What Documents Do I Need for Mexico Travel?

Rocks on the shore of Tulum
Tulum, Mexico.

StudioLaurent / Twenty20

If you're a U.S. citizen planning a vacation to Mexico, you'll be happy to hear you don't need much in the way of documentation in order to visit this beautiful country! Read on to discover just what you need to make sure you have with you in order to cross the border south. 

description of documents acceptable upon entry to Mexico


Passport or PASS Card?

To return to the U.S. from Mexico by land, sea, or air, you must present a passport or PASS card (available to anyone) or Enhanced Driver's License (residents of some U.S. states can get these) at the border.

Please be aware that you can no longer use proof of U.S. citizenship, like an embossed birth certificate, with a government-issued photo ID (more on those below) to get into or out of the country. Regardless of your ID choice, you will also need a Mexico tourist card, which you'll be given to fill out on the plane or at the border if you'll be traveling overland.

Identification Acceptable for Crossing U.S./Mexico Borders by Land

For decades, it was the case that U.S. citizens could use a combination of proof of U.S. citizenship, like a birth certificate and a driver's license or other state-issued photo ID, to return from Mexico to the U.S. At that time, it was still the case that passports weren't needed to return from Mexico by land even after it became necessary to use a passport to return to the U.S. by air.

All of that changed back in 2009, and you must now have a passport, PASS card, Enhanced Driver's License, or other acceptable ID. A full list of IDs you can use is below: 

  • A Valid Passport
  • Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • State Issued Enhanced Driver's License (when available)
  • Enhanced Tribal Cards (when available)
  • U.S. Military Identification with Military Travel Orders
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business
  • Native American Tribal Photo Identification Card
  • Form I-872 American Indian Card

Tip: it is far cheaper to get a passport at your leisure than to rush a passport just before you need it. If you need to rush a passport application, though, do it yourself—there's no need to pay even more for a passport expediting service.

How to Get a Mexico Tourist Card

A Mexico tourist card, also called an FMT, is a government form declaring that you have stated the purpose of your visit to Mexico to be tourism, and it must be carried with you while you are visiting Mexico. Although more than one kind of Mexico visa exists, this is a simple declaration of your intention to vacation in Mexico for no more than 180 days.

It's essentially a standard arrivals card you have to fill in when entering most countries. At immigration, they'll attach a departure card to your passport to hand back when you leave the country. Make sure to fill this out in advance of arriving back at the airport to save time when passing through immigration. 

If you are driving to Mexico, you can get a tourist card at or near the border. If you are flying to Mexico, you will get a tourist card on the plane. 

Where Will I Need to Show My Documents in Mexico?

Whenever you cross the Mexico border, you will need to show your travel documents.

If you are flying into Mexico, you will need to show your travel documents to the Mexico customs agents before leaving the airport. You may have to show your travel documents again before picking up your luggage. When you leave Mexico by plane, you will need to show your travel documents before you pass through security and board the plane. You'll be expected to hand in your departure card as you pass through immigration, as well, so make sure not to lose it while you're in the country.

If you are driving into Mexico, you will need to show your identification before crossing the border. You will get a tourist card at or very close to the border, and you'll be expected to carry this with you at all times while you're in the country. If you are driving out of Mexico, you will need to show all of your travel documentation before crossing back into the United States. 

COVID-19 Related Documents

At this time, there is no required COVID-19 documentation to enter Mexico. Once you land (if you're flying), you will be required to pass a health screening at the airport, and depending on where you're staying for the duration of the trip, you might need to fill out a health questionnaire at your lodgings.

However, those travelers returning to the United States must present a negative COVID-19 test at least one day prior to travel. If you had COVID within 90 days of your trip, you could also use documentation of recovery to get back over the border.

Remember to Keep Track of Your ID and Tourist Card

You will need to turn your tourist card in when you leave Mexico, and you might need ID at different points during your Mexico visit, although after seven months spent traveling across the country, I've never been asked for mine.

While it's rare for you to need to produce yours, it's best to keep everything on your person at all times, just in case you are asked. The last thing you want is to be taken down to the police station because you can't produce your ID. 

Tip: Don't Forget Travel Insurance 

Travel insurance is a travel essential, so if you're going to be going to Mexico and you're organized enough to be researching which documents you need, there are no excuses for not getting insured. There's plenty that can go wrong on a vacation to Mexico: your overnight bus could be in a crash; you could get pickpocketed while walking around a market; you could contract dengue fever; you could fall from your hotel balcony (it's happened.) 

Suppose something serious happens while in Mexico; you'll need travel insurance. The costs of medical care can often add up to far more than you'd spend on insurance, and if it's so bad that you have to be repatriated to the United States, you could find yourself in seven figures worth of debt. It's not worth taking the risk: get travel insurance. 

Travel Insurance Documents You'll Need

You'll want to bring at least one copy of your travel insurance confirmation of coverage when you're traveling to Mexico. Your confirmation should have the insurance compay's phone number on it in case you need to reach out to them, your policy number, and a thorough explanation of your coverage. We recommend bringing a digital copy and at least one physical copy, that way you'll have access to it at all times. It wouldn't hurt to have a digital copy of your policy terms and conditions either, just in case you need to refer back to it.