Can You Travel to Mexico With a Felony?

Can You Travel to Mexico With a Felony?

If you have a criminal record with felony convictions or are currently facing severe criminal charges, there are aspects of your regular life that get severely restricted. The flexibility to travel is on the list. 

After 9/11, border control regulations between the U.S. and Mexico have changed dramatically to prevent international terrorism, introducing new security measures, including a background check of individuals entering Mexico’s territory.

Although the general policy of Mexico is to keep potentially dangerous individuals outside, and that includes convicted felons of other nations, each case is evaluated individually. Thus, being a felon does not automatically cancel your vacation plans in Mexico.

Learn more about the Mexican travel restrictions for U.S. felons and what your chances are of entering that country with a criminal record.

Can you go to Mexico if you have a felony?

The brief answer is yes you can go to Mexico if you have a felony, but some strings are attached. 

First of all, whether or not you will be allowed to enter Mexico depends on your criminal record and the type of felony you have committed.

Each case is evaluated individually by the National Migration Institute. Registered sex offenders are treated similarly to felons, and the NMI officers evaluate whether they can enter Mexico or not. In some scenarios, it can come down to the goodwill of the border officials checking your request. 

You can see testimonials of people who have been returned at the border with Mexico for a minor felony from over a decade ago, or the contrary felons who have managed to enter the country with no fuss at all. 

Although there are some official regulations such as a list of felonies that are not allowed into the country it is a hit-or-miss situation.

Can I go to Mexico with a felony? Determine your case

How can you determine your chances of entering Mexico with a felony?

To make it easier, have a look at the questions below: 

  • Are you facing felony charges right now?
    If you face felony charges and are currently awaiting trial, you are automatically denied entry to Mexico.
  • Is your crime on the list below?
    If you have committed one of the following crimes you will almost certainly be denied entry to Mexico. The below list consists of serious crimes defined by the Mexican Government that are considered a threat to society:
    • assaults on public communication channels,
    • falsification and counterfeiting of currency,
    • movement of illicit substances and/or weapons into the country,
    • bearing arms reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy, or Air Force,
    • highway and road robbery,
    • tax fraud,
    • child pornography,
    • manslaughter,
    • terrorism,
    • drug-related crimes,
    • prison escape,
    • trafficking of minors,
    • exploitation of minors,
    • rape,
    • trafficking of undocumented persons,
    • extortion,
    • sabotage,
    • vehicular theft.
  • Has your U.S. passport been confiscated?
    A passport is not a right but also a privilege, and some felons have theirs permanently confiscated.

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are very unlikely to be allowed to enter Mexico. In truth, the NMI officers are obliged by law not to pass individuals of other countries who (1) have ongoing felony charges, (2) are convicted of a serious crime, and (3) do not have valid passports.

Although the  questions above can help you determine your chances, they will not give any certainty. Even if you manage to “pass” the test above, you may be denied entry to Mexico by the NMI officers. The final decision is always up to the Mexican immigration authorities.

It does not matter which means of transportation you decide to take if you have a past criminal record and wish to visit Mexico, your passport will be scanned by the border authorities upon arrival.

Both the U.S. and Mexico are part of INTERPOL, and therefore, those two countries have access to the global database of felons. This makes it very unlikely that the border control officers will overlook your felony charges.  

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Travel to Mexico with a felony – is there a way around it?

As a U.S. felon, you are not automatically denied access to Mexico. However, as stated above it is a hit-or-miss situation, and it is entirely up to the officers at the border crossing to decide.

There are, however, ways to increase the likelihood of a successful entry to Mexico with a felony conviction.

Consider your means of transportation

Although your passport will be checked upon arrival to Mexico, whether you come by air, land, or sea, some access points are prone to more thorough checks than others.

Airports are known to have high-level security standards, where officials from both the U.S. and Mexico cooperate with each other, performing background checks on passengers. The testimonials found on the Web suggest that if you enter Mexico with a felony record by air, you are very likely to be denied access.

Land travel, for example, by car, seems to be less restrictive, and if you have a valid U.S. passport, you are more likely to pass the border control successfully. Bear in mind, however, that each case is examined individually, and the NMI officer has every right to deny you entry to Mexico.

Things are a bit different with cruises. 

You see, there are two types of cruises pen and close loop. Open-loop means that you depart from one port and arrive at a different one, e.g., you start your cruise in Miami and finish in Cancun. In that case, you will have to undergo the same passport control as with air or land travel.

Closed-loop cruises are slightly different as they set off and arrive at the same port Miami, for example. With closed-loop trips, you are not entering a foreign country’s land, and therefore, a passport is not required. In that case, you will be swimming in the waters of Mexico, but you will not leave the cruise ship.

With closed-loop cruises, in most circumstances, only proof of citizenship is required, and you should be able to enter the ship even as a felon.

Is there a special permit to allow felons to enter Mexico?

If you browse the Web, you may stumble upon testimonials of felons denied entry to Mexico who have been instructed to seek help at the Mexican embassy or consulate in the U.S. and specifically, to ask for a special permit.

Unfortunately, no Consulate has the power to grant you entry into Mexican territory if you have a felony conviction, are facing charges, or are a registered sex offender. A consular agent from the Mexican Consulate in Boston says “Mexican consulates in this country [U.S.] do not have any power to issue any type of permit that allows them [felons] to enter without facing any problem.”

The National Migration Institute is the only authority that can allow people with criminal records to enter Mexico, and no permit from the consulate has the power to affect their decision. 

If you need a passport photo, try Passport Photo Online

A valid U.S. passport is the #1 requirement for entering Mexico regardless of whether you are a felon or a citizen with no criminal history. 

If you are a felon with a sentence and your passport was taken away from you, you can acquire an allowance for a new one. More about that here

The first step to your new U.S. passport is a proper passport photograph.

Passport Photo Online is a tool that transforms your images into passport photos. Upload a picture from your smartphone, and the tool will create a passport photo in 3 (three) seconds. 

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Can you travel to Mexico with a felony: FAQ

See answers to the most frequently asked questions about traveling to Mexico with a felony below.

Can you go to Mexico with a felony?

Yes, as a felon, you are not automatically denied access to Mexico but there are some exceptions. Mexican authorities will deny your entry if you have committed a serious crime, such as murder, terrorism, or drug trafficking. However, each case is examined individually, and border officers may return you from a border even if you have committed only a minor felony. 

Can I travel to Cancun with a felony?

Yes, you can travel to Cancun with a felony. However, you may be denied access to Mexico at the border control due to your past felonies. Each case is evaluated individually, and the NMI officer makes the final decision.

Can you travel on a cruise to Mexico with felony charges?

If you are currently facing felony charges and awaiting trial, you cannot board a cruise and travel to Mexico.

Can I go to Mexico on felony probation?

Depending on what felony you are convicted for, Mexican authorities can deny you entry to Mexican territory. Each case is individual, and it is up to the border officer to decide.

Can you go to Mexico if you have a felony – closing thoughts

Although the “yes and no” answer is never a satisfying one, when it comes to the topic of felons entering Mexico, it is unfortunately the only one. In the situation where the final decision (allow or not) is left to an individual National Migration Institute officer, we can only make predictions. 

As a rule of thumb, you can enter Mexico with a felony conviction. It is, however, up to the Mexican authorities to decide if your criminal record is acceptable to enter their territory or if it brings a potential threat to society, and thus you have to return to the U.S.


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