Can felons go to Mexico? It depends. While there isn’t a blanket ban on felons entering Mexico, immigration officials may refuse entry for serious felonies if you’re flagged at a point of entry.
With a felony on your record, planning a simple overseas trip isn’t always an easy task. Some countries, like Canada, have very clear rules about who can and cannot enter their territory.
Unfortunately, Mexico isn’t one of those countries and official advice from the US and Mexican authorities is vague and unhelpful.
Can Felons Go To Mexico in 2023?
Can a felon go to Mexico? The U.S. Department of State includes the following information on its travel to Mexico page.
They advise that ”Mexican law permits Mexican immigration authorities to deny foreigners entry into Mexico if they have been charged with or convicted of a serious crime in Mexico or elsewhere.”
The Mexican Embassy in Canada informs travelers to Mexico that entry may be refused on the following grounds “if the applicant is subject to criminal process or has been convicted of a serious crime as defined by national laws on criminal matters or provisions in international treaties or conventions that the Mexican State is party to, or if the applicant’s background in Mexico or abroad could compromise national or public security, in accordance with Article 43 of the Migration Law.”
As you can see from the above statements, Mexico may refuse entry to felons convicted of serious crimes.
Travelers with felony convictions report mixed outcomes with Mexican immigration officials, which only adds to the uncertainty.
Some felons report being sent back to the United States, while others state they entered Mexico without any trouble.
It’s unclear how Mexican border officials find out about previous convictions, although some felons will be flagged after a passport scan matches a record on Interpol’s database.
While Mexico doesn’t have direct access to the official NCIC database, which provides immediate information on conviction records in the United States, they may check other databases.
Ease of entry could also depend on your method of travel, with more thorough checks taking place on airline passengers than those crossing the land border.
Which Felonies Do Mexican Authorities Class As Serious Crimes?
It’s not clear which felony convictions will result in being denied entry to Mexico, and the final decision to allow entry rests with the immigration officer you encounter.
Article 194 of the Federal Code on Criminal Proceedings defines serious crimes as those which have a significant, negative effect on the fundamental values of society.
These serious crimes include among others:
- Drug-related crimes
- Corruption of minors
- Trafficking of minors
- Child pornography
- Currency counterfeiting
- Aggravated robbery
- Highway robbery
- Vehicle theft
- Tax fraud
- Prison escape
If you’re applying for a Mexican Visa you must disclose all criminal convictions, but if you’re eligible for visa-free travel to Mexico, then you only need a Mexico Tourist Card. The tourist card application doesn’t ask about criminal convictions.
What Felons Need To Know Before Applying For A Mexican Visa
A Mexican visa is required if your vacation or business trip will be longer than 180 days if you plan to work, if you intend to study in the country, or if you’re going to become a temporary or permanent resident.
To apply for a visa through your nearest Mexican Embassy or consulate you’ll need to:
- Complete the visa application form
- Attend an interview
- Hold a passport with at least 6 months validity beyond the date you plan to exit Mexico
- Provide proof of financial means
- Pay the visa application fee
The visa application form asks if you have a criminal record in Mexico or any other country and requires details of the conviction. Immigration officials will carry out a background check to verify the information you’ve provided. The decision to approve or deny your visa application will be based on the nature of your felony.
Can felons travel to Mexico with a visa without any further restrictions? Having your visa application approved doesn’t guarantee that Mexican border officials will allow you into the country.
If you’re questioned on arrival and officials aren’t satisfied with your answers, you will be denied entry.
You could be asked how long you’re staying, how you’re going to cover expenses, where you’re staying, where you’re working or studying, and if you have a criminal record. Your documents will also be verified.
What Felons Need to Know Before Applying For A Mexico Tourist Card
United States citizens enjoy visa-free travel to Mexico for vacations and business trips under 180 days. So can you go to Mexico with a felony if you’re only visiting as a tourist?
Visitors eligible for visa-free travel, need a Mexico Tourist Card (FMM – Forma Migratoria Multiple). The application for the Mexico Tourist Card doesn’t ask if you have a criminal record.
If you’re driving or walking across the border, the immigration and customs office will give you a form. You can also fill out the form online and print a copy.
You must get your form stamped by an immigration official at the border. If your FMM isn’t stamped, you’re in the country illegally.
The FMM is currently being phased out for flights into Mexico (and eventually for all visitors). Under the new process, the immigration official stamps your passport and writes how many days you’re allowed to stay in Mexico.
What Happens If Mexico Refuses Entry Because Of Your Felony?
If your felony results in being denied entry, the action Mexican immigration officials take depends on your method of travel.
- If you arrive at a Mexican airport, officials will arrange for you to return on the next available flight.
- If you arrive on a cruise excursion, you’ll be told to return to your ship.
- If you’re crossing the land border between the U.S. and Mexico, you’ll be told to turn around and return to the U.S.
- If there’s an active warrant for your arrest, Mexican authorities will detain you.
Your travel insurance policy is unlikely to reimburse the cost of your trip if you’re refused entry to Mexico, so before you spend thousands of dollars on a vacation, it’s a good idea to talk to an immigration lawyer.
Can A Felon Get A Passport To Mexico?
Most felons are eligible to apply for a United States passport once their sentence is complete or if they have permission from their parole or probation officer.
You cannot apply for a passport if:
- You’re on probation or parole for drug trafficking while using a passport or crossing international borders
- You’ve been convicted of sex trafficking
- You’re court order, or the conditions of your parole or probation forbid you from leaving the country
- You have an outstanding arrest warrant
- You owe $2,500 or more in unpaid child support
A passport allows you to leave and reenter the United States. Being issued a passport does not guarantee entry to any other country.
Depending on the purpose of your trip, you’ll need a visa or a Mexico Tourist Card to enter Mexico.
Is There An Extradition Agreement Between Mexico And The US?
If you’ve been charged with an offense and think moving to Mexico is a better option than serving a prison sentence, think again. Mexico signed an extradition treaty with the United States in 1978.
As a foreigner in Mexico, you can be asked to show your passport and visa or tourist card at any time. If your documents aren’t up to date, officials will detain you while they investigate your situation. When they discover your outstanding warrant they’ll arrest you.
Mexico has recently tightened immigration rules and it’s impossible to say if you can travel to Mexico with your felony and be given permission to enter.
Both the United States and Mexican governments advise that felons convicted of serious crimes may be refused entry. The ultimate decision rests with the immigration officer you encounter.
Immigration checks at the land border appear to be less strictly enforced than those at Mexican airports.
Charles Greg is the Co-Founder, Author, & Head Developer behind RentingtoFelons.org
With a lifelong passion for humanity.