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Do I Need to Import My Vehicle into Mexico?

Depending on your plans, you might need to import your car into Mexico. Whether it is permanent or temporary, the importation process has to follow the existing procedure implemented by the General Administration of Customs in Mexico (Aduana). Those who drive their vehicles within the border zone (roughly 12.50 miles/20 km. south of the border) do not have to worry about importation requirements. Additionally, The Free Trade Zone, which is all of Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sonora as far south as San Carlos/Guaymas are exempt from the importation process, meaning you do not have to import your vehicles if you are in or traveling in the above areas. However, foreigners who plan to go beyond San Carlos/Guaymas have to obtain an importation permit, temporary or permanent.

Temporary Importation
Any person who plans to visit Mexico or stay here for a longer period will first need to apply for a visa. Americans who own a Tourist Visa (FMM) can keep the imported vehicle in Mexico for a maximum of six months. The new Temporary (formerly FM3) and Permanent (formerly FM2) visas allow extended residence on Mexican territory, over 6 months. Those who own this type of visa can apply for temporary importation and keep their car in Mexico until the visa expires. When the visa is renewed, the importation permit will automatically be renewed, as well.

Apart from their visa, applicants will need to bring the following documents with them to the customs:

  • A document which proves American citizenship - passport, birth certificate, or voter registration card;
  • The vehicle title;
  • The vehicle registration;
  • The leasing contract, if the vehicle was leased or rented;
  • If the car belongs to a company, documents which show the relationship between the company and the applicant;
  • The driver’s license issued outside Mexico.
Each person will need to provide the original documents together with copies. The copies have to be taken to a Banjercito Office available at every border crossing. Along with the documents, the applicant will be required to submit a declaration that stipulates that the vehicle will be taken out of Mexico once the permit expires. The procedure comes with a fee of around $50 for a regular car and a recreational vehicle.

The payment can be made in cash or with an international credit card. In addition to the fee, each person must pay a guarantee deposit that varies between $200 and $400, depending on the age of the vehicle. Once the procedure is completed, you will receive an import permit and a hologram that goes on the windshield. The vehicle and the permit have to be returned, and on this occasion, the deposit will be refunded. The date when the permit is returned should not exceed the 6 months deadline.

This process can be completed at the border, but you can also apply at Mexican consulates in US or online on the Banjercito website:

For applications placed at the consulate, the same documents will be required. During the online application, you will need to provide some additional information: the date when you travel to Mexico, email address, physical address, and an international credit card. The applicant who chooses the online option will not be able to use the birth certificate as a proof of citizenship. Those who receive the permit by mail will need to take the documents used during the application process and show them at the border.

Permanent importation
Permanent importation of vehicles means that you can keep the car for an indefinite period on Mexican territory. In addition, the imported car will be considered a Mexican vehicle, and it will have Mexican registration plates.

Since the process is significantly more complicated as compared with the temporary importation procedure, the applicant will be required to hire a customs broker. The customs broker will gather all the required documentation and submit it for review. The expenses include the fees due to the customs broker and an import duty, which varies according to the type and age of the vehicle.

Once the importation procedure is completed successfully, the owner of the vehicle will need to go to the Departamento de Registro de Control Vehicular and submit the proof of importation that bears the name of the of pedimento. This institution will issue the new license plates necessary for the vehicle.

People who might find the whole process cumbersome can simply sell the car they have in the US and purchase another vehicle registered in Mexico. Many cars, both new and used, are available at extremely affordable prices.

Irrespective of the circumstances or the duration of your travel to Mexico, it is advisable to purchase Mexican Auto Insurance. Even if you have an American policy, which states it covers the Mexican territory, the authorities from Mexico will refuse to accept it as valid.

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