Importing your car into Mexico can be confusing. Mexico law mandates that cars and other land vehicles of foreign registration which will cross the border have to get a license, usually referred to as temporary import permits or TIP. Everyone has to follow this law, even those with permanent residency or citizenship in Mexico who want to bring in cars which have been registered outside of Mexico. It should be noted, however, that requirements for expats or foreigners are not the same as for Mexico nationals. The only exception to the TIP requirement for importing your car into Mexico is when travel is restricted to within the Free Zone, which is approximately 18 miles from the border.
It used to be that TIP was only required when importing your car into Mexico in some areas, but recently the Mexican government required that TIP is required for the entire country. It is possible to get a TIP restricted to the state of Sonora if travel will only be restricted to that area. Otherwise, you need to get a nationally-accepted TIP.
When importing your car into Mexico, you will need to start the processing of the TIP ahead of your intended date of travel. TIPs can be started online from the BANJERCITO website for US and Canadian residents but it may be a bit more expensive. TIPs may also be acquired at a BancoNacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada S.N.C. (BANJERCITO) branch near you as little as 7 and as much as 60 days prior to crossing the border. BANJERCITO is the credit and banking service for the Mexican Army, Air Force and Navy, and serves the general public as well. You can find BANJERCITO branches in California, Arizona, and Texas.
The limit for a TIP is 3.5 tons per vehicle, and it has to be registered under the name of the requesting tourist, spouse, or children. You will also have to present originals and copies of the following:
- An affidavit from the lien holder authorizing importing your car into Mexico for leased cars or vehicles under mortgageor Vehicle Certificate of Title
- Passport of vehicle’s owner
- Proof of valid and current Mexico liability car insurance
- Valid Driver’s License
- Vehicle Registration
- Payment of TIP fee
- Cash or credit card guarantee that the vehicle will leave the country one or before the expiration of the permit
You need to surrender your TIP prior to exiting Mexico and before the expiration indicated on the permit when importing your car into Mexico. Failure to do so might prohibit you from driving into Mexico again.
If you plan on permanently importing your car into Mexico, you are subject to a whole set of other regulations. There is a new law in Mexico where importing your car into Mexico and getting it registered there requires that you have permanent resident status for FM3 holders (one-year permit). In order to get permanent residency, the FM3 holder has to surrender the visa, acquire temporary resident status and after 4 years apply for residente permanente.
The Residente Permanente status is only granted to those who want to stay in Mexico for six months or more and fulfil one or more of the following criteria:
- Have family in Mexico
- Applying for retirement with sufficient pension or assets to support themselves
- Temporary resident for 4 years or 2 years as the spouse of Mexican national or permanent resident
- Satisfy the minimum score under the immigration points system
- Have humanitarian grounds for residency
You may also be subjected to capital gains tax and the vehicle has to be between 8 and 10 years old. Importing your car into Mexico is a complex process, which makes acquiring a car locally much more attractive. Once you have imported your car into Mexico the next step is securing Mexico Car Insurance!