Updated information as of June 1, 2009:
Passports are required for all air travel to and from Mexico. For travel by land or sea, adults should have a passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license or a trusted traveler card like NEXUS, FAST or SENTRI. Children under the age of 16 may travel with only a birth certificate, as may children under the age of 19 who are traveling with an organized group like a school, church or sports group. However, keep in mind that Mexican regulations typically require US citizens to have a passport if they travel beyond the “border zone” into the interior of the country.
Instead of a passport, passengers on closed-loop cruises, which begin and end in the US, may cruise with a state-issued photo ID and birth certificate or naturalization certificate.
Right now, whether or not you need a passport to go to Mexico depends on two factors: how you’re getting there and when you’re planning to go. Passports are already required for travel to Mexico if you are traveling by plane. However, currently land and sea travelers can cross the border with state-issued ID (like a driver’s license) and proof of American citizenship (like a birth certificate).
On June 1st, the rules will change as the final phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative becomes effective. After June 1st, everyone will need a passport to go to Mexico, whether you’re flying, sailing or walking across the border. The only groups of people who will still be able to cross the border using birth certificates after this date will be children under 16 traveling with family and children under 18 if they are on an organized trip with a school, church or sport group.
These exceptions only apply for children traveling by land or sea. Everyone flying to or from Mexico will still need a passport, regardless of age. As a safety precaution, it’s best that all travelers to Mexico have a passport in case they need to fly home unexpectedly.
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico, it’s important to apply for a passport at least 6 weeks and preferably several months in advance. Since the rules are about to change, the wait time for a US passport may get longer as the deadline approaches.
If you need a passport to Mexico in a hurry, you should consider using a private passport expediting service to submit your passport application. With an expediting company, your application will be processed more quickly, bypassing the normal wait times. With RushMyPassport.com, you can have your passport processed in as little as 24 hours!
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