With the growing influx of ex-pats who have opted to make Mexico their permanent or part-time home,the question of how to import a vehicle permanently into the country continues to come up more frequently with every passing year. Although the process can seem confusing at first,the rules are actually fairly clear once you understand the process and its restrictions.
Fortunately,many areas that are popular with ex-pats make it easy to bring your vehicle along when making a permanent or temporary move. For example,if the vehicle remains in special “Free Zones” along the border in parts of Sonora,Baja California and Quintana Roo,the vehicle can enter Mexico without even a temporary import permit,but it must stay within these zones.
Permanent Vs. Temporary Residency and Vehicle Importation
New immigration rules require that FM3 (temporary resident) visa holders convert to “permanent” residency,or Residente Permanente status after four years of living in Mexico. At this time,any Temporary Import Permits (TIPs) that were obtained for vehicles will expire,requiring residents to either formally import their vehicles or remove them from Mexico. In addition,according to the new immigration rules FM3 visa holders are no longer permitted to permanently import their vehicles into Mexico.
Anyone living in Mexico with an expired TIP for their vehicle can apply for a free temporary permit that gives three to five days to either remove the vehicle or permanently import it via the proper channels. Although some snowbirds opt to let their temporary resident visa expire every four years and simply apply for a new one,keep in mind this could have an impact on capital gains if you also own Mexico real estate. In addition,if you wish to continually reapply for temporary resident status,the application must be initiated from your home country and cannot be handled entirely from Mexico.
What a Permanent Importation Permit Provides
A permanent importation permit allows you to sell the car while in Mexico,or you can opt to keep it for as long as you want – the choice is yours. In addition,anyone is allowed to drive your car,even without you or some other ex-pat present in the vehicle. In return,you must license the car in Mexico and renew your state registration each year.
Does Your Vehicle Qualify for Importation?
To qualify for a Permanent Import Permit,cars and non-dually pickup trucks must be less than 8 to 10 years old and the ex-pat must be either a citizen or permanent resident. In addition,the vehicle must be manufactured or assembled in a NAFTA country,which means either the US,Canada or Mexico. To determine if your car qualifies,check the VIN number. If it starts with a number,then it is a NAFTA vehicle.
If you wish to import a classic car into Mexico that is more than 29 years old,you are in luck! Classic vehicles qualify for free importation; although the process can often take at least a few days at the border,so consider applying for the permit ahead of time.
Also of note,if your vehicle is between 8 to 9 years old and is designed to haul more than 16 people,is a cement mixer,or qualifies as heavy equipment,it will likely be subject to a 10 percent import tax. In addition,vehicles that are between 5 and 9 years old are subject to special rules when importing into the Baja California Sur region,so be sure to double check with authorities or local relocation experts if this is your intended destination.