The land border restrictions introduced in March, 2020 due to Covid-19 —and extended each month since then— have been extended again. The land border between the United States and Mexico will now remain restricted to ‘essential’ crossings only until at least March 21st, 2021. Air travel between the United States and Mexico remains unrestricted. News of the extension for another month was confirmed by the US government on Friday February 19th.
US-Mexico Land Border Closed to All But “Essential Crossings”
The Mexico-US land border is closed to all but “essential crossings.” Non-essential crossings are prohibited until at least March 21st, 2021.
What is defined as an “Essential Crossing”
According to legal Notices published on the US Federal Register, “essential travel” (permitted crossings from Mexico to the USA) are defined as:
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
- Individuals traveling for medical purposes (e.g., to receive medical treatment in the United States);
- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
- Individuals traveling to work in the United States (e.g., individuals working in the farming or agriculture industry who must travel between the United States and Mexico in furtherance of such work);
- Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes (e.g., government officials or emergency responders entering the United States to support Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government efforts to respond to Covid-19 or other emergencies);
- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (e.g., truck drivers supporting the movement of cargo between the United States and Mexico);
- Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S.
- Armed Forces, returning to the United States; and
- Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.
What crossings are prohibited now
According to the US Federal Register Notice, the following activities do not fall under the definition of “essential travel” and are prohibited:
- Individuals traveling for tourism purposes (e.g., sightseeing, recreation, gambling, or attending cultural events);
- It has also been stated that shopping trips and routine family visits are prohibited;
- Mexicans and other foreign nationals with US tourist visas are not permitted to enter the United States by land, rail or sea ferry unless they can prove their trip falls under the definition of “essential travel” as described above.
Flights not affected, but…
According to the official Notice, the land border restrictions do not affect flights to and from Mexico “at this time,” but you should check with the airline you intend to travel with as restrictions or other travel prerequisites (e.g., testing) might be in place depending on your travel destination(s).
Rail and sea travel
Freight rail and sea travel is not affected, but passenger rail and sea ferries between Mexico and the US are affected by these restrictions.
US and Canadian citizens returning home
US citizens and lawful permanent residents of the US returning home to the United States are not affected by these restrictions.
Canadian citizens who wish to drive home are probably able to cross into the US for onward passage to Canada, but we recommend you contact the Canadian or US Consulate for advice. Canada announced that it will require a negative Covid-19 test for land crossings into the country as of February 15, 2021, with exceptions for ‘essential travelers.’
If you have a foreign-plated vehicle in Mexico
If you are driving into Mexico (or currently in Mexico) with a foreign-plated vehicle with a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) we understand that Banjercito —the Agency that administers the permits— is not giving any extensions to TIP expiry dates due to Covid. If you fail to drive your vehicle out of Mexico before the TIP expires, the vehicle will become illegal in Mexico (this affects the validity of you your auto insurance) and you will lose your deposit. A TIP’s validity is usually tied to the expiry date of a Visitor Permit (FMM) or a Residente Temporal permit.
Traveling to Mexico from the United States
Mexico has not imposed any legal restrictions on passengers or vehicles entering Mexico by land from the United States. We are hearing that American citizens are driving and walking into Mexico without hindrance. Tourist permits (FMMs) and temporary vehicle import permits (TIPs) are being issued as normal. The situation appears to be in flux as per the anecdotal comments people have shared: see the comments section below to read about others’ experiences.
If you have a legal residency card for Mexico, —or residency visa sticker to exchange for a Residente Temporal or Residente Permanente card— you can cross the border by road to Mexico using that permit or visa. See this article on expiring residency permits if your existing Mexican residency permit is near or past its expiry date.
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