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To drive your car into MAINLAND Mexico, you'll need a temporary car-importation permit, which is granted after you provide a strictly required list of documents (see below). The permit can be obtained either through Banco Del Ejército (Banjercito) officials, who have a desk, booth, or office at the Mexican Customs (Aduana) building after you cross the border into Mexico. Or, you can obtain the permit before you travel through Sanborn's Insurance or the American Automobile Association (AAA), each of which maintains border offices in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. These companies may charge a fee for this service, but it will be worth it to avoid the uncertain prospect of traveling all the way to the border without proper documents for crossing. However, even if you go through Sanborn's or AAA, your credentials may be reviewed again by Mexican officials at the border--you must take them all with you since they are still subject to questions of validity.


The following requirements for border crossing were accurate at press time:

A valid driver's license, issued outside of Mexico.

Current, original car registration and a copy of the original car title. If the registration or title is in more than one name and not all the named people are traveling with you, then a notarized letter from the absent person(s) authorizing use of the vehicle for the trip is required; have it ready just in case. The car registration and your credit card (see below) must be in the same name.

A valid international major credit card. With a credit card, you are only required to pay a $11.50 car-importation fee. The credit card must be in the same name as the car registration. If you do not have a major credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Diners Club) you will have to post a bond or make a deposit equal to the value of the vehicle. Check cards are not accepted.

Original immigration documentation. This will either be your tourist permit (FMT), or the original immigration booklet, FM2 or FM3, if you hold this more permanent status.

A signed declaration promising to return to your country of origin with the vehicle. This form (Carta Promesa de Retorno) is provided by AAA or Sanborn's before you go or by Banjercito officials at the border. There's no charge. The form does not stipulate that you must return through the same border entry you came through on your way south.

Temporary Importation Application. Upon signing this form, you are stating that you are only temporarily importing the car for your personal use, and will not be selling the vehicle. This is to help regulate the entry and restrict the resale of unauthorized cars and trucks. Vehicles in the U.S. are much less expensive, and for years were brought into Mexico for resale.

If you receive your documentation at the border (rather than through Sanborn's or AAA), Mexican border officials will make two copies of everything and charge you for the copies. For up-to-the-minute information, a great source is the customs office in Nuevo Leon (Modulo de Importacion Temporal de Automoviles, Aduana Nuevo Leon) tel. (8) 712-2071.


Important reminder: Someone else may drive the car, but the person (or relative of the person) whose name appears on the car-importation permit must always be in the car at the same time. (If stopped by police, a non-registered family member driver driving without the registered driver, must be prepared to prove familial relationship to the registered driver--no joke.) Violation of this rule makes the car subject to impoundment and the driver subject to imprisonment and/or a fine. You can only drive a car with foreign license plates if you have an international (non-Mexican) driver's license.





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