint.

Regardless of how you plan to travel to Mexico, U.S. citizens who do not have a passport book or a passport card should apply for one well in advance of their trip.

If you are planning a trip to Mexico soon , be sure to consider expedited passport processing options . In some cases, registered passport courier services can help you  get a passport in-hand is as few as 24 hours .

Our expert recommendation for passport expediting services goes to Rush My Passport . Their courteous and professional team has offices across the US at the ready to help you get a new passport or renew an existing one quickly and without hassle. With their help, you can save both time and money compared to the costs of getting a rushed passport on your own.

It is worth noting that there are some alternatives to a passport book that will allow US citizens to enter Mexico and reenter the US. However, there are limits to how and where these can be used. For example, none of these alternatives is acceptable for air travel to Mexico or other countries.

Using WHTI Documents to Cross the Mexico Border

A CBP agent checks a driver's travel document at the US Mexico border

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative ( WHTI ) was established in 2007 to both strengthen border security and make it simpler to travel between Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and some Caribbean Islands. The program is ideal for US, Mexican, and Canadian citizens who must regularly travel back and forth across land or sea border crossings for work, family, or other reasons.

The most common of the WHTI compliant documents is the passport card , but they all essentially work the same way. Presenting one of these documents to Mexican immigration authorities will allow you to enter Mexico by land or by sea.

The same works in reverse. WHTI-approved travel documents meet the entry requirements for US citizens seeking passage back into the United States through most Customs and Border Protection checkpoints.

So, while US citizens must still always present a valid passport or valid identification when crossing back and forth across these borders, the WHTI compliant documents make life more convenient for frequent travelers in a number of ways:

  • RFID chips embedded in Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative documents speed up the process of crossing the border by land or sea.
  • Passport books have limited number of pages. Without WHTI alternatives, travelers who cross North American land and sea borders often would need to renew passports more frequently. This would cost travelers a lot of time and money.
  • Passport books are bulky. Conversely, a passport card, enhanced driver's license, SENTRI card, or other card issued as part of the Trusted Traveler Program can fit in a standard wallet or purse just like any credit or debit card. This makes life easier for those who need to carry travel documents with them as part of their daily routines.

If your international travel plans are focused solely on Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative countries (and don't involve international air travel), this may be a great way to travel to Mexico without a passport book.

Requirements for Minors Traveling to Mexico

A mother and baby on a beach in mexico at sunset

Getting a passport for a minor (considered by the State Department to be all U.S. citizens under the age of 16) is the best way to ensure flexibility when traveling to Mexico or any international destination.

For one thing, a passport book is the only way for a child (or anyone) to board and international flight.

This may not seem like a big deal, but should there be an emergency that requires travel abroad, a child will remain grounded without a valid passport book. This goes for traveling to Mexico and back, as well.

There are some acceptable WHTI documents that a minor can be eligible for (a passport card being one), but they carry the same limitations on ports of entry as they do for adults. Chief among them: WHTI documents cannot be used for air travel to Mexico or anywhere else.

In the specific case of traveling to Mexico, there are some other unique circumstances carved out for minors without passports:

  • Children who are U.S. citizens and under age 16 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory can travel to Mexico from the United States without a passport. They must present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card when entering Mexico and when returning to the United States.
  • Children under the age of 19 who are U.S. citizens traveling with a school group, religious group, social or cultural organization or sports team , may present these documents as well; however, they must also provide documentation from the supervising organization, contact information, and letters of consent from a legal parent or guardian.

In either case, a passport book is still the most convenient option to ensure maximum travel flexibility.

Tourist Travel

friends dining in mexico with a mariachi band

A visa or tourist card - also called a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) is now required for all U.S. citizens visiting as tourist for six months. Previous exemptions for short stays (less than 72-hours) or stays within the border zone no longer apply.

This Mexican tourist card is mandatory for all leisure visits by land, sea, or air. These FMM cards serve as your entry permit and can be purchased at Mexican consulates, Mexican border crossings, tourism offices, airports, and airline offices.

Mexican immigration officers and other law enforcement entities have the right ask visitors to provide proof of their legal status at any time. As such, travelers are expected to keep their tourist cards with them at all times.

Any non-Mexican citizen must must present a valid form of travel documentation-as well as their Mexican tourist card-upon request.

It is worth noting that, on occasion, travelers that have been unable to produce proper documentation have been detained by Mexican officials. Border protection and security is a big deal across North America, not just in the United States. For this reason, it is a good idea to keep photocopies of your passport and tourist card in case the originals are damaged, lost , or stolen .

While these tourist cards remain valid for up to 180 days, U.S. citizens must return the cards when they depart Mexico. Visitors who are unable to present their card may encounter significant delays and be asked to file a police report, pay fines, and/or go through the process of obtaining an exit visa .

Do You Need a Passport for Closed Loop Cruises?

No. Even if you don't have a valid passport yet, it is possible to visit Mexico as part of a closed loop cruise. You must present a valid form of identification to board, but you do not need to have a valid passport book or passport card.

Closed loop cruises are unique travel itineraries in which a cruise line starts and ends its journey from a port within the United States.

While these cruises may travel through waters controlled by other countries (or even dock at a foreign port of entry), the US citizens on board are not required to have a valid passport. Travelers can board and remain on the cruise with whatever valid identification documents the cruise line accepts.

This is a great way to travel without a passport , but it can also be quite limiting. A cruise line may advertise particular voyages as a closed loop cruises, but still offer excursions on land for travelers with valid passports or WHTI compliant documents that meet the entry requirements of the port. Being able to present a valid passport opens up the maximum potential for making the most of a cruise to Mexico - closed loop or otherwise.

Business Travel

a man and woman have a business meeting at a conference table

Travelers visiting Mexico for business must also complete and submit Form FFM . This form authorizes visitors to conduct business, but not to obtain employment. Business travelers, other non-tourist travelers, or any visitors remaining for more than 180 days must have a Mexican visa and a valid passport to enter the country. U.S. citizens can apply for a Mexican visa at the Mexican Embassy or any Mexican consulate .

For travelers expecting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border on a regular basis, the SENTRI card issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may be worth acquiring. It allows access to speedy commuter lanes, drastically reducing time spent waiting in line at CBP checkpoints.

Similarly, the FAST card allows commercial drivers (typically trucks) access to dedicated lanes through most North American border crossings.

A yellow Volkswagen Beetle parked in front of a Mexican cantina

Any U.S. vehicle traveling beyond the Mexican border zone may be confiscated unless the driver is able to present a temporary import permit (TIP). Incarceration, fines, or vehicle seizure may result from driving into the Mexican interior without this documentation.

Obtaining this permit involves producing several required documents:

  • evidence of citizenship
  • a vehicle title
  • a valid vehicle registration
  • a valid driver's license

There is a processing fee, as well.

In addition to the items listed above, drivers must also post a bond at an office of the Banjercito (the Mexican Army Bank) to guarantee that the vehicle will be exported by a certain date. This monetary deposit can be made by cash or credit card.

Posting this bond at a Mexican customs office or certain Mexican consulates will allow you to avoid additional fees and charges. You will receive a refund of your deposit as long as you leave Mexico before your Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) entry permit expires.

Be warned , travelers should never accept the service of individuals outside of official permit offices or consular agencies offering expedited service. These services are largely fraudulent and lack the authority to accept deposits, issue proper documentation, or handle deposit refunds.

Vehicles traveling in the Baja Peninsula or vehicles with the "Only Sonora" program are exempt from this requirement. This program allows any vehicle that enters at a land border in the Sonoran region to travel without a permit as long as it does not leave the region.

What may be brought into Mexico

U.S. citizens must declare the value of any gifts they are carrying when they enter Mexico.

There is a $75.00 duty free limit for entry by land, and a $300.00 limit for entry by air.

Alcohol and tobacco products always incur a duty. Personal effects will not incur a duty unless they exceed certain limits specified by Mexican customs. Undeclared items may be seized by customs.

Regulations are in place regarding imports, exports, and property donations, and visitors should contact the Embassy of Mexico or a Mexican consulate if they need details.

Before packing, consult our guide of the items NOT to pack for an international trip .

Dual Citizenship

Dual U.S./Mexican nationals should carry citizenship documentation for both countries when traveling to Mexico. In the case of Mexico, this means carrying both a U.S. and Mexican passport.

Mexico considers U.S. citizens born in Mexico or to Mexican parents to be dual citizens of Mexico. Dual citizens may be required to complete a period of military service in Mexico, and may have difficulty receiving U.S. consular assistance in the event of arrest or other emergencies. Dual nationals must declare their U.S. citizenship when returning to the United States.

The Border Zones

A hillside view of the US Mexico border

The immediate border area between Mexico's northern sates and the southern United States is known by many names:

  • The Border Zone
  • The Free Zone
  • The Free Trade Zone
  • The Liberated Zone
  • The Hassle-Free Zone
  • The Perimeter Zone

Initially, this area stretching 12-20 miles across the Mexican border, was designed to encourage travel and trade between Mexico and US travelers. As such, there were no FMM entry permit or Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP) requirements. Passports were still a necessity, though.

This changed in 2015. The Mexican government required all those traveling to Mexico to get an FMM permit to enter the county. As it stands now, the only benefit to the Border Zone area is that a TIP is not required for vehicles that are not registered with Mexican documentation. Passports (or WHTI equivalents) and FMM are now always required for US citizens entering Mexico.

Still have questions about the requirements for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border? The Bureau of Consular Affairs website is the best source for further information about current regulations.

Should you need to obtain travel documentation quickly, be sure to visit our guides on how to expedite your passport and visa applications .

Top 5 Questions About Expedited Passport Couriers

1. How can you get a passport when you're in a hurry? 2. What exactly does a passport expediter do? 3. Are passport expediting services legitimate? 4. How can I identify a reliable passport expeditor? 5. Is expedited passport service worth it?

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This guide explains what you need to know about entry requirements when you are visiting Mexico for leisure, for business, or to take up residency here.

Mexico entry requirements for tourists and short term visitors

Mexico visitors permit, fmm.

Passport holders from countries on Mexico’s no visa required list do not need to apply for a formal visa to visit Mexico. They may, instead, use a visitor’s permit, known as a FMM ( Forma Migratoria Multiple ).

For the countries that don’t need a visa , a Mexico Visitor’s Permit (FMM) is issued in place of a visa. Learn more about Mexico’s visitor permit, the FMM .

How long is your Mexico visitor permit valid?

When you enter Mexico as tourist or business visitor, the immigration official at the port of entry will grant you a number of days stay in Mexico and write this on your visitor permit. This will be a maximum of 180 days; but it may be less than 180 days.

Check to see how many days you are granted to determine your exit date.

Learn more about the number of days being granted  to people arriving in Mexico under the auspice of a visitor permit, FMM.

Visitor permits cannot be extended or renewed

The Visitor Permit (FMM) will always expire after the number of days written on the permit: it cannot be extended beyond the number of days the immigration official grants when you arrive in Mexico, even if this is less than the maximum allowance of 180 days; and cannot be renewed.  You must leave the country before it expires.

Your Mexico Visitor Permit, FMM

Do I Need A Visa to Visit Mexico

Entry to Mexico: Essential Information for All Travelers

Regardless of whether you come to Mexico for leisure, for business or to take up residency here, take note of the following:

Required documentation

For a summary of the documentation required to enter Mexico, see Documents required for travel and entry to Mexico

Minors traveling to Mexico alone

Minors traveling to Mexico alone, or unaccompanied by at least one parent or their legal guardian: Read Traveling with Minors to Mexico .

Passport validity

The maximum period of time that a visitor/tourist may stay in Mexico under the auspice of a visitor permit (FMM, see above) is six months.

Therefore we recommend that your passport, regardless of country of origin, should be valid for a minimum period of six months, however long you intend to stay to avoid any potential problems at the port of entry.

Immigration authorities at the port of entry may allow or deny entry of any person into Mexico. If you have a passport that is valid for less than six months and you intend to stay in Mexico for a short period of time —perhaps a vacation— the Immigration Officer might allow you entry, especially if you can show a return air ticket.

Notwithstanding this, we recommend that you and your family members hold passports valid for at least six months from the date you intend to enter Mexico.

For holders of U.S. Passport Cards

U.S. passport cards are less expensive than passport books and can be used by U.S. citizens who cross the border between the United States and Mexico by land or sea. These look like a driver’s license, and are more robust and less bulky than a passport book. You can learn more about Passport Cards on this page of the US State Department web site. If you are a holder of a U.S. Passport Card, please note that this is NOT valid for air travel to Mexico . Passport Cards can only be used to cross the border between the United States and Mexico by land or sea ports. A passport is required for air travel to and from the the United States.

Traveling to Mexico via the United States:

In January 2009 the United States government introduced new rules for travelers entering the country using the Visa Waiver Program (US State Dept). See Also: Travel to Mexico via the USA

Arriving to Mexico by cruise ship

If you are traveling on a cruise ship that visits Mexico, you will be asked to complete a Visitors Permit/FMM (see information above) at your first Mexican port-of-call.  This permit will be valid for a maximum of 21 days.  Ask your cruise company for details.

Traveling in transit through Mexico

As of February 2004 foreigners passing through one of Mexico’s international airports to a third country no longer require a visa or any migratory documentation, provided that they remain at the airport and depart Mexico within 24 hours of arrival. See Also: Entry Procedure at Mexican Ports

Entry requirements for business visits to Mexico

Mexico welcomes business visitors and makes the immigration procedure for short visits straightforward by means of a special section on the Visitor’s Permit described above.

Business visits to Mexico

If you are traveling on business, or representing a company to conduct business in Mexico, and you hold a passport from a country on Mexico’s “ no visa required list ” you do not need to apply for a formal visa to visit Mexico. You can, instead, use a visitor’s permit —the same entry permit and procedures used by tourists to enter Mexico (see section above for full details).

If the country you hold a passport for does not appear on the no-visa list , you should check with your nearest local Mexican Consulate  for details of visa requirements before you travel to Mexico.

Longer-term business visits to Mexico

If you plan to work or live in Mexico longer periods ( more than 180 days ), you will need to apply for a business visit visa.

This visa enables the visitor to live, work and do business in Mexico, provided that certain criteria are satisfied. You can get more detailed information about long-term living and working permits on Mexperience by connecting to the Immigration Page that contains lots of information and advice about living and working in Mexico. See also: Working in Mexico

Entry requirements for residency in Mexico

People wishing to travel to Mexico to live, work, or retire must meet certain criteria to do so. Mexperience has comprehensive sections of information dedicated to these topics of interest:

Residency visas and immigration

Our guide to Mexico Visas and Immigration page gives an overview of the requirements for temporary and permanent residency in Mexico. Also see the regularly-updated  Mexico Immigration FAQs page for the most-commonly asked questions about immigration to Mexico.

Entry Procedure at Mexican Ports

The entry procedure will vary depending on where you arrive in Mexico and whether you arrive as a visitor or as resident. See also: Procedures for Entering and Leaving Mexico

Mexican Customs procedures and allowances

Like all countries, Mexico has policies on what can be brought in to the country without paying duties or taxes.

Your customs allowances when entering Mexico

Allowances are subject to change without notice, but listed below are the principal items followed by some tips about entry to Mexico.

  • Personal Luggage: including new and used goods for personal use to include clothes, footwear, personal hygiene and beauty items which, according to the form: ‘reasonably respond to the duration of the trip and that due to its quantities may not be used for commercial purposes’;
  • Two photographic or video cameras and twelve rolls of film or videotapes;
  • Two mobile phones or pagers;
  • One used or new laptop; one used or new printer; one projector;
  • Two used or new items of sports gear;
  • One CD player or portable music player; one DVD player;
  • One musical instrument;
  • Three surfboards; four fishing rods; a pair of skis;
  • Ten packs of cigarettes (200 cigarettes total), twenty-five cigars OR 200 grams of tobacco (over 18s only);
  • Vaping imports banned: The commercial import of vaping products was banned in February 2020; however, small quantities  for personal use by visitors to the country should not be confiscated (vaping itself is not illegal in Mexico); bringing an ‘excess’ deemed reasonable for personal use may cause your entire supply to be confiscated.
  • Three liters of liquor AND six liters of wine (if the person is aged over 18 years);
  • There is a US$300 tax exemption on items you import (in addition to those already listed above) when you enter the country by means or air or maritime transport; the exemption is reduced to US$50 if you travel in by land, except at Easter, Summer Holidays and Christmas time, when the land exemption limit is increased to US$300.

Please Note:  Refer to the Mexican Customs web site for full details about customs allowances as these limits are subject to change with little or no notice .

MEXICAN CUSTOMS: TIPS & ADVICE FOR TRAVELERS

Bringing prescription drugs to Mexico:  You are allowed to bring prescription drugs into Mexico provided that you have the accompanying documentation which proves a medical need. If you or a member of your family are taking prescription drugs, be sure to take the prescription/doctor’s note with you, which includes the patient’s name and the name of the medication(s) to prove medical need of the drugs you are carrying in case your luggage gets inspected.

Don’t bring firearms or ammunition!   A foreign firearms license is not valid in Mexico ; if you own a gun, don’t take it to Mexico with you and don’t bring any ammunition with you either. The only exception is a firearm and ammunition used for hunting purposes; but you will need to apply for a special permit – contact your local Mexican Consulate . Being in possession of lethal knives, firearms of all types, and even a single round of ammunition is a Federal crime in Mexico: caught in possession of a firearm can land you in very serious trouble—even if you have a license for it that was issued in your home country. See Also: Mexico’s Strict Gun Laws

Type and quantity of items : Don’t bring anything that obviously looks like you’re planning to resell goods; for example, several laptop computers. These items will get heavily taxed or confiscated. Items for personal use will be allowed, new or used, but only in quantities that are commensurate with the definition of ‘personal use.’ If you are carrying large quantities of anything, or if the Customs Inspector believes you are trying to commercialize any of the goods you are carrying, then you may be interviewed further.

Drug smuggling: Every year, foreign nationals are arrested and convicted for drug smuggling in Mexico.  Don’t attempt to smuggle any narcotics – not even small amounts of ‘soft’ drugs, e.g. cannabis/marijuana. You may be required to present documentary evidence for any powerful prescription drugs you need to carry on your person (i.e. doctor’s prescription, see note above about prescription drugs.) Narcotic offenses (use of, import, export, dealing) are likely to land you in a Mexican prison for many years. Don’t expect your consulate to bail you out because it won’t be able to. 20-25 year prison sentences for drug and serious firearm-related offenses are not uncommon in Mexico.

What you may take home from Mexico

Customs allowances into your home country will depend on where you live.

If you are planning to do a lot of shopping in Mexico, you should check at the information desk at (air)port of departure in your home country for the latest duty-free allowances.

Most goods classed as art and craft work are free of import taxes and you can bring as many home as many as you like, provided the quantities would be considered ‘for personal enjoyment’. Check with your local port/customs authorities for details.

The following items are are typical of duty-free allowances in many countries:

  • 200 Cigarettes;
  • 50 Cigars or 250g of Tobacco;
  • 2 liters of wine;
  • 1 or 2 liters of liquor (depending on country);
  • 60cl of perfume;
  • In addition to the above: a US dollar or euro amount of goods, ranging from about US$300-$500, depending upon the country. If you go over the monetary limit, duty and tax is usually payable on the whole amount not just the sum above the limit;
  • Exact rates and amounts vary by country/trading block. Check with the information desk at your home country’s port of departure for the latest details on allowances

Leaving Mexico and Consular Contacts

Leaving mexico.

There are some procedures to follow when you depart Mexico, whether you are a visitor, or resident here:

If you are in Mexico as a tourist/visitor: When you leave Mexico, you will need to show your visitor permit you were issued with when you arrived. See also: Your Mexico Visitors Permit, FMM

If you are resident in Mexico be sure to the immigration desk at the airport or land border to show your residency card and get passport stamped before you leave the country . See also: Procedures for entering and leaving Mexico

Foreign Embassies and Consulates

Foreign nationals may be able to get assistance from their country’s consulate.  Read our article about seeking consular assistance in Mexico for further details.

Directory of Mexican Consulates Abroad

Directory of Foreign Consulates in Mexico

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Travel Documents You Need to Visit Mexico

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Passports have been mandatory for air travel between the United States and Mexico since the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative came into effect in 2007. But for travel by land and sea, there are a few alternative travel documents which are still accepted in some situations.

Traveling to Mexico With Children

When traveling to Mexico, U.S. citizens, Canadians, and other foreign visitors should check what identification and travel documents are valid and necessary. If you are traveling to Mexico with children , there are some special requirements you may need to complete before you book your trip.

U.S. Citizens

  • Passport: A passport is hands-down the best form of identification and proof of citizenship. It is highly recommended that you get a passport to travel to Mexico. If you'll be entering the country by air, it's necessary. If for some reason you are unable to get a passport or do not want to, you will need one of the following documents to travel to Mexico by land or sea. These documents are acceptable travel documents for all United States citizens.
  • Passport card: Issued by the U.S. Department of State, this passport substitute is credit-card sized and valid for entry into Mexico by land or sea. The passport card  is not accepted for air travel . This passport card can also be used for land and sea travel to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. A passport card also costs less than a passport, however, a passport is more useful overall, especially if you plan on traveling outside of North America.
  • Enhanced Drivers License: Enhanced Drivers Licenses are proof of citizenship and identity. These special drivers licenses are valid for travel to Mexico by land or sea but are not valid for air travel. It's important to keep in mind that these are only available in some states, including Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Washington. You will need to research your individual state licensing department for specific details.
  • SENTRI Card: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection issue the SENTRI Card to pre-approved travelers who cross the U.S./Mexico border frequently. It has the added benefit of access to dedicated commuter lanes for crossing the border. The card is valid for five years.
  • FAST card: The FAST card provides expedited travel to pre-approved commercial truck drivers between the U.S. and Canada, and U.S. and Mexico borders through dedicated lanes.

U.S. Permanent Residents

For permanent residents of the United States, the I-551 Permanent Resident card is required for return to the US. For entry into Mexico, you will need to present a passport, and depending on your country of citizenship, possibly a visa as well.

Canadian Citizens

Mexico is the second most popular tourist destination for Canadian travelers . Since 2010, a new requirement was put into place, which states that a passport is required for Canadian citizens traveling to Mexico.

Citizens of Other Countries

A passport is necessary, and in some cases, a visa is also required for citizens outside of the US. Contact the Mexican embassy or consulate nearest you for more information about the requirements specific to your situation.

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  • For U.S. Citizens/Lawful Permanent Residents
  • Know Before You Go

Before Your Trip

Booking your tickets.

Match Names on Tickets and Documents

Purchase your travel tickets in the exact same name that appears on your passport or official ID. Ensure that all travel documents match that name precisely.

If the names don't match, your travel carrier or the Transportation Security Administration may require additional documents to verify your identity before allowing you to board.

Each Country is Different

Learn the required travel documents for each country you will visit. Find out about specific travel warnings, U.S. import restrictions, and other rules that apply to the countries on your itinerary by visiting www.state.gov/travelers .

Find the latest on making your return to the United States problem free - go to www.cbp.gov/travel .

Documents You Will Need

Carry - do not pack - all travel documents.

  • All U.S. citizens need U.S. passport books if re-entering by air. Land and sea border crossings accept additional travel documents, such as U.S. Passport cards and Trusted Traveler cards. Child travelers have additional options - see the Traveling with Children section.
  • Green card (Form I-551), or document for lawful permanent residents, or advance parole (Form I-512) if your Form I-551 is pending.
  • A visa or other entry document for the countries you will visit.
  • Receipts or registration ( CBP Form 4457 ) for new electronics, such as a camera or laptop, that you are taking abroad. (Only suggested if the goods are less than six months old.)
  • Proof of rabies vaccination for dogs traveling abroad. Check the requirements for other pets at www.aphis.usda.gov .
  • Valid license for driving overseas and for use as a second form of photo ID.
  • Permits and/or certificates if bringing restricted animal or plant products - go to www.aphis.usda.gov .
  • Medications in their original packages. Bring only the amount of medication you will need. Prescription medications have to be under the traveler's name.
  • Envelope to hold the receipts of your purchases abroad.

Traveling with Children

When U.S. citizen children under the age of 16 arrive by land or sea from Canada or Mexico they may present an original or copy of their birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate.

Groups of Children: U.S. citizen children under the age of 19 arriving by land or sea from Canada or Mexico and traveling with a school group, religious group, social or cultural organization or sports team, may present an original or copy of their birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate. The group should have a letter on organizational letterhead with:

  • The name of the group and supervising adult(s).
  • The names of the children on the trip and their primary address, phone number, date and place of birth, and name of at least one parent or legal guardian for each child.
  • A written and signed statement of the supervising adult certifying that he or she has parental or legal guardian consent for each child.

Mexico Travel Restrictions

Traveler's COVID-19 vaccination status

Traveling from the United States to Mexico

Open for vaccinated visitors

COVID-19 testing

Not required

Not required for vaccinated visitors

Restaurants

Not required in enclosed environments and public transportation.

Mexico entry details and exceptions

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Can I travel to Mexico from the United States?

Most visitors from the United States, regardless of vaccination status, can enter Mexico.

Can I travel to Mexico if I am vaccinated?

Fully vaccinated visitors from the United States can enter Mexico without restrictions.

Can I travel to Mexico without being vaccinated?

Unvaccinated visitors from the United States can enter Mexico without restrictions.

Do I need a COVID test to enter Mexico?

Visitors from the United States are not required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test or antigen result upon entering Mexico.

Can I travel to Mexico without quarantine?

Travelers from the United States are not required to quarantine.

Do I need to wear a mask in Mexico?

Mask usage in Mexico is not required in enclosed environments and public transportation.

Are the restaurants and bars open in Mexico?

Restaurants in Mexico are open. Bars in Mexico are .

Mexico Entry Requirements for U.S. Citizens

Mexico Visa Needed

(for stays of up to 180 days)

Tourist Card (FMM) Needed

(if traveling by land)

Mexico has a number of entry requirements that citizens of the United States must meet when visiting the country.

US citizens planning to travel to Mexico should first check if they require a visa to cross the border, according to the Mexican visa policy.

mexico entry requirements us citizens

What U.S. Citizens Need to Travel to Mexico

American citizens must have a few essential documents to travel to Mexico. These include:

  • US passport
  • FMM tourist card (for land travel)
  • Mexican visa (if applicable)

A visa for Mexico may not be required for US passport holders. This depends on the period of stay and your reason for traveling.

U.S. passport requirements for Mexico

Your US passport must meet certain criteria when traveling to Mexico. It must not expire for at least 6 months after the date of arrival.

If your passport is due to expire sooner than this, renew it before getting the FMM and traveling to Mexico.

Do U.S. citizens need a Tourist Card for Mexico?

Americans must register for a Mexico tourist card to visit the country for the following reasons:

The tourist card required by visitors from the US is called the Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM) .

The FMM is not a visa. It’s an entry requirement for all foreign visitors, including Americans . It’s mandatory if you plan to travel more than 20 kilometers into Mexican territory and stay more than 72 hours.

A Mexican tourist card for United States citizens is a single-entry document. It becomes invalid once you leave Mexico. You need to get a new FMM for every trip to the country.

Do U.S. citizens need a Mexican visa?

Tourists and business travelers from the United States can stay up to 180 days visa-free in Mexico. Americans can also transit in Mexico for up to 30 days without a visa.

The same is true for non-US nationals who hold a valid US visa or Green Card . These documents must be brought as proof to gain visa-free entry to Mexico.

Citizens of the United States who plan to work, study, or engage in other non-tourist or business activities need a visa for Mexico .

Americans also need a visa to stay in Mexico for more than 180 days.

How Can U.S. Citizens Apply for a Mexico Tourist Card?

US citizens can now complete the tourist card form online. This saves time and the inconvenience of dealing with paperwork during their journey or at border control.

The streamlined electronic form greatly expedites the process of entering Mexico .

Mexico's Immigration Policy for U.S. Nationals

Citizens of the United States of America must comply with Mexico’s immigration policy when traveling to the country.

US nationals must :

  • Have the correct documentation
  • Comply with customs and border regulations
  • Leave Mexico within the time permitted (180 days for visa-free visitors)

Americans must not :

  • Bring any unauthorized or illegal items into Mexico
  • Overstay the terms of their visa or visa exemption

Do Americans need vaccinations for Mexico?

Mexico’s travel rules for US passport holders do not include any mandatory vaccinations .

However, the US CDC highly recommends being immunized against the following before traveling to Mexico:

  • Hepatitis A and B

Malaria is present in certain areas of Mexico. US nationals are advised to bring anti-malaria medication if staying in these regions.

What Do U.S. Citizens Need to Leave Mexico?

When leaving Mexico , you’re required to present the tourist card alongside your passport.

Therefore, it’s important to keep the slip of paper safe during the entirety of the stay in the country.

The validity of the FMM document for Americans begins from the moment it is stamped at the Mexican border . If the FMM is lost or stolen before arriving at immigration control in Mexico, you can obtain another form online.

If a validated Mexico FMM for US citizens is lost or stolen within Mexico, you should report the theft to local police. You must then include the subsequent police report in the application for a replacement tourist card. You can do this at an Instituto Nacional de Migración office within Mexico.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico

The US Embassy in Mexico is located in Colonia Cuauhtemoc, Mexico City. The embassy provides a variety of services to American citizens in Mexico.

These include emergency assistance in cases of:

  • Loss of passport
  • Arrest of a US Citizen
  • Death of a US Citizen
  • International Parental Child Abduction

The embassy can provide emergency financial assistance and support to US citizens who are victims of crime. It is also authorized to issue certifications of US citizenship for eligible individuals born abroad to American parents, among other services.

Register with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico

It is now possible for US citizens and nationals to register with the nearest embassy or consulate when traveling in Mexico.

By registering with a US embassy in Mexico, travelers can:

  • Make informed travel plans based on information received from the embassy, such as safety and security advice.
  • Be contactable in the case of emergency: the US embassy will get in touch in circumstances such as a natural disaster or family emergency.
  • Help family and friends to get in contact in an emergency.

US passport holders can enrol when registering for the tourist card on this website . Simply select the Embassy Registration option on the payment page.

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  • Fact Sheets

Frequently Asked Questions: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S.

Updated Date: April 21, 2022

Since January 22, 2022, DHS has required non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination upon request.  On April 21, 2022, DHS announced that it would extend these requirements. In determining whether and when to rescind this order, DHS anticipates that it will take account of whether the vaccination requirement for non-U.S. air travelers remains in place.

These requirements apply to non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for essential or non-essential reasons. They do not apply to U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, or U.S. nationals.

Effective November 8, 2021, new air travel requirements applied to many noncitizens who are visiting the United States temporarily. These travelers are also required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. All air travelers, including U.S. persons, must test negative for COVID-19 prior to departure. Limited exceptions apply. See  CDC guidance  for more details regarding air travel requirements.

Below is more information about what to know before you go, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions about cross-border travel.

Entering the U.S. Through a Land Port of Entry or Ferry Terminal

Q. what are the requirements for travelers entering the united states through land poes.

A:  Before embarking on a trip to the United States, non-U.S. travelers should be prepared for the following:

  • Possess proof of an approved COVID-19 vaccination as outlined on the  CDC  website.
  • During border inspection, verbally attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status. 
  • Bring a  Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative  compliant border crossing document, such as a valid passport (and visa if required), Trusted Traveler Program card, a Department of State-issued Border Crossing Card, Enhanced Driver’s License or Enhanced Tribal Card when entering the country. Travelers (including U.S. citizens) should be prepared to present the WHTI-compliant document and any other documents requested by the CBP officer.

 Q. What are the requirements to enter the United States for children under the age of 18 who can't be vaccinated?

A:  Children under 18 years of age are excepted from the vaccination requirement at land and ferry POEs.

Q: Which vaccines/combination of vaccines will be accepted?

A:  Per CDC guidelines, all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO), will be accepted.

Accepted Vaccines:

  • More details are available in CDC guidance  here .
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your dose of an accepted single-dose COVID-19 vaccine;
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series;
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial;
  • 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart.

Q. Is the United States requiring travelers to have a booster dose to be considered fully vaccinated for border entry purposes?

A:  No. The CDC guidance for “full vaccination” can be found here.

Q: Do U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents need proof of vaccination to return to the United States via land POEs and ferry terminals?

A:  No. Vaccination requirements do not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). Travelers that exhibit signs or symptoms of illness will be referred to CDC for additional medical evaluation.

Q: Is pre- or at-arrival COVID testing required to enter the United States via land POEs or ferry terminals?

A: No, there is no COVID testing requirement to enter the United States via land POE or ferry terminals. In this respect, the requirement for entering by a land POE or ferry terminal differs from arrival via air, where there is a requirement to have a negative test result before departure.

Processing Changes Announced on January 22, 2022 

Q: new changes were recently announced. what changed on january 22.

A:  Since January 22, 2022, non-citizens who are not U.S. nationals or Lawful Permanent Residents have been required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the United States at land ports of entry and ferry terminals, whether for essential or nonessential purposes. Previously, DHS required that non-U.S. persons be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the United States for nonessential purposes.  Effective January 22, all non-U.S. individuals, to include essential travelers, must be prepared to attest to vaccination status and present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request. DHS announced an extension of this policy on April 21, 2022.

Q: Who is affected by the changes announced on January 22?

A: This requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents. It applies to other noncitizens, such as a citizen of Mexico, Canada, or any other country seeking to enter the United States through a land port of entry or ferry terminal.

Q: Do U.S. citizens need proof of vaccination to return to the United States via land port of entry or ferry terminals?

A: Vaccination requirements do not apply to U.S. Citizens, U.S. nationals or U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents. Travelers that exhibit signs or symptoms of illness will be referred to CDC for additional medical evaluation. 

Q: What is essential travel?

A:  Under the prior policy, there was an exception from temporary travel restrictions for “essential travel.” Essential travel included travel to attend educational institutions, travel to work in the United States, travel for emergency response and public health purposes, and travel for lawful cross-border trade (e.g., commercial truckers). Under current policy, there is no exception for essential travel.

Q: Will there be any exemptions? 

A: While most non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States will need to be vaccinated, there is a narrow list of exemptions consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Order in the air travel context.

  • Certain categories of individuals on diplomatic or official foreign government travel as specified in the CDC Order
  • Children under 18 years of age;
  • Certain participants in certain COVID-19 vaccine trials as specified in the CDC Order;   
  • Individuals with medical contraindications to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine as specified in the CDC Order;
  • Individuals issued a humanitarian or emergency exception by the Secretary of Homeland Security;
  • Individuals with valid nonimmigrant visas (excluding B-1 [business] or B-2 [tourism] visas) who are citizens of a country with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability, as specified in the CDC Order
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces or their spouses or children (under 18 years of age) as specified in the CDC Order; and
  • Individuals whose entry would be in the U.S. national interest, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Q: What documentation will be required to show vaccination status?

A:  Non-U.S. individuals are required to be prepared to attest to vaccination status and present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request regardless of the purpose of travel.

The current documentation requirement remains the same and is available on the CDC website . Documentation requirements for entry at land ports of entry and ferry terminals mirror those for entry by air.

Q: What happens if someone doesn’t have proof of vaccine status?

A: If non-U.S. individuals cannot present proof of vaccination upon request, they will not be admitted into the United States and will either be subject to removal or be allowed to withdraw their application for entry.

Q: Will incoming travelers be required to present COVID-19 test results?

A: There is no COVID-19 testing requirement for travelers at land border ports of entry, including ferry terminals.

Q: What does this mean for those who can't be vaccinated, either due to age or other health considerations? 

A: See CDC guidance for additional information on this topic. Note that the vaccine requirement does not apply to children under 18 years of age.

Q: Does this requirement apply to amateur and professional athletes?

A: Yes, unless they qualify for one of the narrow CDC exemptions.

Q: Are commercial truckers required to be vaccinated?

A: Yes, unless they qualify for one of the narrow CDC exemptions. These requirements also apply to bus drivers as well as rail and ferry operators.

Q. Do you expect border wait times to increase?

A:  As travelers navigate these new travel requirements, wait times may increase. Travelers should account for the possibility of longer than normal wait times and lines at U.S. land border crossings when planning their trip and are kindly encouraged to exercise patience.

To help reduce wait times and long lines, travelers can take advantage of innovative technology, such as facial biometrics and the CBP OneTM mobile application, which serves as a single portal for individuals to access CBP mobile applications and services.

Q: How is Customs and Border Protection staffing the ports of entry? 

A: CBP’s current staffing levels at ports of entry throughout the United States are commensurate with pre-pandemic levels. CBP has continued to hire and train new employees throughout the pandemic. CBP expects some travelers to be non-compliant with the proof of vaccination requirements, which may at times lead to an increase in border wait times. Although trade and travel facilitation remain a priority, we cannot compromise national security, which is our primary mission. CBP Office of Field Operations will continue to dedicate its finite resources to the processing of arriving traffic with emphasis on trade facilitation to ensure economic recovery.

Q: What happens if a vaccinated individual is traveling with an unvaccinated individual?  

A:  The unvaccinated individual (if 18 or over) would not be eligible for admission.

Q: If I am traveling for an essential reason but am not vaccinated can I still enter?

A:  No, if you are a non-U.S. individual. The policy announced on January 22, 2022 applies to both essential and non-essential travel by non-U.S. individual travelers. Since January 22, DHS has required that all inbound non-U.S. individuals crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination upon request.

Q: Are sea crew members on vessels required to have a COVID vaccine to disembark?

A:  Sea crew members traveling pursuant to a C-1 or D nonimmigrant visa are not excepted from COVID-19 vaccine requirements at the land border. This is a difference from the international air transportation context.

Entering the U.S. via Air Travel

Q: what are the covid vaccination requirements for air passengers to the united states  .

A:  According to CDC requirements [www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/noncitizens-US-air-travel.html | Link no longer valid], most noncitizens who are visiting the United States temporarily must be fully vaccinated prior to boarding a flight to the United States. These travelers are required to show proof of vaccination. A list of covered individuals is available on the CDC website.  

Q: What are the COVID testing requirements for air passengers to the United States?  

A:  Effective Sunday, June 12 at 12:01 a.m. ET, CDC will no longer require pre-departure COVID-19 testing for U.S.-bound air travelers.

  • Border Security
  • Transportation Security
  • Airport Security
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

us to mexico travel documents

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Visit the USAGov homepage

Travel documents for foreign citizens returning to the U.S.

If you are a citizen of another country and have been living in the U.S., you may need special documents if you leave the U.S. and then return.

Travel documents for permanent and conditional permanent residents

If you are outside the u.s. for less than one year.

If you are a permanent or conditional permanent resident who has been away from the U.S. for less than one year, you will only need to show your Green Card upon re-entry to the U.S.

If you are outside the U.S. for one year or longer

If you are a permanent or conditional permanent resident who has been outside the U.S. for one year or longer, apply for a re-entry permit before you travel. Use Form I-131 - Application for Travel Document .

  • For permanent residents, the re-entry permit is valid for two years from the date of issue.
  • For conditional permanent residents, the re-entry permit is valid for two years after the date of issue. Or it is valid up until the date you must apply for removal of the conditions on your status , whichever date comes first.

Travel documents for other foreign citizens living in the U.S.

If you are a foreign citizen re-entering the U.S., the documentation you need may depend on your immigration status:

  • Advance parole - You may use advance parole to re-enter the U.S. without applying for a visa. It is commonly used for re-entry by people in the process of applying for permanent residence, applying for a status adjustment, or applying for asylum.
  • Refugee travel document - You may be able to use this document to re-enter the U.S. if you have refugee or asylum status.

If you need help, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) .

LAST UPDATED: May 22, 2024

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us to mexico travel documents

8 tips for Canadians travelling to Mexico in 2024, from entry rules to tipping etiquette

P lanning a trip to Mexico? Whether you want to explore Mayan ruins and hidden cenotes or lounge on white-sand beaches at an a ll-inclusive resort , there are certain things you'll want to keep in mind before embarking on your trip.

Canadians booking a vacation in Mexico will want to be aware of the country's entry and exit requirements, what travel documents they'll need and the current travel advice from the Government of Canada .

To help, we've laid out a few essentials you'll want to keep in mind, whether you're jetting off to Cancun, Mazatlan, Tulum or Mexico City.

From the ideal times to visit, to regions to avoid and requirements for your Canadian passport, here are eight tips for preparing for your next Mexican holiday.

Know when to visit

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Details: Before booking that trip to Mexico, you'll want to make sure you're going at a time with good weather.

However, the best time to visit varies depending on where in the country you're visiting. According to the U.S. News & World Report, if you're travelling to Cancun , the best time to visit would be from December to April, when you'll get to enjoy "near-perfect weather."

If you're visiting Mexico City , the best time to visit is between March and May, as the city's winters can be chilly and the summers can be rainy.

According to the Government of Canada, hurricanes usually occur in Mexico from mid-May to the end of November, so keep this in mind when booking your trip.

To figure out when to go, you can use a travel platform like KAYAK's Best Time To Travel Tool , which uses your origin, destination and length of trip to determine when you should travel and when to book for a great price.

Find out more

Know the entry requirements

Details: Canadians can visit Mexico as a tourist for up to 180 days, or six months, without needing a visa. An immigration official will determine the number of days you can remain in Mexico.

Travellers must have a valid passport that will be valid for the expected duration of their stay in the country. They must also obtain and complete a tourist card to enter the country.

According to the Government of Canada, if entering Mexico by air, you are advised to download your tourist card issued by Mexican officials upon entry.

Depending on your airport of entry, the immigration official will stamp your passport and note the number of days you are allowed to spend in Mexico, or you'll go through an E-gate kiosk where you will scan your passport and self-register your entry into the country.

Once in the country, whether you entered via an E-gate or not, you will be able to access the digital tourist card online. You'll have 60 days to download it.

According to the government, travellers who don’t obtain a tourist card upon arrival may face a fine, detention or even expulsion.

Take note of Canada's travel advice

Details: The Government of Canada continues to advise that Canadians exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico due to high levels of criminal activity and kidnapping.

"Levels of crime, particularly violent crime, are high throughout Mexico. Arrest and detention rates are low and don’t deter criminal activity," says Canada's travel advisory for Mexico.

"There are high rates of violent crime, such as homicides, kidnappings, carjacking and assaults, including in popular tourist destinations such as the Mayan Riviera (Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos and Tulum), and Acapulco."

The government advises that travellers remain vigilant at all times while in the country, stay in tourist areas, be very cautious on major highways, avoid travelling at night and monitor local media closely.

Avoid drinking the tap water

Details: You may want to avoid the tap water while in Mexico.

According to Yale University's Environmental Performance Index , which scores countries based on how safe their drinking water is, Mexico's drinking water isn't as safe as that of other countries.

The index measures unsafe drinking water using the number of age-standardized disability-adjusted life-years lost per 100,000 persons in a country (also known as the DALY rate) due to exposure to unsafe drinking water.

A score of 100 indicates a country has among the lowest DALY rates in the world, while a score of 0 indicates a country is among the highest. In its most recent index , Mexico received a DALY score of 50.

The U.S. Government advises citizens that in many areas in Mexico, tap water is "not potable."

"Bottled water and beverages are safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks might be made using tap water," says the government.

The Government of Canada also advises travellers to avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing or showering.

CAA Quebec recommends that travellers purchase bottled purified water to drink and brush their teeth with instead of using tap water.

Know the currency rules

Details: The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican peso. According to the Government of Canada, in some parts of Mexico, particularly tourist destinations, hotels and other service providers may advertise prices in USD.

Sunwing recommends that travellers bring USD as it is widely accepted around the island.

If you plan to bring USD, be aware that there is a limit to the amount of U.S. dollars that residents and foreigners can exchange in Mexico, depending on their immigration status.

According to the Government of Canada, when carrying more than US$10,000 or the equivalent in other currencies, cash, cheques, money orders or any other monetary instrument, you must declare the amount exceeding US$10,000.

Failure to do this is against Mexican law and often results in detention.

Know when to tip

Details: As in Canada, tipping is expected in most parts of Mexico.

According to group travel company Intrepid Travel , which operates tours to Mexico, Mexican service workers typically earn a low wage and rely on tips to earn a decent living.

The company recommends travellers leave 10 to 15 percent at restaurants (if the service charge is not already included), 5 to 10 percent of the hotel room cost for housekeepers, and a few dollars for porters, bartenders and guides.

According to Skyscanner , it's always best to tip in cash, using Mexican pesos rather than any foreign currency.

The company notes that while some all-inclusive resorts in Mexico have no-tipping policies, if an employee has excelled in their performance, a tip is a nice way to show your appreciation.

Taxi drivers and airport shuttle operations in Mexico will not expect a tip, according to the travel company. However, if your driver helps you with your luggage or the shuttle operator helps with your bags, it is courteous to tip around 10 pesos.

Avoid certain areas

Details: Canadians travelling to Mexico will want to take note of warnings to avoid certain parts of the country.

The Government of Canada continues to advise Canadians to avoid all travel to Guerrero State due to the region's precarious security situation.

The state is home to the Mexican city of Acapulco, a popular vacation spot.

According to the advisory, there is a threat of armed violence, banditry, and looting in cities and on roads in the state. The advisory excludes, however, the cities of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Taxco, where travellers should "exercise a high degree of caution."

There are also regional advisories in place warning Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to several Mexican states due to high levels of violence and organized crime, including Chihuahua, Colima, Coahuila, Durango, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas.

The Government of Canada also advises Canadians to avoid border areas, which often see higher criminal activity and violence, such as shootouts, attacks and illegal roadblocks.

The government recommends travelling to Mexico by air to avoid international land border crossings, particularly along the border with the U.S., in Ciudad Juárez, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa.

Pay the tourism tax

Details: If travelling to the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico (including popular destinations like Cancun, Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum), travellers will have to pay a tourist tax known as VisiTAX.

The payment of the VisiTAX is a legal requirement to leave the State of Quintana Roo, and is not included in the price of the plane tickets or any other service such as hotel reservations, vacation packages, ground transportation, or tours, according to Cancun Airport .

The tax costs US$20.99 (about CA$28.40) per person, and is to be paid online. Travellers can pay this fee prior to their arrival or during their stay, and must show their receipt at the airport before leaving Mexico.

According to Cancun Airport, your payment and your VisiTAX code will be synchronized with your travel documents for an easy transition through the airport checkpoints.

Payment can only be made online via the VisiTAX website , according to Air Transat .

Bon voyage!

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

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8 tips for Canadians travelling to Mexico in 2024, from entry rules to tipping etiquette

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U.S. Visa: Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country

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Reciprocity Schedule

Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.

Explanation of Terms

Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.

Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).

Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.

Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.

Visa Classifications

Country specific footnotes.

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

Visa Category Footnotes

The validity of A-3, G-5, and NATO 7 visas may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the person who is employing the applicant. The "employer" would have one of the following visa classifications:

  • G-1 through G-4
  • NATO 1 through NATO 6

An E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued only to a principal alien who is a national of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. E-1 and E-2 visas may not be issued to a principal alien if he/she is a stateless resident or national of a country without a treaty.  *When the spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 principal alien are accorded derivative E-1 or E-2 status and are themselves a national of a country that does not have a treaty with the United States – the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the principal alien’s country of nationality should be used.  **Spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 visa principal applicant, where the spouse and children are also nationals of a country that has a treaty with the United States – the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the spouse and children’s country of nationality should be used.  

*Example 1: John Doe is a national of Country A that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. however his wife and child are nationals of Country B which has no treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the same reciprocity as John Doe, the principal visa holder. **Example 2:  Mike Doe is a national of Country Y that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. however his wife and child are nationals of Country Z that also has a treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the reciprocity issued to nationals of Country Z.

The validity of H-1 through H-3, O-1 and O-2, P-1 through P-3, and Q visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.

Under 8 CFR §214.2, H-2A and H-2B petitions may generally only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as participating countries. The current list of eligible countries is available on USCIS's website for both H-2A and H-2B visas. Nationals of countries not on this list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A or H2-B petition in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security if specifically named on the petition.  

Derivative H-4, L-2, O-3, and P-4 visas, issued to accompanying or following-to-join spouses and children, may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the principal alien.

There is no reciprocity fee for the issuance of a J visa if the alien is a United States Government grantee or a participant in an exchange program sponsored by the United States Government.

Also, there is no reciprocity fee for visa issuance to an accompanying or following-to-join spouse or child (J-2) of an exchange visitor grantee or participant.

In addition, an applicant is eligible for an exemption from the MRV fee if he or she is participating in a State Department, USAID, or other federally funded educational and cultural exchange program (program serial numbers G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-7).

However, all other applicants with U.S. Government sponsorships, including other J-visa applicants, are subject to the MRV processing fee.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to engage in certain types of professional employment in the United States may be admitted in a special nonimmigrant category known as the "trade NAFTA" or "TN" category. Their dependents (spouse and children) accompanying or following to join them may be admitted in the "trade dependent" or "TD" category whether or not they possess Canadian or Mexican nationality. Except as noted below, the number of entries, fees and validity for non-Canadian or non-Mexican family members of a TN status holder seeking TD visas should be based on the reciprocity schedule of the TN principal alien.

Canadian Nationals

Since Canadian nationals generally are exempt from visa requirement, a Canadian "TN' or "TD" alien does not require a visa to enter the United States. However, the non-Canadian national dependent of a Canadian "TN", unless otherwise exempt from the visa requirement, must obtain a "TD" visa before attempting to enter the United States. The standard reciprocity fee and validity period for all non-Canadian "TD"s is no fee, issued for multiple entries for a period of 36 months, or for the duration of the principal alien's visa and/or authorized period of stay, whichever is less. See 'NOTE' under Canadian reciprocity schedule regarding applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality.

Mexican Nationals

Mexican nationals are not visa-exempt. Therefore, all Mexican "TN"s and both Mexican and non-Mexican national "TD"s accompanying or following to join them who are not otherwise exempt from the visa requirement (e.g., the Canadian spouse of a Mexican national "TN") must obtain nonimmigrant visas.

Applicants of Iranian, Iraqi, Libyan, Somalian, Sudanese, Syrian or Yemeni nationality, who have a permanent resident or refugee status in Canada/Mexico, may not be accorded Canadian/Mexican reciprocity, even when applying in Canada/Mexico. The reciprocity fee and period for "TD" applicants from Libya is $10.00 for one entry over a period of 3 months. The Iranian and Iraqi "TD" is no fee with one entry over a period of 3 months.

Q-2 (principal) and Q-3 (dependent) visa categories are in existence as a result of the 'Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998'. However, because the Department anticipates that virtually all applicants for this special program will be either Irish or U.K. nationals, the Q-2 and Q-3 categories have been placed only in the reciprocity schedules for those two countries. Q-2 and Q-3 visas are available only at the Embassy in Dublin and the Consulate General in Belfast.

No S visa may be issued without first obtaining the Department's authorization.

V-2 and V-3 status is limited to persons who have not yet attained their 21st birthday. Accordingly, the period of validity of a V-2 or V-3 visa must be limited to expire on or before the applicant's twenty-first birthday.

Posts may not issue a T-1 visa. A T-1 applicant must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry, where he/she will apply for an adjustment of status to that of a T-1. The following dependents of a T-1 visa holder, however, may be issued a T visa at a U.S. consular office abroad:

  • T-2 (spouse)
  • T-3 (child)
  • T-4 (parent)

The validity of NATO-5 visas may not exceed the period of validity of the employment contract or 12 months, whichever is less.

The validity of CW-1 and CW-2 visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (12 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

The validity of E-2C visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (24 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

General Documents

In Mexico the maintenance of public records and the issuance of certificates fall within the jurisdiction of the 31 states and Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX), which comprise the Republic. An exception applies to military certificates, which are issued by the Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (Ministry of National Defense) or by the Secretaria de Marina (Ministry of the Navy.)

The rules and regulations regarding the maintenance of public records and the issuance of certificates in the 31 states are similar, with slight modifications to those prevailing in Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX). Non-residents are urged to use the Spanish language in their correspondence with Mexican authorities. In order to avoid undue delay, they may also find it advisable, if feasible, to enlist the aid of a resident of Mexico to secure a copy of a public record.

Records of birth, marriages, deaths and divorces are normally recorded in the state capitals and are available from the state Central Civil Registry. Each Central Civil Registry in Mexico can issue birth, death and marriages certificates from other states around the country through the Interconnection Database. The Central Civil Registries are a depository for duplicate copies of documents made at the local registrar in the town, city, or municipality in which the event occurred. In those rare cases where such records are not available, church copies of baptismal and burial certificates are acceptable, as well as certificate of non-existence which can be obtained through the Central Civil Registry. Church marriage certificates are not normally acceptable, as they have no validity in Mexico without a civil ceremony. Frequently a couple will marry in church without the benefit of a civil ceremony.

Birth, Death, Burial Certificates

Birth certificates.

Available. Birth certificates for births since 1870 are generally available. Births since 1930 have been captured in a central database for most states in Mexico. A letter may be obtained certifying that no record is available, if such is the case (certificate of non-existence). Birth certificates are issued by the appropriate civil registry official. A charge may be made for searching the records.

Civil registries receive delayed birth registrations, based upon the testimony of witnesses. If of recent date, and especially if long delayed, these may be open to question. Baptismal certificates issued by religious authorities are not considered by the Mexican government to be official documents. In cases in which the delay of a birth record raises serious questions regarding identity, however, baptism certificates may be offered as secondary evidence. The most reliable baptism record is a photocopy of the entire page of the baptism book issued under the seal of the parish where the baptism in question is recorded.

Death Certificates

Fees:   The fees for this document vary by state.

Document Name:   Acta de Defuncion

Issuing Authority: Civil Registry (Registro Civil)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:   Seal and signature from Registro Civil, varies by state and by the year when the document was issued.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title Civil Registry Officer (titles may include: Oficial, Coordinador General, Director, or Jefe de Archivo Estatal del Registro Civil)

Registration Criteria:   Presentation of the one of the following:  medical/forensic doctor’s certificate, burial or cremation order or municipal death certificate.  Additional documentation may vary by state.

Procedure for Obtaining:   The procedures for obtaining vary by state.

Certified Copies Available:   Certified copies are available.

Alternate Documents:   There are no alternate documents.

Exceptions:   None

Comments:    None

Marriage, Divorce Certificates

Marriage certificates.

Document Name:   Acta De Matrimonio

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   Civil Registry Officer (titles may include: Oficial, Coordinador General, Director, or Jefe de Archivo Estatal del Registro Civil)

Registration Criteria: Completion of marriage application, presentation of the couple’s birth certificates and IDs, blood test, witnesses, and some states require completion of a pre-marriage course.

Alternate Documents:   Only civil marriage is legally recognized in Mexico.  A religious ceremony may be considered proof of a bona fide relationship, but it is not legally binding.

Exceptions:  None

Comments: In June 2015, Mexico's Supreme Court declared unconstitutional any law prohibiting same-sex marriage. While the court did not explicitly say that same-sex unions were legal, the decision is seen as having the effect of modifying Mexican states’ civil codes concerning same-sex marriage in Mexico, which may vary from state to state.  We recommend individuals contact specific state governments for up - to - date information.

Currently, same-sex couples may apply for an “acta de convivencia" (cohabitation certificate) from the Civil Registry in Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX).  This cohabitation certificate is only available in Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX).  Most Mexican states will require a family judge to determine if a common law spouse is entitled to receive benefits after the death of the other spouse.

Divorce Certificates

Fees:  The fees for this document vary by state.

Document Name:   Acta de Divorcio

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Seal and signature from Registro Civil, varies by state and by the year when the document was issued

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:  Civil Registry Officer (titles may include: Oficial, Coordinador General, Director, or Jefe de Archivo Estatal del Registro Civil)

Registration Criteria:  Presentation of the family court’s decree for registration of this document at the Civil Registry.  Exception, if the married couple is over the age of 18 years old, childless, and is in mutual agreement to divorce, they may file for an administrative divorce at the Civil Registry and no family court decree is necessary.

Procedure for Obtaining:  The procedures for obtaining vary by state.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available

Alternate Documents: Divorce certificates are available in all states and may be obtained at the Civil Registry Office. Marriage Certificates with an annotation noting divorce are obtainable in some states and are also acceptable proof of marriage termination.  Some states may also make annotations on birth certificates which list the marriages and divorces.

Comments: None

Adoption Certificates

Document Name:   Adopcion Plena

Issuing Authority:   Family Court

Comments:   “Adopcion simple” is not acceptable for immigrant visa adoptions.   

Identity Card

National id cards.

Fees:   There are no fees

Document Name:   INE voting card.  Previously known as an IFE voting card issued by the Federal Electoral Institute (Instituto Federal Electoral (“IFE”)).  In 2014 the agency name changed to the National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral (“INE”)).

Issuing Authority: National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:   Photo ID with biometrics and a hologram

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral)

Registration Criteria:   Mexican nationals over the age of 18 years old are eligible.  Mexican nationals age 17 and over may be eligible during the year of a presidential election.

Procedure for Obtaining:    Present a photo ID, proof of residence and Mexican nationality (such as a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, etc.) at an INE office of Mexican consulate overseas.

Certified Copies Available:  If an INE card is lost, it can be replaced at no cost.

Comments:   Other national IDs are:

  • Professional license card (Cedula Profesional),
  • National Military Service Card,
  • Consular ID card issued at a Mexican consulate (Matrícula Consular),
  • Mexican passport

Police, Court, Prison Records

Police certificates.

Fees:   The fees vary by state.

Document Name:  Carta or Certificado de No Antecedentes Penales

Issuing Authority: State Police (Fiscalía General del Estado)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The seals, colors and format vary by state.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:    The issuing authority title varies by state.

Registration Criteria:  The registration criteria vary by state.

Procedure for Obtaining: Contact the individual State Police for instructions.

Certified Copies Available:  Certified copies are not available.

Alternate Documents: If the state police record is unavailable, visa applicants must provide a federal record called a “ Carta de No Antecedentes Penales”  from  the  Dirección General de Ejecución de Sanciones, Comisión Nacional de Seguridad. To make the request, applicants must provide the following documentation:

For Mexican Nationals:

  • Mexican Voter ID Card from the Instituto Federal Electoral (original and a copy)
  • Birth Certificate (original and a copy)
  • Proof of residence in Mexico (original and a copy)

For Foreign Nationals:

  • FM2, now called the “tarjeta migratoria”, or passport (original and a copy)
  • Birth certificate translated into Spanish (original and a copy)

If the applicant is not able to make the request in person, a family member can do so in the applicant’s name by taking a power of attorney signed by the interested party to: 

Dirección General de Ejecución de Sanciones, Comisión Nacional de Seguridad

Calzada de Tlalpan No. 2962 Col. Espartaco, Deleg. Coyoacan, C.P. 04870 Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico

The office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.  For inquiries about the process, applicants may call the institution at:  011-52-55-5128-4100 and 011-52-55-5599-2000, exts. 18992, 18993, 18994 y 18733.  

Exceptions:  None

Comments: Versions of the police certificates vary from state to state. Police certificates from the local town halls or cities are unacceptable. Do not send the document to the National Visa Center (NVC).

In Mexico police certificates are only available for applicants 18 and over.  A police certificate from every state in Mexico is generally not required for an IV application. A single police certificate is sufficient.  Only when an IV applicant has lived in Mexico for six months or more and after the age of 18 is a police certificate required.

However, consular officers may request a state police certificate where an individual was resident for more than six (months) on a case by cases basis. 

Court Records

Document Name:   Certified copy of the trial

Issuing Authority: Court which presided over their trial.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:   Mexican court of arms on each page, usually with a wet stamp in purple or blue ink to demonstrate that it is an original, not a photocopy, printed on legal size paper, and pages are numbered and signed by the court certifier.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   Judge who presided over the trial.

Registration Criteria:   The Court keeps copies of all documents used during proceedings.  Once the case is closed the file is stored at the main archive of that court.

Procedure for Obtaining: Applicants or their legal representative must contact the court which presided over their trial.

Certified Copies Available:   Certified copies are available. The cost is usually calculated by the number of pages in the file.

Alternate Documents: There are no alternate documents.

Exceptions: None

Comments:   None

Prison Records

Document Name:   Carta de Liberación (certificate of time served) or Constancia de Salida (certificate of time served).

Issuing Authority: Prison where the sentence was served.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Certificates of time served are usually typed on stationary bearing a faint round seal containing the Mexican coat of arms. The certificate will also bear a rubber stamp seal which includes the coat of arms, date of issue, and issuing entity.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   The issuing authority title varies by prison.

Registration Criteria:  Court decree that indicates time to be served in prison.

Certified Copies Available:  Certified copies vary by prison.

Alternate Documents:   Yes, court documents from legal proceedings may be presented instead of prison records.  Court documents include the full legal proceedings, in addition to the prison sentence.  Please see the “Court Records” section for more additional information.

Military Records

Fees:   The first military card is free.  As of September 2017, a replacement is 193 pesos (Approx. $10 USD).

Document Name: Cartilla Militar

Issuing Authority: Ministry of National Defense (Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional) in Mexico City.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:   Green cardboard cover with Mexican coat of arms in front.  First page contains biographical information and bearer’s thumb print.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   General of the Recruitment Office

Registration Criteria:  Persons who have served in the military or who have registered for the military and who have lost their records may apply for replacement online or in person at any municipal recruitment office.

Procedure for Obtaining:   See the registration criteria for more information.

Comments:   Registration with the military is mandatory for Mexican men over 18 and optional for women.  However, no fines or prison time are imposed if men do not comply. To be registered the applicant must be fingerprinted at the municipal recruitment office and present the following documents: original birth certificate, proof of residence, 4 photos, school diploma and national identification number (“CURP”).

Passports & Other Travel Documents

Travel Documents

Types Available (Regular, Diplomatic, Official, etc.):   Passport

Fees:   The fees vary depending on passport validity (1, 3, 6, or 10 years)

Document Name:   Mexican Passport

Issuing Government Authority:  Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs ( Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (“SRE”).

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format:   All have the Mexican coat of arms and “Mexico” on the cover.

  • A regular Mexican passport has a green cover,
  • An official passports has a gray cover,
  • Diplomatic passports are black.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs Officer (Delegado)

Registration Criteria:   Proof of Mexican nationality, which could include a birth certificate or certificate of naturalization, and proof of identity, which could include INE card, school diploma, consular ID, etc.

Procedure for Obtaining:   Present proof of Mexican nationality and identity proof at any SRE office in Mexico or Mexican consulate abroad.

Alternate Documents: Travel Document (Documento de Identidad y Viaje)

Exceptions:  If a person has an outstanding warrant for their arrest, they will not be issued a Mexican passport.

Comments:   Both parents consent is necessary for issuance of the passport to a minor.  A minor’s passport with the code  4.1 means that only one parent was present and a parental authorization form from the absent parent was completed prior to issuance.

Other Documents Available:  Foreigners in Mexico who cannot obtain a travel document from their home country may obtain an Identity and Travel Document (Documento de Identidad y Viaje) from SRE.  It will be a booklet with a red cover and will be valid for six months under the following circumstances:

1.       Foreigners in Mexico who have lost their nationality without acquiring another and consequently, they are considered with undefined nationality or stateless.

2.       Foreigners in Mexico who have a defined nationality that does not have a diplomatic or consular representation (office) that can issue a passport.

3.       Foreigners in Mexico who can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the SRE, that their diplomatic or consular representative refuses to issue a passport.

Other Records

Not applicable

  • Visa Issuing Posts

Visa Services

All categories of immigrant visas for nationals of Mexico are processed by the consulate in Ciudad Juarez. E2 applicants are reviewed exclusively in Ciudad Juarez.  E1 visa applicants may apply in Monterrey and Tijuana.

Additional Information for Reciprocity

  • Reciprocity: What's New
  • Temporary Reciprocity Schedule
  • Country Acronyms
  • Terrorist Designation Lists
  • State Sponsors of Terrorism
  • Treaty Countries

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Czech Republic

Côte d'Ivoire

Dominican Republic

El Salvador

Equatorial Guinea

Guinea-Bissau

Iran, Islamic Republic of

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Korea, Democratic People's Republic of

Lao People's Democratic Republic

Liechtenstein

Marshall Islands

Micronesia, Federated States of

Moldova, Republic of

Netherlands

New Caledonia

New Zealand

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Palestinian Authority

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Philippines

Russian Federation

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Lucia

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Sao Tome and Principe

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Sierra Leone

Sint Maarten (Dutch part)

Solomon Islands

South Africa

South Korea

South Sudan

Switzerland

Timor-Leste

Trinidad and Tobago

Turkmenistan

Turks and Caicos Islands

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom

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Wallis and Futuna

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The battle over policy at the U.S.-Mexico border is picking up steam in Congress

Leila Fadel, photographed for NPR, 2 May 2022, in Washington DC. Photo by Mike Morgan for NPR.

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Senate Democrats are calling for the chamber to re-vote on a bipartisan border bill to send a message about border priorities in the election.

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Bringing animals to Canada: Importing and travelling with pets

The United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced changes to the import requirements for dogs entering the United States . These changes will come into effect on August 1, 2024 and will impact dogs travelling from Canada to the United States. The CFIA is currently in the process of reviewing these requirements. Further information and guidance will be provided as soon as possible.

If you are travelling with a pet or planning to import an animal to Canada, you will need the right paperwork at the border to meet Canada's import requirements. If you don't, you risk experiencing delays at the border and your animal may not be allowed into Canada.

Canada has specific import requirements in place to avoid introducing animal diseases to protect its people, plants and animals.

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  • Information for individuals thinking of buying or adopting a dog, dog breeders and rescue organizations

Find out what you need before you travel with your pet or import an animal.

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People in a hallway. Colored lights decorate one end of it.

The Other Busing Program: Mexico Is Pushing Migrants Back South

In response to pressure from the Biden administration to curb migration flows, Mexico has quietly bused thousands of migrants away from the U.S. border to sites deep in the country’s south.

Migrants listening to guidelines from a staff member at the Amparito shelter in Villahermosa, Mexico. Credit...

Supported by

By Simon Romero and Paulina Villegas

Photographs by Luis Antonio Rojas

Simon Romero reported from Villahermosa, Mexico, and Paulina Villegas from Mexico City.

  • May 14, 2024

The buses rumble into town day and night, dumping migrants in a city many didn’t even know existed.

But instead of landing closer to the U.S. border, they are being hauled roughly 1,000 miles in the opposite direction — deep into southern Mexico in a shadowy program meant to appease the Biden administration and ship migrants far from the United States.

Mexican authorities rarely publicly acknowledge the busing program, making it much less contentious than the efforts by Republican governors to transport migrants to blue states that have become political theater in the United States.

Yet the busing program is exposing the chasm between the Mexican government’s rhetoric promoting a humanitarian approach to migration, and the country’s role as a heavy-handed enforcer of U.S. border objectives, leaving many migrant families stranded to fend for themselves.

Two women sit in chairs, faced by a National Guardsman.

“I asked the agents, ‘How can you treat us like dirt?’” said Rosa Guamán, 29, from Ecuador. She was detained with her husband and two children by migration agents in April near the border city of Piedras Negras. Nobody told them they were being taken to Villahermosa, an oil hub in southeastern Mexico, until they were well on their way.

At an overcrowded shelter in Villahermosa, she described the ride as the most dispiriting part of a monthslong journey that included trekking across swaths of jungle, threats of sexual assault and bribing Mexican officials with the hope of getting to New Jersey.

“We’re starting over from zero,” Ms. Guamán said.

Mexico’s National Migration Institute declined to comment. Officials there sometimes frame the detention and transfers of migrants in humanitarian jargon as “rescues” or “dissuasion” aimed at easing conditions in dangerous, overcrowded areas, or they use the technical term “decompression.”

But the busing program is anything but humanitarian, according to immigration lawyers, rights groups and shelter operators in Mexico. The rules for busing migrants south of the border are often cloaked in obscurity — or publicly ignored by authorities at a time when immigration isn’t as polarizing an issue in Mexico’s own election as it is in the United States.

Ernesto Vasconcelo, a Venezuelan-born lawyer who offers legal counseling to migrants in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, said there is no public database for lawyers or family members to see where migrants are taken and their current status.

Mexican migration authorities, he said, “refuse to give any information to anyone, they do not allow migrants to have any legal representation, and that is in itself illegal.”

In December, migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border exploded to their highest level on record. Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew to Mexico City for emergency talks aimed at pressing Mexico’s government to do more to curb migration.

Almost immediately after, charter flights and buses started dropping large numbers of people in Villahermosa.

The tactic was effective.

In the first four months of 2024, U.S. border apprehensions plunged in one of the steepest declines in decades, giving the Biden administration some relief as immigration persists as a top voter concern in this year’s election.

A senior White House official who was not authorized to speak publicly said the United States does not dictate what measures Mexico should take to curb migration. The official added that while numbers are down, smugglers are sophisticated and both governments need to closely watch what happens going forward.

Mexican authorities have used busing on occasion for years, but its expansion in recent months spotlights the country’s toughening policies on migration. Eunice Rendon, the coordinator of Migrant Agenda, a coalition of Mexican advocacy groups, said that busing was a “practice meant to wear migrants down, to exhaust them.”

Transferring migrants south, far from their intended destination, imposes not only an emotional and physical toll, Ms. Rendon said, but also a financial burden since they must spend money on transportation, lodging and bribes every time they make the trip north.

Still, busing is part of a strategy that has allowed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico to center his country’s U.S. relations around migration, fending off much explicit American criticism in other areas like trade policy, management of energy resources or his treatment of political opponents.

There are doubts as to whether Mexico’s efforts are sustainable.

The country reported about 240,000 migrant apprehensions in January and February but fewer than 7,000 deportations in the same two months, suggesting that most of those apprehended remain in Mexico with the chance to head north again.

And the flow of migrants coming into Mexico from South America persists. Panama said roughly 109,000 people crossed the jungle straddling Central and South America known as the Darién Gap in the first three months of 2024, a 14 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

Villahermosa is one of the top destinations to which migrants are bused. Migrants sleep on the street outside of bus stations and convenience stores. Entire families beg for change at busy intersections.

Nearby, people sit on the sidewalk speaking languages like Hindi and Russian.

Karina del Carmen Vidal, manager of a local migrant shelter, said her facility has room for about 160 people, and has been at or above capacity for months. Hundreds of other families rent out rooms in surrounding areas.

“The migrants arrive here in a complete state of shock,” said Ms. Vidal. In some cases, she said, they had been bused multiple times to Villahermosa.

Migrants in the city described being coerced by Mexican agents into taking the buses, and deprived of information as to where they were going and why.

A Russian man at the shelter recounted being detained in March by migration officials in Mexico City shortly before boarding a flight to Tijuana. Unable to speak Spanish or much English, he struggled to understand what was happening.

“Nobody explained anything to me,” said the man, 34, who asked not to be identified. Using Google Translate, he said he had deserted from the Russian Army with the aim of getting to California, and was afraid relatives in Russia could be targeted if he was identified.

With Mexican officials declining to provide details, it’s unclear how many people have been bused south.

But at least thousands of foreign migrants have been sent to Villahermosa and another southern city, Tapachula , according to migration experts, lawyers and religious leaders.

When they are dropped off, some people opt to stay and apply for asylum in Mexico. Others are given an official “exit notice,” which gives them up to 30 days to leave the country — plenty of time to try going north again.

Others, however, said they were simply left on the street, without being taken to the migrant processing center.

Tonatiuh Guillén, who headed Mexico’s National Migration Institute at the start of Mr. López Obrador’s administration, said that during his tenure, the agency would relocate smaller numbers of migrants, mainly from Central America. He said it was considered easier to process migrants and prepare them for deportation in cities in southern Mexico.

But Mr. Guillen described the current busing policy as a kind of “merry-go-round” in which people are forced to try multiple times to make it across the U.S.-Mexico border, paying bribes time and again to migration officials and police during each attempt.

“It is a perverse scenario for migrants” Mr. Guillén said.

C riticism of the busing program from local authorities in Villahermosa has been somewhat muted, perhaps not surprising since the surrounding Tabasco is a bastion of support for Mr. López Obrador and his home state.

Both the interim mayor of Villahermosa and the former mayor, who is running for re-election, did not respond to requests for comment. Tabasco state’s governor declined to comment. They are all members of the president’s ruling party, Morena.

Still, local media have sought to link the migrant influx to crime fears, casting widespread attention on the cases of a Senegalese man accused of robbing mobile phones, and another migrant said to have boarded a bus to beg for money, then assaulting the driver.

Roberto Valencia Aguirre, a Roman Catholic priest, said he had to abandon a plan to shelter migrants in a church in an affluent part of the city after parishioners voiced objections.

“It was a very unpleasant reaction from some people who said, ‘No, Father, we don’t want migrants here,’” he said.

Hamed Aleaziz contributed reporting from Washington.

Simon Romero is a Times correspondent covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. He is based in Mexico City. More about Simon Romero

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