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As of June 2009, when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, all travelers need to present a valid passport to reenter the United States from Mexico. If you travel frequently between Mexico and the United States by land or sea, the wallet-size U.S. passport card is also acceptable.
Upon entering Mexico all visitors must purchase a tourist card. If you're arriving by plane from the United States or Canada, the standard tourist card will be given to you on the plane. They're also available through travel agents and Mexican consulates and at the border if you're entering by land.
You're given a portion of the tourist card form upon entering Mexico. Keep track of this documentation: you will need it when you depart.
If you lose your tourist card, plan to spend some time (and about $60) sorting it out with Mexican officials at the airport upon departure. A tourist card costs about $20. The fee is generally tacked onto the price of your airline ticket; if you enter by land or boat you'll have to pay the fee separately. You're exempt from the fee if you enter by sea and stay less than 72 hours, or by land and do not stray past the 26- to 30-km (16- to 18-mi) checkpoint into the country's interior.
Tourist cards and visas are valid from 15 to 180 days, at the discretion of the immigration officer at your point of entry (90 days for Australians). Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, and the British may request up to 180 days for a tourist card or visa extension. The extension fee is about $20, and the process can be time-consuming. There's no guarantee that you'll get the extension you're requesting. If you're planning an extended stay, plead with the immigration official for the maximum allowed days at the time of entry.
If you're a single parent traveling with children up to age 18, you must have a notarized letter from the other parent stating that the child has his or her permission to leave his or her home country. The child must be carrying the original letter—not a facsimile or scanned copy—as well as proof of the parent/child relationship (a birth certificate or court document), and an original custody decree, if applicable. If the other parent is deceased or the child has only one legal parent, a notarized statement saying so must be obtained as proof. You must fill out a tourist card for each child over the age of 10 traveling with you.
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