Mexican Tourist Cards and How to Get One

Woman walking along street, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, North America

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Mexico tourist cards (Forma Migratoria Multiple, also known as FMT) are a government form declaring that the stated purpose of a visit to Mexico is tourism. Although more than one kind of Mexico visa exists, a Mexico tourist card essentially says the holder has the intention of vacationing in Mexico for no more than 180 days. The form requires minimal information including name, nationality, date of birth, the purpose for visiting, flight details, and the address of the place you'll be staying in Mexico. and address of stay in Mexico.

Travelers can think of it as a visa on arrival, as it functions in the same way, even though it's not technically a visa. Foreign nationals who will be working in Mexico are required to obtain a work visa from the National Immigration Institute (INM).

Be sure to hold on to your tourist card and keep it in a safe place, as you will need to hand it in when you are departing the country.

A tourist with a border agent at the US/Mexico Boarder
TripSavvy / Evan Polenghi

Who Needs a Mexico Tourist Card?

In the past, travelers who were remaining within the United States border zone for up to 72 hours did not need a tourist card. However, now the tourist card is required for most non-Mexican visitors to the country, including infants, who will remain for fewer than 180 days. 

Exceptions are granted, however, to travelers staying in Mexico for fewer than 24 hours. As of August 2022, Cancun International Airport has done away with tourist cards and customs forms for most foreign visitors, including U.S. passport holders. The 180-day rule still applies, however; travelers will instead receive a stamp upon arrival, ensuring that they stay no longer than what's allowed.

How to Get a Tourist Card in Person

If flying into Mexico, passengers will be given a tourist card and instructions for filling it out onboard their plane—the cost of a tourist card (about $25) is included in the fare, so travelers won't need to pay upon arrival. The card is stamped at customs/immigration in the Mexico airport, showing the visitor is in the country legally. Should your flight attendant not hand you a tourist card, you can pick one up at an immigration desk at a Mexico airport.

If you're drivingtaking the bus, or walking into Mexico, the tourist card is given at the border inspection station/immigration office after showing your ID or passport proving your U.S. citizenship. Visitors need to go to a bank and pay the card fee, and it will be stamped to show the payment was made. The next step is returning to a border immigration office to have the card stamped again—proof the holder is visiting the country legally.

Tourists can also get a tourist card at a Mexico consular office or Mexico government tourism office in a U.S. city before heading to Mexico.

How to Apply Online

To ensure a smooth customs process, you may find it easier to complete your immigration online via the Mexico Tourist Card website. You can apply for one within 30 days of your trip; unlike tourist cards that you can get in person, these are free.

Once you've filled out the application, you will receive your card—which consists of an entry form and exit form—via e-mail. You will need to print both; upon arrival in Mexico, you will present them to an immigration official, who will stamp your exit form and write in the number of days that you are allowed to stay in the country. The official will keep the entry form, but you will need to hold onto the exit form for the duration of your trip.

Length of Validity

The tourist card is valid for a maximum of 180 days or six months; however, the time actually given is at the discretion of the immigration official. Often, only 30, 60, or 90 days are granted. If you wish to stay in Mexico for longer than the time allotted on your tourist card, you will either need to leave and re-enter the country, extend your card, or apply for a tourist or work visa.

What to Do If You Lose Your Card

If you lose your Mexico tourist card, or it gets stolen, you will have to pay to replace it, which should be done as soon as possible. Go to the nearest immigration office in the country, or try the immigration office at the nearest airport, to pay a fine (reports vary from $40-$80) and receive a new card. It shouldn't take more than a few hours in total. Bring all relevant documentation, including travel tickets, receipts, and your passport should the officials request proof of length of stay.

Technically, it is possible to be deported from a country without a passport stamp or the proper visa and documents, but reports are rare that this step is taken for travelers who have misplaced their tourist cards. The majority typically pay a fine and are reissued a new card without issue.

How to Extend Your Tourist Card

If wish to travel around Mexico for a bit longer, and the immigration official cleared you for a stay of fewer than 180 days, you can apply for an extension at the National Institute of Immigration Office; be sure to bring your passport and proof of income to your appointment. For those planning to stay longer than 180 days, you will need to apply for a tourist visa.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Do I need a tourist card to go to Mexico?

    If you are a foreign citizen and are traveling to Mexico for pleasure or short-term business, you will need a tourist card. Exceptions are made to those arriving in Mexico by way of Cancun International Airport.

  • Where do I get a Mexican tourist card?

    You can get a Mexican tourist card online, at a Mexico airport (or at a Mexico port of call if arriving by sea), or at your home country's Mexico embassy.

  • How much does a Mexico tourist card cost?

    It depends on where you get yours. If you're flying, your airline may provide you with a tourist card, which is included in the cost of your ticket. You can also get a card for free online. If you're applying at an immigration office, however, it will cost you about $25.

Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of State. "Mexico International Travel Information." Accessed January 12, 2023.

  2. iVisa. "How to Obtain a Mexico Tourist Card Online Quick and Easy." November 24, 2022.