Our last article discussed the basic importation regulations around foreign plated vehicles. This needed to be addressed as some vehicle seizures were made in Puerto Vallarta, and because a reasonable explanation was not forth coming from the officials there, all kinds of misinterpretations were made regarding customs law.
We met with the main Guadalajara customs office in May, 2004, to clarify this situation, and any new interpretations the Federal Government may have imposed. No changes have been made we found out. As always, as long as your migratory status is valid, your car permit (Temporary Importation Permit), expired or not, and no matter what migratory status you had when you entered Mexico with the vehicle, your permit is valid. Political refugees are not included in this last statement.
During these two weeks of getting to the bottom of all the rumors surrounding vehicle importation, many other issues arose regarding your foreign plated car. We stated that as long as your migratory status is valid, your car permit would be as well. One confusing point however is the FMT (Tourist Visa) which can be extended locally, but cannot be renewed without a trip to the border. The maximum permitted time for an FMT is six months. Some people cross into Mexico and do not get the maximum 180 days allowed for one reason or another. If your FMT has only been issued for 90 days, this document can be extended at your local Immigration office to the maximum allowable 180 days, thus making your vehicle permit good for that same time.
If at the end of this 180 days, you have not applied for an FM3 or FM2, you and the vehicle must leave Mexico. If you have applied for the FM3 or FM2 while your FMT is current, your migratory status is legal, thus your vehicle permit is also legal without changing it at the border.
One other confusing point that has arisen from all this is the unfortunate event of your vehicle being stolen, or wrecked in an accident, or is just too old mechanically to make it to the border. This will be a problem if you want to bring another vehicle into Mexico as customs only allows you one foreign plated vehicle in Mexico at a time. Well the bottom line is this; you are responsible for the temporary importation of the vehicle, no matter what, period. We have seen it time and time again, a person’s vehicle is stolen, the insurance company has paid out this person, and so they go back across the border and buy a new vehicle. They enter Mexico with the new vehicle, and customs will not issue another permit, as the old one has not been returned. The only way around this is to pay the duty on the stolen vehicle. This also applies to vehicles that cannot mechanically drive out. You can go to your local customs office and follow the procedures set forth by them on how to deal with this issue, but you will be responsible for the duty on that vehicle.
People will complain that it’s not their fault that the vehicle can’t make it back, or that it was wrecked, but it is also not the fault of the Mexican Government. You signed the importation permit, which states you are totally responsible for the vehicle, and that at sometime it will be taken out of Mexico.
And remember, for those individuals wanting to sell their foreign plated vehicle in Mexico, it is clearly stated on the back of the permit that this is illegal.