Mexico offers visa-free entry to those who hold passports from countries on its no visa required list. Instead of a visa, tourists must obtain an FMM tourist permit (Forma Migratoria Múltiple). This guide answers frequently asked questions about the FMM for Mexico. I’ll explain what the FMM tourist permit is, how to get it, how much it costs, how it works, and much more. Hopefully, this guide makes your Mexico entry process a bit smoother and less stressful.
I’ve also made this video that outlines the main points of the article.
Quick Info About the FMM Tourist Permit
- Cost- $595 pesos (about $30). Free for stays of 7 days or less
- Validity- Up to 180 days
- Issued on arrival at the point of entry or online here
- Eligibility- U.S, Canadian, and U.K, citizens as well as citizens of these countries
- Required documents- A valid passport or passport card
- Issued by- INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración), a Mexican government agency
What is an FMM Tourist Permit?
The FMM Tourist Permit (Forma Migratoria Múltiple) is a travel document that allows citizens and residents of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and European Schengen area countries as well as a number of other countries to enter Mexico without a visa.
The FMM is issued by the INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración), a Mexican government agency. You can obtain an FMM permit on arrival at the port of entry or online in advance. All you need is a valid passport or passport card.
The FMM Visitor’s Permit allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days. During that time, you can participate in tourism activities, do business, transit through the country, study, volunteer, or live anywhere in Mexico.
You are not allowed to be employed, work, or earn money in Mexico while visiting on an FMM permit. If you plan to work and earn money in Mexico, you will need to apply for a temporary resident visa and work permit.
The FMM tourist permit is often mistakenly referred to as a tourist visa or Mexican visa. Officially, it is not a visa. The FMM is an ‘admission document’ or travel permit, according to the INM. The difference is that a visa is stamped or stuck into your passport. The FMM permit is a separate piece of paper you carry with you and your passport.
You can get an FMM at the border within minutes if you are eligible. All you need is a valid passport. Mexico also offers online FMM applications as well. You simply fill out the form, print it out, and bring it with you to get stamped by immigration authorities when you arrive.
Note: The Mexican government is currently phasing out the paper version of the FMM permit. It is being replaced with a passport stamp. Currently, some ports of entry still use the paper form and some use a stamp. Some have transitioned to the stamp.
The rules are still the same, regardless of the permit type. The eligibility, validity, and cost haven’t changed. If you’re given a paper form on arrival, fill it out as normal. If you don’t receive a paper form, an Mexican authorities will stamp your passport instead. I’ll update this article as more information about this change comes out.
Who is Eligible for an FMM Tourist Permit and Who Needs a Visa?
FMM tourist permits are available for visitors from countries on this list. If the country that issued your passport is on that list, you don’t require a visa to visit Mexico. The list includes the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Schengen area countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, most Latin American and Caribbean countries as well as many others. If your country is on the list, you only need an FMM permit to visit Mexico. You do not need a Mexican tourist visa.
In addition, to be eligible for an FMM you must be visiting Mexico only for purposes of tourism, business, volunteering, or studying. Your trip must last 180 days or less. If you plan to visit for another purpose or for a longer duration, you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance.
Regardless of your citizenship or residency, you are also eligible for an FMM tourist permit if you hold a valid permanent residency visa or a multi-entry visitor visa for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, or a European Schengen Area country.
You are not eligible for an FMM if you are a citizen of one of these countries. If the country that issued your passport is on this list and you do not have a valid visa to one of the above-listed countries, you need to arrange a visa in advance to enter Mexico.
You can apply for a visa at your nearest Mexican consulate or embassy. For more info on the application process, check out this Mexican government website.
If you plan to travel to Mexico for longer than 180 days or if you plan to work, study, invest, or get married in Mexico, you need to arrange a visa in advance, regardless of your citizenship. The most common type of visa for these types of trips is a temporary residency permit. There are several classes of temporary residency permits available for different types of trips. For example, some allow you to work and earn money while others don’t. For more info, check out my guide here.
If you already hold a temporary or permanent residency visa for Mexico, you do not need an FMM permit. You can present your residency visa at the port of entry instead.
Who Needs an FMM Tourist Permit?
Everyone entering Mexico for the purposes of tourism, business, studying, or volunteering needs an FMM tourist permit. Only temporary resident visa holders, permanent residency visa holders, and Mexican citizens can enter Mexico without an FMM permit.
Children under 2 years of age do not need to pay for an FMM. They will need a valid passport.
Before October 2015, there was an unofficial ‘free zone’ near the border where an FMM was not required if you were staying for 72 hours or less. This was never part of Mexico’s official immigration law but it was widely accepted.
Now, every foreigner entering Mexico needs an FMM unless they have a valid Mexican residency visa. Even if you’re only crossing the border to spend the day in Tijuana and staying near the border, you still need to stop and get an FMM.
Ideally, you should carry your passport and FMM permit with you when you’re out and about so you can present them if you’re stopped by the police or at a security checkpoint. Checkpoints are set throughout the country where you must present your FMM and passport to prove that you’re in the country legally.
While walking around cities I don’t like to carry my passport. I always worry about it getting lost or stolen. While in transit, I always keep my passport handy just in case.
What do I Need to Get an FMM Tourist Permit?
- A valid passport. If you’re crossing the border by land or sea, you can use a passport book or passport card. If you’re flying in, you need a passport book. It must be valid when you enter and must remain valid for as long as you plan to stay in Mexico. Your passport must also have at least one blank page for a stamp.
- A completed FMM form. You get the form at the port of entry. If you’re flying to Mexico, a flight attendant may hand you the form during the flight. If you’re applying for your permit online, you fill the form out online. You’ll receive an acceptance email that you must print and bring with you to get stamped at the border.
- 594 Pesos (about $30) in cash. You pay this at the border upon entry or exit depending on where you enter. It’s best to bring pesos. Dollars may be accepted.
What Information is Required to fill out the FMM Form?
The FMM form requires basic travel information including:
- Your name
- Date of birth
- Residency and nationality
- Passport number
- Purpose of your trip- tourism or business
- Entry date and date that you plan to leave Mexico
- How you’re entering- by air, sea, or land
- Your destination in Mexico
- The name and address of the place that you plan to stay in Mexico
- Your signature
If you enter by air, you may get a slightly different form that asks for the flight number and airline that you arrived on.
How Much Does the FMM Tourist Permit Cost
If you’re staying in Mexico for less than 7 days, the FMM tourist permit is free.
If you’re staying in Mexico between 7 and 180 days, there is a 594 peso (about $30) fee for the FMM tourist permit.
You pay this fee in cash at a Banjercito bank window at the border. At some borders, you pay the immigration official who checks your passport directly.
How to Pay for the FMM Tourist Permit
Most borders accept payment in pesos or US dollars. You’ll get a more favorable rate if you pay in pesos. Some borders only accept pesos. It’s best to carry pesos just in case.
If you arrange your FMM permit online, you can pay the fee with a credit card or debit card. They accept Visa and Mastercard.
Some smaller land border crossings don’t have the facilities to accept the FMM fee. In this case, you will pay when you exit Mexico. You can also pay the fee at immigration offices that are located in cities and towns throughout Mexico as well as in all international airports.
After you pay your FMM fee, the banker gives you a receipt. You bring the receipt to the immigration official. They stamp the receipt, tear the FMM form in half, and hand your half back. You must keep the receipt as proof that you paid. If you lose it, you will have to pay the fee again when you exit Mexico because there is no proof that you have paid.
When you arrive by air or cruise ship, the FMM fee is often included in the price of your ticket. Check with your airline or cruise line before you travel so you don’t pay twice. Usually, the FMM will be listed in the ‘fees and taxes’ section of your ticket.
If you find that you’ve already paid for an FMM, carry a copy of your ticket with you for proof. When the Mexican authorities try to charge you again when you exit, you can show them that you have already paid. If you can’t prove that you’ve paid, you’ll be charged again.
How Long Can You Stay with an FMM Visitor’s Permit?
The FMM Visitor’s Permit is valid for up to 180 days (about 6 months) from the date that you entered Mexico. The number of days you get is up to the immigration agent issuing you the permit.
Sometimes the Mexican immigration authorities will ask you how many days you plan to stay in Mexico and then grant you that many days on your FMM. For example, if you indicate that you plan to stay in Mexico for 2 weeks, you may only be granted 2 weeks on your FMM. This means you can only stay in Mexico for 2 weeks. I recommend you always request 180 days. That way, you can stay longer if your plans change.
Your passport cannot expire before you plan to exit Mexico. For example, your passport must have at least 180 days of validity if you want an FMM that is valid for 180 days. Mexico does not require that your passport have 6 months of validity to enter, like most other countries. If your passport has 1 month of validity but you want to travel to Mexico for 1 week, you can.
When you pass through immigration, the official who checks your passport and FMM form will write the number of days you can stay on the visitor’s permit. It’s up to you to calculate the correct exit date so you don’t accidentally overstay. For example, if you enter Mexico on January 1, and are granted 180 days, you must exit Mexico by June 30. It’s important to remember that 180 days isn’t exactly 6 months because some months are longer than others. You must leave before the permit expires or you will be fined.
There are several cases where immigration officials may grant you fewer than 180 days. For example, when entering Mexico on a cruise ship you often only get 21 days. When transiting through Mexico, you may only get 30 days. If you indicate on the FMM application that you only plan to stay for 2 weeks, the immigration official might only grant you two weeks. If you want the full 180 days, you can always ask. Usually, you’ll get it.
How Do I get an FMM Tourist Permit?
You get the FMM Visitor’s Permit at the port of entry. This could be a land border, airport, or seaport. The process varies slightly depending on where and how you enter Mexico. In this section, I’ll outline the process of obtaining an FMM at each type of port of entry. I’ll also outline how to get the FMM online.
Entering by Land: Driving or Walking into Mexico
When driving across the border, you will need to park your car and go into the immigration and customs office (INM and Aduana) to get your FMM tourist permit.
While driving across the border, look for a sign pointing you to the ‘something to declare’ area. There will be parking available here. The immigration office is generally nearby. If you don’t see this area, you can ask around for immigration (inmigración in Spanish.) Alternatively, you can just drive across the border into Mexico, find a place to park near the border, and walk to the immigration building.
If you’re walking into Mexico, you can proceed directly to the immigration desk. There is no exit procedure for the U.S. There will be signs pointing you toward immigration and a path to follow. If you’re unsure, just walk toward Mexico and follow the crowd.
Once you find the immigration desk, you will be handed an FMM form to fill out. The forms are available in the immigration building. Be sure to bring a pen with you.
At some borders, an immigration officer may fill the FMM form out for you. In this case, they will ask you a few questions about your trip and copy your personal information from your passport.
After filling out the FMM form, hand it to the immigration official along with your passport. They will look over the form and run your passport through their computer.
The immigration official may ask you a few additional questions about your trip such as, how long are you going to stay in Mexico? Where are you staying? Do you have accommodation booked? What is your final destination in Mexico? What is the purpose of your trip? Where are you going? etc.
At most land borders, you pay your FMM fee when you enter the country if you’re staying longer than 7 days. After an immigration officer inspects your completed FMM form and your passport, you will take the FMM form to a Banjercito bank window near the immigration desk and pay the fee. The cashier will hand you a receipt. Next, you take your receipt back to the immigration official along with your passport. They will stamp your receipt and FMM form and the receipt. After that, you can proceed to customs and into Mexico.
Some small land border crossings do not have payment facilities. If you enter through one of these borders, you will pay your FMM fee when you exit Mexico. You can also pay the fee at an immigration office in Mexico or at all international airports.
Be sure to keep your FMM receipt. When you exit Mexico, you’ll have to prove that you’ve already paid for the FMM permit. If you can’t prove it, you will be charged again.
If you’re driving to Mexico, you’ll need to buy temporary car insurance. I recommend Baja Bound Mexican Insurance. They offer reasonable prices and friendly service. Click the link to get a free quote in just a couple of minutes.
Arriving in Mexico by Air
On most flights, a flight attendant will hand out FMM forms to everyone who needs one. You should fill it out before you land so you’re ready to go through immigration when you arrive. If you don’t get an FMM form on the plane, you can get one at immigration when you land. They will be sitting around on a table or someone will be standing around handing them out.
Once you land, follow the signs to immigration. You’ll present your passport and completed FMM form to an immigration official and they will stamp you into Mexico.
Airports do not collect FMM fees from inbound passengers. This is because pretty much every airline includes the FMM fee in the price of the ticket. If you’re flying into Mexico, chances are you’ve already paid for an FMM.
Make sure you keep a copy of your ticket with proof that you have paid the FMM fee. This will usually be outlined in the ‘taxes and fees’ section of your ticket. If you can’t prove you’ve already paid, you will be charged a second time when you exit Mexico.
Tip: Once you get your FMM, place it in your passport. If you’re traveling long-term and you’re afraid you’ll lose it, consider stapling it or taping it to a page in your passport. You can do the same with your receipt.
Entering Mexico by Sea
If you’re entering Mexico on a cruise ship or your own boat, you can get an FMM at the first port of call. You’ll simply fill out the FMM form at the port and pay the fee. The process is basically the same as arriving overland.
If you’re arriving on your own boat, you should double-check to make sure the port where you plan to enter Mexico offers FMMs. You won’t have to worry about this if you’re arriving on a cruise ship. Cruise ships only dock at major ports.
If you’re bringing your own boat to Mexico, you also need to get a temporary vehicle importation permit (TIP) for the boat. You need to arrange this before you enter Mexican waters. You can’t get this document in Mexico.
If you’re entering Mexican waters but don’t plan to go to land, you’ll need a nautical Sportfishing FMM visitor’s permit. This document is also required if you plan to go fishing in Mexican waters. The process is a bit different from obtaining a normal FMM. You can get your nautical FMM online. For more info, check out this guide from Discover Baja.
Prepaid FMM Online
You can apply for an FMM online in advance here. You can pay the fee with a Visa or Mastercard credit card or debit card.
When you apply for your FMM online, you receive an email with your approved FMM document within a few minutes. You’ll need to print this document out and bring it with you to immigration to get it stamped and validated.
When applying online, you must use your FMM within 30 days. Otherwise, it expires.
Can I Make Multiple Entries on an FMM Tourist Permit?
No. The FMM is a single-entry permit. When you fly out of Mexico, you must surrender your FMM at immigration before boarding the plane. At this point, it is invalidated. You’ll have to buy a new one when you return to Mexico. When you re-enter, you’ll fill out a new FMM form and pay for another permit.
When you exit Mexico at the southern border to Guatemala or Belize or any northern border outside of Baja California, you will also have to surrender your FMM when you pass through immigration. At this time, it will be invalidated and you will have to get a new one when you return.
There is one exception where you can use your FMM for multiple entries. You can enter and exit the state of Baja California Norte overland as many times as you like until your FMM permit expires. This is great for people who want to take short trips over the border. The FMM used to be a single-entry permit. In 2015, the INM changed the rules to allow this one exception.
Can I Stay in Mexico for More than 180 Days with an FMM
No. If you plan to stay in Mexico for longer than 180 days, you should apply for a Temporary Resident Visa or Permanent Resident Visa. You must apply for these visas at a Mexican consulate or embassy before your trip. You can’t obtain them in Mexico.
Alternatively, you could leave Mexico before your FMM expires then return and buy a new one for another 180 days. This is often called a border run. To do this, you can travel overland to the US, Guatemala, or Belize and then cross back into Mexico. You could also fly to your home country or a third country, then return to Mexico.
How Long do I Have to Leave Mexico Before Returning for a New FMM?
There is no rule stating how long you must remain outside of Mexico before returning and paying for a new FMM permit. In most cases, you can exit and then re-enter immediately after if you want. It really depends on the immigration official. Most don’t care and allow you to cross right back over.
Some expats have lived in Mexico on an FMM tourist permit for years. They simply make visa runs to the border to get a new permit every 6 months.
With computerized entry and exit and facial recognition technology, it is possible for Mexico to track how much time you spend in the country on an FMM permit. If you exit and re-enter too many times, they could deny you entry at some point if an immigration official decides that you’re spending too much time in Mexico on an FMM.
Recently, Mexico has begun cracking down on people living in the country on FMM permits. They are issuing permits with fewer than 180 days. Some visitors are only getting 10-30 days upon entry. To get 180 days, you may have to provide some supporting documents such as proof that you’ve paid for long-term accommodation.
If you plan to stay in Mexico longer than 180 days or retire or live in Mexico, it’s best to apply for a Temporary Resident Visa. This gives you peace of mind knowing that you are staying in the country legally. You don’t have to worry about being denied entry.
Keep in mind that there is a financial requirement to get a Temporary Resident Visa. You’ll need to prove that you have enough income or assets to support yourself while in Mexico. Currently, you need to show that you have an income of about $2400-$2700 per month or around $45,000 in a savings or investment account. For more info, check out this guide to temporary resident visas.
What Happens if you Overstay an FMM Visitor Permit?
You need to leave Mexico before your FMM visitor’s permit expires (usually 180 days). If you don’t, you will be fined for overstaying. The fine depends on how long you overstayed. Mexico charges on a per-day basis. The maximum fine is around $350 (7000 pesos). As far as I know, the fine is the only punishment. Mexico won’t bar you from re-entering if you overstay.
You can pay the fine at an immigration office or at an international airport. If you’re flying out of Mexico, you should take care of this fine a couple of days before your flight so you don’t risk missing it. Otherwise, you’ll want to show up for your flight a few hours early. The process could take some time.
If you overstayed your FMM by a couple of days, it’s usually not a big deal. You’ll simply pay a small fine and leave. If you overstayed by months, you’ll probably have to answer some questions.
What if you Lose Your FMM Permit?
If you lose your FMM Visitors permit while in Mexico, you need to visit an immigration office and apply for a replacement before you can leave the country. The process involves filling out some forms and paying a replacement fee.
I don’t know exactly how much the current fee is. I have read reports ranging from $30 and $60 (around 500-1200 pesos). You can find immigration offices in many towns and cities across Mexico as well as in international airports.
If you go to the border without your FMM, chances are you will be allowed to exit without it but you will have to pay a fee (or bribe.) I have heard that the charge is around $100 (2000 pesos).
If you go to the airport to catch a flight without your FMM, you’ll be sent to the immigration office in the airport to get a replacement. Be sure to leave yourself extra time if you have to do this so you don’t miss your flight.
If you’re planning to exit Mexico overland from the state of Baja California Norte, you’re in luck. You don’t need to bother getting a replacement because Mexico does not check passports when you exit and cross into the United States. You proceed straight to U.S. immigration. When you go to U.S. immigration, they do not look at the FMM.
What if You Kept Your Visitor’s Permit When You Left Mexico?
At some border crossings, there is nowhere to turn in your old FMM permit when you exit. For example, when crossing from Baja California to the U.S, there is no passport control when you exit Mexico. You just drive or walk straight to U.S. immigration. This means you keep your FMM document.
Legally, this is fine. As of 2015, you do not need to turn in your FMM when exiting Baja California overland according to the INM. You can re-use it for multiple entries until it expires then discard it. There is still a note on the back of the FMM that says that you must return the document.
The problem with this situation is that you won’t get an exit stamp to prove that you left Mexico. When you go to re-enter on your next trip, the immigration official checking your passport could question you as to why you don’t have an exit stamp. They could assume you overstayed on your previous visit. I have heard of people being fined in this situation but I have not been able to confirm whether or not this is actually true.
Unfortunately, there really is no solution to this problem. There is no official procedure as to how to go about returning your FMM if you exit Mexico overland at a border where you don’t pass through immigration to exit.
If you’re questioned, you’ll have to explain that you exited at the northern border where FMM forms are not collected and passports are not stamped upon exit. When you enter Baja, nobody will question you. When you fly to Mexico or enter at another part of the country, you could be questioned.
If you kept your FMM when exiting Mexico and have no plans to return before it expires, you can throw it away. If you plan to return to Mexico and enter through one of the Baja California crossings, you can use it again when you re-enter.
For those who are really worried about keeping their FMM and not getting stamped out, you can contact your nearest Mexican consulate, embassy, or INM office to ask them what to do. They may tell you to mail it somewhere. The process is unclear.
What if I Entered Mexico Without Getting an FMM?
It is possible to enter Mexico without going through immigration and getting an FMM. At the U.S. Mexico border, you can drive right across without stopping. Nobody will flag you down unless you look suspicious. You may feel tempted to drive through to avoid paying the FMM fee. There are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t do this.
If you’re caught in Mexico without a valid FMM, most likely you will be temporarily detained and then told to go back to the border to get one. If you made it hundreds of miles from the border, this would be a major hassle. The officer that catches you could also try to solicit a bribe or issue you a fine. If you’re trying to exit Mexico without an FMM, you may have to pay the immigration official a fee/bribe of around $100.
If you are driving your car in Mexico without an FMM, your insurance probably isn’t valid because you technically entered the country illegally. Check your policy. If you’re pulled over, the police could impound your car if they wanted to. It is also important to note that there are regular checkpoints throughout Mexico. At these checkpoints, the officers will ask to see your passport and FMM to make sure you’re in the country legally.
You also will not be able to board a flight in Mexico because an FMM is required. Even for domestic flights. If you were involved in a serious accident or experienced a medical emergency and you need to be evacuated by air to another city, you may experience a delay if you don’t have an FMM.
Of course, it is also the law. You need an FMM to legally be in Mexico as a tourist. It’s always best not to break the law in a foreign country. For these reasons, you should always take the time to get an FMM when visiting Mexico, even if you’re only crossing the border for the day.
Can I renew or extend an FMM?
No. FMM tourist permits can not be extended or renewed in Mexico. You must leave the country before your permit expires or you will be fined based on the number of days that you overstayed.
The only way to extend your stay is to leave the country and then re-enter and get a new FMM. This is officially called ‘leave to remain’. Alternatively, you could leave the country and apply for a temporary residency visa. Either way, you have to leave Mexico before the visitor’s permit expires. It is non-renewable.
Can I Exchange an FMM for a Residency Visa?
No. You must apply for a temporary residency visa or permanent residency visa outside of Mexico at a Mexican consulate or embassy.
There are a couple of exceptions to this. It is possible to exchange your FMM permit for a temporary residency visa in a small number of situations. In order to do this, you must meet a specific set of criteria.
You must be the spouse, child, or parent of a Mexican national or permanent residency visa holder. You must also meet the other requirements for obtaining a temporary residency visa. In addition, you may be able to apply for residency within Mexico if you are seeking political asylum.
For more info, check out this guide from Mexperience.
Do I Have to Stop at the Border or Can I get an FMM in Mexico?
Yes, you have to stop at the border to get an FMM tourist permit. You cannot get an FMM anywhere but an official port of entry (land border, sea port, or international airport). If you applied for your FMM online, you still have to stop at the border to get it stamped and validated.
In the past, you could drive across the border and travel into Mexico and get an FMM at an immigration office. This was easier and faster because you didn’t have to deal with stopping at a busy border crossing. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible.
Most border crossings are open 24/7/365 so there is no excuse for not stopping. Check the hours of the border before you plan to arrive just to be sure. At busy border crossings, you can also check the average wait time before you go. You can check border wait times on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here.
A Note About Applying for an FMM Online
Mexico offers the option to apply for an FMM tourist permit online. This involves filling out a simple online form and paying the fee with your Visa or Mastercard credit or debit card. Upon acceptance, you’ll receive an email with your FMM form. You’ll need to print this out and get it stamped at the border when you pass through immigration. You must enter Mexico within 30 days of getting your permit online.
For most travelers, it’s still better get the FMM on arrival at the border. The reason is that you still need to stop at the border to get your documents stamped, even if you applied online. You can’t just drive through. There is really no benefit to arranging your FMM permit in advance. You might save a couple of minutes waiting in line at the bank window.
The only time applying for an FMM online makes sense is if you’re also applying for a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP) online. In this case, you’ll need to get your FMM online before applying for the TIP. For more info, check out my guide to the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit.
You can apply for an FMM online here.
Final Thoughts About Entering Mexico on an FMM Visitors Permit
The FMM permit makes it easy for citizens of many countries to visit Mexico without arranging a visa in advance. If you’re eligible, you can get your FMM on arrival at the border or airport in just a few minutes. All you need is a valid passport and enough cash to pay the permit fee. The only complication is that the process varies slightly depending on where and how you enter Mexico. Hopefully, this guide clears things up and makes planning your trip to Mexico a bit easier and smoother.
Have you visited Mexico on an FMM visitor’s permit lately? Share your tips and experience in the comments below!