Checking In & Out of Mexico By Boat

Downwind Cruising Guide Pages. 18-19

San Diego, CA


Americans do not need a “visa” to visit Mexico, however, (when visiting beyond the border towns) each must have a visitor entry permit that provides for a single entry up to 180 days. Mexican Immigration Law no longer calls this a tourist entry or FMT (Forma Migratoria de Turista). This entry permit is now called FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple or Multiple Migratory Form) and is issued mainly to Americans and Canadians, who fall under the category FMM (Visitante Sin Permiso para Realizar Actividades Remuneradas) or FMM Visitor without permission to undertake remunerative activities. FMM is issued to US/Canadian tourists, whether arriving by car, boat or plane (your airline/cruise-ship ticket price to any Mexican destination will also include this FMM fee). If arriving by private boat, the application for and pre-payment of the FMM can now be performed online, using the following link to the appropriate section of the Mexican Immigration web page: – select the line at bottom of page that takes you to the official bank payment page (Banjército) for payment application, or use this link:

Pre-payment of the FMM visitor form was initially intended to get the immigration payment from the U.S. sport-fishing fleet from San Diego that entered Mexican waters to fish and did not land at any Mexican port. This was expanded to include the private yachts and sailboats entering Mexico with the intent to make the clearance into Mexico ports easier, and truthfully, even faster. The Mexican government recommends that everyone pre-pay online, but it is not mandatory to do so prior to arrival at a Mexican port, especially if you plan to arrive in Ensenada to clear-in as you enter Mexico from the north. Yet consider using the Banjército site to pre-pay this fee, it’s simple to navigate and allows users to make the current $638 MXN peso/person payment with a credit card. (2022 value: $638 MXP = $28.00 – $32.00 USD.)

The FMM is a single-entry permit, and the date of entry is established with your online application or check-in at port of entry. Often the date of departure can only be selected online up to December 31 of the current year, even if such date does not allow a full 180-day stay. If this should happen to anyone in online application, with any loss to their allowed stay up to 180-days, just select the December 31 date anyway for departure and correct it later during the official check-in with immigration and their official issue of the FMM. Also note that It is possible for the online FMM to be paid by one application for all passengers aboard, just by reporting the total number of passengers aboard on the form, (payment due is then calculated by multiplying $638 peso fee by the number of passengers reported), however this receipt will be printed only with the single name provided in the application. It is recommended for cruisers to each have an FMM receipt printed in their own individual name, which means that skipper and crew should each make separate online application and indicate only 1 passenger in the space provided so that the payment due on the individual application is for one person only – resulting in a personally identified FMM receipt named for each passenger.

The Banjército page only gives you a receipt for the payment for the FMM, not the permit itself. The receipt is all you will need for fishing or other entry into Mexican waters without intent to stay in Mexico, i.e. land at any port. FMM receipt however is not enough for Cruisers who will be landing at Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, or other Mexican port; each must quickly possess the FMM permit itself. Upon landing, the process is to first visit the immigration office (Migración), and present a valid passport (with green card if applicable) for every person aboard and make application of the FMM with payment of the Immigration Fee ($638 pesos/person) or show the pre-payment receipt for FMM from Banjército to cover the Immigration Fee owed, and then Migración will issue the FMM permit (valid for 180 days) to each person presenting
the application, fee and proper identification.

Note here that Cruisers must make their first arrival point in Mexico at a port or marina with immigration services and complete the FMM. Ensenada is highly recommended for this entry in southbound travel, as the FMM then permits you to stop along the Baja coast, (which you officially cannot do until you check-in with immigration! The next entry with immigration services after Ensenada is Cabo San Lucas.) Sometimes lucky folks will visit Isla Cedros when there is often an immigration official on hand for check-in, but by reports this courtesy is generally made ready or commercial vessels and is not always extended to private yachts. If turned down here, then you must go back to Ensenada or proceed directly to Cabo.

Another clearance form for arrival by sea is the “Crew List for Spanish Speaking Countries”, or Despacho, the official crew manifest (see page 26). Visiting vessels must complete such form and have at least four copies when checking into port with the other documentation. The crew manifest is for the travel periods when the boat is at sea. The names on this list must match up with the persons on board. When the boat is in port the Crew List serves only to show that the boat is legally checked into the port. The people named on the Despacho do not need to be on the boat while in port (but crew touring off boat must possess valid documents and FMM.) Crew manifests must be kept current. Have blank crew manifests in reserve if you expect to make crew changes. Usually each Despacho will eventually have 2 sets of stamps, the one applied when the boat leaves a port and one put on when the boat enters the next port. Although currently Mexican protocol provides that cruisers need only check into their first port-of-call and check out of their last port-of-call in Mexico, that provision only holds true if there is no change in the Crew List. If crew changes are made at any port you visit, you must make out a new Crew List to reflect the change and have it approved by Migración and the Port Captain (Capitania del Puerto) before your boat can leave that port. For such documentation during your cruise of Mexican Ports, keep one copy of each Crew List and any port entry and fee receipts in an accessible file, with most recent documents on top. Another recommendation is to have passport copies of each crew member and copies of plane tickets, etc. that show the travel plans of any crew that leaves your boat, and especially document how any crew leaves Mexico.

Upon entry you first visit Migración and then the Port Captain (Capitania) to pay the port “clear-in” fee with your documentation, and then back to Migración to drop off a copy of Crew List signed by the Port Captain. The port “clear-in” fee is only charged upon first entry into Mexico and can be paid by credit card. Without credit card for this fee, protocol directs cruisers to fill out a form to take to the bank (Banjército) and return with the form stamped by bank as proof of payment.

Other required documents are boat registration with proof of ownership of the vessel or proof that you are legally authorized by the owner to function as captain of the vessel. A Temporary Import Permit (TIP) should also be obtained online before arrival in Mexico or at your first port of entry no matter how long you intend to stay in Mexico. This document does not change vessel registry – it establishes your ownership of the vessel within Mexican waters and allows your vessel to stay in Mexico legally for up to 10 years and not be impounded. (For more on TIP see page 26). A TIP is obtained with a one-time fee of @$50.00 USD and is not issued in all ports, as it requires a special Banjército CIITEV office for processing. Port cities of Baja CA with such office include Ensenada and the ferry terminal at Pichilingue (La Paz). To obtain such permit in other areas, contact the local Customs Office (Aduana) of the area you visit; you can also apply and pay for permit online at

Port offices are all closed on weekends and holidays. If you arrive at this time and your crew must leave the boat before you can clear Migración, make sure you have a copy of their FMM and their plane ticket available for officials to inspect so there is no question that they were a part of your crew. Many registered marinas can clear boats in and out of port for their clients, providing better hours of service to cruisers during the marina’s longer working day. This service applies only for entry to and from ports within Mexico or internationally by way of a Registered Ships Agent. Check with each port on any further regulations for such clearance as it varies. Although port clearance is no longer required when traveling from port to port after your first entry into Mexico, it is highly recommended that you hail the Port Captain by VHF or visit the office as a courtesy upon arrival in any new port and inquire what contact with that port’s office might be required. The safety of all port visitors is the top priority for this port agent. Find link to current Directory of Port Captains below.

For those who plan long stays in Mexico, a serious subject is that of INSURANCE. Insurance with Mexican underwriters offer year-round coverage for both liability and replacement. More American carriers too are willing to offer year-round coverage as they have become more familiar with the weather patterns of the Pacific coast. Today, most marinas in Mexico will require liability insurance at a minimum for any length of stay. Check with people who have cruised recently, there are variations in services and good agents to help.

Checking out of Mexico requires a last visit to the Port Captain’s office. There is a port use fee paid by cash, check or credit card to the Port Authority Office (API), usually based on the size of your boat. This fee is not always enforced in all ports but is supposed to be collected when you leave any Mexican port for an international destination. Usually the Port Captain will require proof of payment of API fees in order to stamp your clearance papers and Despacho.

Follow the “reglas” provided by Mexico’s Migración, Aduana and other port officials you visit in this beautiful country and your stay will be an incredible experience. The FMM and the Temporary Import Permit are simple measures of commerce provided by the Mexican government to establish your stay in Mexico as foreign visitors and provide for fair economy in maintaining your boat and cruising needs. The modest Duty Fees charged are providing services to ensure your safety and property protection during your stay – Mexico values its visitors.

Directory of Port Captains:
Open the Complete Directory above for directory to ports of all coastal regions of Mexico. There you will find Shortcut-Links provided to the regional Port Authorities, including the West Coast (“Peaceful”) of Mexico.

VHF Net Schedule Table
for Cruiser Anchorages:

Local VHF Net Table for MX