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Vehicle Import - Temporary or Permanent - Cars, Boats & Motorhomes
Following the Immigration Reform Laws enacted in May 2011 and effective November 2012, there has been a great deal of confusion surrounding foreign plated cars and a foreigner's ability to drive them inside Mexico as well as questions concerning how to legalize a foreign plated car in Mexico. The Immigration Law reforms did not address Customs Laws then in effect related to imported foreign vehicles. So when the Immigration nomenclature changed from Tourist, FM2, FM3, Inmigrate, etc. to the new statuses of Tourist, Residente Temporal, Residente Permanente, etc. Mexico Customs was left then with the job of relating those changes to their laws concerning who can import what vehicles and for how long and under what circumstances.

The good news is that for vacationers / travelers coming here perhaps in a motorhome or driving their car into Mexico for a lengthy stay (not more than 6 months), the regulations governing the importation of a vehicle have remained essentially the same. Travelers/visitors on vacation are issued short term visas so all they need to be concerned with is the first section below about TEMPORARY vehicle importation.

The other news for those who have purchased homes or rent long term or work in Mexico, you will need to read further below into the PERMANENT (legalization) import of vehicles section in order to determine how to proceed keeping in mind that these Customs Laws related to the new Immigration statuses is still changing and evolving.

According to Mexican Law the temporary importation of vehicles, motorcycles, sea vessels and motorhomes is regulated by:

  • Customs Law - Article 106 Fracciones IV, Inciso a, V, Inciso c & d
  • Regulations of Customs Law - Articles 139, 143 & 144
  • Regulations of Foreign Trade for 2012 - Articles 4.2.5, 4.2.6 & 4.2.7

    TEMPORARY Importation of Vehicles, Motorcycles, Sea Vessels and Motorhomes
    The Mexican Tax Agency (SAT) through the General Administration of Customs (AGA) controls the temporary importation of:

  • Vehícles
  • Motorcycles
  • Sea vessels
  • Motorhomes

    This service is granted through The Army, Airforce and Navy Bank of Mexico, S.N.C. (Banjercito) at the Importation and Entry Control Modules at the border known as CIITEV. Banjercito is responsible for issuing the permits and stickers that verify the temporary importation of vehicles, motorcycles, sea vessels and motorhomes. In addition, they process the reimbursement of the guarantee deposit when the vehicle is returned within the authorized timeframe.

    WHO can apply for a temporary importation permit?
    Foreign citizens authorized by the National Immigration Institute (INM) the following immigration conditions:

    1. Visitors (tourists)
  • Without permission to engage in employment activities
  • With permission to engage in other activities such as humanitarian, border work, adoption
    2. Those with Residente Temporal card WITHOUT the "lucrativa" (work) permission effective March 2012

    WHERE to Apply for Temporary Importation of Vehicles
    Those wanting to import a vehicle into Mexico under the Temporary Importation guidelines should visit:

    1. At CIITEV Customs Entry Modules at the border.
    NOTE: Fee payment will be in cash or by credit/debit card in the name of applicant (importer).

    2. At the following Mexican Consulates in the U.S. at least 6 months in advance:
    Chicago, Illinois; Austin, Dallas and Houston, Texas; Los Ángeles, San Bernardino and Sacramento, California; Albuquerque, Nuevo México; Denver, Colorado and Phoenix, Arizona.

    3. On the Internet at:
    The Banjercito Website or The Aduana Website between 10 and 60 days BEFORE the entry of the vehicle to Mexico. NOTE: Fee payment online is by international credit/debit card in the name of applicant (importer) only.

    REQUIREMENTS for the Temporary Importation of Vehicles Application

    1. Valid passport OR Passport card
    2. FMM tourist document issued by INM.
    3. Vehicle Title & current registration OR Rental contract in the name of importer OR Lease contract in the name of importer.
    4. Application fee of US$ 44.00 + I.V.A. 16% (subject to change)
    5. Put Down a Deposit in cash or via credit card (which is forfeited if vehicle is not returned before expiration of temporary importation permit.)

    Vehicle Import Deposit Fees (2013)
    Vehicle Year / Model Guarantee Deposit (in USD)
    2007 and Newer US$ 400.00
    2001 to 2006 US$ 300.00
    Prior to 2000 US$ 200.00

    The application fees and payment of deposit for a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit must be made in the same site where the application is initially submitted such as online, Mexican consulate or at a border module. Each importer, by signing the permit, is obligated to return the vehicle outside of Mexico within the authorized time frame. And to not perform acts or omissions that will constitute infractions or crimes by the ill use or destination of the vehicle.

    Again, it is stressed that the only immigration statuses (at this moment of 2013) that can be used for the temporary importation of vehicles or motorhomes is a Visitor/Tourist status or Residente Temporal card WITHOUT the "lucrativa" (work) permission as described earlier.

    WHO CAN DRIVE a vehicle with a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit?
    A foreign plated vehicle with a valid Temporary Vehicle Import Permit can be driven within Mexico by:
    1. The importer
    2. Spouse
    3. Ascendants (Parents)
    4. Descendants (Children)
    5. Siblings, even if they are Mexican nationals
    6. By a foreign citizen who is also a Visitor (tourist) permit holder
    7. By a Mexican national if any of the above are traveling in the car

    What About Jetskis, ATV's, Motorcycles, etc.?
    The following vehicles can be ADDED TO a temporary importation of vehicle permit:

    1. Sea vessels of up to 14.7 feet (up to 4.5 meters long) and their pulling trailer if applicable
    2. Recreational vehicles (ATV’s)
    3. Motorcycles (on trailer/not driven) or jetskis

    NOTE: All of these must not exceed 3 units and the importer must provide proof of ownership.

    Driving a Motorcyle into Mexico

    Motorcycles entering Mexico on their own drive power (not towed by another vehicle) and authorized to transit in Federal and State highways MUST adhere to the aforementioned temporary importation procedure as if they were a freestanding vehicle.

    A temporarily imported vehicle CANNOT be sold in Mexico under any circumstance.

    TEMPORARY Import Permit - Driving a Motorhome into Mexico

    Foreign citizens can apply for a Temporary Importation Permit for one RV or motor home that is driven or towed into Mexico. The validity of this temporary permit will be for 10 years with multiple entries and exits. The cost for this permit is $45.00 USD plus I.V.A. (as of this writing ~subject to change of course).

    Application Requirements for a Temporary Motorhome Importation Permit

  • Passport or Naturalization Certificate
  • Property Title of the Motorhome
  • Motorhome registration issued by the competent authority in the country or state of origin.

    The importer may apply for for a new temporary permit for another 10 year period. This application must be done 15 days PRIOR TO the expiration of the current permit and does not require the physical presence of the RV or motor home. Alongside the temporary importation of the motor home, you may bring into Mexico motorcycles, jetskis or recreational vehicles with the condition of documenting ownership. HOWEVER, When additional accessories are brought in alongside the motorhome, the import permit overall will only be issued for 180 days.

    When the motorhome transports or tows a vehicle (car or truck), Banjercito personnel will also charge and issue a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit for 180 days for the towed vehicle. This permit will be issued if the aforementioned conditions are met in accordance to customs law. (Reglas 4.2.7., 4.2.5., 4.2.6.)

    TEMPORARY Import Permit for Boats, Sailboats & Yachts
    Foreign citizens may temporarily import recreational or sport sea vessels such as boats, sailboats or yachts larger than 14.7 feet (over 4.5 meters long); including the trailers used to tow them. Vessels destined to tourist passenger transport and fishing activities can also be brought into Mexico through a “Temporary Vessel Importation Permit.” The validity of this permit is for a period of 10 years. The cost for this importation permit is $45.00 USD plus I.V.A. as of this writing ~ subject to change of course.

    Application Requirements for a Temporary Import Permit for Boats, Sailboats & Yachts

  • Passport or Naturalization Certificate
  • Property Title of the Vessel
  • Vessel registration issued by the competent authority in the country or state of origin.

    Where to apply for a Temporary Vessel Importation Permit?
    At any CIITEV module operated by Banjercito, located at entry ports, Mexican Consulates or online. In addition, this application can also be processed at the Customs Booths of Puerto Juárez, Quintana Roo and Ensenada Baja California. Also in the local branches of Banjercito located in Mazatlán, veracruz, Tuxpan, Coatzacoalcos, Salina Cruz,Tampico, Manzanillo, Lázaro Cárdenas, Guaymas, Cd. del Carmen, Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta.

    Repair parts and accesories may be temporarily imported, to be destined exclusively to the repair or replacement of the vessel. These parts must be registered at any CIITEV Module or online through the Register Form issued by Banjercito. In the same manner, you may send or return overseas parts and accesories corresponding to the repair of the vessel. This merchandise must be registered before their departure at any CIITEV Module or online through the Register Form issued by Banjercito. Banjercito employees will seal and register these Forms. The forms will enable the entry or exit of the merchandise into Mexico.

    CANCELLING a Temporary Import Permit for Vehicles, Motorhomes or Sea Vessels
    In all cancellation cases you (the importer) must go to a CIITEV Module at a border Customs office. But this should be no problem since the importer (you) had planned to leave the country anyway with the vehicle.
    You must present ~
    1. The vehicle (car, motor home or vessel)
    2. The temporary importation permit and
    3. The hologram sticker to obtain your cancellation receipt.

    In the case a refund is due, Banjercito will return the deposit using the same payment method:
    1. If the deposit was made with a credit/debit card, the refund will be made to the same card used.
    2. If the deposit was made in cash, the refund will be issued in cash by any CIITEV Module located at the border.

    Sometimes vacation plans change unexpectedly. For the cancellation of a Temporary Importation Permit BEFORE the beginning of the authorized timeframe, a cancellation letter must be submitted to Banjercito alongside the original permit and hologram sticker.

    EXPIRATION of Temporary Vehicle Permit without Exit of Vehicle from Mexico
    In case the authorized Temporary Vehicle Permit term expires and the vehicle has not exited Mexico, BANJERCITO will transfer your deposit to the Mexican Treasury (TESOFE) in Mexican currency and no later than the second working bank day following the expiration of your temporary permit.

    EXPIRED Temporary Vehicle Import Permit & Getting it Back Home
    In case your permit is no longer valid, you may apply for a “Safe Return Permit” for your car at this agency in Mexico City:

    Administración Central de Grandes Contribuyentes
    Hidalgo #77 Modulo III, Planta Baja
    Colonia Guerrero, Delegación Cuauhtémoc, México D.F.

    Take with you or get their authorization to send via courier service (NOT recommended since original documents involved) the following documentation :
  • A letter requesting permission to drive the vehicle out of Mexico and declaring under penalty of perjury that the vehicle is your property, that it is not involved in any Legal, Civil or Administrative procedure in relation to Customs Law ( PAMA)
  • Copy of the property title
  • Copy of your immigration form
  • Copy of official valid ID (passport)
  • ORIGINALS of the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit and the hologram sticker

    DOCUMENTS TO CARRY in the imported vehicle
    Aduana has indicated the following COPIES of documents should be in a foreign plated car at all times:

  • Proof of your migratory status - copy of your passport, your migratory status form with the current renewal date
  • Vehicle documents - the car importation permit, your title, registration, and insurance papers.

    PLEASE never leave original documents in a vehicle in case the car is stolen. You will need those originals if the vehicle is ever stolen.

    PERMANENT Importation (Legalization) of a Foreign Vehicle in Mexico

    According to Mexican Law the permanent importation of vehicles is regulated by:

  • Artícle 95 of the Mexican Customs Law.
  • Rules 3.5.1., 3.5.6. y 3.5.7. of the Regulations of Foreign Trade for 2012

    WHAT is the permanent importation of vehicles into Mexico?
    Is a procedure by which a vehicle will be able to stay legally in Mexico for an unlimited period of time. This is done through and Importation Request made by an authorized Customs Broker.

    Visit this website for a List of authorized Customs Agents
    Visit this website for Another List of authorized Customs Agents
    For Customs Brokers in your area phone inside Mexico: 01 551 - 107 - 8515 or 01 - 553 300 - 7500

    WHO is required to Permanently Import (Legalize) Foreign Cars Before Driving Them?
    Mexican citizens cannot drive foreign cars in Mexico. So if they go to the U.S. or Canada and purchase a vehicle they want to bring into Mexico a Mexican citizen will need to go through the same Permanent Import (Legalization) process as foreigners in the country with foreign cars are being asked to do. Any individuals with foreign vehicles who fall into the following Immigation status must legalize their vehicle to drive it in Mexico without risk of confiscation:

    1. Residente Temporal card WITH the "lucrativa" (work) permission
    2. Residente Permanente
    3. Naturalized Citizens of Mexico
    4. Citizens of Mexico

    REQUIREMENTS - Application Procedure & Documents

  • The vehicle importation must be done at northern border Customs offices or maritime traffic Customs ports through an importation request made by an authorized customs broker.
  • The importation request will be for the vehicle only and cannot support any additional contents or merchandise.
  • You must pay the required taxes, federal duties and applicable state taxes, just like any vehicle that is sold whithin Mexico. These fees are deposited into your customs broker’s bank account.

    Documentation importer (you) must submit to the Customs Agent:
  • Property title in the name of importer or endorsed to the name of importer as proof of ownership
  • Official ID of importer (you) (Passport, Residency Card, Naturalization)
  • Proof of Mexico address
  • Sticker or photo of the vehicle’s VIN number
  • Payment of Import Taxes
    This website has an approximation of the import taxes to be paid

    WHO TO CONTACT with Additional Questions About Vehicle Importation

    Central Customs Operations Call Center
  • Within México: 01- 800 - 463 - 6728
  • From the United States and Canada:1-877-448- 8728

    Q & A About Foreign Vehicles with Mexican Customs
    All over Mexico, foreigners are requesting via their Consulate office to have informational meetings with Mexican Customs officials so as to better understand the new laws and regulations. Below are some questions and answers provided in one such session held in 2013.

    We have 2 cars here with current US license plates. Will they continue to be legal?
    They are legal as long as your temporary importation permit (180 days) is legal. If you have changed your immigration status to temporary or permanent resident your vehicle must return to its country of origin. You must apply for a definitive importation if your vehicle qualifies.

    Will legalizing each vehicle be a requirement if we chose permanent residency?
    Yes, a definitive importation will be in order.

    Will we be able to legalize a vehicle that has a lien on it by a US bank?
    NO, according to the following article in the law: RCGMCE 4.2.7. Fraction VI paragraph I.

    How will it work to legalize a vehicle that is less than ten years old?
    For temporary importation the year of the vehicle does not matter. For a permanent importation according to this year’s NAFTA regulations the vehicle must be at least 6 years old (please contact your customs authorities)

    Can I bring personal possessions including art work (but excluding electronics) across the border without paying duty on a one time basis?
    You must apply for a transportation of household goods permit at your nearest Mexican Consulate, it is free of charge. Please refer to the following websites for more information: and Bear in mind that any article is considered merchandise and may be subject to duties if it exceeds personal use items or you customs exceptions.

    Where in Cancun or Cozumel can I get the correct forms to notify Aduana of the change from FMM to temporal residence status? What is the process for completing the Aduana notification and permission to keep my car in Mexico for the length of my temporary residence? What information is required to be provided for the change? How long is the process expected to take?
    Formats can be obtained at the local Customs Section at PV International Airport – International Arrivals exit, as well as in Aduana Website Renewal, extensions or re-applications are no longer accepted for temporary or permanent residents. The customs authority will receive notifications but that will not mean they will be authorized.

    I just renewed my FM3 for 3 more years. What do I need to do to keep my truck here legally?
    If you have the immigration conditions of permanent or temporary resident, you will no longer be able to legally keep your vehicle in Mexico. You may apply for permanent importation of your vehicle if it meets the requirements.

    What years of cars can be imported at this time? Where can you have the importation of your car done? Do you have to drive to the border or can you have it done at a nearby Aduana office?
    You must always contact a registered customs agent for any permanent importation at the northern border or maritime terminal if the vehicle came by sea into Manzanillo or Cancun. Currently only vehicles that are 6 years old can be permanently imported.

    We drove our 2007 jeep to Mexico December 2012. It has an ownership and plates good to 2014. My husband now has an FM3. Is there any way to get the deposit back that we had to pay at the border. We did go and get a form last year and forwarded it to Mexico City when he got his FM3. If we eventually nationalize the plates will it be returnable or just write it off?
    The guarantee deposit can only be recovered at the same border module where it was paid. You must cancel the temporary permit (before the 180 day period expires) before the reimbursement can be approved. After the deposit is reimbursed you may apply for permanent importation if your vehicle qualifies.

    Please explain the relationship between the new immigration categories and the ability to operate foreign plated vehicles. Many folks have obtained their 'FM2/3' for the purposes of leaving and operating their foreign plated vehicle in Mexico. Will this continue? What happens to this relationship after someone has maxed out on their time in a 'temporary resident' status?
    At this moment only visitors on tourist visas can temporarily import vehicles for a maximum period of 6 months or 180 days with multiple entries within a 1 year period. The only option for temporary or permanent residents at this moment is a permanent importation.

    If one has a foreign plated car in Mexico attached to a tourist visa which is good for 180 days, is it possible to fly out of Mexico to the states for a short visit during that 180 day period leaving the car in Mexico until the original 180 day period expires?
    Yes you may because the vehicle is legal in Mexico for 6 months. You must make sure you come back in time to drive back to the border before the vehicle’s permit expires.

    Will there be a grace period for long time Mexican residents who are US citizens to import their cars that are older than 2007?
    Sorry, no grace periods allowed in accordance to the 5th article of the Mexican Customs Law.

    Will my vehicle with a VIN starting with "J" be treated differently than other vehicles?
    The Mexican Law of Permanent Importation of Used Vehicles is drafted under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), therefore only vehicles made in the US or Canada can be imported. These vehicles have serial numbers (VIN or NIV) that begin with a number 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 only. Unfortunately your car’s serial begins with a “J” which means it was made in Japan. Mexico does not currently have any trade agreements with that country.

    Can we permanently import our vehicle in Manzanillo or Cancun?
    Yes, only if the vehicle entered Mexico first through those ports and by sea. For instance, a vehicle cannot be driven from the border to Cancun and apply for permanent Importation.

    If a road block is encountered, can my auto be seized for some reason?
    The only authority allowed to do this is Aduana (Customs), and Administracion Local de Auditoria Fiscal Federal. No other authority, which means the Traffic Police, City Police, the Federal police, or the Military, has the right to seize foreign plated vehicles . The only way these entities 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 the vehcile 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 is 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 realize that you know your rights and start recording this information about them.

    What documents should I have in the vehicle with me?
    Aduana has indicated the following COPIES of documents should be in a foreign plated car at all times:

  • Proof of your migratory status - copy of your passport, your migratory status form with the current renewal date
  • Vehicle documents - the car importation permit, your title, registration, and insurance papers.
    Never leave original documents in a vehicle in case the car is stolen. You will need those originals if the vehicle is ever stolen.

    Aduana indicates these document copies should be in the car but as corrupt as Notarios are in Mexico, we suggest it is not advisable to leave ANY documents in your car related to the sale, purchase or legalization of the vehicle. It only takes a thief in cahoots with a corrupt Notario to turn document copies into "certified copies" (essentially originals) that can be used to legally resell the vehicle after it's stolen. Aduana will give you the chance to produce the documents if ever needed while a thief only needs one chance to take your car.

    The information provided above constitutes an OVERVIEW of some of the BASIC Mexican Laws concerning vehicle importation as related to the Immigration Law changes that have taken place in 2011 - 2012. Most assuredly revisions and modifications will continue to be implemented in years ahead. This overview is intended to be INFORMATIONAL ONLY and not a substitute for legal counsel nor is it a representation of any legal knowledge or application abilities. Each individual has different circumstances and goals when going into Mexico with a vehicle so seeking a Customs Broker in your area for advice can be invaluable in the process of importing a vehicle into Mexico.

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