Skip to main content
22 Jun

Crossing the U.S.–Mexico Border: Flying vs. Driving

border security customs Mexico U.S. travel

The international border between Mexico and the United States can seem intimidating to the first-time traveler. The specifics required to pass the border might be subject to change, and there is always the concern of safety while crossing borders. Currently, the process for American citizens to enter Mexico is often more streamlined and faster than traveling into the United States from the Mexican side of the border.

So, just how strict is border security procedures on both ends? Does your method of traveling have an impact on the relative convenience of passing through the border?

Review the travel guidelines below if you are considering traveling between Mexico and the United States.

Travel by Plane
Flying from the U.S. to Mexico Flying back to the U.S. from Mexico
Traveling to Mexico by airplane means that you must provide proof of citizenship from the U.S. The most common document shown at the airport is a passport. You will also need to fill out the paperwork for a Visitor’s Visa (FMM) before you have landed on Mexican soil. The following documents are options to present when you are flying back into the United States from Mexico:
  • a valid U.S. passport
  • a Trusted Traveler Program card
  • U.S. Military Identification card
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner document (only when traveling with official maritime business).
If you are a permanent resident of the United States, you must present a valid permanent resident card. Children flying back into the U.S. must also have a passport in their name. If you are not a permanent resident but reside in the United States, you would have to present a Green Card or a Worker’s Visa.

Travel by Car
Driving to Mexico from the U.S. Driving back to the U.S. from Mexico
Though most tourists enter Mexico via air travel, if you are in a neighboring state and intend to visit by car, here’s what you will need to have on hand:
  1. Step one, you will need a Visitor Visa, which requires a fee of $22.
  2. You will need to have your vehicle’s registration documents or the title to your car available. Drivers will have to pay a $27 fee for a hologram sticker to place on your windshield, which establishes your permission to drive in Mexico. A driver’s license or a picture ID must be presented, along with a credit card. That credit card will be charged for the $27 sticker fee.
There is also a checkpoint at the Advanas Office, which is more commonly known as customs. If all is in order, you will receive the final green light to proceed into Mexico; however, if something requires further inquiry, you will be halted with a red light for a continued review. When a traveler is put on hold with a red light, the inspectors in customs will do a full search of your vehicle and luggage. It’s important to know that you cannot cross the border with any illegal drugs or weapons. Additionally, if you are returning to the United States, you are not allowed to bring produce across the border.
When driving back into the U.S., you should present all of the documentation that you were given when you entered Mexico. If you are a Mexican citizen, you can display the following forms of ID to cross the border:
  • DSP-150, B-1/B-2 Visa
  • The Border Crossing Card (BCC). If you have a BCC, there is no need for a passport or visa. The BCC can only be presented as your sole form of identification when you are traveling from Mexico by land or water. You must be a valid citizen of Mexico to obtain a BCC.