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Avoiding Problems at the Border

Sam Grubb

Did you hear the story about the man who was bringing his household goods across the border, only to have the goods and his truck impounded by Mexican customs? How about the couple who hired a major US moving company to bring their household goods to Baja but it took them two weeks to get across the border, and they had to abandon several thousand dollars’ worth of electrical goods because they didn’t have the right paperwork? Or a couple that brought new appliances to the border and had the appliances impounded for lack of the proper paperwork? These are all true stories, and the list goes on.

These horror stories, and stories like them, of people trying to move to Mexico, even with “professional help”, are endless. Some of them strain the bounds of credibility.

Recently, Mexican customs officials announced a zero tolerance policy for people trying to move their belongings to Mexico. They will no longer allow anyone through the border without the proper paperwork.

There is a very specific process required by Mexican law to bring your household goods into Mexico. If you follow the process to the letter, you have a one-time exemption from paying import duty on your possessions. However, many people have not complied with all the steps, and have had trouble at the border.

An executive of Mayflower once said, when talking about Mexico, “It’s easier to move people to Australia.”

To bring your household possessions with a combined value of $1000 or greater into Mexico, a customs broker is required along with the following:

• Proof of residence in the USA (a US utility bill in your name).
• Proof of residence in Mexico (a Mexican utility bill in your name).
• FM-3.
• An inventory of your goods in English and Spanish.
• All items with a serial and model number must be listed.
• It must be stamped by the Mexican consulate nearest your USA address. The requirements sometimes vary with individual consulates.
• Import papers prepared by a licensed broker.
• Import license.

Any attempt to short circuit this process seriously risks having your shipment turned back, or even confiscated, at the border.

There are many people and companies that offer to provide this service to Americans, promising to do it more cheaply. Be sure to check references carefully before doing business with them, because these are the people that customs officials are targeting.

Be smart, do your homework, and speak to professionals. See the sidebar for specific rules on Mexican Border Customs.

Bio: Sam Grubb is an owner of San Felipe Storage Company. Their team of experts have been moving people to Baja for two years. They do it all, from loading in the US to unloading in Mexico, without changing trucks.

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