When you are arriving in or departing from Mexico, there are some straightforward paperwork procedures that you will need to engage with.
Specific entry and exit procedures exist for foreign visitors, foreigners with resident visas and resident cards, as well as Mexican nationals and naturalized foreigners.
This article describes the procedures you need to engage with when you arrive to, and leave from, Mexico.
Foreign visitors to Mexico
If you hold a passport issued by one of the many countries on Mexico’s “no visa required” list,* you don’t need to apply for a visa to visit Mexico. You can, instead, complete a Visitor’s Permit, also known as a FMM, at your port of entry.
There is a ~US$25 fee for the permit, which is usually included in your airfare’s “fees and taxes” if you fly in to Mexico; if you drive-in to Mexico, the fee is waived if you depart within 7 days of your arrival date. The visitor’s permit is valid for stays up to 180 days.
Paper FMM forms are being phased out and it’s likely that the FMM will be stamped into your passport.
However, if you are given a paper FMM when you entered Mexico, don’t lose the half of the form that is handed back to you at immigration as you’ll need it to exit the country.
If you lose the permit; or keep the permit when you leave; or over-stay the number of days limit written on the permit, you’ll face some additional procedures: see this article for details about those situations.
Automated lanes for TOURISTS entering Mexico
Airports in Mexico City and Cancún have automated kiosk lanes where TOURISTS may register their entry to Mexico by scanning their passport on a machine. The machine will give you a receipt with a QR code that you must scan with your smartphone to get a digital version of your FMM. You’ll need to do this before you leave Mexico.
You can only use these automated lanes if you are a passport holder of the US, Canada, Japan, UK and some other European countries; you are over 18; and you are not traveling with minors. See this government page for more details.
Foreigners with a resident visa sticker in their passport
If you are arriving in Mexico with a resident visa stamp (sticker) in your passport provided by a Mexican Consulate abroad, you might need to fill out the Visitor’s Visa on arrival (see blue box above about phasing out of paper FMM forms).
Show the immigration officer the page in your passport with the residency visa stamp and double-check that the officer checks the box on the form that reads “Canje” (exchange) NOT “Vistante.” (If the officer admits you as a visitor/tourist, this will cause problems when you attend the immigration office to exchange your resident visa stamp for a residency card.)
If you don’t have to complete the paper FMM form at your port of entry, the official will place a stamp in your passport, instead, and mark ‘Canje’ to indicate that you need to exchange your visa for a residency card. You then have 30 days to attend the immigration office and exchange your resident visa stamp for a residency card.
Foreign residents with resident cards
Foreign residents who are in possession of a Residente Temporal or Residente Permanente card (or one of the old FM3 or FM2 residency permits) need to present their passport and resident card to the Immigration Officer at the port of exit (e.g. airport or border crossing) before they depart.
You must use your residency card to exit and re-enter the country if you are legally resident in Mexico.
If you have lost or damaged your residency card, you need to apply for a replacement. If you are in Mexico awaiting a replacement card to be issued and you need to leave Mexico, you must apply for a one-time exit/re-entry permit from your local immigration office.
Paper FMM forms being phased out
Until recently, residents always needed to complete a paper form (FMM), which is used by the government to record statistics. Depending on what port you exit from, this may no longer be required and officer will simply stamp your passport. See also: Phasing out of paper FMM forms.
Returning to Mexico as a legal resident
When you return, you must present the immigration official with your resident card and the exit FMM form’s date-stamped copy issued to you at exit, or the exit stamp that was placed in your passport.
Note: If you re-enter Mexico as a tourist (Visitor) when you have residency in Mexico, your residency status may become invalid.
Lost/missing FMM form: If you were given a paper copy of the FMM and lose the half that was handed to you when you left Mexico, you’ll need to re-complete a FMM when you return to Mexico and explain to the immigration official that you lost the half that was given to you when you departed.
Lost passport with exit stamp: If you had a stamp in your passport when you left Mexico and you lose that passport, explain this to the officer when you return to Mexico. If you update your passport, take the previous (cancelled) passport with the stamp in it to show the immigration officer.
Expired residency card: If you hold a temporary residency card, be sure to check its expiry date. If you are outside of Mexico when it expires, you have a limited time frame to return to Mexico to get it renewed. See this article for details.
Mexico is phasing out paper versions of the FMM
The paper versions of the FMM are being gradually phased out and replaced with a stamp in your passport.
Mexican nationals and naturalized foreigners
If you are in possession of Mexican passport, you will need to complete a form before you exit the country known as the Formato Estadístico para Mexicanos (FEM). The government uses this to record statistics of Mexican nationals traveling abroad.
Lost visitor/tourist permit, lost residency card
If you are visiting Mexico as a visitor/tourist and you lose your visitor’s permit, you will need to attend a local immigration office (in a town or city or at the airport) to apply for a replacement; there is a fee of around US$40 involved—the local immigration office will advise you of the current replacement fee.
Lost passport with exit stamp: If you had a stamp placed in your passport when you arrived in Mexico and you lose that passport, visit the local immigration office to explain this and to get guidance.
Updated passport: If you had a stamp placed in your passport when you arrived in Mexico and you update your passport while you are in Mexico, take the previous (cancelled) passport with the stamp in it to show the immigration officer. If you don’t have the cancelled passport visit your immigration office for guidance.
Tourist permit replacement process: You will be required to undertake some paperwork and to pay the fee. This process can take up to an entire day of your time. Take good care of your visitor’s permit and, in the event of its loss, we recommend you allow a whole day in your schedule to secure a replacement.
Lost residency cards: If you are resident in Mexico and lose your residency card, learn about how to apply for a replacement residency card in Mexico.
*If you are a passport holder of a country that is not listed on the “no visa required” list, read this article for further information and advice about applying for a visa before you travel to Mexico.
Here is some further information you may find helpful:
- For a summary of the documentation required to enter Mexico, see Documents required for travel and entry to Mexico
- Many people don’t need to pre-apply for a visa to visit Mexico, but some do. Read Do I need a visa to visit Mexico? for details.
- You can get full details about immigration procedures on your arrival in Mexico on our comprehensive guide to Mexico Entry Requirements.
Obtaining legal residency in Mexico
For information about long-term residency, including permits for living, retirement, and working in Mexico, read this article about typical routes to obtaining residency in Mexico and download a copy of our comprehensive Mexico Immigration Guide (eBook).
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