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Posted by on January 07, 2020
  • Travel Requirements for Visiting Mexico
    Travel Requirements for Visiting Mexico


 The Immigration Service of Mexico has announced that it will be required to present a valid passport of your home nation for pedestrians entering Mexico at San Ysidro. We have also had first-hand reports from readers who have been asked to present a valid passport at the southbound entrance at San Ysidro, CA. The passport checks appeared to be at random. This seems a bit redundant on the surface, as for many years now you have needed a passport to return to the US anyway. Basically, Mexico doesn't want to be stuck with someone without the where with all to return home. 

The scarier part for potential border delays for southbound North Americans is that this is in conjunction with an announcement by Aduana, the customs service of Mexico, that also on September 1, they will be increasing inspections at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa along with the increased border surveillance in the passive inspection equipment provided to Mexico for these two border crossings in 2013. This will mean a much higher likelihood of Mexican plated cars needing to declare imports and increased vigilance on those with temporary and permanent visa, with the limit for land access being. What it does mean for all visitors is there will be additional items enforced at the border crossing, southbound. It is unclear at this time whether this will be spot checks, a question of having it if your are asked during some other inspection or if every southbound vehicle will be checked and to what extent or database. Mexico vows that it will not create 4hr southbound delays like can occur on the northbound side.

Items covered by the Temporary Importation Permit for vessels has been reduced to only serial numbered large items such as motors, outboards generators. So, if you are driving south with goods you are bringing to Mexico for yourself or a friend, the chance of you having to pay 16% IVA on those importations is greater than it has ever been. Be financially prepared to pay the IVA (and a fine if you don't declare it ahead of time and are caught) because retrieving the items from impound was, as a friend of mine put it, "It would have been easier and cheaper to write the stuff off and go buy new."

Effective June 1, 2009, all US citizens will be required to hold a US passport to re-enter the United States by land, sea or air. This is the final stage of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. (WHTI) Verbal declarations of citizenship and multiple forms of identification (driver license and birth certificate) will no longer be accepted effective June 1, 2009.

What was initiated by the Bush administration as a reaction to 9/11incident, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requires all citizens to hold a valid passport to return to the United States.

At the initiation of the program, about 20% of US citizens held passports, the lowest of any industrialized nation, including communist China. Nearly a decade after the plan was enacted only 30% of citizens now hold passports. More aptly called the Western Hemisphere ANTI-Travel initiative, this policy has dramatically hurt the Mexican travel industry nationwide and here in Baja. It now costs the average family of four $320 more just to plan to go to Mexico. A cross-border jaunt for bargain shopping has been made financially impossible for nearly 70% of Americans.

Also see: Import Duties & Exceptions

One Way Travel

We have recently received several reader comments who were alarmed to read "You may be required to show proof of return ticket at the airport" stamped on their one-way to Mexico airline tickets. If you don't deal with this issue in advance, waiting to be told at the airport "whether or not" will not provide time for a solution that will keep you from missing your flight. This presents an issue for people having a crew come to assist in the delivery of a vessel back to the US or someone who is helping drive an existing car back north. This is nothing new but enforcement may be. This change was part of the 2013 Immigration Reform and is in place to keep people, immigrants from both north and south, from over-staying their tourist visa. If you drive in, they want to see you drive out, not selling or leaving your non-imported car in Mexico. If you fly or bus in, they want to be sure you intend on leaving within your allotted 180 days. As we understand it, crew, for example, flying down to help sail a boat back to the US would require a letter from the boat owner or captain, looking neat and official as you can make it, indicating the travel plans that get that aforementioned crew member back out of the country.  Mexico has its own immigration problems, mostly from its southern border but there are more than a few, as we semi-jokingly call them, "dry back" northern illegals that remain here in Baja, although that has become increasingly difficult. Again, Mexico doesn't want to be stuck with someone without the where with all to return home. 

Traveling with Minors to Mexico

Children must also have valid passports when traveling to Mexico to return to the United States.

It is very important to note that when one parent is traveling with a minor child that parent must have signed AND NOTARIZED documents indicating that the parent not present agrees to allow the child to enter Mexico. This has been enacted to prevent separated parents from 'friendly abduction' of a child and fleeing to Mexico. The Mexican government is very strict about enforcement of these rules, do not expect exceptions.

Crossing U.S. Borders

U.S. Border Crossing Requirements Have Changed- Make sure you are compliant today & simplify your travel checklist

Since June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens returning home from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, by land or sea, are required to present one of the travel documents listed below.

Since January 1, 2015 Meixcan aithorities may ask for a valid passport from your home nation to enter Mexico.

U.S. Passport – This is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies a person’s identity and nationality. It is accepted for travel by air, land and sea.

U.S. Passport Card – This is a new, limited-use travel document that fits in your wallet and costs less than a 

U.S. Passport. It is only valid for travel by land and sea.

Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) – Several states and Canadian provinces are issuing this driver’s license 

or identification document that denotes identity and citizenship. It is specifically designed for cross-border travel into the U.S. by land or sea.

Trusted Traveler Program Cards – NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST enrollment cards can speed your entry into the U.S. and are issued only to pre-approved, low-risk travelers. The cards are valid for use on land or sea; the NEXUS card can be used in airports with a NEXUS kiosk.

Special Groups – Information for Children, Groups of Children, Native Americans, "Closed Loop" Cruises, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, U.S. Military, Merchant Mariners, Ferries and Small Boats, and Boaters.

Knowing what documents are required and having them ready when you return home will help streamline the entry process and ensure your return to the U.S. is as smooth 

as possible.

For Lawful Permanent Residents

Air Travel

All travelers including children must present a passport or secure travel document when entering the United States by air.

Land/Sea Travel

Lawful permanent residents may continue to present their Form I-551, Permanent Resident Card. More information available at

Citizens from Other Countries

Air Travel

All international visitors regardless of country of origin must present a passport or secure document when entering the United States by air.

US-VISIT biometric procedures apply to international travelers holding a non-U.S. passport or visa with these limited exceptions. Find out how US-VISIT works.

Land/Sea Travel

Canadian Citizens - Beginning June 1, 2009

US-VISIT biometric procedures may apply to some Canadian citizens. Find out if US-VISIT applies to you.

All Others

Travel Document Requirements - Visitors Traveling Under the Visa Waiver Program  International travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program need to present an e-Passport if their passport was issued on or after October 26, 2006.

US-VISIT. Entry and exit process for visitors requiring a visa, using biometrics such as digital finger scans and digital photographs, to ensure the person crossing our border is the same person who received the visa.

ESTA Internet-based Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to screen Visa Waiver Program (VWP) applicants prior to traveling to the United States.

e-Passports. The United States requires that travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program have an e-Passport if their passport was issued on or after October 26, 2006.

Travel For Non-U.S. Citizens (CBP) Information for visitors to the United States that are visiting for the purpose of working, studying, business travel or immigration.

More information available at

Other State Department Links:

How to get a Passport
How to Renew your Passport
Where to get you Passport Abroad


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