What Happens If You Go To Mexico Without A Passport?


Have you been asking yourself, ‘Can I travel to Mexico without a passport? 

If you, like many others hoping to visit Mexico, have been wondering if travelling to Mexico without a passport is possible, then this article is for you. 

It will cover everything you need to know about how to enter Mexico by land, sea or air and what essential documentation you will need to bring with you. This article will categorically answer the often asked question, ‘do I need a passport to go to Mexico?’ 

Mexico is a fantastic and diverse vacation destination. It has incredible natural scenery, from the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua to white sand beaches bordered by a turquoise sea in Tulum. 

You can visit historical sites such as Chichen Itza, swim in a stunning cenote, marvel at the architecture in San Miguel de Allende or see the Monarch butterflies in the Sierra Madre mountains. Whatever your interests or travel style, Mexico holds something special for you. 

As a result of this, Mexico is justifiably a popular tourist destination, especially for North Americans. Over 36 million Americans visited Mexico in 2019, and that number looks set to climb even higher post Covid. 

What Happens If You Go To Mexico Without A Passport

Disclaimer – The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of publication. We hold no responsibility for inaccurate information found within this article.  

The following information is aimed at citizens of the United States travelling to Mexico from the United States. If you live in or have a passport from another country, please check your specific entry requirements on the Mexican government website here.

If you are a United States citizen, we recommend you check the latest up-to-date information about passport rules before you travel on the U.S. government website here. 

What Happens If You Go To Mexico Without A Passport?

Do you need a passport for Mexico? The short answer is yes; you absolutely need a passport for Mexico!  

You will not be allowed to board a plane in the U.S. to travel to Mexico if you do not hold a valid passport plus some additional documentation. 

You will not be able to enter Mexico by land or sea without a valid passport or a valid passport card, plus some additional documentation. 

🚗 ALSO READ ➡️ Renting A Car In Cancun: Ultimate Guide + Tips

🚗 Do you need a passport to drive to Mexico?

 Do you need a passport to drive to Mexico?

Can you cross into Mexico with a driver’s licence?

No, not since 2007. To cross the border into Mexico today, U.S. citizens must have a valid passport or passport card when entering Mexico ‘by any means’. This also includes minors who are travelling to Mexico from the United States. 

If entering Mexico by land, U.S. citizens must present a valid passport or a passport card. ‘Valid’ means that your passport is in good condition and valid for at least six months from the date of entry. 

You also need to have an FMM entry permit (Forma Migratoria Múltiple) which is issued by the Instituto Nacional de Migración. The permit is also known as the Mexico Tourist Card. 

You can apply for the form online in advance here. Alternatively, pick one up from the Instituto Nacional de Migración offices just past border control when entering Mexico. However, it is quicker and easier to apply online, especially if you speak limited Spanish.

Note that you will need a new FMM permit for each entry into Mexico. If you leave Mexico for short periods to visit neighbouring countries during your trip, you will need to reapply for another FMM to re-enter Mexico.

So if you have been wondering if travelling to Mexico without a passport is possible if you show a driver’s licence, the answer is no, not any more. You will need a valid passport. 

Don’t forget that if you are self-driving across the border, make sure you also have the relevant documentation to bring a U.S registered car into Mexico. You will need to obtain a temporary vehicle import permit. 

Can I cross the border with my ID instead of my passport?

No, not unless the ID is a valid passport card and you are travelling by land. Otherwise, you will need a valid passport.

Can I cross to Mexico with my birth certificate and ID?

No. You must carry and present a valid passport or a valid passport card. A birth certificate and any other photo ID are not sufficient to cross the U.S. border into Mexico. 

Can you cross the border without a passport?

Yes, but only by land and sea and only with a passport card. No other form of a photo or non-photo ID will grant you entry to Mexico. 

What is a passport card?

Can you go to Cancun without a passport?

Passport cards have been issued by the United States since 2008. These wallet-friendly credit card size cards are designed for people who regularly cross the Mexican or Canadian border but who do not wish to carry a full-size passport with them. 

The cards are smaller, cheaper, and more hard-wearing than paper passport books and are ideal for travellers who wish to visit Mexico but who have no plans to travel to other international countries. 

Like a passport, a passport card has your photograph on it as well as personal information. It has an RFID chip to enable quick border crossings. 

However, the passport card cannot be used for air travel to Mexico or for other international travel. The cards can only be used for land and sea crossings on the North American continent, including Mexico.

You can apply for a passport card here. 

What type of ID do I need to cross into Mexico?

To cross into Mexico by land, you will need – 

  • A passport which is valid for at least 6 months from your date of entry into Mexico
  • An FMM permit / Mexico Tourist Card
  • Documentation to prove the leisure or business purpose of your trip, i.e. evidence of a hotel reservation
  • If you are staying in someone’s home, you may be asked to show a “letter of invitation” from the person you are visiting. Make sure this letter includes as much information as possible. It must include your and your hosts’ full names, addresses, contact details and the purpose of your visit.
  • Proof of sufficient funds for your stay in Mexico
  • Be prepared to answer questions about, or show evidence of, when you will return to the U.S. by land.

To cross into Mexico by air, you will need ALL of the above, plus passengers by air need to prove they have a return flight booked. 

United States citizens do not need a visa for Mexico and can stay in the country visa-free for up to 180 days. If you want to stay longer, you will need to apply for a visa.

Visitors arriving from other countries on other passports may need to apply for a Mexican visa in advance. 

Mexican passport requirements

Your passport must be in good condition (no tears, stains or loose pages). 

It must have at least one empty page in the book (for the entry stamp), and the passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of entry into Mexico. 

✈️ Do you need a passport to fly to Mexico?

Do you need a passport to travel to Mexico?

Do I need a passport to fly to Mexico?

Is a passport needed for Mexico if you are flying into the country? Yes. You will not be able to board your plane in the U.S. to travel to Mexico without a valid passport. 

Your passport will be checked at the airline check-in desk and then again at the boarding gate. If you do not have a valid passport, you will not be allowed to board the plane. 

When entering Mexico by air, you will also need to provide evidence of a return flight ticket.

This answers the frequently asked (and often misunderstood) do you need a passport to fly to Mexico question. It is also advised to arrange your much-needed passport before booking your flight. 

🛳️ Do you need a passport to cruise to Mexico?

Do you need a passport to cruise to Mexico?

Do I need a passport to cruise to Mexico?

If you are thinking of asking your cruise ship company do you need a passport for a cruise to Mexico, then the short answer is, again, yes, you do. The entry rules for Mexico are the same no matter what your mode of transport is. 

If your cruise is visiting different ports in Mexico that do not count as ‘contiguous territories of the United States, ’ you must carry a valid passport.

In any case, many cruise ship companies will not let you travel without a valid passport, as unforeseen circumstances may result in the need for a flight, and you cannot fly without a passport. 

Visitors arriving by sea do not need to arrange an FMM permit in advance. It will be issued at your first port of call in Mexico.

Coming back to the U.S

Holbox Island in Mexico.

Can I come back to the US without a passport?

No. The U.S. introduced the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) in 2007. This requires all travellers entering or re-entering the United States by air to present a valid passport, even if they are permanent U.S. residents. 

The rules are the same if you enter the U.S. by land or sea. From June 2009, all U.S. citizens entering the United States by land or sea are required to present a valid passport. 

However, you can re-enter the United States if you are travelling on a Passport Card from another North American country which is part of the Passport Card scheme

It is also important to note that, by law, U.S. citizens must enter and depart the United States using U.S. passports, even if they hold a passport (or dual nationality) from another country.

Can I use my birth certificate to come back from Mexico?

No, you need a passport card or passport if travelling by land and sea or a passport if travelling back from Mexico by air. 

What happens if you lose your passport in Mexico?

If you lose your passport in Mexico, you need to contact the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. consulate as quickly as possible. You will not be able to travel back to the United States without a passport. 

The consulate or embassy will help to replace your passport and can advise you on what to do next (i.e. whether to file a police report, make an insurance claim etc.). You will need to pre-book an appointment online or by phone before visiting the consulate. 

At your appointment, you may need to provide a birth certificate or driver’s licence as proof of identity. Make sure you have a copy of these documents with you or with a family member at home who can easily send them to you or have them downloaded somewhere safe. 

You will also need to provide recent passport-size photographs. Again, it is always a good idea to pack a few photos when you travel, just in case. If you don’t have any, you will need to get photos taken wherever you are in Mexico before visiting the consulate or embassy. 

Once you have submitted your stolen or lost passport form along with your photos, your current lost passport will no longer be valid. 

If you should then find your passport, you will not be able to use it to travel back to the U.S. You must wait for your replacement passport to arrive before travelling home. 

You can find a full list of U.S Embassies and consulates in Mexico here.

Can I travel while waiting for my passport?

You can only travel within Mexico, but ideally, for ID purposes, it is better to wait until your passport arrives. You do not need a passport for Mexico domestic bus or road travel, but you would need it for domestic flights. 

How can I travel without a passport?

You cannot travel internationally from the U.S. without a passport. 

You CAN travel to some North American countries, such as Canada and Mexico, using a passport card, but only by land or sea. 

Domestic with an ID?

Yes, you can travel within the United States with a photo ID. It does not have to be a passport. This includes interstate flights. 

U.S. citizens cannot travel within Mexico on domestic flights without a valid U.S. passport. 

Where can I travel without a passport?

You can travel domestically within the U.S. without a passport as long as you have another form of photo ID.

If you apply for and receive a Passport Card, you can travel to several North American and Caribbean countries without a full passport book.

How do I get an emergency passport?

To get an emergency passport outside the United States, you need to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. 

To get an emergency passport within the United States for immediate, unavoidable travel or for compassionate reasons, you need to apply to your nearest Department of State office. 

For an emergency passport, you will need the usual passport application form, passport fees, recent photos, personal and citizenship ID, plus proof of the emergency and proof of travel specific to the emergency. 

How much is a U.S. passport?

The following fees refer to applicants aged 16 years or older.

  • $130 for a passport book or $30 for a passport card ($160 for both). 
  • Execution or Acceptance Fee: $35 (if you are purchasing both a passport and a passport card, this acceptance fee is only paid once).
  • Optional expedited service fee for people needing a quick passport turnaround: $60
  • 1-2 day delivery charge: $18.32

You can find out more about applying for a U.S Passport here.

How long does a passport take?

An average passport application takes between 8 to 11 weeks to process.

However, processing times vary throughout the year, and you can expect longer wait times in the run-up to peak periods such as summer or Thanksgiving. 

Other Frequently Asked Questions


Can I go to Cancun without a passport?

If you are wondering if you can go to Cancun without a passport, the answer is no. Cancun is part of Mexico, and as such, normal rules regarding travel to Mexico apply. 

What happens if I go to Tijuana without a passport?

You will not be able to get to Tijuana without a passport unless you cross the border by land with a passport card. 

Although Tijuana is just over the border from the U.S.,  it is still Mexico, so the same travel rules apply to Tijuana as to the rest of the country. 

Can you travel to Mexico with an expired passport?

No, you need a current passport that is valid for up to six months from the date of entry. You cannot travel to any country in the world on an expired passport. 

What Happens If You Go To Mexico Without A Passport? – RECAP

I hope this post has clarified the often-asked question, ‘do you need a passport to go to Mexico’. In a nutshell, ✈️ all travellers to Mexico by air will need a valid passport plus additional documentation. 🚗 All travellers to Mexico by land and 🛳️ sea will need either a valid passport or a passport card plus additional documentation. 

Don’t let the idea of red tape and paperwork deter you from visiting Mexico. Getting all your documentation together isn’t as time-consuming as it may at first appear. However,  you will need to incorporate passport fees into your overall travel budget, especially if you are travelling as a family. 

Travel rules to Mexico are no different from many other countries around the world; it is simply part of international, cross-border travel today. 

Once you have your passport or passport card and additional documents, you will be on your way to one of the world’s most fascinating and engaging countries. Every minute spent filling in forms will be worth it once you arrive in beautiful Mexico.

For up-to-date U.S. State Department information on Mexico, including current travel advisories, click here. 

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