I want to travel to mexico, for religious reasons (mission trip), but don't have a passport, nor have applied, and do not have enough time to apply for one. Could I be denied entrance back to the USA?

  • 3
    How are you planning on getting into Mexico? Feb 23, 2016 at 2:21
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    Your mission trip organizer should know about this. If you are doing this by yourself, without anybody assisting you in the process, this is NOT a good idea. Crossing the border is the least of your worries. I assume you're not there to convert the Mexican upper class, so the areas you will end up in may not be favorable.
    – Nelson
    Feb 23, 2016 at 2:24
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    As a 16 year old, I strongly recommend you have this arranged by an adult no matter what the situation, and I understand you must have a passport regardless.
    – Mikey
    Feb 23, 2016 at 7:13
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    @Gagravarr, I know I can get into the Mexico because I have done it about 100 times, and they never ask for any form of identification, they just want you to pay the fee of using their bridge to cross over to Mexico. Also, every time I have traveled to Mexico, since I travel by car, I have always used my birth certificate to get back into the USA, and they have never had a problem. I also traveled for a mission trip to the border of Mexico in November, and i was able to get in the USA with a birth certificate (i was 15). My question is, can i get with a birth certificate now that I am 16?
    – k.silva
    Feb 23, 2016 at 12:40
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    @k.silva, The rule is that US citizens who are under 16 may use a birth certificate for identification at a land border, but once you turn 16 it is no longer sufficient. This rule may seem arbitrary, since not much changed about you on the day you turned 16, but it is still the rule. You are asking if you can ignore the rule. You can if you choose to, but you should not. Your trips go smoothly now because you follow the rules and they trust you. If you ignore rules they will surely let you back anyway, but will now have a reason to not trust you in future. You shouldn't risk that.
    – user38879
    Feb 23, 2016 at 20:07

4 Answers 4


The requirements for Americans entering into and returning from Mexico are here. Notice that they say you are required to have a passport to return to the US if you are 16 or over, and if you see Mexican immigration they will want an American to have a passport too. And these days it isn't possible for a 16 year old to get on an international flight to anywhere without a passport.

Unless you also hold Mexican citizenship, then, I'm assuming you aren't worried about getting into Mexico since you are planning to travel across the land border and won't be travelling beyond the border zone(?). This plan will probably work in practice if you stay close to the border since no one will likely ask to see your passport, but I'm pretty sure you are still supposed to have a passport with you to identify yourself even there. Also, the US won't actually deny entry to a bona fide US citizen (what if you lost your passport instead?) but they may make you spend a long and painful wait at the border while they satisfy themselves that you are indeed a US citizen.

So I wouldn't go so far as to say you absolutely couldn't make this trip, since there may be no one who would keep you from doing so, but you would be knowingly doing enough things wrong that I wouldn't do it. You really need the passport.

  • 1
    A passport card also lets you enter Mexico, and is significantly cheaper IIRC
    – Crazydre
    May 20, 2017 at 17:03
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    @Crazydre not by air.
    – phoog
    May 20, 2017 at 17:33
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    @phoog Meant by land (which is what the Q mainly concerns), maybe should've noted that
    – Crazydre
    May 20, 2017 at 18:05

U.S. Citizens must use a passport book if entering by air, but can use any of the following if entering by land or sea: U.S. Passport; Passport Card; Enhanced Driver’s License; Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST); U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders; U.S. Merchant Mariner document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; or Form I-872 American Indian Card, or (when available) Enhanced Tribal Card. Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative

However, as others have mentioned, Mexico requires the passport book for all except limited locations within the country (along the border).


You do not need a passport. I go once a month to pick up random pharmaceuticals... All you need is state I d or driver's license, military ID. Birth certificate, and I bring my SSN card. I ha EA been doing this once a month for the last 8 years. 2009 to 2017.. never had to go to secondary I spection. They type some stuff on computer, I give them a list of prescription s. And they say welcome back. And I drive right through. Every month for 8 or 9 years.

  • Just to be clear, your license is not an enhanced license, is it? And you did not have any other document on the WHTI list, did you? (Not counting your military ID because you weren't traveling on official orders, of course).
    – phoog
    May 20, 2017 at 17:37

If you can satisfactorily prove your US citizenship, you cannot be denied entry to the US.

What proof of citizenship do you have? US birth certificate and a photo ID? You will probably be detained for a while while they check out your citizenship (especially since there are many fake birth certificates), and they will at least give you a stern lecturing about needing a passport. It should not be something you do unless you have no other choice.

Also note that you can apply for a US passport at a US consulate in Mexico, if there is enough time to do so.

  • 5
    And note that "no other choice" means "because you lost your passport while abroad" not "because that was the only way I could make my trip to Mexico." In this case, you have another choice: don't leave the USA without a passport. Feb 23, 2016 at 2:17
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    @DavidRicherby it is in fact against the law for a US citizen to leave the US "unless he bears a US passport" though the executive can make exceptions, for example for those under 16 or those who have trusted traveler program cards, etc.
    – phoog
    Feb 23, 2016 at 21:25
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    I have a funny story about that: I renewed my passport abroad and, like an idiot, I packed the new passport and showed up at the border (Canada->US) with the old passport; the guy at the border didn't laugh; they put me in the interview room, one guy came in, asked me my driver license, not even the old passport, checked me on their computer and let me in; that was pre-9/11 though.
    – Thomas
    Jan 28, 2017 at 18:09

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