The Mexico FMM Tourist Permit Explained

by wheretheroadforks

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 tourist permit. I’ll explain what the FMM 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.

U.S. - Mexico border
The U.S. Mexico Border

Quick Info About the FMM Tourist Permit

  • Cost- $575 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. and Canadian citizens as well as citizens of these countries
  • Required documents- A valid passport or passport card
  • Issued by- INM ( Instituto Nacional de Migración)

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, 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). You can obtain an FMM permit on arrival at the port of entry or online. All you need is a 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, you will need to apply for a temporary resident visa.

The FMM tourist permit is often mistakenly referred to as a tourist visa or Mexican visa. Officially, it 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 that you carry with you in addition to your passport.

If you are eligible, you can get an FMM at the border within minutes. All you need is a valid passport. Recently, Mexico started offering online FMM applications as well.

Who is Eligible for an FMM Visitors Permit and Who Needs a Visa?

FMM tourist permits are available for visitors from countries on this list of countries that don’t require a visa to visit Mexico. The list includes the United States, Canada, Schengen area 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 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.

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 that do require a visa to visit Mexico and you do not have a valid visa to one of the above-listed countries. In this case, 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.

Tijuana
Tijuana, Mexico

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 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. There are checkpoints set up throughout the country where you must present your FMM and passport.

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?

  1. Your passport. If you’re crossing by land, you can use a passport book or passport card. If you’re flying in, you need a passport book. It must be valid for at least as long as you plan to stay in Mexico. Ideally, it should have 6 months of validity.
  2. A completed FMM form. You get the form at the port of entry. 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.
  3. 594 Pesos (about $30) in cash. You pay this at the border upon entry or exit depending on where you enter.

What Information is Required to fill out the FMM Form?

  • Your name
  • Date of birth
  • Residency and nationality
  • Sex
  • 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
  • Name and address of the place that you plan to stay in Mexico

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

Mexican Pesos

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.

Most borders accept payment in pesos or US dollars. You’ll get a more favorable rate if you pay in pesos. If you arrange your FMM 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 international airports.

After you pay your FMM fee, the banker gives you a receipt. You bring the receipt to the immigration official. They will stamp the receipt as well as your FMM form and hand both of them back to you. 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, carry a copy of your ticket with you for proof. When the immigration official tries 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.

Cancun, Mexico
Cancun, Quintana Roo

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 amount of days that you get is up to the agent that issues you the permit. Sometimes the immigration agent will ask you how many days you plan to stay in Mexico then grant you that many days on your FMM. 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 6 months 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.

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. In this section, I’ll outline the process at each type of port of entry. The process varies slightly depending on where you enter Mexico. I’ll also outline how to get the FMM online.

Driving or Walking into Mexico

the U.S. Mexico border at Tijuana
The border crossing at Tijuana

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 permit. While driving across, look for a sign pointing you to the ‘something to declare’ area. The immigration office is generally nearby and there should be parking available. If you don’t see this area, you can ask around for “inmigración.” 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 go directly to the immigration desk. 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, pick up an FMM form and fill it out. The forms are available in the immigration building. Be sure to bring a pen with you.

At some borders, the immigration official may fill the FMM form out for you. In this case, they will just 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. They may ask you a few questions like how long are you going to stay? What is the purpose of your trip? Where are you going? etc.

At most borders, you pay your FMM fee when you enter if you’re staying longer than 7 days. In this case, you take your FMM form to a Banjercito bank window near the immigration desk and pay your fee. The teller will hand you a receipt. Take your receipt back to the immigration official along with your passport. They will stamp your receipt and FMM form. Now 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 an international airport.

Tip: Be sure to keep you keep your receipt. When you exit, 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.

Arriving by air

A flight attendant will usually hand out FMM forms to everyone who needs one during the flight. 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.

Once you land, follow the signs to immigration. You’ll present your passport and FMM form to the immigration official and they’ll stamp you into Mexico.

Airports do not collect FMM fees from inbound passengers because pretty much every airline includes the fee in the price of the ticket. If you’re flying into Mexico, chances are you’ve already paid.

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, fold it in half and put it in your passport. If you’re traveling long term and you’re afraid you’ll lose it, consider stapling it to a page in your passport. You can do the same with your receipt.

Prepaid FMM Online

You can apply online for an FMM 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 and bring it with you to immigration to get it stamped and validated. When you apply online, you must use your FMM within 30 days of applying.

Tijuana, Mexico
Zona Rio, Tijuana, Mexico

Can I Make Multiple Entries on an FMM Tourist Permit?

Sometimes. The answer depends on where you’re entering and exiting.

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 a short trip over the border. The FMM used to be a single entry permit. In 2015, the INM has changed the rules to allow this exception.

When you fly out of Mexico, you must surrender your FMM before boarding the plane. At this point, it is invalidated and 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 again for 180 more days.

When you exit Mexico at the southern border to Guatemala or Belize or any northern border outside of Baja, you will also have to surrender your FMM. It will be invalidated and you will have to get a new one when you return.

Staying Longer than 180 Days with an FMM

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.

Alternatively, you could leave Mexico before your FMM expires then return and buy a new one for another 180 days. To do this, you can travel overland to the US, Guatemala, or Belize. 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 buying a new FMM. In most cases, you can exit 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. So far, Mexico has allowed this.

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.

If you plan on staying in Mexico longer than 180 days or you plan to 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. 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. The process could take some time. If you overstayed a couple of days, it’s usually not a big deal. If you overstayed by months, you’ll probably have to answer some questions.

What if you Lose Your FMM?

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 usually around $100. 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 into the United States. When you go to U.S. immigration, they do not look at the FMM.

If you lose your FMM visitor’s permit when you’re outside of Mexico, you can just forget about the old one and purchase a new one at the border or airport when you arrive.

Mexico City
Mexico City

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 exiting Baja 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. Strangely, 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.

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. You’ll just 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 in Baja, nobody will question you. When you fly in or enter at another part of the country, you could be questioned.

If you kept your FMM when exiting Mexico and you have no plans of returning before it expires, you can just throw it away and forget about it. If you plan to return to Mexico and you still have some days left, 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 or just forget about it. The process is unclear.

What if I Entered 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 permit fee. There are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t.

If you’re caught without a valid FMM, most likely you will be temporarily detained 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 annoyance. The officer that caught you could also 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 without an FMM, your insurance probably isn’t valid because you technically entered the country illegally. Check your policy if you’re curious. 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 sometimes ask to see your passport and FMM.

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.

Can I renew or extend an FMM?

No. FMM visitors 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 then re-enter and get a new FMM. This is sometimes called ‘leave to remain’. Alternatively, you could leave the country and apply for a temporary residency visa. Either way, you have to leave Mexico when the visitor’s permit expires.

Can I Exchange an FMM for a Residency Visa?

In general, no. You must apply for a temporary 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. Generally, 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. You may also 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 your FMM. You cannot get an FMM anywhere but an official port of entry (land border, sea port, or airport). If you applied for your FMM online, you still have to stop at the border to get it stamped.

In the past, you could drive further into Mexico and get an FMM at an immigration office. This was easier and faster because you didn’t have to deal with the 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.

A Note About Applying for an FMM Online

Recently, Mexico introduced 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.

Most travelers still get their 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 time-wise to arrange your FMM permit in advance.

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 on the TIP, check out this guide.

You can apply for an FMM online here.

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 entry. You’ll simply fill out the form and pay the fee. You should double check to make sure the port you plan to enter offers FMMs. If you’re bringing your own boat to Mexico, you’ll need to get a temporary vehicle importation permit (TIP) for the boat. You need to arrange this before your trip.

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.

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 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!

If you’re planning to drive to Mexico, you may need a Temporary Import Permit (TIP). Check out my complete guide to the TIP for more info.

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