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Overstayed Mexico Visa Experience

Through a simple miscalculation of days, I overstayed my 180 day tourist visa in Mexico by two days. I exited the country on Continental Airlines on a flight bound for Houston out of Mexico City. I was not fined or penalized for the transgression; in fact, I did not even have to go through any [...]

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Through a simple miscalculation of days, I overstayed my 180 day tourist visa in Mexico by two days. I exited the country on Continental Airlines on a flight bound for Houston out of Mexico City. I was not fined or penalized for the transgression; in fact, I did not even have to go through any exit immigration protocol to go through at the airport. I debated publishing this entry for the adverse effects that it could potentially hold for me, but, in the spirit of travel, I determined that it would ultimately be irresponsible to abscond such a base error in the name of status — perhaps a traveler’s main social responsibility is to leave notes of the road ahead for other travelers. The story follows.

I have unwittingly become some sort of authority on visa overstays and have counseled hundreds of travelers on what to do in the event of staying longer than their official welcome in countries all around the world. My mantra has often been Don’t overstay your visa, no matter what. Imagine my surprise when I counted up the days I had been in Mexico and found myself to be two days over my visa. The irony. I too had just done what so many other travelers have claimed to me to have done: I accidentally overstayed my visa.

How did this happen?

[adsense]Some visas are issued for a certain about of months, while others are issued for a certain about of days, and knowing which you receive is of absolute pertinence to avoid a visa overstay situation. A typical tourist visa to Mexico is valid for 180 days, but many travelers erroneously refer to it as a 6 month visa. 6 months is not 180 days, it is 182 to 185 days, but when you are at the beginning of such a long stay visa, you do not tend to think of it in exact terms — you let it slide, knowing that you need to be out of the country in around six months’ time. I entered Mexico on the 25th of August so I figured that I would need to be out of the country around the 25th of February. When I purchased my plane ticket out of the country I made the mistake of not giving myself enough leeway to allow for the variation between 6 months and 180 days: I did not count the days, I just estimated the date my visa was up.

My estimation proved to be off by two days. I did not do the math until the night before my flight out. Nothing I can do about it now.

Travel visas are walls which many travelers hit

I went to the airport with an additional supply of “fine” money stashed in my pocket, I checked into my flight, and before I knew it I was in the terminal waiting to get on my plane. Where was exit immigration?

There was none.

The airline, apparently, ran the exit immigration check for Mexico — or as much of an inspection as they could. The airline was the only party to take possession of my passport the entire time I was in the airport and they also claimed my tourist card at the gate (of which I did not need to pay the 270 peso tourism fee it demanded). I do not remember immigration being run like this the last time I flew from Cancun, Mexico to the USA a few years ago, and I project that the situation could have been different depending on which airport and terminal my flight departed from as well as its destination.

This is simply the record of my experience, this is not advice that should be depended upon. As with most everything to do with the world’s immigration systems, expect extreme inconsistencies: I overstayed my Mexican visa by two days and did not have any problems THIS time, but this is not a sure shot indicator that next time won’t be completely different. Officially, I believe a fine should have been in order for a short term overstay of a Mexican tourist visa, and I feel as if I somehow cheated my way out of the country.

I must admit that I was relieve to not of had to stare into the mustached face of a tubby immigration inspector with oily skin, a khaki hat, and — potentially — an outstretched palm, but I do feel a tinge of reticence as to the unrequited outcome of my violation.


I have stated before that travel tips often come out of travel mistakes, and the value of a mistake is often worth far more than the consequence. In this instance, my mistake was not overstaying my visa — visas are easy to not violate, there is no lesson learned from overstaying one, it is just too stupid of a thing to do to learn anything from — but in the deeper cause that put me in this situation: I have become nonchalant in travel. My mistake is that I have taken an expert’s arrogance on traveling to the point where I did not even bother looking at my passport and counting the squares on a calendar up to 180 — a task that would have taken five minutes. After 11 years of travel, the care and attention that I once put into every aspect of the profession began to wane and nonchalance started to wax. This overstay event was good for me — although the irony is a little embarrassing — as it snapped me back to attention. This time, my arrogance lead to me overstaying a visa in Mexico — a country that is pretty lax in most aspects of immigration — but it could easily have happened in Europe, where the same overstay may have led to me being given a three year ban to the entire western half of the continent, or another country where a recorded immigration violation could have had pernicious ramifications in the future.

Don’t overstay your travel visa.

Additional pages about overstaying travel visas
Schengen visa questions

No excuses for overstaying visa

Travel Help visa questions


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Filed under: Border Crossing, Mexico, North America, Visas

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3719 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

15 comments… add one

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  • John Pedroza March 26, 2011, 10:11 am

    When you originally came into Mexico did you fly in? If so you would’ve gotten a airport tourist card which means the 270 pesos was included as part of your airfare. The only time you have to pay an extra 270 pesos is when you get your tourist card at the border or at a Mexican counsulate office. Although, I will say you were really lucky not to face an exit immigration station. They can fine you heavily for overstaying your visa, not to mention they can deny you re-entry the next time you want to go back to Mexico.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 26, 2011, 12:38 pm

      No, entered by land from Guatemala. There can be a fine applied, but for short term overstays it is officially pretty nominal. The only concern is if they think you overstayed to work illegally. It is my impression that one or two day overstays are pretty common.

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  • regina March 26, 2011, 8:26 pm

    “…25th of August so I figured that I would need to be out of the country around the 25th of April”…..On a 180 day visa? U seriously need this handy tool that will save you counting the days 🙂

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 26, 2011, 8:53 pm

      April 23rd is around April 25th. Right?

      Cool tool. Will link to it. Thanks.

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      • regina March 26, 2011, 9:01 pm

        yeah, but it’s 8 months ^ ^

      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 26, 2011, 9:09 pm

        Haha, woops, I meant February haha. It is not even April yet. Good call. Thanks!

  • Hope November 18, 2011, 12:09 pm

    I come and go from Mexico every six months to visit family and I fly there all the time! They sometimes give you a break for over staying your visa for 3 days but beyond that it just luck. Because there is a fine its $1,789 pesos for staying 30days pass your Travel visa I repeat go talk with the immigration before you by your ticket to leave fix your problem then get your ticket. Do you no how many people missed there flight because they were not well prepared.
    If you stay a year or more past your travel visa you get fined $6893.0 pesos . And always remember to have everything apostiled for your kids and I mean birth certifics and translate them spanish if not your passport won’t be enough trust me been there done that. Make sure to have that birth ceritficit make sure every thing is correct before you go there were lots of Americans who thought they could take there child there with out abirth certific and they messed up and lost there flight and got stuck and had to repay the fines twice once you pay those fine they give you three days to leave!
    They are very strong on there immigration laws so play it safe are may get stuck get your children papers fixed before you go! If not you will wish you did it!

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  • lore August 4, 2012, 2:03 pm

    Maybe you can help me out. I came into Mexico as a tourist and have actually lost my tourist permit. However, I have processed all my paperwork in mexico as I plan to reside here – father was mexican. I have my apostilled birth certificate, have my ID etc. so, how do I exit. I actually asked for advice at the consulate and they told me to go to the airport and pay the fine , and re-enter next time the same way…soooo confused and stressed as I leave in december for the states and plan to come back in January.

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    • Wade Shepard August 4, 2012, 8:00 pm

      I guess you have to just do what they told you.

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  • lore August 5, 2012, 4:20 pm

    I really have no choice – still freaks me out- does anyone know how dual nationals exit?

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    • Wade Shepard August 5, 2012, 7:55 pm

      Are you a Mexican citizen now and have Mexican passport? If so, you MUST exit as a citizen of Mexico and enter the USA with your US passport. The tourist card doesn’t matter anymore if you have Mexican citizenship.

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  • lore August 5, 2012, 11:52 pm

    ok, now it makes more sense. I have my mexican ID and I will process the passport this month but I wouldn’t need a mexican traveler visa right, if asked I just explain the dual nationality? thanks a bunch

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  • bob December 27, 2012, 11:39 pm

    been here for 3 years or so on FM’s. here is the deal:
    1. Our FM3’s expire on March 22nd
    2. We plan to fly roundtrip from Merida,MX to Guatemala City March 21st (one day before expiration)
    3. We plan to leave Mexico permanently in July.
    i assume we can come back in on a tourist visa since we are leaving on a valid FM3.

    what think ye?

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    • Wade Shepard December 28, 2012, 12:09 am

      Sounds fine to me.

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  • Heywood July 20, 2015, 7:05 pm

    Mexico visa – I heard lots of people just leave the country, then upon entry, they are given another visitors visa . I hear of people doing this all the time. Just cross and re-enter the border and they stamp your papers for another 160 days

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