Mexico visa requirements for US citizens
As the United States’ closest neighbor along with Canada, Mexico remains a popular destination for multiple reasons. Americans in California and Texas can drive to any number of coastal cities for the weekend, and flights generally remain one of the cheaper options for international travel. There are even cruise ships that dock in destinations like Cozumel. So what are the visa requirements for US citizens looking to visit Mexico?
Visiting Mexico as a tourist
Since 2007, no state-issued driver’s licenses are valid for entry into Mexico by land, sea, or air. As a result, some of the same entry requirements apply.
When traveling to Mexico by air, US citizens should carry a passport book valid for at least six months. Visas are not required, but all Americans entering Mexico through an airport as a port of entry should have a tourist card, an FM-T. These are usually included with your airfare (an additional $22)
When traveling to Mexico by land, there are fewer visa restrictions for US citizens. Americans can enjoy visa-free travel in Mexico for up to 72 hours as long as they remain within 12-18 miles of the US-Mexico border. Traveling beyond that requires you to stop by an immigration office for an FM-T and entry permit.
When traveling to Mexico by sea, the visa requirements vary. Some ports of entry do require US citizens to present a passport card and apply for an FM-T, but cruises usually inform you of this beforehand. However, because you are still traveling by sea, passport books are not required and cards may be accepted at all these ports.
How long can US citizens stay in Mexico?
Beyond the 72-hour visa-free travel given to US citizens staying within 12-18 miles of the US-Mexico border, Americans are given up to 180 days in Mexico with a tourist card. As of this writing, there is no real limit to the number of these permits issued in a given timeframe, meaning visa runs back to the US or elsewhere in Central America is very possible to stay in Mexico longer.
Business travelers to Mexico have similar requirements to tourists, but rather than getting an FM-T tourist card, they should apply for an FM-N. These permits grant the applicant up to 30 days in Mexico on business.
Stays in Mexico Longer than 180 Days
US citizens entering Mexico using FM-N or FM-T are technically not using “visas”, as they can be obtained from a variety of locations including airlines with service to Mexico, border crossing stations, tourist offices, and consulates and embassies. However, any American who wishes to live and work in Mexico for longer than 180 days must apply for an official work visa through an embassy or consulate.
These work permits, known as FM-2 and FM-3, require your employer to visit an immigration office to apply on your behalf. Once the paperwork goes through in Mexico, you are free to apply for the visa at an embassy or consulate in the United States. The entire process can take a few months from beginning to end, and there are additional fees: 2,974 pesos (~160 USD).
Documents you’ll need for any form of travel to Mexico
A ten-year passport book is valid for travel to Mexico by land, sea, and air, and would be appropriate for work, tourist, and business travel. Passport cards with no visas can usually get you in and out quickly for weekend getaways, but for anyone planning on flying into Mexico regularly, a proper passport book is the way to go.
If you’re planning on traveling to Mexico but haven’t applied for a passport yet, be sure to locate the nearest Travel Visa Pro in your area. With a morning appointment, our staff can process emergency passport applications in as little as eight hours. Even residents of smaller cities can enjoy TVP services through our numerous pick up and drop off locations. Please give us a call, and we’ll work with you to get you safely to Mexico.
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