When Do You Need a Passport to Go to Tijuana?
December 13, 2023
3 min. read
Tijuana is a hotspot destination for US citizens. About 300,000 people of all ages and walks of life cross the US-Mexican border zone daily. Some search for affordable medicine and pharmaceuticals, including dental services. Others commute to work. Travelers also come to see the vibrant places of Tijuana and indulge in the city’s gastronomies and exotic culture.
When it comes to documentation, travelers need to determine if they have prepared the proper papers for visiting the city.
Do you need a passport to go to Tijuana? May your vacation be paused if you don’t have a passport to enter Tijuana at the border?
Let’s learn all the details!
The Northwestern Pacific Coast hosts the sixth biggest city in Mexico—Tijuana. Its population embraces over 1,8 million people. It lies along the Mexico–United States border within a 30-min drive from San Diego. It’s so close that many US citizens wonder whether they really need a passport to visit Tijuana.
Like with a few other countries contiguous to the United States, authorities of Mexico recommend carrying a US passport when traveling to the country. If you don’t have a passport, you can have other identification documentation to show to the Customs and Border Protection service. Secondary identification documents will suffice, for example, if you have an RFID pass card and tourist permit.
If you plan to obtain a passport for your trip to Tijuana, you can take advantage of this great tip. Take a digital passport photo online. Then print it as a 4×6 photo for cents at any store. Cut out your photos for your passport application. That’s it! You can try it here right now.
No visa is required for US citizens to go to Tijuana which makes it easier to visit the city.
Do you need other documentation incl. a passport to enter Tijuana?
A passport book, card, or another eligible document doesn’t make it a full package to enter Mexico’s Tijuana by land. Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM is an entry permit and also a requirement in place for US travelers. It’s issued by Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM). You’ll have to obtain one even if you pop into Tijuana for a day.
There are some other Mexican government regulations to observe:
- If you plan an extended stay exceeding 7 days, you’re required to apply for an FMM permit that the authorities issue for 180 days.
- If you travel to Tijuana for business, you can’t travel without a business visa.
- Your passport must be valid another month beyond the date you plan to cross the Tijuana border back home. Remember to have one free page for stamps.
It is a drivable distance between Mexico and the United States. This area is also presented partially by the San Diego-Tijuana metro area. Anyone can enter Mexico by land. When driving to Tijuana from the US, you may carry a US passport, card, or government-issued ID with a compliant passport-style photo of the right parameters. That is a white background, no shadows, 2×2 inches in size, or between 600×600 and 1200×1200 pixels in a passport photo.
Other Tijuana passport requirements for returning to the US:
- US citizens must possess a valid passport or an enhanced driver’s license to display when entering the US.
- US residents need to present a valid green card.
- Minors under 16 must possess an original or certified copy of their birth certificate.
- US drivers should travel to Mexico with a valid automobile registration. Otherwise, the vehicle may be impounded at the US-Mexican border by Mexican authorities.
- If you drive into Mexico something about 20 km into the country, you’ll additionally need a temporary import permit.
The permit is applicable to cars that are registered in the US. The authority that issues the document is called Banjercito. You can also obtain the permit online. Visiting a Mexican consulate at home for that matter is also an option. You’ll have to deposit a sum that you can take back when departing from Mexico.
Entering Mexico, there is no need for you to apply for a temporary import permit if you drive to the Baja Peninsula only.
It would be best to keep in mind that traveling to Tijuana without a passport book or card may increase your wait time and slow down the lines.
If you do have a passport, you can go directly to the so-called Ready Lanes. Their special built-in readers scan your document using the Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID). The Ready Lanes make it quick and easy to pass the US-Mexican border.
These small steps will help you to go through the US-Mexican border zone as quickly as possible:
- Spot the Ready Lane.
- Get your passport card ready.
- Hold your passport card to an RFID reader upfront.
- Check in with the border officer.
You can find a complete list of Ready Lane acceptable documents on Customs and Border Protection’s website. You can get more up-to-date information by the link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/need-passport/us-mexicoborder.html#ExternalPopup
Your safest choice is to fly to Tijuana with a passport book. You present it to the border officers when landing and leaving Tijuana. You also need to display all the documentation that you obtain on your way to Tijuana and hand in the departure card. Be sure you keep your documentation safe during your journey.
To fly to Tijuana and back to the States, you need a travel document, such as a valid government-issued photo ID. Apart from a US passport, you can travel by air with a passport card, Nexus card, or another government-compliant travel document.
To learn more please visit: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/clearing-cbp/ready-lanes.