In order to drive a foreign plated vehicle in Mexico, you may need to obtain a temporary import permit (TIP). Whether or not you need this document depends on where you plan to drive in Mexico. This guide outlines who needs a TIP explains and how to get one, step-by-step. I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions about the TIP including eligibility, document requirements, validity, costs, rules, and much more. Hopefully, this guide makes your drive to Mexico a bit smoother and less stressful.
A Quick Look at the Temporary Import Permit for Mexico
- Cost- Around $51 or 1000 pesos. There is also a refundable deposit of $200-$400 depending on the model year of your vehicle.
- Validity- Up to 180 days with an FMM visitor’s permit. If you have a Temporary Resident Visa, the TIP remains valid as long as the visa is valid (usually 1 year).
- Eligibility- FMM visitors permit holders, Temporary Resident Visa holders, and Mexican citizens living abroad. Permanent Resident Visa holders are not eligible. Your vehicle must weigh less than 3.5 metric tons (7716 lbs) unless it is a motorhome.
- Required documents- Passport, FMM visitor’s permit (similar to a tourist visa) or Mexican visa, non-Mexican driver’s license, vehicle title or vehicle registration, proof of Mexican auto insurance. You should also have PDFs and physical copies of all documents.
- Issued– online or at Banjercito locations near the border as well as some Mexican consulates.
- Issued by Banjercito Bank.
What is the Mexico Temporary Import Permit?
The Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP) is a legal document that allows you to temporarily import and drive a foreign-plated vehicle anywhere in Mexico for a predefined period of time. This document is only required if you plan to drive outside of the free zones or border zones. I’ll outline exactly where these zones are in the next section.
The TIP is available for non-Mexican citizens as well as Mexican citizens living abroad. Only those traveling in Mexico on an FMM visitor’s permit, Temporary Resident Visa, and Mexican citizens are eligible for a TIP. The FMM visitor’s permit is an immigration document that is similar to a tourist visa. It is available on arrival or online.
The TIP remains valid as long as your immigration document. If you’re traveling on an FMM tourist permit, the TIP remains valid for up to six months. If you’re traveling on a temporary resident visa, the TIP remains valid for up to 1 year.
The temporary importation permit is available for every type of vehicle. In order to be eligible, the vehicle must weigh less than 3.5 metric tons (7,716 lbs. GVRW). There is a weight exception for vehicles registered as motorhomes or RVs. A tip is also required for boats, trailers, motorcycles, and all non-street-legal vehicles (dirt bikes, dune buggies, go-carts, etc.) Special 10 year temporary import permits are available for RVs and boats.
The TIP is issued by Banjercito. This is the official Mexican issuing agency. You can apply for the document on the Banjercito website online, at Bajercito locations at most border crossings, and some Mexican consulates. If you apply online, you must apply 7-60 days before your trip. If you get your TIP in person, you can apply right before you drive across the border. Banjercito is the only agency that issues the TIP.
You must obtain your temporary vehicle importation permit before crossing the border into Mexico. It cannot be obtained inside of Mexico. There is one exception to this. You can get a TIP at the ferry terminal in La Paz, Baja California Sur. I’ll talk more about this later on.
The TIP works similarly to a carnet de passage. It allows you to import your vehicle into Mexico without having to pay import tax on it. There is a fee of around $50 for the TIP and a deposit of $200-$400 that is refunded when you export your car from Mexico. You must cancel your TIP when you exit or you will not be able to get another TIP or drive into Mexico.
Where is a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit Required?
You’ll need a TIP if you want to drive a foreign plated vehicle anywhere in Mexico except for the free zones and border zones.
Areas where you don’t need a temporary vehicle import permit include:
- The Baja California Peninsula- This includes the entire states of both Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur.
- Sonora Free Zone (hassle-free zone)- The Sonora free zone is the area west of Highway 15 and north of KM 98. The eastern border is the border with the state of Chihuahua. The western border is highway 2. Here is a map of the Sonora Free Zone. There is a Sonora-only TIP if you would like to drive outside of the Sonora free zone but stay within the state of Sonora. The application process is the same as the regular TIP. The Sonora TIP does not require a deposit. More info on that later.
- Border zones within about 20-25km (12-15 miles) of any land border- These zones vary in size slightly across the country. A customs checkpoint typically marks the border. You’ll have to stop and show your TIP and immigration documents to cross the checkpoing. If you stay inside of the border zone, you do not need a TIP. This means you can drive to all major border cities on the US-Mexico border without a TIP.
- The state of Quintana Roo- If you drive to Quintana Roo from the U.S, you will need a TIP because you’ll pass through several states where a TIP is required.
Everyone who plans to drive a foreign plated vehicle in Mexico needs a TIP if they plan to drive outside of the free zones outlined above. If you’re caught driving outside of the free zones without a TIP, your car could be confiscated. There are checkpoints where an officer will inspect your TIP.
Who is Eligible for a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit?
All non-Mexican citizens who are traveling on an FMM visitor’s permit or Temporary Resident Visa are eligible to apply for a TIP.
Mexican citizens living abroad are also eligible for temporary importation if they have proof that they are permitted to work in a country outside of Mexico for one year or more. A Green Card acts as proof.
Permanent Residency Visa holders cannot apply for a TIP and cannot drive a foreign-plated vehicle outside of the free zones or border zones. If you’re a permanent resident of Mexico, you’ll have to permanently import your vehicle (regularize it) and pay the necessary import taxes on it. You can then register it as a Mexican vehicle and get a Mexican license plate. Alternatively, you could sell your current vehicle in the country that it is registered in and then buy another vehicle that is already registered in Mexico.
In addition, you must also be 18 or older to apply for a temporary vehicle importation permit. This is because the minimum driving age in Mexico is 18.
Multiple Drivers on a Temporary Importation Permit
You can only get one TIP per vehicle and each person can only have one TIP in their name at a time. The TIP owner’s spouse, kids, parents, or siblings can drive the vehicle as long as they are insured, have a non-Mexican driver’s license, and are not permanent residents or citizens of Mexico. Other people can also drive the vehicle as long as the owner is in the vehicle and they have a non-Mexican driver’s license and insurance.
What Documents do I Need to Get a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit?
- Passport, passport card, or green card- The document must be valid for as long as you plan to stay in Mexico. For more info, check out my guide: Do I Need a Passport to go to Mexico?
- A Mexican immigration permit or visa- This could be a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM tourist permit) or a Temporary Resident Visa only. You can’t get a TIP with a Permanent Residency Visa. You can get a Mexican immigration permit (FMM tourist permit) online or at the border on arrival. To get a Temporary Resident Visa, you’ll have to go to your nearest Mexican consulate or embassy. If you’re a Mexican citizen, you won’t need this.
- Non-Mexican driver’s license- It must have a photo.
- Your vehicle’s original title and current registration- You should bring the original and a copy of both documents. The vehicle must be registered in the applicant’s name in a country other than Mexico. If the title is in your spouse’s name, you’ll need to bring your marriage certificate as well. If it’s in somebody else’s name, you can’t get a TIP. In this case, the person who owns the vehicle will have to apply. The vehicle title or vehicle registration must have the vehicle’s VIN and license plate number. If you’re applying for a TIP for a motorcycle, you need to bring the original title.
- A non-Mexican credit card- if you plan to pay for the TIP by credit card. You can also pay with cash if you’re getting your tip in person.
- Proof of temporary Mexican auto insurance- You can buy auto insurance for Mexico online or at a kiosk near the border. You may also be able to add it to your regular car insurance policy from your insurance provider. You can also buy insurance when applying for the TIP online. There is a box you can check when filling out the application. You need to buy Mexican auto insurance. Foreign auto insurance is not accepted in Mexico. I buy Mexican insurance from Baja Bound. They offer affordable prices and excellent service. Click the link for a free quote.
Gather all of the above documents before you can apply for your TIP. You should also make a copy of your FMM permit or visa and your vehicle’s title and registration. If you’re applying online, you’ll need to scan all of the above documents and save them in PDF format. You can then upload them to the Banjercito website while applying.
Letter of Permission for Financed, Leased, Rented, or Borrowed Vehicles
If you are financing, leasing, renting, or borrowing your vehicle or if you’re driving a company car, you won’t have a title and the vehicle may not be registered in your name. In this case, you will need supporting documentation in the form of a letter of permission. The letter of permission is a requirement to obtain a TIP. It is also required for insurance purposes.
If you’re driving a vehicle you don’t own to Mexico, you’ll need to bring the following supporting documents:
- Financed vehicle- In this case, you don’t own the vehicle. The lienholder does. You need a notarized letter of permission from the lienholder or financing company to drive the vehicle to Mexico. You may also want to bring the credit contract.
- Leased vehicle- The leased vehicle is owned by the lessor. You need a notarized letter of permission from the company you’re leasing the vehicle from to drive the vehicle to Mexico. You should also bring the lease contract. Some leasing companies don’t allow you to drive their vehicles outside of the country. This will be stated in the lease contract.
- Rented vehicle- You need a notarized letter of permission from the rental agency that states that you are permitted to drive the vehicle in Mexico. You should also bring your rental agreement. Most U.S. rental agencies won’t allow you to drive their vehicles to Mexico. Sometimes they charge an additional fee.
- Company car- You need a notarized letter of permission that authorizes you (the employee) to drive the vehicle in Mexico. This letter also needs to confirm your employment with the company. The letter should be printed on official letterheaded paper. You need this document even if you own the company that owns the company car. Some companies don’t allow employees to drive a company car out of the country.
- Borrowed vehicle from family for a friend- If you borrow a vehicle, you need a notarized letter of permission from the owner to drive the vehicle to Mexico.
The letter of permission should include the name of the person or company who owns the vehicle, the name of the person borrowing the vehicle, and the dates that the vehicle will be driven in Mexico. The owner of the vehicle also needs to sign the letter of permission. It should also be notarized.
In most cases, you will need to buy Mexican auto insurance before you can get a letter of permission. The lienholder, lessor, or owner of the vehicle will want to verify that you have sufficient insurance in case the vehicle is damaged in Mexico.
Most of the time, the official issuing the TIP won’t ask for a notarized letter of permission or any supporting document. If they ask and you don’t have it, they could deny your application.
You will need a letter of permission if you are involved in an accident. The insurance company will require it. If you don’t have one, the insurance company could deny your claim because you weren’t authorized to drive the vehicle in Mexico.
If you’re pulled over by a police officer while driving a vehicle that you don’t own, you can also have trouble. The officer could assume that the vehicle is stolen. Vehicles are commonly stolen in the U.S. then driven to Mexico and sold.
For more in-depth info on letters of permission, check out this great guide.
How Much Does the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit Cost?
The current fee for a temporary vehicle importation permit is 1057.57 Pesos if you apply in person. That’s around $51. If you apply in person, the fee is around $45 plus IVA tax. The fee varies slightly depending on the exchange rate. The fee is the same for cars, pickups, motorhomes, motorcycles, and boats.
In addition, you must pay a deposit. The amount of the deposit depends on the age of your vehicle. The current deposits are:
- 2007 and newer- $400
- 2001-2006- $300
- 2000 and older- $200
If you’re towing a trailer, you may also have to pay for a separate TIP. The current fee for a trailer TIP is about 644 pesos (about $35). If you’re hauling a boat or vehicle on the trailer, you may also need an additional TIP for it.
You can pay the fee and deposit only with cash or an international credit card or debit card. The card must be in the name of the applicant. Only Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
The deposit is refunded when you export your vehicle and cancel the TIP. Your money will be refunded back the same way you paid. If you paid by credit card if you paid by card, you should get your money back within a few days. You’ll get your deposit back in cash when you cancel the TIP if you paid in cash.
If you do not export the vehicle and cancel the TIP, you will not get your deposit back. You will also never be able to get another TIP or drive into Mexico. This is because the TIP is tied to your name.
Which Types of Vehicles Require a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit?
- Cars/trucks/SUVs- They must weigh less than 3.5 metric tons (7,716 lbs. Gross vehicle weight). If your vehicle weighs more, you can’t get a TIP for it unless it’s a motorhome.
- Motorhomes/RVs- If your vehicle is registered as a motorhome, it can weigh more than 3.5 metric tons. Special RV TIPs that are valid for 10 years are also available for those who frequently travel to Mexico.
- Boats- Boats measuring over 4.5 meters long (14.7 feet) need a TIP. Inflatable boats that can fit in a bag, kayaks, canoes, and jet skis are exempt. 10 year boat TIPs are available for frequent travelers.
- Street legal motorcycles- Motorcycle TIPs work just like car TIPs. The price and application process is the same.
- Trailers- If you’re towing a trailer, you need a separate TIP for it. I believe the trailer permit costs 644 pesos (about $32) and is valid for 10 years.
- Non-street legal vehicles- Dirt bikes, dune buggys, etc. do not need their own TIP. Instead, you add them to your vehicle TIP. More on this in the next section.
To be eligible for temporary import the vehicle must be in good standing. For example, it must have a current vehicle registration and the tabs must be up to date. The vehicle mustn’t be marked as inoperable or stolen. The customs official will check all of this on a US/Canadian vehicle database.
You must also show proof of ownership of all vehicles, boats, trailers, and non-street legal vehicles that you plan to import. A title and registration satisfy this requirement.
When you get your TIP, an official may also quickly inspect your vehicle. This is most common when you’re crossing with an RV. They will look at the vehicle’s general condition to ensure that it’s roadworthy.
Bicycles do not require an import permit. They are exempt.
You should get a separate TIP for your vehicle and trailer. If the person issuing your TIP wants to add the trailer to your vehicle TIP, ask for a separate one. The reason is that you’ll have to drive both the vehicle and trailer to the border to cancel at the same time if they’re on the same permit. If they are separate, you can cancel them separately. You can also get a longer duration trailer TIP if you choose.
Don’t forget to cancel your trailer TIP before it expires or you sell the trailer. If you don’t, you will never be able to get another TIP for any vehicle because the document is tied to your name.
If you’re bringing an off-road motorcycle, ATV, dune buggy, etc. you will need to declare it on your vehicle permit. The vehicle cannot be street-legal and must weigh less than 3.5 tons.
You can tow up to three non-street legal vehicles. The number of non-street legal vehicles you can tow must be equivalent to or less than the number of people traveling in your vehicle. For example, if there are three people crossing the border in your vehicle, you can only tow 1, 2, or 3 non-street legal vehicles.
When you leave Mexico, you must export all of the vehicles that you entered with. You can’t leave any behind in Mexico or you won’t be able to cancel your TIP.
Towing a Second Vehicle
The rule is that each person can only import one car. There is one exception to this rule. If you’re driving a motorhome, you also get a second TIP for a tow vehicle. You can get the second vehicle permit, even if you’re traveling alone. The rule is that you must export both vehicles at the same time when you leave Mexico.
You can’t tow a second car behind your pickup truck or SUV and get a second TIP. Only motorhome drivers are allowed to bring a tow car. If you wanted to bring a second vehicle, you would need a second person to apply for the second vehicle permit.
How Long is the Temporary Importation Permit Valid?
The TIP is linked to your FMM visitor’s permit or Temporary Resident Visa. It is valid for as long as your immigration document is valid. The TIP cannot be extended or renewed.
If you’re traveling on an FMM visitor’s permit, the maximum TIP validity is up to six months.
If you’re traveling on a temporary resident visa, the TIP is valid as long as your visa is valid (probably 1 year).
There are also special RV, Boat, and trailer temporary import permits that are available that are valid for 10 years and multiple entries. These are not tied to your FMM. These long-duration vehicle permits work great for people who spend their winters in Mexico or go fishing in Mexico often.
Who Issues the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit?
The tip is issued by Banjercito. Banjercito is a military bank. This is the only official Mexican agency that issues temporary import permits. Banjercito also handles immigration fees such as the FMM permit fee. They have offices in large cities along the border.
Where Can I Apply for a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit?
You can apply for a temporary importation permit either online or in person. If you wish to apply in person, you can get a TIP at Banjercito offices near most border crossings.
In addition, there are several Mexican consulates where you can get a TIP. The Mexican consulate does not issue the TIP. It is still issued by Banjercito. The Mexican consulate just facilitates the process.
How to Apply for a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit Online
The fastest and most convenient way to get a TIP is to apply online on the Banjercito website here. This is how Banjercito recommends you buy your TIP. Applying online speeds up the process because you won’t have to spend time waiting in lines at the border. Only those living in the U.S. or Canada are eligible to apply for a TIP online. Everyone else must apply in person.
If you’re applying online, you must apply for your TIP 7-60 days before you plan to travel to Mexico. To apply, you simply fill out an online form and upload the required documents in PDF format . You’ll then pay the application fee and deposit with a credit or debit card. To make the process as easy as possible, try to gather your documents before starting the application process.
Before applying for a vehicle permit online, you will need to get your immigration document. If you’re traveling to Mexico as a visitor, you can get an Mexican immigration permit (FMM visitor’s permit) online. You can do that on the official INM website here. You’ll need to pay a fee of 595 pesos (about $30).
It’s important to note that you will need to stop at the immigration office at the border (INM) to get your online FMM permit stamped and validated. To do this, you need a printed copy of your FMM and your receipt. You will receive these in your email after you apply and pay online. If you need a temporary resident visa, you’ll need to apply at your nearest Mexican embassy or consulate.
After you submit all of the required documents and pay the fee and deposit, you will have to wait for your TIP application to be processed. This can take several days. Once you’re approved, you will receive your vehicle permit by email.
Print the approval letter and receipt out and carry them with you while driving in Mexico. You also need to have the email version on your phone or computer as verification of your online TIP purchase. You may be asked to show this at security checkpoints throughout Mexico.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Applying for a TIP Online
One major benefit to applying for your TIP online is that you won’t have to carry your vehicle’s title when you’re in Mexico. This is particularly beneficial for motorcyclists because a title is required to apply for a motorcycle TIP. Applying online can also save you some time. You won’t have to wait around a Banjercito office.
In addition, when you apply online with a temporary resident visa before receiving your temporary resident card, you get a 180 day TIP. You can then extend it at Aduanas once you receive your card. If you apply in person, you only get 30 days. I’ll talk about this more in-depth in a bit.
One drawback to applying online is that you have to declare which border you plan to cross when you fill out the application. If you change your mind and cross at another border, you may or may not run into issues. I have read that if you cross in the same general region, you’ll be fine but if you completely change your route and cross in a different state, you may run into issues. If you’re unsure of where you plan to cross, you may be better off waiting to get your TIP at the border.
Applying for a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit at the Border
You can purchase a temporary vehicle importation permit in person near most border crossings. You will need to go to a CIITEV Banjercito office to apply in person. These offices are located at Mexican customs offices (Aduana) near most border crossings in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Before you travel to the border, you should verify that there is a CIITEV office where you plan to cross.
You’ll need to bring all the required documents when you apply for your TIP in person. You should also bring a copy of each document. If you’re traveling on an FMM visitor’s permit, you’ll need to go to immigration first to get the document before applying for the vehicle permit.
After your application is approved, Banjercito will send you an email with a copy of your TIP. They will also print you a hard copy that you can carry with you. You’ll want to keep both copies with you while driving in Mexico.
The process of getting a TIP at the border usually takes around 60 minutes depending on how busy the border is. It may take longer during holidays or on weekends.
Buying a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit at a Mexican Consulate
You can apply for a temporary vehicle importation permit at a handful of Mexican consulates in the United States. Consulates where vehicle permits are available include:
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Sacramento, California
- Denver, Colorado
- Chicago, Illinois
- Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston, Texas
The TIP is still issued by Banjercito when you apply at a consulate. The consulate just facilitates the process for you. You should call or email the consulate before you go to verify that temporary import permits are available. Policies change often and without notice at these places.
After you apply, Banjercito sends you an email with your TIP and receipt. The consulate should also print out a hard copy for you. Carry both of these at all times while driving in Mexico.
Buying a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit in Mexico
There are a couple of places where you can get a temporary vehicle import permit in Mexico. There is a Banjercito office at the ferry terminal near La Paz, Baja California Sur. The ferry terminal is actually located in Pichilingu, which is about 10 miles from the city of La Paz.
I have also read that it is possible to get a TIP at the Banjercito office in Guaymas, Sonora. This city sits on the southern end of the Sonora free zone on highway 15. I’m not sure whether or not temporary import permits are still issued here. Please confirm this in the comments if you’ve been there.
In order to apply for a temporary vehicle importation permit at one of these Banjercito locations in Mexico, you will need to have all of the required documents including a valid FMM permit or temporary resident visa. You will also need to pay the TIP fee and deposit. The process is pretty much the same as applying in person in the U.S.
It is possible to get a TIP at these locations without breaking any rules because the Baja California Peninsula and part of Sonora are ‘free zones’ where a TIP is not required. You can drive to La Paz, Baja California Sur or Guaymas, Sonora without a TIP. When you take the ferry across the Sea of Cortez to the Mainland, you will require a TIP. When you drive south of Guaymas, you need a temporary importation vehicle permit. Luckily, Mexico made the TIP available in La Paz for those who didn’t get one before crossing the border. Otherwise, you would need to drive all the way back.
It is important to note that you will still need to stop at the border to get an FMM visitor’s permit if you plan to do this. The FMM is not available anywhere inside Mexico. It is only available at the border.
The Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit Application Process
The process for applying for a TIP isn’t too complicated but there are quite a few little steps involved. For the most part, the process is the same regardless of whether you apply in person or online. To apply for a TIP:
- Gather your documents– You’ll need your passport, an immigration permit, a non-Mexican driver’s license, your vehicle’s title or registration, and temporary Mexican insurance for the vehicle. If you don’t own the vehicle, you’ll need a notarized letter of permission stating that you are allowed to drive the vehicle in Mexico. If the vehicle is in your spouse’s name, you’ll need your marriage certificate. To apply in person, you should make copies of all of these documents. If you plan to apply online, you should scan them all and save them in PDF format.
- Fill out the TIP application- You’ll need to supply basic information about your vehicle such as the type, make, model, and VIN. The application also asks for your personal information such as your name, phone number, date of birth, and address. You will also have to indicate which border you plan to cross to enter Mexico if you’re applying online.
- Submit your documents- If you’re applying online, you’ll need to upload PDF copies of all of your documents. If you’re applying in person, you should bring the original and physical copies of all of your documents to submit with your application.
- Sign the declaration- When you apply for a TIP, you have to sign a declaration stating that you will export the vehicle before the TIP expires and that you will obey all regulations related to the TIP.
- Pay the application fee- You will need to pay a 1057.57 peso application fee (around $50 depending on the exchange rate). If you’re buying your TIP in person, you can pay in cash in pesos or dollars or with an international credit card. If you pay with a card, the card must be in the name of the person applying for the TIP. Only Visa and Mastercard are accepted.
- Pay the deposit- The deposit ranges from around $200-$400 depending on the model year of the vehicle. The deposit can vary depending on the exchange rate. You will get this deposit back if you export the vehicle before the importation permit expires and you follow all of the rules. Again, the credit card must be in the name of the person applying and issued by a non-Mexican agency.
How the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit Works
While driving through Mexico, you will encounter numerous military and police checkpoints. The first one will most likely be around 15-25 miles from the border when you exit the border zone. Of course, you could also be pulled over by a police officer for committing a traffic infraction. During the checkpoint or police stop, an officer may ask you to show your documents to prove that you and your vehicle are in the country legally.
You’ll want to keep the following documents handy while driving in Mexico:
- Driver’s license
- FMM visitor’s permit or Temporary Resident Visa
- TIP document- You should have the email on your phone and a physical copy
- Proof of Mexican auto insurance
When you’re asked to show your vehicle permit, you should open your email on your phone and pull up the TIP email. The officer has an app on their phone that they can use to scan your importation permit. This allows the officer to quickly and easily verify your TIP document to make sure that it is valid.
If there is no cell service where you’re stopped, the officer will have to verify the vehicle permit manually. You can just hand the officer your temporary importation paperwork and they will take care of the verification.
In the past, Banjercito used to place a sticker on your windshield indicating that the car had a temporary vehicle import permit. They did away with this in 2020. Now, you just have your TIP on your email and a printed copy. If you still have the sticker in place, leave it there. When you cancel your TIP, someone will remove it for you.
You won’t be required to show your documents at every checkpoint you encounter. Sometimes the guys will just say hello and wave you through. Other times they might just ask for your TIP. Sometimes they’ll just ask to see your passport. Occasionally, they may want to check all of your documents. It’s up to the officer working the checkpoint. If you have all of your documents in order, you’ll pass through the checkpoints quickly and smoothly.
Can I Make Multiple Entries with a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit?
Yes. You can make multiple entries as long as the TIP is valid. You need to export the vehicle before the importation permit expires.
The TIP’s expiration date is tied to your immigration document. In most cases, this will be an FMM visitor’s permit or a temporary residency visa.
Regardless of your immigration document, you can leave Mexico without your vehicle. As long as your vehicle permit is still valid, the car remains legal.
The TIP’s expiration date is the same as the expiration date of the immigration document you used when you initially brought the car to Mexico. In most cases, this will be up to six months with an FMM or 1 year with a temporary residency visa.
You can leave Mexico without the car and return with a new visitor’s permit or your same temporary residency visa. Your vehicle will remain legal in Mexico, even if you’re not in the country.
When you leave Mexico with a visitor’s permit, you must surrender it at the border and it will be invalidated. You’ll receive a new visitor’s permit with a new expiration date when you return to Mexico. The expiration date on your TIP does not change, even if the expiration date on your visitor’s permit does.
Your TIP still expires on the original date. This date will be indicated on the vehicle permit document. You must leave Mexico with the vehicle before the TIP expires. If you don’t, the vehicle becomes illegal.
How to Cancel a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit
You must cancel and surrender your TIP at an approved Banjercito location after you exit Mexico and re-enter the United States for the last time. You must cancel the TIP before it expires in order to get your deposit back.
The person whose name is on the temporary vehicle import permit must show up with the vehicle in person to make the cancellation. This way, Mexican customs knows that you have exported the vehicle from Mexico. You’ve followed the rules of temporary importation.
It is not necessary to make an appointment. Just show up at one of the Banjercito offices and they will cancel the TIP for you and process your deposit refund. It only takes a few minutes.
There are Banjercito locations at most border crossings in California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. You do not have to exit Mexico at the same place you entered. Remember that not all borders have a Banjercito office so you should check before you cross. You can’t cancel the TIP online or anywhere in Mexico. You must leave Mexico to cancel it.
You’ll get your deposit back if you followed all of the rules. The deposit is refunded in the same form that it was received. If you paid by card, they’ll refund the deposit on your card within a couple of days. If you paid by cash, you’ll get cash back.
What if You Don’t Cancel the Temporary Importation Permit?
If you don’t stop to cancel your TIP at the border when you exit Mexico, you’ll have to drive back to the border to make the cancellation. You can’t cancel the TIP online, at a Mexican consulate, or anywhere within Mexico. You can only cancel a TIP at Banjercito locations near the border.
If you don’t cancel your TIP, you will never be able to get another one or drive into Mexico again. This is because you can only have one vehicle permit at a time and it is tied to your name. If you try to apply for another, you will be denied. In addition, nobody else will be able to get a TIP for the vehicle you were driving because the TIP is also tied to the VIN of that vehicle. Of course, you will also lose your deposit.
For these reasons, you should always cancel your TIP. Even if it expired years ago. There is no fine for canceling an expired TIP. The only punishment is that you won’t get your deposit back.
Can You Sell a Vehicle With a Temporary Importation Vehicle Permit?
No. You can’t sell a vehicle with a temporary vehicle importation permit. Vehicle permits can not be transferred. If you want to sell your vehicle, you have to export it from Mexico and cancel the TIP. You can then sell the vehicle in the country where it is registered. The new owner will have to apply for a new TIP in their name.
It would be easy to forget to cancel if you got a 10 year TIP for a motorhome, trailer, or boat. If you don’t visit Mexico often, you could easily sell the vehicle without even thinking about canceling the TIP. For this reason, it’s best to cancel the vehicle permit after your trip, unless you visit Mexico frequently or plan to return soon.
If you sold the vehicle or it was destroyed in an accident, there is a way to cancel the TIP. This involves paying a fee to Mexico’s treasury department (Hacienda).
Overstaying the TIP
If you’re caught driving in Mexico with an expired TIP, your vehicle could be impounded. Your insurance will also be invalidated because you’re driving illegally. Of course, you will also lose the deposit that you paid to Banjercito.
What If I Abandon or Sell My Car in Mexico?
If you are caught abandoning or selling your vehicle in Mexico, Mexican customs (aduana) will charge you a 40% tax on the value of the vehicle. This fee was put in place to discourage people from illegally importing and selling cars in Mexico and then reporting them lost or stolen.
If you want to legally sell your vehicle in Mexico, you will need to officially import it, pay import tax, and license it. Only then, could you sell it legally.
What If My Car is Stolen or Destroyed in Mexico?
In the unfortunate event that your vehicle is stolen or destroyed while you’re in Mexico, there is a process you’ll have to go through to cancel the TIP. First, you will need to file a police report. Next, you’ll have to file some forms with the Mexican customs office. You will need to have the forms notarized by a Mexican notary. Customs will then cancel the TIP.
Applying for a Vehicle Permit with a Temporary Resident Visa
You’ll have to complete one additional step if you’re applying for a TIP with a Temporary Resident Visa sticker in your passport. You can skip this step if you already have your Temporary Resident Card. If you’re unsure, read on.
When you apply for a Temporary Resident Visa, you receive a sticker in your passport. Within 30 days of your arrival in Mexico, you must visit an immigration office, fill out some paperwork, and exchange your visa sticker for a temporary resident card. It often takes a couple of weeks or more for the card to be processed.
After submitting your paperwork with immigration, you will be given a Número Único de Trámite (NUT). This is basically a reference number that proves that you have applied for your temporary resident card.
If you apply for a TIP before receiving your temporary resident card, the TIP will only be valid for 30 days. Before the 30 days are up, you must visit a Mexican customs office (Aduana) and submit a copy of your NUT, a copy of your passport, and a letter that explains that your temporary resident card is being processed.
Once your temporary resident card arrives, you must return to the customs office with your temporary resident card and a copy of the front and back of it. The customs officer will extend your TIP so that it remains valid for the duration of your Temporary Resident Permit. In most cases, this is one year.
If your temporary resident card arrives before the 30 days are up, you can make one visit to the Mexican customs office. Bring your temporary resident card, a copy of it, and a letter explaining that you have received your temporary resident card. If you apply for your temporary resident card as soon as you arrive, you should receive it in less than 30 days. This saves you a trip. The customs official will make the necessary changes to your vehicle permit.
If you skip this step, you aren’t breaking the law but you will forfeit your deposit. I have read that when you apply for your TIP online before exchanging your Temporary Resident Visa sticker for a card, you get 180 days to visit a Mexican customs office and extend the TIP. This gives you more time to get your documents in order. If this is true, it’s a major advantage of applying online. I have not been able to verify this.
To avoid this whole hassle, you could go to Mexico without your vehicle, wait for your temporary resident card, then return to pick your vehicle up. In this case, you would apply for the TIP with your temporary resident card. You’ll automatically receive the TIP. It will have the same expiration date as your temporary resident visa.
A Note About the Sonora Only TIP
If you’re planning to stay in the state of Sonora but wish to exit the Sonora Free Zone, you can apply for a Sonora only temporary vehicle importation permit. These are available both online and at Banjercito offices near customs in Agua Prieta, Cananea, and Empalme.
The Sonora only vehicle permit cost about $30 if you get the permit in person. If you purchase the Sonora only permit online it costs the same as the regular TIP (around $50).
The only benefit of getting a Sonora only import permit over the regular importation permit is that the Sonora only permit does not require you to pay a deposit. It’s also about $20 cheaper if you apply in person.
A Few Important Things to Remember about the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit
- The temporary vehicle import permit cannot be extended or renewed. It expires when your immigration document expires.
- You cannot cancel your TIP inside of Mexico, at a Mexican consulate, or online. The only place you can cancel a TIP is at Banjercito offices near the border when you exit Mexico at the end of your trip.
- Only Temporary Resident Visa holders, FMM visitor’s permit holders, and Mexican citizens living abroad are eligible to apply for a TIP. Permanent residency visa holders are not eligible.
- In order to get a TIP, your vehicle cannot have any restrictions in the U.S. or Canada. Mexico checks your vehicle’s VIN on an international vehicle database when you apply. For example, the vehicle can’t have a salvage title or be reported stolen.
- Don’t forget to cancel your TIP. If you don’t cancel it, you can never get another and you can never drive into Mexico.
- If you cancel your vehicle permit after it expires, you can get another one in the future. You just lose your deposit.
Alternatives to Getting a TIP
If, after reading this guide, you think getting a temporary vehicle importation permit sounds like too much of a hassle, there are a couple of alternatives. First, you can rent a car in Mexico. This will be more expensive but will save you some time and hassle. It also saves you from driving from the border to your destination. You can fly to your destination and rent a vehicle. It’s easy. To rent a vehicle in Mexico, you’ll need your passport, FMM permit, a driver’s license, and a credit card. You can purchase insurnace from the rental agency. In order to rent a car in Mexico, you must also be 21 or older at most rental agencies.
You can also limit your trip to the free zones. Without applying for temporary importation, you can explore the entire Baja California Peninsula as well as most of the state of Sonora. These areas offer incredible desert landscapes. Baja offers some of the best beaches in Mexico. You can also visit pretty much all border towns on the U.S.-Mexico border including Tijuana, Mexicali, Juarez, Nogales, Matamoros, and more. You can visit all border cities as long as you don’t exit the border free zone (around 25km from the border).
A Note About Police Corruption in Mexico
Police corruption is a major problem in parts of Mexico. At some point, an officer may pull you over and claim that you committed a crime. They may accuse you of speeding, running a red light, driving without a seat belt, talking on the phone while driving, or even driving while intoxicated. After accusing you of a crime, the officer may try to solicit a bribe. They could tell you that you have to pay a big fine.
If you spend enough time driving in Mexico, you will encounter a corrupt police officer at some point. There is no avoiding it. You are more likely to be pulled over while driving a foreign-plated vehicle, unfortunately. Some officers target tourists because they don’t know how to handle the situation. Tourists also have cash on them.
If this happens to you, you should try your hardest to avoid paying a bribe. Play dumb. Pretend you don’t understand Spanish. Pretend you don’t understand that the officer is asking for money. Distract the officer by asking questions or directions. Stay friendly, respectful, and upbeat. Most importantly, be patient and never show any anger or frustration. Sometimes, the officer will just wave you through if they can’t get any money out of you quickly.
If you can’t talk your way out of the situation, insist that the officer provide you with a written ticket. Alternatively, you can ask to pay the fine at the police station. This way, you know that the fine is legitimate and the officer isn’t going to pocket the money.
If all else fails, you can pay the bribe. You can negotiate. In many cases, the officer will ask for $100. Usually, 500-1000 pesos (about $25-$50) is sufficient. The officer could demand that you hand over your wallet. In this case, they’ll probably take most of your cash. If you refuse to pay, some officers can become aggressive.
For more info, check out my guide to police corruption.
Final Thoughts About the TIP
Having to arrange a temporary vehicle import permit before your trip is a bit of a hassle. You need to gather a bunch of documents, pay a fee and deposit, stop at the border, etc. When you return, you need to make another stop at the border and then wait for your deposit to be refunded.
Of course, there is a reason for this. Mexico doesn’t want people importing cars they bought in the U.S. without paying the necessary import tax. Still, it seems like a more efficient system could be designed.
Driving your own vehicle to Mexico and taking a road trip is an awesome vacation. The country is massive, varied, and beautiful. Mexico offers incredible cities, spectacular natural landscapes, interesting culture, fascinating history, world-class food, and much more. Driving your own vehicle makes all of the tourist sites easily accessible. Having your own transportation is convenient.
Having said that, there are a few risks to consider when deciding whether or not you want to drive your own vehicle to Mexico. Police corruption is a problem. If you drive in Mexico long enough, a corrupt officer will stop you and solicit a bribe. Road conditions are sometimes poor. There potholes and random speed bumps. People often drive aggressively. In some parts of the country, security is a concern. You should probably avoid driving at night. If you’re not comfortable driving in a foreign country, you may want to reconsider.
Have you ever used a temporary import permit to drive your vehicle into Mexico? Share your tips and experience in the comments below!
Monday 1st of May 2023
If you apply for a TIP with your Temporary Resident card, which expires in one year, but you renew your Temporary Resident card for another year, is the TIP automatically extended, or do you have to get a new TIP every time you renew your Temporary Resident Card?
Saturday 6th of May 2023
I believe you would have to get a new one but I'm not 100% sure. I don't think it's renewable.
Friday 31st of March 2023
Excellent editorial. I was looking for information on an expired TIP: I had to leave on a medical emergency when I retured I realized my TIPP had expired. I was given a new 180 day visa with out question about my car. I have now qualified for 4 year Residence as of late April, but still do not know what to do about the Expired TIPP.
Saturday 1st of April 2023
I think the best thing you could do is drive the car out of Mexico and cancel the TIP at a Banjercito office in the U.S. I don't believe there is any penalty. You just won't get your deposit back. One issue would be checkpoints. You could get hassled while driving through with an expired TIP. Another option might be to call or go into a customs office and ask them what you should do in this case. They should be able to help you sort it out.
Tuesday 28th of March 2023
Hi.. Is there a third party who can assist with the paperwork and provide guidance to get TIP and be prepared for entry into Mexico. There are lot of useful information but an expert reviewing my paperwork would be reassuring.
Thursday 30th of March 2023
I'm not really aware of any. It's pretty straightforward if you apply for the TIP online. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.
Friday 17th of March 2023
If I have a TIP, do I have to be present at the border if I have a third party transporting my boat.
Monday 20th of March 2023
I believe you do because the TIP is under your name but I'm not 100% sure. Sorry, I can't be of more help.
Sunday 19th of February 2023
Hi, we just got our permanent residency, but for the next 2-3 years we will need to go back in Canada every summer by land driving, I know that I can’t get a TIP but is there a possibility for exceptions giving us the autorisation to enter and getting out of Mexico with our car
Friday 24th of February 2023
If you want to keep the same car, I believe you'll have to import it to Mexico and license it there. As far as I'm aware, that's the only option. I'm not aware of any exceptions.