Do You Know What “Legal Documents” Mexicans Need to Visit the USA or Canada?

By: Patricia Ann Talley, Editor

By far, Mexico is the country most visited by citizens of the United States and Canada. During 2015, Americans will make about 21,297,000 trips to Mexico, an increase of 1.8 percent over 2014.1 Canadians also enjoy traveling freely to Mexico. To be “documented,” these nationalities fill out a short visa form in flight before landing in Mexico that requests hotel and contact information. There is no charge. But, for Mexicans to visit the north is a completely different story!illegal-immigration

“Why don’t the Mexicans just get the proper legal documents?” so many northerners ask. But, few know the cost and documentation process that is required.

As educators, especially in a tourist destination like Zihuatanejo, we want our students to have opportunities to visit, to observe, and to participate in international programs, so that they can develop effective tourism strategies. Also, many Mexicans have family members living in the north. Yet, the current visitation and immigration process for many Mexicans is too difficult to attain. We support LEGAL IMMIGRATION, but we advocate changes to ease the process.

Would you pay a non-refundable fee, the equivalent of two month’s salary or a year’s college tuition (at a public university); submit all of your personal and family data and financial records, and travel for an interview with a foreign government official – just to APPLY to take a vacation or business trip to Mexico? And, approval of your application is not guaranteed. Look what is required of Mexicans just to visit up north.

Requirements for Vacation or Business Travel for Mexicans

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THE UNITED STATES 2: The United States is by far the hardest country for neighboring Mexicans to enter. First, the US has had a long history of restricting the immigration of certain races and nationalities.2 American tourists and business travelers complete an in-flight Mexican visa form, and pay no cost to enter the country. But, the cost and requirements for Mexican travelers to visit the USA are quite different!

  • Cost: Cost is a significant factor. The USA government charges $325.00 USD per person just to process a visa application for Mexicans – that is non-refundable if the visa is refused. This application also requires a personal interview at the US Embassy in Mexico City. For students and tourists from Zihuatanejo, the cost of traveling to the capitol and applying for the visa is about $450 USD per person – more than a year’s college tuition at a public university! Minimum wage in Mexico is just over $4.00 USD (65 pesos) per day, so this fee equates to almost 2 months’ salary for many families, preventing most from even applying.
  • Required Documents and USA Embassy Interview: The USA tourist visa application form can be completed on-line, but a personal interview at the Embassy in Mexico City is required. Many other documents are necessary.
    • Valid Mexican Passport
    • The Visa application form (DS-160)
    • Birth certificate (original or certified copy)
    • Photos
    • Voter Registration Card (IFE/INE) if 18 or over
    • Proof of Finances (bank statements, payroll records, tax documents)
    • Proof of Education (school diploma, professional certificates)
    • Proof of Employment (pay slips, company credential, letter from Human Resources Department)
    • Proof of Marriage, documentation for other family members (sometimes required)
    • The above items should not be considered an exhaustive list and presentation of these documents does not guarantee visa issuance.
    • No criminal or immigration-related convictions
  • Proof of Reason to Visit/ Proof to Return: Mexican applicants for USA tourist visas must be prepared to explain and present evidence to the government officer regarding why they are going to the USA, and why they will return to Mexico. It is often necessary to have a letter of invitation or sponsorship from some US organization or group.


CANADA 3: Canada just started requiring Mexicans to obtain travel visas a few years ago. Having assisted students in the past, we find Canada’s application process to be easier and significantly less expensive.

  • Cost: The fee for a tourist visa is $100 Canadian Dollars ($76 USD); maximum of $500 ($375 USD) for an entire family, as compared to the USA visa application charge of $325 USD per person.
  • Required Documents and Canadian Embassy Interview: The Canadian tourist visa application form can be completed on-line, and a personal interview at the Embassy in Mexico City is also required, so applicants outside the city incur travel costs. The following documents are required.
    • Valid travel document, such as a passport,
    • Good health
    • No criminal or immigration-related convictions 
  • Proof of Reason to Visit/ Proof to Return: Mexican applicants must show proof and convince an immigration officer that they have ties—such as a job, home, financial assets or family—so that they will return to Mexico, and that they have enough money for the stay. The amount of money needed can vary depending on the length of stay, and accommodations in a hotel or with relatives. Applicants may also need a medical exam and a letter of invitation from someone who lives in Canada.


  1. New York Times, “Where Will Americans Travel in 2015?”
  2. United States Embassy in Mexico City, US Visa Requirements:–tourism-b1/b2.html
  3. Government of Canada, Immigration and Citizenship, Visa Requirements:

Related Articles:

Sustainable Tourism Can Help Solve the World’s Problems — Travel Forever!

The Mexican Immigration Problem in the USA: How it Started – Part 1

The Mexican Immigration Problem: How it Started – Part 2

The Mexican Immigration Problem: How it Started – Part 3 (final)

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