When traveling to Mexico as a tourist for less than 180 days you need a FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple) commonly referred to as a “Tourist Card”. When flying in commercially this “Visitor’s Permit” will given to you by the airlines while en-route. You must fill out this simple form along with your passport upon arrival Migración will stamp it and grant you permission to visit up to 180 days in the country without having to leave. In addition to the Immigration form you will be asked to fill another fairly simple customs form. If for some reason the airlines do not have to give you on board do not worry they will have them at the airport when you arrive. It is just easier and faster for you if you can have it filled out before your arrival. There is a fee of the “Tourist Permit” but the airlines will have charged for it in your ticket price so normally you will pay nothing to obtain this permit.
Driving into Mexico
If you are driving you are required to obtain this Tourist Visa at the closest Immigration office (INAMI Instituto Nacional de Migración) generally right at the border crossing where you entered. The days of picking it up later further in the country are long gone and there is a hefty penalty if you have failed to obtain it at the border. It is not that costly and they have banks now located next to Migración to pay the fee which is currently about $22 usd.
The FFM is all that you will need and they require that you carry it with you at all times. You may want to make a copy of it to carry or just keep it in your wallet or purse. It is rare that a Federal Official may ask to see it but for example while driving through Military checkpoints it is common for them to ask to see you migratory status. Do not lose it as you will need to return it when leaving the country. If you do lose it you need to go to the nearest Immigration office and reapply by filling out more forms and take a trip to a bank to pay the replacement fee.
If you over stay the designated time on your FMM then you will have to visit the nearest Immigration office or the one at the airport and pay a hefty fine which is calculated on a per day basis that could cost you over $400 usd at the time of this article.
Short Term Business
If you are traveling on business for under 180 days for an event or consulting with a company and actually doing business in Mexico for example you may use a special section in the Visitors Permit for this purpose. If planning on visiting longer than 180 days and doing business in Mexico you will need to apply for a business visit visa or one of the Temporary Resident Visa with a work permit.
For information on Temporary and Permanent Visas go here: INAMI website : www.inm.gob.mx