Immigration & Visas, Mexico Essentials

Procedures for Entering and Leaving Mexico

Mexico City Airport Arrivals Hall

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.

Foreign Visitors – If you hold a passport issued by one of the many countries on Mexico’s “no visa required” list,* you don’t need to pre-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$22 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 and travel past the 35km ‘free’ zone, you will need to pay this fee separately.   The visitor’s permit is valid for stays up to 180 days. 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 180 day limit, you’ll face some additional procedures: see this article for details about those situations.

Foreigners with Resident Visa Stamps: If you are arriving in Mexico with a resident visa stamp in your passport provided by a Mexican Consulate abroad, you will need to fill out the Visitor’s Visa on arrival, but show the immigration officer the page in your passport with the residency visa stamp and double-check that the officer ticks the box on the form that reads “Canje” (exchange) NOT “Vistante.” If they admit 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.  You the 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), accompanied by a Visitor’s form (FMM), which is used by the government to record statistics.  There is no fee for this form.  Upon your exit, your document will be date-stamped, and one half of the form given to you for safe-keeping.  When you return, you must present your resident card and the exit form’s date-stamped copy issued to you at exit to the Immigration Officer at port of entry, who will retain the exit-form copy. If you re-enter Mexico as a tourist (Visitor) when you have residency in Mexico, your residency status may become invalid.

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.

Leaving Mexico – 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.  You will be required to undertake some paperwork, visit a local bank to pay the replacement fee, and return to the immigration office with your payment receipt from the bank to complete the replacement procedure and receive your duplicate copy.  This whole 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.

You can get full details about visitor’s visas on our guide to Entry Procedures to Mexico.  For detailed information about resident visas, read our guide to Immigration in Mexico.

*If you are a passport holder of a country that is not listed on the “no visa required” list, contact your nearest Mexican Consulate for further information and advice about pre-applying for a visa before you travel to Mexico.

See Also: Do I need a Visa to Visit Mexico?

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  1. Les Fawcett says

    I walked into Mexico 2 years ago at the Tijuana crossing and didn’t find where to get the permit. I had to wait until I left Mexico a month later before sorting it at the Mexico City airport immigration office. I’m going to Mexico the same way next week. Just WHERE do I get the permit? The Mexican consulate in London could only suggest an office some way from the border.

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Les, you don’t need a Tourist Permit if you don’t travel beyond the 35km “free zone”, i.e. if you’re just visiting a border town and environs, no need for a tourist permit. There are check points on the road around the 35km point if you drive further into Mexico. If you subsequently fly from Tijuana internally, visit the immigration kiosk at the airport for further help. You might also check at the immigration desk on the US/MX border crossing for further advice.

    • William Bridenbaugh says

      I obtained a visitor permit when I entered Mexico by car. I forgot to turn it back in when i departed. What steps should I follow so i don’t have problems trying to reenter the country? Is there somewhere i can mail it?

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