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Driving across the Mexican border: Regulations and guidelines

Mexico Data On-Line

Here are a couple of steps you need to take when you decide to drive across the border into Mexico. If you abide by these rules, you'll be making sure you can legally take your trip to Mexico by car.

If your travel is within the Border Zone (usually up to 20 kilometers south of the U.S.-Mexico Border) or the Free Trade Zone (including the Baja California Peninsula and the Sonora Free Trade Zone) there are no procedures to comply with. However, if you wish to pass these zones, the following procedures will apply. You must secure a permit by following the next few steps.

Applying for a car permit at the Mexico border

Step One

To acquire a permit, simply drive your vehicle (including RVs) to a Mexican customs office at the border and present an original plus two (2) copies of the following documents:

  • Valid proof of citizenship (passport or birth certificate)
    In the case of dual citizenship, the solicitant must present his or her Mexican passport or proof of Mexican nationality.
  • The appropiate immigration form (FMT or "tourist card")
  • The valid vehicle registration certificate, or a document, such as the original title that certifies the legal ownership of the vehicle. It must be in the driver's name.
  • The leasing contract (if the vehicle is leased or rented), which must be in the name of the person importing the car. If the vehicle belongs to a company, present the document that certifies the employee works for the company.
  • A valid driver's license, issued outside Mexico.
  • If the documentation shows the vehicle is registered in the name of the spouse, the importation can be done as long as the marriage certificate (and ne copy) is presented.
  • An international credit or debit card, also issued outside Mexico (American Express, Mastercard or Visa), in the name of the driver of the vehicle.

Note: If you do not possess an international credit card, you will be asked to post a bond, payable to the Federal Treasury, issued by an authorized bonding company in Mexico.

As an alternative to posting a bond, you may make a cash deposit at Banco del Ejército in an amount equal to the value of your vehicle according to the "Table of Vehicle Values for Bonding Companies" (see table at bottom of the page for an idea of the cost).

Banco del Ejército now has a website wherein you can obtain the most recent rates and regulations. In addition, you may now apply in advance via Internet, but you will still need to have all the copies (as above) when you arrive at the border. A complete section (below) is devoted to online applications.

Step Two

Once you have the originals and photocopies of these documents, present them to the Vehicular Control Module located in Customs to process the importation permit.

All documents and the credit card must be in the name of the owner, who must also be in the vehicle when crossing the border.

Step Three

Your international credit card will be charged an amount in national currency equivalent to about US $27.00 USD at the Banco del Ejército.

If you do not have an international credit card or debit card, Banco del Ejército will accept a cash deposit in an amount equal to the value of your vehicle (see table). Your deposit plus any interest it may earn will be returned to you when you leave Mexico. Or, you may choose to obtain a bond through an authorized Mexican bonding company located at all the border crossings. The authorized bonding companies will require a refundable deposit equal to the value of the vehicle, according to the table below. The bonding company will also assess taxes and processing costs for this service.

Step Four

Upon your departure from Mexico, and if the vehicle is not going to be driven back into Mexico, the permit for temporary importation must be cancelled at Customs. That's all there is to it. Follow these simple steps and you shouldn't have any problems. However, please remember, if your car is found in Mexico beyond the authorized time limit, or without the appropiate documents, it will be immediately confiscated.

 

Amount of Bond in U.S. Dollars

2007 and later

$400.00

2001-2006

$300.00

2000 and older models

$200.00

 

The car permit can be requested at the following border crossing points

Arizona Border Points

  • Agua Prieta
  • Naco
  • Nogales
  • San Luis Rio Colorado
  • Sonoyta

California Border Points

  • Mexicali
  • Otay Mesa
  • Tecate
  • Tijuana

Texas Border Points

  • Ciudad Acuña
  • Ciudad Juarez
  • Ciudad Miguel Alemán
  • Columbia
  • General Rodrigo M. Quevedo
  • Matamoros
  • Nuevo Laredo
  • Ojinaga
  • Piedras Negras
  • Reynosa

Requesting Car Import Permits in Advance and Via Internet

If you wish, you can apply for the import permits up to 6 months before the vehicle enters Mexico. This can be done through any of the following Mexican embassies in the United States:

  • Chicago , Illinois
  • Austin, Dallas, Dallas Fort Worth y Houston , Texas
  • Los Angeles, San Bernardino y Sacramento, California
  • Albuquerque, Nuevo México
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Phoenix, Arizona

By presenting all the documentation and requesting the import permit from Banjercito you will then be charged the equivalent of $36.00 USD plus tax (I.V.A. 15%), and this will need to be billed to an international credit/debit card issued inside the U.S.

Applying for a Car Permit Online

You may now apply for a car permit in advance, online. The request can be made between 20 and 60 days prior to the vehicle crossing the border. By using the Internet service, your temporary permit will be sent to you by mail. This service is to help speed up the permit process. The URL for on line applications is here

  • You must electronically accept the terms agreement
  • You then register all your personal information
  • You must input the vehicle data as well
  • Your credit/debit card will be charged an amount in national currency equivalent to US $45.00 plus taxes (I.V.A. 15%)

You will then receive confirmation electronically as well as a limit date by when you must have sent copies of all the required documents. There are three ways this documentation can be sent:

  • electronically via email to: CIITEVAduanaMexico@sat.gob.mx.
    The subject must include the applicant's name and the folio
  • Via certified mail to:
    Av. Industria Militar No. 1055
    Col. Lomas de Sotelo
    Delegación Miguel Hidalgo
    11200, México, D.F.
    The remittent must be the applicant and the folio.
  • You can also personally deliver the copies at any of the CITEV modules in the customs offices at any border.

Upon electronic confirmation, Banjercito will send the import permit to the address requested on the application in no more than 20 days.

When you arrive at the border crossing, you will need to provide the Folio number assigned to you during the on-line process, and there is a charge of 27.00 USD at the border modules (or $39.60 USD at the consulate modules).

In addition, the same documentation must be presented, the original and two photocopies:

  • Valid proof of citizenship (passport or birth certificate)
    In the case of dual citizenship, the solicitant must present his or her Mexican passport or proof of Mexican nationality.
  • The appropiate immigration form (FMT or "tourist card")
  • The valid vehicle registration certificate, or a document, such as the original title that certifies the legal ownership of the vehicle. It must be in the driver's name.
  • The leasing contract (if the vehicle is leased or rented), which must be in the name of the person importing the car. If the vehicle belongs to a company, present the document that certifies the employee works for the company.
  • A valid driver's license, issued outside Mexico.
  • If the documentation shows the vehicle is registered in the name of the spouse, the importation can be done as long as the marriage certificate (and ne copy) is presented.
  • An international credit or debit card, also issued outside Mexico (American Express, Mastercard or Visa), in the name of the driver of the vehicle.

Insurance

U.S. & Canadian auto insurance is not valid in Mexico. Mexican auto insurance is mandatory in many states and cities and you should NOT drive without it. If you are in an accident or other vehicle-related problems and you do not have insurance, you may be arrested and your vehicle impounded until the authorities can figure out the situation. Here are some insurance companies that allow you to buy insurance over the phone, fax or Internet.

Answers To Commonly Asked Questions

1) The temporary authorization for the importation of vehicles is valid for any type of vehicle weighing under three tons for periods up to six months (180 days).

2) The temporarily imported vehicle may be driven across the border multiple times during the authorized period.

3) Always carry with you the importation permit when driving your car in Mexico. Do not leave this document in the vehicle; it is indispensible in the case of damage, theft, or accident.

4) The sale, abandonment, or use of the vehicle for financial gain will result in its confiscation.

5) The vehicle temporarily imported by the owner may be driven in Mexico by the spouse or adult children, as long as they have the same immigration status. Other persons may drive the vehicle as long as the owner is in the vehicle.

Sonora Only

  • The state of Sonora operates a program known as "Sonora Only". Designed for visitors staying in the state of Sonora, the program eliminates the need for a credit card and waives the proceessing fee. In addition to normal proof of citizenship documents (needed by all visitors to Mexico's interior) "Sonora Only" visitors need only present a valid drivers license and proof of ownership or legal possession by the driver. Legal possession can be proven with one or more of the following documents:
  • Vehicle registration (in the name of the driver) or original title
  • Lease contract (for leased vehicles)
  • Proof of labor relationship between driver and car owners (for company-owned vehicles)
  • Notarized permission from the leasing company or bank (if money is still owed on the car) giving owner permission to take the vehicle to Mexico.

Permits are valid for 180 days and may be obtained at the check point at Kilomete 21, south of Nogales on Highway 15. If you are entering from another border crossing, please call 1-800-4-SONORA. Permits must be returned to this check point within the allotted six-month period.

Published or Updated on: September 30, 2007 by Mexico Data On-Line © 2008
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