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 Mexico Customs Regulations - Entering Mexico
Updated January 8th, 2016

To enter Mexico, all person 16 and older will need a valid passport by air and sea. If by land you can use a passport card if you stay within the border zone for 72 hours or less. If you are traveling with a minor (under 16)may enter the U.S. via the land border with a certified birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad, citizenship certificate, or naturalization certificate. Citizens other than U.S. or Canadian may have other requirements such as a visa. Please contact a Mexican consulate or embassy near you.

NOTE: If you are entering Mexico by any means other than airlines or cruise ship (see below) and staying for over 72 hours and/or traveling more than 20 miles beyond the border, you will need a Tourist Card.

For those of you entering on an airline or cruise, your identification must be presented at the airline/cruise check-in. Once on the plane/ship you will be given two forms to fill out - one for Immigration (Tourist Card) and another for Customs (Customs Declaration Form). There are restrictions as to what you can bring to Mexico......Some of these restrictions are limits for "duty free" and some are absolute, such as firearms without a permit not to mention drugs (do not bring either into Mexico).

All tourists traveling to Mexico have the right to take with them their personal luggage duty free.

Most commonly encountered restrictions are (import duties could be assessed if you exceed these amounts):

  • Some food items - especially plants and seeds
  • Cigars and cigarettes - up to 10 packs per person
  • Liquor and wine - up to 3 liters per person
  • Film or videocassettes - up to 12 rolls/cassettes
  • Medicine for personal use - must have a prescription if the medicine is psychotropic or if you needed one to get the medicine in the first place
  • Illegal controlled substances & drugs - a no no!
  • Firearms - only for hunting and must obtain a permit from the Mexican Consulate in advance

The Immigration counter is your first stop after you disembark the plane/ship. Here you will have to present your passport (or birth certificate) along with the Tourist Visa you filled out. Your tourist visa and passport will be stamped to make your arrival official. (You will need to keep your passport and tourist visa with you at all times while in Mexico - make copies in case you lose your originals). Next proceed to the baggage claim area for your luggage.

Customs is the last step, here you will need to have your Customs Declaration Form handy (the other form you were given on the plane/ship). Mexico has adopted a "Red Light - Green Light" system for customs. If you have put "Nothing to declare" on this form, you will be asked to push a button....... If the light is green you can exit without inspection; if the light is red you will be subject to inspection. This is a random system, and therefore there is no way to know whether you will get a green or red light. Consequently you need to be honest on your Customs Declaration and declare anything over and above what is allowed, paying all applicable duties. If you do not, and are caught by a red light, the fines may be very steep. One note, Mexican customs officials may assume you know about the "Red Light - Green Light" system and not say a word. No problem, step up & push the button.

Entering By Land
All of the above applies to those who enter by land. Other than picking up your Tourist Visa/Card and having the proper identification, the only difference is the "green light - red light" system. If you are driving, the lights will be in the lane you cross in. Look for yours and if it's green, then drive away. If it's red (and there should be a bell or buzzer sounding) then you need to pull over to the Customs (you'll be pointed in the direction by an officer) area for an inspection.

Same process for those of you walking in to Mexico. More than likely you will be directed to push the button on a solitary "stoplight" with the same system as other entries. Some busy border crossings like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez may not have you push the button unless you have packages. It's the Customs officials decision. These borders are so busy with tourists and locals crossing back and forth that it would be almost impossible to have everyone do this so they will randomly select people to push the button.


Mexican Insurance for your vehicle or means of transportation (must have).
Visa Requirements for proper documentation.

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