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Temporary Importation of Automobiles into Mexico

Vehicle Permits: There is no special permit needed to drive your car across the border, as long as you plan to stay within the "Border Zone" or "Free Trade Zone" which extends to approximately 25 miles into Mexico, and will remain in this part of Mexico for less than 72 hours. However, the Mexican Customs may impound or seize and arrest the passengers for contraband if the vehicle registration is not current or an unauthorized person is driving the vehicle.  Additionally, vehicles must be insured for travel in Mexico. The Only Sonora program applies to certain areas of the state of Sonora. Additional information about the Only Sonora program can be found at SAT, a Mexican Government website. Beyond the Only Sonora and “Border Zones,” the government of Mexico strictly regulates the entry of vehicles into Mexico and a special permit is needed. Failure to follow those requirements may result in the seizure of your vehicle, a fine, and jail time. 

To acquire a permit, one must submit original copies of proof of citizenship, title of the vehicle, a valid vehicle registration certificate, and a valid driver's license.  A processing fee must be paid to either a Banjercito (Mexican Army Bank) branch located at a Mexican Customs (Aduanas) office at the port of entry or at one of the Mexican Consulates located in the U.S.  Mexican law also requires the posting of a bond at a Banjercito office to guarantee the export of the car from Mexico within the time period determined at the time of the application.  For this purpose, American Express, Visa or MasterCard credit card holders will be asked to provide credit card information; others will need to make a cash deposit between $200.00 and $400.00 USD, depending on the make/model/year of the vehicle.  In order to recover this bond or avoid credit card charges, travelers must be physically present with the imported vehicle at any Mexican Customs office immediately prior to departing Mexico.  Regardless of any official or unofficial advice to the contrary, vehicle permits cannot be obtained at checkpoints in the interior of Mexico. Please read the complete information on procedures for taking your car into Mexico.

 Travelers should avoid individuals who wait outside vehicle permit offices and offer to obtain permits without waiting in line, even if they appear to be government officials.  There have been reports of fraudulent or counterfeit permits being issued adjacent to vehicle import permit offices in the border areas.  If the proper permit is not obtained before entering Mexico and cannot be obtained at the Banjercito branch at the port of entry, do not proceed to the interior. Travelers without the proper permit may be incarcerated, fined and/or have their vehicle seized at immigration/customs checkpoints.  For further information, contact Mexican Customs about appropriate vehicle permits.

Note: Do not forget to return your permit when you leave Mexico. Failure to do so may bar you from getting a new permit in the future for the same or any other vehicle.


Crossing the border

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    The Border Zone extends from the border to the 21km marker, just south of Nogales. Within this area U.S citizens may drive their vehicles with the proper valid documentation. Only the vehicle owner and his/her immediate family members with a valid driver’s license may drive the vehicle.  Arizona’s “Restricted Use 3-Day Permit” is not valid for international travel, and vehicles displaying such permits may be subject to seizure in Mexico. 

Traveling to Mexico

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