Immigration & Visas, Mexico Essentials

Procedures for Entering and Leaving Mexico

There are some straightforward paperwork procedures to engage with when you arrive to, and depart from, Mexico. This article describes them

Mexico Map and Passport

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 instead.

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.

Some airports no longer issuing Exit Stamps

Readers have told us that some airports (Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara) are no longer issuing Exit Stamps to holders of residency cards.  However, other airports (Mexico City) continue to issue Exit Stamps.

We recommend that if you hold a residency card and leave Mexico you continue to attend an INM office or kiosk at the exit port and ask for an Exit Stamp.  You might be told that it’s no longer required.

There has been no official notice of a change of policy, but we will keep this page updated with new information as it becomes available. [January 2024]

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, you at are risk of losing your legal residency status.

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 leave Mexico with an expired card, it might be confiscated at the port of exit.  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.

Read this article for further details.

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.

Further information

Here is some further information you may find helpful:

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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  1. Robert says

    Dear Mexperience,

    I am an American holding a Residencia Permanente. I live part time in Mexico. Could you tell me the Pros and Cons of obtaining Dual Citizenship? Thank you very much.


  2. Maryanne Wezenbeek says

    My husband and I have decided not to exchange our temporary residency cards for permanent residency cards. This is mainly due to our advanced age (81 and 72) and the fact that we only stay in Mexico a maximum of 4-5 months per year. We are currently in Mexico and our cards expire 3 weeks before we return to Canada. Do we need permission to leave the country?? We like to avoid visiting a busy INM office during a pandemic. Your advice is very much appreciated.

    • Mexperience says

      Hello Maryanne,

      You can leave Mexico with an expired Temporary Residency card, however you will need to pay a fine at the airtport. (Note that you’ll have to go to the bank to pay the fine, so build-in extra time for that on your departure date.) The fine varies depending on circumstances and is a maximum of $8,000 Mexican pesos.

      If you want to avoid the fine, you need to leave Mexico with a non-expired residency card, or if it’s expired, you need to enter into a renewal procedure.

      You can find out more about expired permits here:

  3. Elizabeth says

    Traveling to Cancun in late February, 2021. My passport expires in late July, 2021. Is that sufficient or should I renew?

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Elizabeth

      We recommend your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry. Admision to Mexico depends on the official at the border. If your passport does not have 6 months of valid time left, and you can provide evidence of your departure before the passport expiry date, the official may allow you in.

      See the blue information box on this page for more details:

  4. Anna Struh says

    So, if you have Schengen visa, do you still need FMM filled out ?

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Ana, all visitors arriving in Mexico need to complete a FMM, regardless of whether they have a Schengen visa.

  5. Javier says

    My brother in law is a permanent resident of the USA and living in houston. What does he need to travel By plane into mexico City and back?

  6. Wil says

    I entered mexico in texas at the pharr bridge. But when i got to the other side, there were no people. I had to stop at a lift gate arm, where it seemed my picture was taken by a machine, and then the gate arm lifted and I drove on through. I kept expecting to be stopped to have my passport stamped and pay my vehicle deposit and get my forma de immigration. But there was noone there and no where to stop and no signs. Before I knew it, I was in mexico driving down the highway on my way to oaxaca amd chiapas Was there somewhere I was supposed to go? I was trying to follow the law and procedures, but somehow i dont think I did. Am I breaking the law? What comsequences can I expect? What shoukd I do?
    Thank you

  7. Deann says

    We have airline tickets leaving out of Tijuana and my sons passport will not be here in time will he be able to still get the FFM permit with only a drivers license and Birth Certificate? We’re US citizens

  8. Ann says

    I am hoping to get some clarification on whether a felon from the U.S. is able to travel to Cabo. I see conflicting opinions on this so maybe you are able to give me accurate information. Are criminal records from the United States checked upon entry at the airport?

  9. Julita Awo Salac says

    My name is Julita . Holding philippine passport.
    I am legally married to a mexican but his living in US..we want to live in mexico what is the best for me to do, first i need a visa . How to apply . Please i need your help. Thank you

  10. Jaime Contreras says

    Hello Mexperience.
    I’m in the process of buying a property in CDMX. Can I fly into Mexico to take care of things related to this purchase between Aug 1 to 9? Also, I have dual citizenship. Which is the most recommended way for traveling, as Mexican or as American? I have both passports. Thank you and look forward for some info. Regards.

    • Mexperience says

      Hello Jaime,
      There are no restrictions when you fly to Mexico, but check with the airlines for schedules and and policies they have in place. You can enter Mexico with your US or Mexican passport. There are no restrictions on American passport holders entering Mexico by plane.

  11. Erik Gonzalez says

    Can you drive to/from Mexico without passport if you have a permanent resident card in the US?

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