Driving to Mexico: Requirements and Everything You Need To Know

More than 300,000 cars cross the US-Mexico border every day.

Expect to wait 30 to 90 minutes in line when crossing the border by car. And that’s on a good day. To avoid any issues, it is important to know all the necessary requirements beforehand so you are not caught by surprise.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the list of requirements that must be met when driving to Mexico. This will help you fasten things up so you can have a better experience visiting this beautiful country.

Driving to Mexico requirements

According to the department of state and the Mexican foreign affairs ministry, these are the requirements you must meet in order to drive through the Mexican border coming from the US.

  • A U.S. passport or passport from your country of origin. It must be valid at the time of entry. A passport card is also valid.
  • A migratory form (FMM). You can get one at the border but it’s much faster if you bring one already filled and printed. You can generate it here.
  • A U.S. driver’s license or a valid license from your country of origin.
  • A temporary vehicle import permit. You can get it at the border, but again, getting it beforehand speeds things up. You can get it at banjercito’s website and get further details here. It has a cost of $55 USD approximately. You must also leave a security deposit that goes from $200 to $400 dependoing on the car’s model. The deposit will be reimbursed as long as you the vehicle crosses back to the US with the permit’s time limit (6 months). This requirement can be waived if you are only planning to stay within the free zone (25 kilometers from the border).
  • Pay a fee for ‘visitor without permission to conduct remunerative activities’. It has a cost of $295 Mexican pesos (around $22 USD)

The same rules apply when crossing into Mexico from the southern borders with Guatemala and Belize but the fees may vary.

Mexico does not currently require a COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination to enter the country. This might change without notice.

Having a passport card can help speed up your wait time at the border. There are ready lanes with RFID readers that can save you some time.

Migratory authorities can ask you for additional documentation such as an invitation letter or proof that you have enough funds to cover your stay. This is not very common, but it can happen.

Do you need a Mexican driver’s license to drive in Mexico?

Driving to Mexico
Driving to Mexico

A Mexican driver’s license is not necessary to drive in Mexico as long as you have a valid license from your country of origin.

But for long-term stays, it might be worth considering getting one. You can find all the requirements in our article covering Mexico drivers license.

Can you drive to mexico without a passport?

You can not drive to Mexico without a passport as a foreign citizen. A passport is the first and most important requirement when trying to enter another country. The only document that could be considered an alternative is a passport card.

A passport is required when entering Mexico. The local officer will stamp it for the period you are allowed to visit the country.

Birth certificates, driver’s licenses, or Real IDs are not valid replacements for a passport. If you try to drive to Mexico without a passport, the border officer will deny you entry. You will just have wasted your time.

The only exception to this rule is for Mexican citizens that are trying to go back to the country and lost their passport while abroad. But even in that case, you cannot just show up at the border. You will first need to contact the Mexican embassy or consulate in the US and they’ll issue a temporary one-use permit that will allow you entry into Mexico.

What happens if you go to Tijuana without a passport?

There is a misconception that there is a certain “zone” at the US-Mexico border where you can move freely between countries without documentation.

Because the city of Tijuana falls inside this area, many people show up every day at the border believing they can enter Mexico without a passport because they are planning to stay within that strip.

This is simply not true.

If you try to go to Tijuana without a passport, you will be denied entry. You need a valid passport to enter Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa or any city in Mexican territory. Even if it is right across the border.

The misconception comes because there is a strip of 25 kilometers (15 miles) called free zone where you can drive in Mexico coming from the US without a vehicle import permit. But that does not mean that the person(s) in the vehicle are also exempt from the requirements needed to cross the border.

Do you need a visa to drive to Mexico?

You do not need a visa to drive to Mexico for tourism purposes if you are a US, Canadian, UK, or EU citizen.

Tourists are allowed to stay in Mexico for up to 180 consecutive days (around 6 months) without applying for a visa. If you’d like to stay for a longer period, you will have to apply for a temporary or permanent residency.

People that are entering the country for work and will be earning income in Mexico need to apply for a work permit.

Crossing the Mexican border by car

How long does it take to cross US Mexico border?

You can expect the waiting line at the US – Mexico to take somewhere between 30 minutes and 4 hours depending on the time of the day, the season, and the port of entry.

You can speed things up by getting a passport card. This is a document with a RFID chip that allows you to use the ready lanes at the border. In these lanes, you can simply pass the card through a reader instead of having an immigration officer check your passport manually.

You can also check the current waiting times for each of the ports of entry to Mexico. The US Customs and Border protection site also has a handy tool that lets you see the average times for every port throughout the day so you can choose what’s the best time to cross.


  • You can drive to Mexico from the US, Guatemala or Belize borders.
  • To enter the country, you must provide the requirements listed above. This includes a passport, migration form, and temporary vehicle import permit.
  • A Mexican drivers license is not necessary. Your US drivers license is valid in Mexico.