Travel Documents You Need to Visit Mexico

USA - Mexico - Border Security
••• Sometimes a passport is not required. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

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. 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 in order 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 SENTRI Card is issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Contact the Mexican embassy or consulate nearest you for more information about the requirements specific to your situation.