Documents You Need to Cross the Mexican Border

Documents for Mexico – Tourist Travel

Clients ask, “What documents do you need to cross the Mexican border?” The answer always depends on what you’re doing in Mexico, how long you will stay and where are you going.

U.S. and Canadian citizens do not require a visa or a tourist card for tourist stays of 72 hours or less within “the border zone.” This zone is an area between 15 to 20 kilometers of the border with the U.S., depending on the location. It also includes all of Baja and half of Sonora (see article here for Mexican Free Zone). U.S. citizens traveling as tourists beyond the border zone or entering Mexico by air must pay a fee to obtain a tourist card. This card is an FMM. This FMM is available from Mexican consulates, border crossing, tourism offices, and airports. The fee for the tourist card is in the price of a plane ticket for travelers arriving by air.

Free-Zone-Mexico
Free Zone Map

Documents for Mexico – Business Travel

Upon arrival in Mexico, business travelers must complete and submit a form (Form FM-N) authorizing the conduct of business. This does not include employment. The term is 30-days.

Travelers entering Mexico for purposes other than tourism or business, or for stays of longer than 180 days require a visa. U.S. or Canadian citizens planning to work or live in Mexico should apply for the appropriate Mexican visa. Applications are at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., or the nearest Mexican consulate in the United States.

Documents for Mexico – Vehicle Permits

Tourists who travel beyond the border zone with their vehicle must obtain a temporary import permit. To acquire a permit, stop at the customs office at the border and submit the following:

  • Evidence of citizenship
  • The original title for the vehicle
  • Vehicle registration certificate
  • Your driver’s license
  • A lienholder permission letter (if leased or you make payments on a loan)
  • Mexican car insurance
  • A processing fee

Mexican law also requires the posting of a bond at a Banjercito office. This bond guarantees the export of the car from Mexico within a time period determined. For this purpose, American Express, Visa or MasterCard credit cardholders will provide credit card information. Some may opt to make a cash deposit of between $200 and $400, depending on the make/model/year of the vehicle. To recover the bond or avoid credit card charges return to the Customs office before leaving Mexico. And remember, vehicle permits cannot be obtained at checkpoints in the interior of Mexico.

To acquire the documents you need to cross the Mexican border, don’t go to individuals outside vehicle permit offices. These outfits offering to generate the permits without waiting in line may not be who they appear. Government outfits do not necessarily mean it’s legit. Reports of fraudulent or counterfeit permits adjacent to the vehicle import permit office in Nuevo Laredo and other border areas. Failure to obtain proper permits before entering Mexico may result in detention, fine or vehicle seizure. For further information, contact Mexican Customs about appropriate vehicle permits.

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