Traveling to Mexico for the Holidays and the Paisano Program

If you are planning to travel to Mexico for the holidays, there are steps you should take to prepare yourself and your family for the trip. For a safe and easy trip, it is important that you understand and comply with Mexican laws, and take a few precautions.

To help travelers get through the border with ease, Mexico’s Federal government introduced the Paisano Program. The program places volunteers at the U.S.-Mexican border, and other entry points, such as airports and bus terminals, to provide paperwork for entry and other information to visitors.

The year-round program focuses on bringing better service and safety to people returning to their home country. They hope to eliminate the incidents of abuse, theft and corruption at Mexican borders, while making travel easier for people during the holiday season.

In preparation for traveling to Mexico, it is a great idea to determine what you need to have when entering the country. Read on to find out more information about these steps to ensure a smooth, successful and safe trip to Mexico.

 What documents do I need to prove my citizenship in order to enter Mexico?

According to the Paisano Program, you need to prove your citizenship in order to enter Mexico. When you arrive in Mexico, you will need one of any of the following documents to prove you are a Mexican citizen: a passport, birth certificate, military ID, Matricula Consular Certificate, or Declaration of Mexican Nationality or naturalization document. If you do not have the aforementioned documentation, you may simply state your citizenship.

As a Mexican Citizen you will need to complete a free form (migratory FEM) for statistical information.

If you are a foreigner entering Mexico, you will need a Mexican tourist card—officially the forma migratoria para turista (FMT)—that must be completed and stamped by Mexican immigration officials when you enter Mexico, and kept until you leave. Tourist cards are available at official border crossings and international airports and ports. At the U.S.–Mexico border, you will have to ask for the card. Though the tourist card itself is free of charge, it brings with it a tourist fee of $306 pesos (roughly $22 USD).

How do I obtain a Mexican Passport?

If you are a Mexican citizen, to make your trip into Mexico and back to the U.S. faster and easier, it is recommended that you obtain a Mexican Passport through the Mexican Consulate office. To do this, you need to make an appointment by calling 1 (877) MEXITEL, or 1 (877) 639-4835.

If you already have a Mexican Passport, and need it to be renewed, call the number listed above. Once you receive your appointment date, you need to bring your previous passport and two color photos. There will be a fee to renew your passport.

What is a Matricula Consular and how do I get one?

The Matricula Consular is an identification card issued by the Government of Mexico through its consulate offices to Mexican nationals residing outside of Mexico. It includes a Government of Mexico issued ID number, a photograph, and your address outside of Mexico. To obtain your Matricula you need to schedule an appointment with the Consulate office by calling 1 (877) MEXITEL or 1 (877) 639-4835.

What do I need to do for the temporary importation of my car in order to travel through Mexico with U.S. issued license plates? Do I need insurance?

If you plan on driving to Mexico, you will be able to temporarily import your car for a maximum of 180 days. You need to obtain and fill out the appropriate paperwork which can be found online at www.banjercito.com.mx, at your local Mexican Consulate office in California (call to make sure your office offers this service), or at the Banjercito offices located at the Mexican border. You must be the registered owner of the car, or, if you are making payments on the vehicle, have registered plates, in your name, from the DMV. For questions, call 1 (877) MEXITEL or 1 (877) 639-4835.

Although having automobile insurance in Mexico is not required by law, the Consulate of Mexico recommends all vehicles traveling to Mexico purchase Mexican car insurance. If your vehicle is insured in the U.S., the policy will not be valid in Mexico. You may also purchase Mexican auto insurance in cities and towns along the U.S.-Mexico border.

What should I do when crossing the border?

When arriving at the border, you will notice two lanes and you will need to select one to enter.

Go to the “Nothing to declare lane” when you’re sure what you have brought with you to Mexico will not exceed the permitted limit.

Go to the “Self-declaration Lane” when you bring items worth more than the personal and family exemptions ($75 USD normally/$300 USD during the holidays).

If you choose the wrong lane by mistake, you can ask a Customs inspector for an appraisal of your goods, so you can pay the correct duties and taxes. Remember, when your belongings are being inspected, you must be treated with courtesy and respect. The inspectors must also handle your belongings with care, but you also must be sure to follow and comply with Mexico’s border laws.

If you encounter abuse from Mexican authority officials while you travel in Mexico, you may file a formal complaint by calling the numbers below.

It is best to be well prepared when traveling! Remember, everyone’s circumstances are different, and not all situations are covered in this article. Please visit www.paisano.gob.mx or call them at 1 (877) 210-9469 (from the U.S.) or 01 800-201-8542 (when calling from Mexico). You can also call the Mexican Consulate toll-free for more information about traveling to and from Mexico. To contact the Consulate from the U.S. dial 1 (877) 210-9469, from Mexico dial 01 800 201 8542. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.