I am moving to Tijuana, Mexico from the US. I want to take my car with me. How do I deal with the registration? I would like to keep US tags on it.
Yucatan Expatriates Services posts the details on how to take your car into Mexico (including a print version). I have no affiliation with YES.
How to Bring your Car into Mexico
By Yucatan Expatriate Services
One of the most frequent questions we are asked is how to bring a car into Mexico. There are three ways you can do it, depending on how long you need to keep your car in the country. In each case, you will be importing the vehicle, either on a temporary or permanent basis. Under temporary provisions, you can have the car for a limited period of time for a specific purpose, and the car must be removed from Mexico in the same condition. A permanent import allows the car to stay in Mexico for an unlimited time because the car becomes “Mexican” and is given Mexican license plates.
These are the three options that foreigners can use to import a car. These options also apply to other licensed vehicles, including motorcycles and trailers:
Option #1 “With your Tourist Visa”
With a tourist visa (FM-T), you are allowed to import your car and drive it in Mexico for a period of up to six months from the first date of entry of the vehicle into the country. These six months have no extension, which means that you have to remove your car before the end of this period. If you have plans to stay longer in Mexico, then you have to leave the country with your car and return after completing the procedure again.
Option #2 “With your FM2 or FM3 Visa”
In this case, you can keep your car in Mexico for the same period authorized in your FM3 or FM2 Visa for your stay. When your visa expires, the permit for your car will expire too, but it will be renewed for the same period of time that the FM3 or FM2 visa is renewed. If you entered the country with a tourist visa and then applied for and received an FM3 or FM2 visa, the car doesn’t have to be removed from the country. You only need to notify customs within 15 days of your change of immigration status.
Option #3 “Permanent Import” (Nationalized Vehicle)
Permanent imports are regulated by and require a permit from the Secretary of Economy, but there is a special provision for used vehicles that can be imported without a permit. These vehicles satisfy the following rule: they are exactly 10 years old from the year of import and are manufactured in NAFTA countries. For example, in 2010, cars built in 2000 can be imported permanently without a permit if manufactured in the U.S., Canada or Mexico. Either with or without a permit, the procedure for permanent importation has to be done using a customs broker. The importer can hold an FM3 or FM2 visa or be an inmigrado or a Mexican citizen.
Mexican customs (called Aduana in Spanish) uses the Bank of the Mexican Army (Banjercito) for payment of the first two options. After payment, Banjercito will issue a special sticker that allows the car to be driven legally in Mexico. Without the sticker, the vehicle will be considered illegal and is subject to confiscation by customs.
Before bringing your vehicle to Mexico, you must have the following documents:
- Original and Copy of Passport or Birth Certificate
- Original and Copy of Vehicle Title
- Original and Copy of Vehicle Registration
- Driver’s License
- Proof of Return of any Previous Vehicle (If applicable)
If you are not the vehicle owner, you will need to provide a document showing the relationship you have to the owner, which could be a marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc. If the vehicle is in the name of a corporation, the company must provide the title of ownership and proof that you are an employee.
Temporary Importation Procedures
The Mexican government regulates the temporary importation process through the Import Control Modules and temporary entry of vehicles, called CIITEV (Control de Importación e Internación Temporal de Vehículos in Spanish) There are three ways to obtain a temporary import permit.
On The Road
With the exception of Baja California, when driving into Mexico, about 16 miles south of the Mexico-United States border, you will be stopped by customs. The offices of the Aduana and the CIITEV modules in the Banjercito branches are located at these facilities. Enter the offices of the Aduana and fill out the forms requesting temporary vehicle importation. You will have to sign a commitment where you promise to remove your car within the time period allowed.
The procedure costs $27.00 USD and can be paid in cash or credit card at the CIITEV module in the Banjercito branch. If you pay in cash, you will have to pay the fee and a deposit to guarantee the return of the vehicle abroad in the time period allowed. This deposit varies depending on the manufacturing year of the vehicle:
Manufacturing year of the vehicle/Amount of the deposit in USD
- 2001 to 2007: $400 USD
- 1996 to 2000: $300 USD
- Models prior to 1996: $200 USD
If you pay by credit card, then you won’t need to pay this deposit. In the event that you do not remove your vehicle before the time period expires, Banjercito will charge the penalties automatically to your credit card.
At The Consulate
You can obtain a permit for temporary importation at any Mexican consulate in the United States that has a CIITEV module. In this case, you can start the process up to 6 months in advance. The following consulates are known to have CIITEV modules:
- Chicago, Illinois
- Austin, Dallas, Dallas Fort Worth and Houston, Texas
- Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Sacramento, California
- Albuquerque, Nuevo México
- Denver, Colorado
- Phoenix, Arizona
At the consulate, ask for the permit of temporary importation of vehicles and sign the declaration of commitment. The fee is $36.00 USD plus tax and the payment can only be made using a credit or debit card issued by a non-Mexican bank in the name of the importer.
Why wait? You can do the entire procedure over the Internet right now. This is a service that the General Administration of Customs offers and is operated by the Banjercito website.
Click the link, fill in the form, scan the complete list of documents required and email them to Banjercito. The cost of the procedure is $ 45.00 USD plus tax and can only be paid with a credit or debit card issued by a non-Mexican bank in the name of the importer. Once the registration and payment is done, Banjército will email you a confirmation and the estimated date when the importation documents will be mailed to your home, usually within nine calendar days.
Removing Your Vehicle
When the temporary import expires, you must present your vehicle and your temporary import permit to Banjercito and they will give you your return certificate. Make sure they take the sticker off your vehicle to be deactivated from their system. You will be welcomed to come again and bring your car during your next visit.
IMPORTANT: if you do not remove your vehicle from Mexico before the permit expires, you will be subject to penalties and your car can be confiscated by the Aduana at any customs location in Mexico or at the border. Don’t let this happen to you.
Importing your vehicle permanently involves a more complicated process. You must hire a customs broker who will collect the required information, which includes the documents for temporary importation plus proof of legal residency or citizenship. The broker will file the necessary forms with the government. You will pay an import duty based on the type and age of the vehicle, as well as other taxes and a fee to the customs broker.
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. It is important to understand Spanish or use the services of a translator so you can fully understand any complications or additional requirements that may arise in your specific case.
For those who intend to live full-time in Mexico, another option is to sell your foreign car in your country of origin before entering Mexico, then purchase a new or used vehicle in Mexico. Nearly all of the major makes and models of cars are available and represented by authorized dealers. In fact, there are several smaller and more affordable car models available only in Latin American countries.