Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom or the European Union who are planning a trip to Mexico will need to carry a valid passport for travel by air, and if traveling by land or sea, either a passport or other WHTI-compliant travel document such as a passport card or enhanced driver's license. A passport (conventional passport book, not a passport card) is necessary for absolutely everyone entering Mexico by air. Even babies and small children must each have their own passport.
Travel to Mexico By Land
In some cases, travelers entering Mexico by land may not be required to present a passport or other official identification, but they will certainly need to present one upon their return to their home country, so it is vital to ensure you have your passport with you before crossing the border into Mexico, or you could face some hassles when it's time to return home.
If you enter Mexico by land and plan to travel beyond the immediate border area (approximately 20 kilometers into Mexico) you must stop at an INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración) office at the port of entry—even if you are not explicitly directed to do so by Mexican officials—to obtain an entry permit which is sometimes called a tourist card or officially Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM). You will be required to present a valid passport in order to receive the entry permit. You may also be asked to present your passport and valid entry permit at immigration checkpoints along your travel route.
For travel to some countries, a passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond the date of travel. This is not the case for travel to Mexico, and as long as your passport is valid for the entire period of your trip, you shouldn't have any problems. Do check before your trip to make sure your passport hasn't expired and will be valid until the date of your return.
Exceptions and Special Cases
There are a few exceptions to the passport requirement for travel to Mexico.
Passports for Children: The passport requirement is waived in some cases for minors, notably, school groups that are traveling together over land. Sometimes young people may also be required to present a letter from their parents giving them the authorization to travel. Find out more about travel documents for kids.
Permanent Residents of the US: Document requirements for lawful permanent residents of the United States did not change under the WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, originally implemented in 2007). Permanent residents must present their I-551 Permanent Resident Card when re-entering the United States.
A passport is the best form of international identification and having one may help you avoid hassles when crossing borders. If you don't have a passport, you should apply for one so that you can travel easily. Find out how to get a passport.
Timeline of passport requirement implementation:
Up until 2007, citizens of the United States and Canada could travel to Mexico without a passport, but with the implementation of the WHTI, part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), the passport requirement came into effect for travelers within the different countries that make up North America. With this initiative, passport requirements were phased in gradually depending on the mode of transportation used to enter and exit the country.
- Travel by air: In January 2007 the US Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) required all travelers entering or re-entering the United States by air to present a passport.
- Travel by land or sea: As of June 2009, US citizens entering the United States by land or sea are required to present a passport or other WHTI compliant travel document such as a passport card.
More frequently asked questions about Mexico travel documents and entry requirements:
- What other travel documents are accepted for land and sea travel to Mexico?
- What is a tourist card, and do I need one to travel to Mexico?
- Does my child need a passport?
- I'm Canadian - do I need a passport to travel to Mexico?
- What is a passport card and how do I get one?