Understand the FMM Tourist Card and How it is Necessary for Travel in Mexico
While the FMM tourist card for travel in Mexico is nothing new, understanding the why and how of this process can be especially confusing if entering Mexico by land. The FMM has become increasingly important for non-Mexican tourists to obtain and is a vital part of uninterrupted Mexico travel.
What is the FMM?
The FMM, or Forma Migratoria Multiple, is something a regular traveler to Mexico is probably familiar with, but only if you enter by air. When taking a flight into Mexico this is the form that you are given before landing and one which you present to immigration officials upon entry into the country. At entry, it is stamped, and the exit portion of the form is retained by the traveler. It appears to have no cost to airline passengers, though it is paid for out of the cost of your ticket. It’s a simple process, when not entering through a land border.
The FMM is required for all non-Mexican tourists over the age of two who plan to travel anywhere within Mexico and is good for up to 180 days. There remains speculation as to whether you need this tourist card if you are not leaving a border city. On a greater scale, Mexican authorities are randomly checking for this card. This includes checkpoints throughout the country as well as random police inspections. So the default is that it is best to have the tourist card regardless of where you are traveling.
What if you don’t have it?
Unlike traditional Visas, the FMM is most simply a way for the Mexican authorities to control tourist activity. There have been no reported incidents of Mexican authorities taking any sort of legal action for not having this stamped card. However, increasingly, authorities are sending tourists back to the border they entered to obtain the FMM should they be found to not have it.
Think about it like this, if you didn’t obtain an FMM, or perhaps failed to get it stamped at the border (which will be discussed later), you are asked at a checkpoint a hundred miles from the border to present the FMM, you can be sent all the way back to obtain it or get it stamped. While this is most likely the worst that will happen, it is still a massive inconvenience.
The fee for the FMM is about $30 USD. This changes somewhat as the currency exchange rate changes. The FMM is the same cost to obtain online ahead of time as it is to obtain it at a border crossing. However, some border crossings do not take credit cards and so it is easier to obtain one online.
Where to acquire the FMM
Again, if you are traveling by air, there is no need to secure the FMM ahead of time. Your airline will take care of this for you. If entering Mexico through a land border, you have two options for purchase.
Mexico Government Site: https://www.inm.gob.mx/fmme/publico/en/solicitud.html
The FMM can be acquired through the Mexican governmental site. Like the other option, this allows you to prefill the form based on the date that you will enter the country.
Mexico FMM: https://www.mexicofmm.com/
This non-governmental site is easier to understand and has a bonus application for registering your travel with your country’s embassy based on your travel dates.
You can obtain an FMM at any land port of entry. You will need to have payment ready and then fill the form out before you get it stamped.
Here comes the tricky part of this entire process. This form, even if filled out ahead of time, is invalid if not stamped by Mexican authorities upon entry into Mexico. To do so, you must have the completed form, the receipt of payment which you can print with the form, and your passport. If you do not have the receipt, you will need to pay for the tourist card again with the border agent.
Obtaining a stamp is complicated at many of the land ports of entry. The challenge here is that there is typically not an obvious place to get the stamp. Most ports of entry have a parking area just inside the Mexico border but before the inspection station where you can park and walk inside to get the FMM stamped. Unfortunately, the letters FMM will appear nowhere. If you ask a border official, most will not know what you are talking about.
There are a few general rules to keep in mind here. First, look for the lane marked “something to declare”. This typically indicates a parking area that is associated with the immigration building where you need to acquire the FMM or get your card stamped. Second, look for signs for the INM or Instituto Nacional de Migracion. You can also identify their logo as seen below.
Small Border Crossings
Some border crossings, specifically the Calexico East border crossing and other smaller crossings, do not have a typical declaration area. When crossing the Calexico East entry, I stopped in the “something to declare” lane only to be told to move to a parking space outside the immigration office. When in doubt, ask and re-ask.
Weekends (Specifically Sundays)
Mexico land border entry is very slow coming into the country on Saturdays and Sundays. Because of this, staffing is more limited on those days. When entering mid-day on a Sunday, I walked into an empty immigration office. When inquiring with a border guard about how to get my FMM stamped, I was told to come back on Monday when more people were working. As this wasn’t an option for me, I finally waited long enough for an immigration officer to appear.
It appears that many entering a land border assume that all Mexican authorities working these border crossings are equal. Unfortunately, there are several organizations that you encounter when coming into the country and only the INM has the authority to deliver or stamp an FMM card. Typically, the military officers will not know what the FMM is or what it is for. Asking for the INM office is the best bet.
The stamped FMM card is something you should keep with your passport and with you as you travel throughout the country. While it is not necessary to have it on you if you are staying in one area for any amount of time, it is best to have it available when traveling between cities and especially where you might cross a military checkpoint.
If you are entering by air and leaving by land or entering by land and leaving by air, the same rules apply. Keep the FMM card with you as you travel. A departure airport is typically the only place you will be asked to surrender the FMM card, and even that is not a guarantee.
If you lose your stamped FMM card while in Mexico, it is best to try and reobtain one or at least reprint the original to show that you have acquired it. Again, most likely the worst that will happen is that you will be directed to a port of entry to acquire a new one.
For me, this was the only stressful part about entering as a tourist into Mexico. This has become a very easy country to travel in full of accommodating officials. Even the confusion that I experienced in getting the FMM stamped was mitigated by the graciousness of the Mexican authorities.
Should you have any further questions, please refer to Mexico Governmental site at https://www.gob.mx/ and search “FMM”.