If you want to visit San Felipe and you are not a Mexican citizen or the holder of a Mexican residents visa, you must now get a Tourist Card (FMM) when you cross the border into Mexico. This has been a requirement for air travel for many years but land crossings had some “unofficial” exemptions for tourists visiting in the “border region” for a few days.
As of September 2015, there is no longer a “free zone” for FMMs. Every non-Mexican citizen entering Baja will need to obtain an FMM regardless of length or location of visit. Also as of September 2015, visitors are no longer required to return their FMM to the Mexican government when exiting the country.
When you cross the border you will find an office of the Mexican Immigration service immediately adjacent (for example on the extreme left hand side of the crossing from downtown Calexico to Mexicali). Present your passport at that office and pay the 332 peso fee for each person’s card at the bank next door and you will be good for 180 days of unlimited visits to Mexico. If you are going to San Felipe for only a few days (less than 7) the immigration office will issue you a free FMM for this one-time trip. However, you and all the passengers in your vehicle MUST get the card.
Your Mexican car insurance will may also only be valid if the driver can show his or her FMM card when required by the authorities in the event of an accident. This may depend upon the policies of the insurance company that you deal with. If you have concerns because you fail to buy the FMM, you should talk to the company and get a written statement from them that they will cover you in the event of a claim. See update below.
Update 28 October:
Immigration is NOT presently stopping vehicles to check if occupants have the FMM cards, but this policy could change at any time. You should decide for yourself if you wish to ignore the law and drive to San Felipe without getting an FMM card. People crossing the border on foot at some ports-of-entry are already subject to FMM check and are required to obtain the card to proceed into Mexico.
The Mexican Immigration Service is setting up a website to enable visitors to obtain the FMM Tourist Card online and pay by credit card for the fees involved. It is likely that this website will not be operating until sometime in November.
See more details in our Immigration section.
Relevant FMM online application website (in Spanish): INM
Update 18 November 2015 – I have had confirmation from three different insurance agents that tourists who buy Mexican vehicle insurance for their trip to San Felipe, but do not get an FMM card, will be covered in the event that they are involved in an accident.
Visitors that buy their FMM online using the link to the Mexican immigration website above will still have to stop at the border to get the paper printout validated at the immigration office. You will show your passport or passport card to the official along with the printout to receive the validation seal. Note that ONLY a passport or passport card will be accepted for the validation process.