Skip to main content

Do you need a passport to go to Mexico? The requirements vary depending on your mode of travel

Mexico travel: The passport and visa requirements to know

Ocean scene in Cabo San Lucas
Christopher Kuzman via Unsplash

If you’re looking for a gorgeous, eclectic destination, Mexico is worth adding to your list. Featuring thousands of miles of aquamarine coastline, deep cultural heritage, and unique cuisines, the country offers an array of rich experiences. 

But what about getting there? Typically, when visiting a foreign country, you need a passport to prove your U.S. citizenship and identity. But since Mexico borders the United States, you might be unsure whether you need one or not. Further confusing the matter are Mexico’s multiple points of entry via the California border or various airports.

So before you taste tacos al pastor or jump in the warm Pacific Ocean, you’ll need to sort out your pre-travel checklist, including whether to bring a passport. So, do you need a passport to go to Mexico? Read on to find out. 

Culture of San Miguel de Allende Mexico
Jezael Melgoza via Unsplash

Do tourists need to carry a passport in Mexico?

Yes, like any international border crossing, travel to Mexico requires a passport. But depending on your mode of travel, requirements differ slightly, so it’s good to know before you go. Let’s look at the details.

According to the U.S. Department of State, those entering Mexico via air need a valid passport book (a passport card won’t suffice). At each of the country’s 66 airports, immigration authorities use a process called Forma Migratoria Multiple Digital (FMMD) to determine a traveler’s trip duration and then stamp their passport book. Or, via E-Gate, people can obtain a receipt with a QR code.

For those entering Mexico via land, the U.S. Department of State suggests bringing a passport book or card. A card is cheaper ($65 vs. $165 for first-time applicants) but has limited functionality. 

Coastline of Cozumel Mexico
Jakob Owens via Unsplash

Do U.S. citizens need visas for Mexico?

Whether you need a visa in Mexico depends on your length of stay. Maybe you’re chasing a Pacific swell on a Baja surf trip and only plan to stay for a week. Or, if you’re looking to explore from Mexico City to Cancun, an extended trip has different requirements. Here are the details.

U.S. citizens can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days with no visa required. That’s a lot of time to relax on the Ixtapa coastline or sample the enchiladas in Mexico City. 

But long-term explorers staying beyond 180 days need a visa. To obtain one, simply visit a Mexican embassy, fill out an application, provide documents, and pay any necessary fees.

Tacos in San Miguel de Allende Mexico
Gonzalo Gonzales via Unsplash

When did Mexico start requiring a passport?

In 2007, rules changed for U.S. Citizens traveling to and from Mexico, whether via land or air. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative enhanced security by requiring standardized documentation, allowing the Department of Homeland Security to reliably identify travelers. The new regulations weren’t just for Mexico — they also applied to Canada, Central and South America, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. 

As of January 8, 2007, U.S. citizens traveling via air to Mexico needed a valid passport. Then, on January 1, 2008 (later delayed to 2009), travelers needed a passport when driving across the Mexican border. 

If we had a trip planned south of the border, we’d apply for a passport book. That way, we’re covered whether arriving on a plane or in a car and have documentation for international travel. It just makes sense.

Mexico is a tantalizing destination for any traveler, with natural wonders like Copper Canyon and special dishes like mole poblano. There’s so much to experience. But before embarking south of the border, it pays to know the passport and visa requirements. For extra reassurance, we’d obtain a passport book to demonstrate legitimacy and smooth out the entry process. Then, you’ll be free to explore all the country has to offer. 

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Reif
Mark’s a lifelong snowboarder with a passion for the sport. He lives in Stowe, Vermont, where he also works as a snowboard…
The best luxury cruise lines for an extraordinary experience
Consider these luxury cruise lines for your next trip
Luxury cruise ship sailing to port on sunrise

Setting sail on a luxury cruise is a dreamy escape that promises comfort, indulgence, and adventure. If you are thinking about heading out to sea, choosing the right cruise line can make all of the difference. From extravagant amenities and world-class cuisine to personalized service and gorgeous destinations, the best luxury cruise lines redefine the notion of a vacation at sea. Whether you seek relaxation, adventure, or a blend of both, these are the finest offerings of the high seas. 
The benefits of taking a luxury cruise

The difference between a luxury cruise and a regular cruise extends beyond varying price points. A regular cruise often comes with all of the standard amenities and service levels, while a luxury cruise takes the experience a step further by offering an unparalleled level of opulence and refinement. Luxury cruises often include gourmet dining experiences, unique amenities, and VIP privileges, including priority embarkation and access to exclusive events.

Read more
United Global Services: Everything you need to know about the airline’s invite-only status tier
What happens when you go beyond United 1K
Person using United's Premier access desk

Most major airlines have a loyalty scheme that rewards frequent flyers with various levels of status and associated perks. Some have an extra invite-only level of status that is applied to some of their most valued customers. For United, this is “Global Services.”

Not much has actually been published about Global Services, with United’s MileagePlus program seemingly capping out with Premier 1K status. However, you may notice Global Services members called for pre-boarding, spot one of their dedicated check-in kiosks, or see it written on the side of one of those carts they use to transport elite members from the lounge to the gate.

Read more
Do you need a passport to go to Canada?
What to know about traveling to Canada
U.S. passport book

Traveling to Canada from the United States is relatively straightforward, but the documentation required can vary depending on your mode of transportation and citizenship status. While a passport is the most widely accepted form of identification for international travel, alternative options are available for U.S. citizens entering Canada by land or sea.

What you need to know about traveling to Canada
So, what exactly do you need to cross into Canada? It really depends on how you're getting there.
What documents do I need to cross the Canadian border by car?
If you're a U.S. citizen traveling to Canada by land or sea, you have a few options for acceptable documentation:

Read more