Citizens of the United States or Canada who are planning a trip to Mexico will need to carry either a passport or other WHTI-compliant travel document. A passport is necessary for absolutely everyone entering Mexico by air. Travelers entering Mexico by land may not be asked to present a passport, but will certainly need to present one upon return to the United States or Canada, so be sure you have it with you before crossing the border, or you could face some hassles when it's time to return home.
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. Sometimes young people may also be required to present a letter from their parents giving them authorization to travel. Read 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. Permanent residents must present their I-551 Permanent Resident Card when entering the United States. A passport is not required to enter the US, but you may need one to enter Mexico, depending on your nationality.
Several years ago, citizens of the United States and Canada could travel to Mexico without a passport, but with the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that the United States government began implementing in 2004 with the goal of strengthening border security, 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.
Timeline of passport requirement implementation:
- 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?