This article is meant to be used as a guide only. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to put forth an exact vehicle import guide as each POE is different and policies change often. The variables involved in each person’s experience are:
POE – Customs Broker – Vehicle – Person Behind Counter
Keeping this in mind, we have gathered the following rules and regulations regarding nationalizing your U.S. or Canadian plated vehicle:
You can do two things once you have your foreign plated vehicle in Mexico:
- You may keep your foreign plates and tie your TIP to your Resident Temporal Visa status (valid for 4 years). At the end of the 4 years, you must “Nationalize” your vehicle or bring it back to the U.S.
- You may “Nationalize” your car by obtaining Mexican license plates immediately.
Holding On To Foreign Plates As Long As Possible
In order to keep your foreign plates, you must follow all the steps of the Temporary Vehicle Import process. Make sure you keep your Resident Temporal immigrant status current so that your Import Permit is valid (up to 4 years) and make sure you notify Aduana of your Visa status. Both of these need to be current in order for your Mexican insurance policy to pay a claim.
No Mexican insurance policy will pay a claim on an illegal car in Mexico.
You may nationalize your vehicle before your Resident Temporal Visa expires or you may wait the entire four years.
IMPORTANT: You MUST permanently import your vehicle BEFORE you get your Residente Permanente and before your Temporal status officially expires.
Once you have your permanent status granted you will not be able to permanently import your car…this must be done before your Temporal status is expired.
New Rules Mean Forced Nationalizing
As stated above, when your Resident Temporal Visa expires and it is time to get your Resident Permanente Visa, you are no longer allowed to have a foreign plated car. At this point, you have two options:
1) You must take your car out of Mexico permanently
2) You must “Nationalize” it with foreign plates at the border or “Port of Entry” (POE)
For a comprehensive list of the POE’s between the U.S. and Mexico
Applying For Mexican License Plates
Check the VIN#
Aduana has specific requirements for importing used vehicles. NAFTA vehicles 8 years and older can be regularized and only 5 years or newer NAFTA vehicles qualify for permanent importation at the 16% IVA tax rate.
You can tell if your car is a NAFTA vehicle by checking the VIN # begins with a number and not a letter.
Have Clear Title
You must be the owner, with a valid clear title, with no liens nor encumbrances on the car. Be ready to present your title.
Current Emission Certificate
You will need to get an emissions certificate that is less than 6 months old. Arizona, California and Texas emission certificates qualify.
Texas counties that do emissions tests are: Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Montgomery, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, Travis, Williamson and El Paso counties.
Hire a Customs Broker
Though it is no longer a requirement is it HIGHLY recommended that you hire a customs broker who will collect the required information, which includes the documents for temporary importation plus proof of Residente status “Temporal” (remember-you must start the importation process BEFORE your change to “Residente Permanente” .
The customs broker will file the necessary forms with the government. Customs brokers typically charge between $600 – $900 USD to get your pedimento.
Be Ready To Pay Your Import Tax
You will pay an import duty based on the type and age of the vehicle, as well as other taxes. Import duties are based on the “Reference Values” published by the Secretary of the Treasury. You can also the Banjercito website for import duties.
Take Your Pedimento to the Dept. de Control
After the vehicle is officially imported, you are required to take the proof, called a “Pedimento” to the Departamento de Registro de Control Vehicular to obtain Mexican license plates for the state in which you reside. A pedimento is the legal document to import or export from Mexico.
About 30 days after filing with the Departamento de Registro de Control Vehicular, you should check to see if your vehicle has truly been registered with Aduana. You will need your VIN number to look up your vehicle.
IMPROTANT SUMMARY RECOMMENDATIONS
- Do your homework on your vehicle tax or “import fee” by visiting Reference Values or the Banjercito website with your vin#. NOT ALL VEHICLES CAN BE IMPORTED.
- Make sure your emissions is current (less than 6 months old)
- Decide on your port of entry (POE)
- Hire a customs broker familiar with the POE (get more than one quote)
Finding a good reputable customs broker can make all the difference in your importation experience.
VEHICLE IMPORTATION DISCLAIMER: WE DO OUR BEST TO KEEP THIS PAGE UPDATED – IF YOU FIND ANY INFORMATION TO BE INACCURATE OR NOT CURRENT PLEASE LET US KNOW. PLEASE CHECK THE ADUANA WEBSITE BEFORE MAKING ANY FINAL DECISIONS ON U.S. OR CANADIAN CAR IMPORTATION, THE RULES CAN CHANGE OFTEN.
Resident Permanente’s With Vehicles Already In Mexico
Get a “Safe Returns” Permit
If your car becomes illegal due to visa changes, visa’s expiring, or whatever reason, you can apply for a free temporary permit that gives you 3-5 days to remove the vehicle from Mexico.
This is called a “Safe Returns” permit and can get this at the Aduana website. If you have a vehicle in Mexico and your residency status has changed to “permanente” you will not be able to keep that vehicle in Mexico (unless you are living in a free zone-Baja, Northern Sonora or Quintana Roo) and your vehicle must stay within those zones.
Regarding the “Safe Returns” permit, per Aduana’s site:
“If a vehicle imported temporarily for some reason can not return the vehicle performed in time, it is suggested not to drive, since it will be illegally in the country and may be subject to penalties and seizure of the vehicle, so we must make the process of safe return . This program of the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit facilitates the return of the vehicles to the U.S. border or whose stay is illegal in the country and is aimed especially owners of foreign vehicles who can not prove their legal status in the country. Through the program Safe return , illegal vehicle owners may voluntarily return them to the places of origin without charge fines or criminal action are run against them.”
You may also donate your vehicle to your local Aduana to cancel out your TIP. Bring the original TIP paper permit, the vehicle, a cover letter with description of the make, model, year and VIN. Bring your passport, your Resident Permanente Visa and your donation request. There is a formal Aduana program described on their website for donations.
Driving In Free Zones
Quintana Roo is a “Free Zone”, like Northern Sonora or Baja Sur California. This means you can drive your vehicles out of Mexico, at Chetumal-Belize border, get your deposits back, and return back into Quintana Roo without any Temporary Import Permit. The vehicle then has to stay in Quintana Roo. So long as you do not drive it out of Q. Roo, it remains legal.
If you decide you want to drive it out of Q. Roo into other parts of Mexico, you need to go to the Chetumal border again and get a Temporary Import Permit under that future visa or nationalize your car.
Is It Worth It?
Remember that if you bring your U.S. plated car into Mexico, you do have 4 years (or more depending how long you wait to obtain Residente Permanente status). Your vehicle will have depreciated in that time, so the 16% tax will be less.
You need to weigh the fees and hassle involved with nationalizing your car against selling your U.S. car in the U.S. and purchasing a Mexican car when you get here.