Know The Law In Mexico – Vehicle Importation in 2004

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Adriana Perez Flores

Know the Law in Mexico

[Editor: Note that this post is archived from 2004 for historic interest. Many of the regulations regarding immigration and vehicle importation have changed since that time.]

Most months we try to cover current trends and rumors in the foreign community. These past few weeks has generated the worst of these rumors. It all started when the authorities in Puerto Vallarta seized some foreign plated vehicles. From this seizure of 28 vehicles (4 from Customs, and 24 from Administracion Local de Auditoria Fiscal Federal), rumors started to spread about the 200 vehicles seized because foreigners with FM3’s are no longer allowed to drive foreign plated vehicles.

Tuesday, May 11th, 2004, we personally met with the Administrative Lawyer for Customs Guadalajara to clarify these issues. Unfortunately we cannot mention his name without written permission to do so. This request will be submitted with customs on May 14, 2004, as well as the questions we are answering in this article. Written confirmation from Customs with the answers will be returned to us in 60-90 days, which we will supply to anyone coming to our offices once we receive it.

At this meeting we were not told why the four vehicles were seized by Customs, but the other 24 were because the drivers did not have I.D. or were not authorized to drive the vehicle. These 24 vehicles have since been returned.

At this same meeting we asked the following questions; does an individual who entered Mexico on an FMT (tourist visa) and then applied and received an FM3 have to go to the border to re-register the vehicle under the FM3? No. As long as your migratory status (other than an FMT) is current the vehicle remains legal even if the permit is expired. When an individual finishes one five year FM3, then receives a new book renewal, does this person need to return to the border to renew the permit? No, the same rules apply; just keep your migratory status current. These same rules apply to FM2 holders as well. This is all stated in Article 106 of the Customs Law. Can an individual who has been granted Inmigrado status in Mexico drive a foreign plated vehicle? No, he or she must take their foreign plated vehicle out of Mexico.

With these rumors came fear from the foreign community about road blocks being set up to impound and seize vehicles. The only authority allowed to do this is Aduana (Customs), and Administracion Local de Auditoria Fiscal Federal. No other authority other than these can do this, which means the Traffic Police, City Police, the Federal police, or the Military. The only way they can do anything with foreign plated vehicles is with permission from Aduana or Administracion Local de Auditoria Fiscal Federal. And this authorization would only be given to go after an individual.

With this said, know your rights, these other authorities cannot even ask for these importation papers as it is not within their responsibility. If you are threatened by these other authorities about the status of your vehicle, or even your migratory status, record as much information about this authority as possible. Name, badge number, date, officer’s vehicle type, officer’s vehicle license and unit number, etc. Aduana was very clear on this and wants everyone possible to report such issues to the proper authorities. Most of these authorities will back off once they know you know your rights and start recording this information about them.

Another major concern with the foreign community is what papers are necessary to carry in the vehicle. Aduana said to carry only copies of all pertinent papers concerning your migratory status and the vehicle. For example, have a copy of your passport, your migratory status with the current renewal date, the car importation permit, your title, registration, and insurance papers. Never leave originals in the car in case the car is stolen. You will need those originals if the vehicle is ever stolen.


This subject is always full of speculation and rumors. The most common rumor is whether or not you must go to the Mexico/US border to re-register your vehicle once you obtain an FM2 or FM3. The answer is no.

Every foreigner is allowed to enter Mexico with a vehicle, which is not Mexican plated (e.g. US or Canadian), as long as you have the following: Mexican Insurance, an FMT, FM2, or FM3, registration/ownership in your name, and a credit card or cash to cover a bond for the vehicle. The Mexican government will charge your credit card for $25, or you have to put up the cash for a percentage of what the car is worth, and the type of car it is.

The government will then provide you with a temporary importation permit, and a sticker for the windshield. Remember to turn this registration and sticker into customs when leaving Mexico with your vehicle. If you enter Mexico by vehicle on a Tourist Visa (FMT), you must drive out the vehicle you came in with. It is illegal to leave the vehicle that you entered Mexico with, here in Mexico, with unless you obtain an FM2 or FM3 while you’re here.

According to Customs, you are not allowed to have more than one foreign plated car registered in Mexico. You may have heard that some people do, but normally Customs does not allow it. Also, it is illegal to sell your foreign plated vehicle in Mexico. The only legal way to do this is to legalize it in Mexico (e.g. get Mexican plates for it), which is extremely difficult if not impossible. If you do sell your vehicle here you will be fined next time you enter Mexico with another vehicle. Also, if the vehicle you’ve sold here is in an accident two years down the road, and the person you sold it to walks away, you can be held liable for that accident.

Another topic that goes along with what we’ve been discussing is theft of your vehicle while you’re here. If your car is stolen, and reported to the police, and to your insurance company, and even if you have received a return from your insurance company, you may still be fined once you return to Mexico with another vehicle. We recommend you do not mention the stolen vehicle when entering Mexico with a replacement vehicle. If they do notice, you will have to pay the fine if you want to bring the new vehicle in. You can petition the government later for the fine and get your money back, but you will have to put up the money to begin with.

You are now asking why would I have to pay this fine? Well, it’s actually quite simple. In the past couple of years the Mexican government has found out that a number of imported vehicles had actually been reported stolen in the States and Canada. People were driving their cars down, and flew back to the States, reported them stolen, claimed insurance, and now use them down here and never bring them north of the border again.

Published or Updated on: January 1, 2004 by Adriana Perez Flores © 2004
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