Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Importing a Foreign Vehicle into Mexico

UPDATE: Since the writing of this article, immigration statuses have changed. Those with Temporary Residency can still temporarily import vehicles. Permanent Residents may not. Those permanent residents with foreign plated vehicles need to remove their vehicles from Mexico.

Recently, I wrote an article about importing foreign vehicles into Mexico.  On Tuesday of this week, I attended a seminar given by a Mexican Customs Official about this very topic. So, I have expanded my original article to include the important points from the seminar.

Please note that this information applies to cars being driven into Mexico with foreign (Canada, USA) license plates.

As an FYI, I recently posted info about shipping your vehicle into Mexico via ferry boat, rather than driving it in.  You can find that article here.

A)  How many vehicles can you import with a Temporary Import Permit (TIP)?

You are allowed a total of one imported vehicle per person. The vehicle's title must be in the name of the person importing it.

B) What documentation do you need to import your vehicle?

  • Passport
  • Valid Immigration Document [See Section E) below.]
  • Vehicle Title OR Current Registration - Whichever you document present would need to be in the name of the person importing the vehicle.
  • Rented or Leased vehicles require an agreement that specifying that you may take the vehicle into Mexico.
  • Financed Vehicles require a permission letter from the bank allowing you to take the vehicle into Mexico.

 C) Where can you purchase your TIP?
  • Mexican Consulates: If you choose to use a Consulate, it is recommended that you solicit the permit 30-60 days prior to the desired importation date in order to have sufficient time for processing.
  • Internet:  If you choose to purchase online, it is recommended that you solicit the permit 30-60 days prior to the desired importation date in order to have sufficient time processing and shipping.
  • CIITEV Offices in Mexico (Located at border crossings and ports)

D) What does a TIP cost?

At the time of this article, a TIP cost $44 USD + IVA. In addition to the TIP, you will need to pay a guarantee.  This cost of this guarantee is:
  • Vehicles that are 2007 + = $400 USD
  • Vehicles that are 2001-2006 = $300 USD
  • Vehicles that are 2000 & Older = $200 USD
About the guarantee: The idea of this guarantee is that when you leave Mexico with your vehicle, your guarantee will be returned to you.  In order keep your guarantee valid, each time you renew your visa you must also notify customs to receive an extension. In order to do this, you must jump through a million bureaucratic hoops, the fairy mail gods need to be on your side, AND immigration must time your visa renewal perfectly.  In other words, plan on forfeiting your guarantee unless you are planning to import your vehicle with a tourist visa and are leaving within 180 days. Your TIP will remain valid, even if you have forfeited your guarantee.

E) Who is allowed to import a vehicle?

You are allowed to import a foreign plated vehicle into Mexico if you have a valid immigration status.  Valid immigration statuses are:
  • a "Non-Immigrant / No Inmigrante" visa.  This would include a visa that has a "Tourist" status and a "No Inmigrante" (FM3) visa that has "Rentista" or a Lucrative status. 
  • an "Inmigrante" (FM2) visa that is with "Rentista" status.  
IMPORTANT: If you have a lucrative "Inmigrante" (FM2) visa or an "Inmigrado" visa, you are NOT able to import a car. If you have already imported a car in your name and subsequently, you accept "Inmigrante" visa status, your vehicle's import permit will be invalid. Your vehicle must be taken out of the country prior to accepting the "Inmigrante" status.

F) How long is my permit valid?

When your TIP is issued, it will have an expiration date printed on it. This expiration date does NOT apply, if you continually maintain a valid immigration status. A valid immigration status is any one of the options mentioned in section E) above. Your TIP will automatically renew, as long as your immigration visa is CONTINUALLY maintained.

If you allow your immigration visa to expire, your TIP will become invalid the moment that your visa expires.  If this happens, your only option is to take the vehicle out of the country.

[Note: Most police officers are not well versed in the specifics of TIPs. Often, they assume that the permit has expired when they see the expiration date printed on the TIP.  However, the fact that it renews with your immigration document is mentioned on the back of the TIP. So, if you are stopped and asked by police, you can refer them to this to avoid any confusion.]

If you import a vehicle with a "No Inmigrante" tourist visa:  Your TIP will be only valid for the length of time that your original tourist visa (i.e. the visa that you were issued when you imported the vehicle) is valid.

If enter Mexico with a tourist visa, that visa can be valid up to 180 days.  The actual length of its validity is the amount of time you request when you complete the visa form. (If you did not solicit the full 180 days when you originally completed the visa form, you can return to an immigration office to have it extended for up to a total of 180 days.)

The moment that you leave Mexico and turn in your original tourist visa OR the moment that you allow your original tourist visa to expire, your TIP is no longer valid.

Therefore, if you choose to import a vehicle with a tourist visa, you have 2 options: 1) Leave Mexico in your vehicle before the expiration date of your original "No Inmigrante" tourist visa. 2) Obtain an FM3 before your original "No Inmigrante" tourist visa expires.

G) How do I cancel my Permit?

After you have received your TIP, you are able to come into Mexico and leave Mexico as often as you desire, as long as you continually maintain your valid immigration status.

If you are leaving Mexico with a vehicle that you don't intend to return with, be sure to cancel the permit at the border.  Remember that you are only allowed to import one vehicle per person.  So, if you don't cancel the permit, the vehicle will remain under your name in Mexico's records.  By cancelling the permit, it will allow you to import another vehicle in the future.

If you have an accident and your vehicle is totaled, there is a process to cancel your TIP. You will need to contact Customs for additional information.

If your vehicle becomes disabled, you are responsible for taking your vehicle out of Mexico to cancel the TIP. When you import your vehicle, you sign that you are responsible for your vehicle while it is in Mexico - Period. So, even if you have to tow it out, that is what you have agreed to do.

H) Who can drive my vehicle?
  • The Importer
  • The Importer's Spouse
  • The Importer's Parents/Grandparents
  • The Importer's Children
  • The Importer's Siblings
  • Foreigners with valid migratory status [See Section E) above.]
  • If the vehicle is being driven by anyone else, the importer must be physically present in the vehicle.

I) What are the repercussions of operating a vehicle without a valid TIP or by an unauthorized driver?

If your are operating your vehicle with an invalid TIP or your vehicle is being operated by an unauthorized person [See Section H) above.], the Mexican Authorities have the right to assess fines and permanently confiscate your vehicle immediately.

J) What should I do if I have a vehicle with a TIP that is not valid?

If your TIP is invalid, do not drive your vehicle. Doing so risks the confiscation of your vehicle, plus fines. You must contact Customs for a "Returno Seguro" ("Secure Return"). The Customs office will provide a permission letter providing 3-5 days to remove the vehicle from the Mexico.

K) What documents should I carry in my vehicle?

At minimum, you must carry:
  • your TIP and proof of valid migratory status inside your vehicle
  • have your hologram sticker affixed to the window
  • If someone else is driving the vehicle, they must have proof of their relationship to you and their proof of valid migratory status.

L) Can I sell my vehicle?

No. Vehicles with a TIP cannot be sold, even to another foreigner. Vehicles must be removed from Mexico before being sold.

M) What do I do if I have questions?

Final Note & Personal Opinion: As you now know, importing a vehicle into Mexico can potentially be  cumbersome and limiting for those who are planning to have their vehicle here long term.  Unless you are truly a tourist who is planning to enjoy Mexico and return home, I would recommend that you consider buying a Mexican vehicle. You will still be required to have an FM3 or FM2 visa to purchase a vehicle in Mexico, but the process is much less complicated.

Twitter and Facebook Readers can view the original post and leave comments at:

Amber Pierce-Schulz is the Broker/Owner of Mayan Riviera Properties, specializing in Puerto Morelos Real Estate and Puerto Morelos Vacation Rentals. We are members of AMPI and Federally Certified Realtors.