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Crossing the Border into Mexico

Crossing the Mexican border 

Here are some things you need to know when you decide to drive across the mexican border. It's easy when you know how.

Whether you are driving or flying into Mexico, you will need:

  • Proof of citizenship
    • As of a few years ago you need to have a valid passport to enter Mexico (exception - there is a 25 mile area close to the border where this isn't necessary). As of January 23, 2007 ALL PERSONS traveling by air outside of the United States are required to present a passport to re-enter the United States so you will also need the passport to get back into the United States.
  • With proof of citizen, you will be able to obtain a your Visitors Visa (FMM)
    • If you are flying, you will receive the FMM form to fill out from the flight attendant just before you land which you will show when you pass through customs (aduanas) at the airport, along with your proof of citizenship. They will stamp it and give it back to you.
    • If you are driving, you will get the FMM at the immigration check-point after your cross the border.
  • Do not throw it away—you need it to leave the country. Keep it with your Passport.

Permit for Your Vehicle

In addition to obtaining the FMM (Visitor's visa) at Immigration when you cross the border, you will also need to obtain a permit for your vehicle. Note! Make absolutely certain that you stop at and obtain your vehicle permit, otherwise your car will not be legal.

  • You will require the following (Originals plus 2 copies you can make copies there but faster to bring your own):
    • Vehicle Registration or Title document
    • Credit card
    • Your card will be charged a fee of $27 U.S. (as of Jan 06) for the permit, but it also guarantees you will take the vehicle out of Mexico before or at the time of expiry.
    • Drivers License
    • Picture ID (We recommend you bring your Passport. You don't need to get into Mexico, but you do need it to get back into the United States)
    • IMPORTANT! All documentation MUST be in the same name.
    • Once you obtain the vehicle permit, they will place or give you a hologram sticker for the windshield of your car which is proof that your car is legal.
  • Then you will need to stop at the Aduanas office (25 km in from the border crossing at Laredo crossing). This is where you get the red or green light. Good luck!
  • If you are coming into Mexico on an FMM, your vehicle permit will be valid ONLY for six months, the maximum length of time you can obtain on a Visitor's Visa. It is not possible to extend the FMM and you will need to leave the country after the allowed 180 days. If you plan to stay longer, you should go to the Mexican consulate closest to where you live and obtain a pre-authorization for a Temporary or Permanent resident visa. Once approved they will stamp in your passport. The pre-authorization is good for 180 days with 1 entry to Mexico allowed. Once you enter Mexico, during that 180 day period, you have only 30 days from the date of entry to attend at the Immigration Office at your destination and apply for your resident visa card. (Read "Immigration Requirements" As long as you are legal in Mexico, your vehicle is legal.

Important NOTE!  On occasion people accidentally drive all the way to Lake Chapala with just a Visitor's Visa for themselves and no permit for the car. We have heard several stories where these people drove all the way back to the border (two days drive there and two days drive back) to get the vehicle permit so their car would be legal during their stay in .

Crossing the Mexican Border & Customs

It's a game of chance! 

What to Expect at Mexican Immigration and Customs 

You will get either a green light to pass without inspection, or a red light, which means a customs officer will inspect your luggage and ask if you have firearms, drugs, certain electronics and other items that are not allowed or cannot be imported duty free. Don?t worry. It is a simple procedure.

Many people are intimidated at the prospect of going through an inspection and therefore are paranoid about getting the red light. You guessed it. If you are focused on not getting the red light, invariably you will get red.

Our advice - think green and be calm. In our ten and a half years living in Mexico we have traveled a lot, both by air and car and perhaps only once or twice have we got the red light. We think green and it works.


Visitor's Permit - FMM Fee

  • Mexico charges a fee to all tourists and business visitors arriving in the country. The fee is approximately US$22, and the money collected is handed to the Tourism Ministry to promote Mexican tourism.
  • Airlines normally collect the permit fee on behalf of the Mexican government and include the cost within the total airfare (under 'taxes and surcharges') so in the majority of cases, there will be no need for you to pay the fee separately.

Although it is not difficult to drive into and through Mexico once you know the correct procedures, many people prefer to fly in the first time and learn all the nuances and then they feel more comfortable driving the next time. Of course, we will be the first to tell you the best way to get all the accurate information and total peace of mind is to first take the Focus on Mexico program, after which you’ll feel very confident knowing you have all the information, knowledge and experience to handle most any situation, plus you’ll have our personal phone number to contact us should you run into trouble along the way. When you attend a Focus on Mexico Program, you will receive your personal Focus Driving Kit, which contains all kinds of information on Bringing in your vehicle, plus related topics: (Note! If you have already booked on our program and plan to drive down, please let us know and we can send you the kit in advance.)

Happy Traveling! 


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