Regaining your freedom of movement after having spent time in prison is a great feeling. Going where you want, when you want is liberating.
For many felons, there is often the urge to flex this muscle a bit more. Traveling beyond our borders is an ambition for a lot of people. Whether it is to try new foods or visit foreign friends, it is not an opportunity to be missed.
Here we will look to answer the question;: Can felons travel to Mexico?
There are many reasons to want to travel to Mexico. It is easily one of the most affordable neighbors we have. From accommodation to food and drink, the dollar can stretch a lot further down south.
The lovely warm weather and abundance of fabulous beaches also make it very appealing in colder months. Nature lovers will appreciate the varied terrain and unique animal species that originate here.
The food is cheap, delicious, and healthy. If you drink alcohol, life is that much better with a taste of tequila, mezcal, and pulque.
Medical tourism is another upside with a lot of medications at a cheaper price here. Many medical procedures can be undergone at a fraction of the cost. You should, however, be careful as the medical standards may not be as stringent as in the U.S.
The friendly nature of the people is also appreciable. Coming from the harsh experiences of the prison system, it is nice to have people treat you kindly. Since they know nothing other than that you are a tourist, they have no reason to discriminate you.
So with all these benefits, the next question becomes can a felon visit Mexico? Let’s find an answer below.
Can a Felon Travel to Mexico?
The answer is yes. Many felons have confirmed that they have traveled to Mexico without a problem on multiple occasions. Unlike our neighbors to the north, Mexico is more relaxed about allowing those with criminal histories explore their country.
One offense that may, however, be of interest to Mexican authorities is drug trafficking. If you were convicted of transporting drugs across the border, this may disqualify you from traveling to Mexico.
In fact, it may also prevent you from regaining your passport. Without a passport, you cannot leave the country.
If you are still on parole or probation, you should also not be able to acquire a passport. Completing your sentence is recommended before contemplating any international travel. Concessions can only be made in the event of emergencies.
Mexican authorities do have access to U.S. criminal databases. They will likely be able to determine if you have a record. However, much evidence indicates that a felony record is not enough for them to deny entry.
Short stay visits are particularly not a problem. If you are intending to travel within the country for no more than 180 days, there are no restrictions to worry about.
If, however, you plan on staying for longer, this will require you to apply for a visa. With visa applications, a background check is typically carried out. Felony convictions may make securing a visa more difficult.
It is also important to note that officially, Mexico may refuse entry to those convicted of serious crimes. These can include terrorism, manslaughter, drug-related crimes, child abuse, rape, armed robbery, and smuggling.
That said, what is official and what happens on the ground can greatly differ.
Now let’s look at what particular requirements felons and non-felons must fulfill to gain entry.
Requirements to Travel into Mexico
For short stay visits of no more than 180 days, a U.S. traveler only requires a valid passport. The validity of the passport should cover the duration of the trip.
The Mexican embassy advises travelers with passports with less than 6 months’ validity check with their airline. This is because as a general rule, the U.S. has a six months’ validity rule that many airlines would prefer not to contravene.
Minors traveling in or without the company of adults should also have valid passports. You can also travel to Mexico with your pet if obtain an import certificate.
Completion of a Multiple Migratory Form (FMM) is mandatory for all travelers. This is usually provided by the airline, or at the border crossing.
Since Mexico is just south for the border, many people do opt to travel by road. That means having to acquire a vehicle import permit if intending to travel outside the free or border zone. The zone is typically within 12-18 miles of the U.S. border.
It is also advisable to take up full coverage insurance from Mexican insurers for the duration. A valid U.S. driver’s license is also necessary when driving.
Customs officials may request supporting documentation to verify the purpose of your visit. For instance, tourists should have reservations and possibly itineraries. Those on business can use a letter of invitation from a Mexican firm or employment credentials.
It is advisable to have some form of documentation that supports the purpose of your visit.
Those disembarking from cruise ships do not require a visa.
For travelers looking to extend their stay beyond the 180 days’ limit, a visa is required. This visa can only be obtained before travel following an application to the Mexican embassy or consulate.
Supporting Felons Traveling to Mexico
Travel is a great way to relieve stress. For many felons, incarceration can be traumatic and taking time to relax can help improve mental state. The experience can also give a new sense of hope and happiness.
Family and friends need to be supportive of felons once they are released. Helping them get back on the right path reduces the risk of recidivism.
If they should ever suggest the idea of traveling to Mexico, encourage them. Where possible, join them on the trip. The company can help give them more confidence.
Let them know that their completing their sentence has restored freedoms they should not take for granted. Aid them in the processes of getting a passport and planning their trip.
Ensure they have budgeted accordingly. Though the dollar is stronger, you still need a reasonable reserve to cover your travel expenses.
Also, offer some advice on how to avoid Montezuma’s revenge. No one wants to spend their trip sick on the toilet.
Encourage them to pack light and avoid carrying any valuables. Also, check the State Department website for any travel advisories.
Mexico is a great destination for a first international travel experience. Being just across the border, it means less hassle if they are refused entry.
However, the chances of this are minimal as long as they have completed their full sentence. And, their crimes are not serious.
Remind them to pack some sunscreen and if not accompanying them, to keep out of trouble. Getting arrested in Mexico is no fun and can turn more complicated if you have a felony record.
The U.S. passport is pretty powerful. It allows many of our citizens to cross multiple borders without needing a visa.
There are no much restrictions for those traveling for short stays on tourism or business. Having a felony conviction record has not proved a hindrance for many travelers.
There are however some indications that this may be changing. Over the last couple of years, there have been increased reports of felons being denied entry at the border. Whether it is due to rising crime or political tensions, we do not know for sure.
The only way to know for sure if you will be able to cross the border is to attempt it. You may also consult with your nearest Mexican consulate or the embassy.
To increase your chances, be sure to have a valid passport. Also, take along supporting documentation that confirms the purpose of your visit. Always have your FMM tourist card on you as it can be requested at any time.
Obtain a clearance letter if you have been recently released or completed your probation or parole. Sometimes records can take a while to be updated so come prepared.