Do You Need A Passport To Go To Mexico? | [Full Guide]



Mexico is a great tourist destination for many different reasons. From the beautiful beaches around Cancun to the ancient ruins, there is something for almost everyone to enjoy. Mexico borders the United States, so it is extremely easy to enter Mexico from some locations. However, just like with any border into another country, there are certain rules that must be followed. So, do you need a passport to enter Mexico from the United States? Are the rules different if you cross the Mexican border via car versus flying into a resort town? Keep reading and we will explain everything that you need to know about visiting Mexico and making sure that you have the proper documents needed to travel.


Do I Need A Passport To Travel To Mexico?

Yes, U.S. citizens do need a passport to travel to Mexico. However, the type of passport required differs depending on how you enter the country. Many people specifically wonder, “Do you need a passport to go to Cancun?” While the answer is yes, the type of passport necessary depends on how you arrive there. In some cases, the cheaper and simpler passport card will suffice. Other situations require you to possess a full passport book. Here we will dive into the different situations and when you might need a passport book versus just a passport card.


— Crossing The U.S. / Mexico Border Via Car

If you live in a border town, you might find yourself crossing the border frequently. If you cross the border via car, then you will only need a valid passport card. You can simply drive through the border and present your passport card to the RFID reader. Then you will need to proceed to a border agent to show your identification. If you plan to travel past the border zone (approximately 12 miles into Mexico), then you will need some additional documents. You must stop at a National Migration Institute and obtain an entry permit, or Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM). You must also get an import permit for your vehicle. This can be done at the Mexican consulate or online. Mexican officials might not direct you to do this, but failure to do so can result in detainment and impounding of your vehicle.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection even has a “frequent traveler program” that basically allows you to use a pass card in an express lane if you meet certain criteria. This is called the Sentri Program for travelers to Mexico, and a similar program called Nexus applies to frequent travelers to Canada.


— Traveling To Mexico Via Air

If you travel into Mexico by plane, then you must have a valid passport book. In fact, this rule applies to all international air travel. A passport card will not suffice for traveling to a foreign country via air, even if the country borders the U.S. like Mexico or Canada. So, do you need a passport to fly? If flying domestically, then no. However, all international air travel requires a passport.

Many people visiting Mexico travel by plane. They fly into a large city and then taxi to a resort where they will stay for several days. When arriving by air, you must have a passport book. There are no exceptions to this rule. You will also need to obtain your FMM tourist card when arriving by air. When you leave, make sure that you keep your portion of the FMM that the border agent returns to you. You will need this when re-entering the United States.

— Arriving In Mexico Via Sea

Cruises in this area are quite popular, and many cruise ships will dock at Mexican ports so that the passengers can spend the day enjoying the town. If you are going on a closed loop cruise, then you will not require a passport for re-entry into the United States. This means that the cruise departs and arrives at a U.S. port of entry. If you plan to get off the ship and visit Mexico, you might still not need a passport. Some Mexican ports have entry requirements that allow cruise ship passengers to obtain a tourist card with other forms of ID such as a birth certificate or enhanced driver’s license. However, having a U.S. passport is a good idea to avoid any potential issues. Some locations in the Caribbean and Bermuda also have similar rules concerning travel documents.


Applying For A Passport

To apply for a passport, you will need to complete the Form DS-11 passport application and submit it to the Department of State. There are several pieces of documentation that must go along with this form. First, you must provide proof of citizenship. This can be a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or other accepted document. Next, you must provide a photo ID like a driver’s license or other document. Finally, you are required to attach two passport photos to the application. You should know that these applications take quite some time to process. They generally take at least 6 to 8 weeks, so make sure that you apply in plenty of time before you travel.

Some people often wonder whether a felon can get a passport. In many cases, the answer is yes. However, there are some convictions that do prohibit you from obtaining a passport. These are typically related to drug trafficking, although you can be ineligible for a passport due to unpaid child support or unpaid taxes. You can find additional information on the Department of State website at

For people living specifically in Mexican border towns, you can apply for your passport in the United States or Mexico. You can apply at the U.S. consulate or U.S. embassy in Mexico or one of the 7,000 locations accepted by the U.S. Department of State in the United States. This includes passport offices, post offices, and other locations. Mexican citizens must have valid documents when making border crossings as well. These documents can be obtained from the Mexican consular.


Passport Requirements For Children

Children under the age of 16 are not required to follow the same passport rules when traveling to Mexico, unless traveling by air. If you are traveling by air with a child, then they will need a valid passport book to complete the trip. If you travel by land or sea, then the child may not need a passport. They can use a birth certificate to re-enter the United States. This rule only applies for children under the age of 16. If they are 16 or older, then they will need the same passport as an adult.


The Bottom Line

Travel to Mexico does generally require a passport since it is a foreign country. If traveling by land or sea, then you can get away with just a passport card. However, if traveling by air, then all passengers will need a passport book. Make sure that you know both the United States and Mexican laws when planning a trip. Failure to abide by the rules could result in detainment or even arrest. That is not a great way to kick off a vacation!


Frequently Asked Questions


Can you use a birth certificate to go to Mexico?

Generally, no, you cannot use a birth certificate to travel to Mexico. You will need a valid passport in most cases. However, some port cities will allow entry of cruise ship passengers with just a birth certificate. It is usually a much better idea to travel with your passport though. On the other hand, travel to Hawaii does not require a passport as long as you are coming from another U.S. state.


What kind of ID do you need to go to Mexico?

A U.S. passport is needed to go to Mexico. If traveling via air, then you will need the full passport book to enter the country. However, if traveling via land or sea, then the passport card is usually sufficient. You cannot simply use a driver’s license or birth certificate to get into the country. A passport is required.


Can I use a passport card to go to Mexico?

In some cases, yes, a passport card is enough to travel to Mexico. If you cross the border via land, then the passport card is all that is necessary. Additionally, travel to Mexico via sea only requires a passport card. However, all air travel into Mexico requires a full passport book. This even includes minor children as well. US travel to Mexico has quite a large volume, and the authorities try to make things as smooth and easy as possible.

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