In order to drive a foreign plated vehicle in Mexico, you may need to get a temporary import permit (TIP). Whether or not you need this document depends on where you plan to drive in Mexico. This guide answers frequently asked questions about the TIP. I’ll explain when you need it, how to get it, where to apply, 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
- Cost- 1057.57 pesos or about $50. There is also a refundable deposit of $200-$400 depending on the age of your vehicle.
- Validity- 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 who live 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, Mexican immigration permit or visa, non-Mexican driver’s license, vehicle’s title or 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
What is the Temporary Import Permit?
The Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP) is a legal document that allows one 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.
The TIP is available for non-Mexican citizens as well as Mexican citizens who live abroad. Only those traveling in Mexico on an FMM visitor’s permit, Temporary Resident Visa, and Mexican citizens are eligible for a TIP. The TIP remains valid as long as your immigration document (most likely 180 days if you’re traveling on an FMM visitor’s permit or 1 year if you’re traveling on a temporary resident visa).
TIPs are 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. Special 10 year TIPs are available for RVs and boats.
Banjercito issues the TIP. You can apply for the document on their 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 cross. Banjercito is the only agency that issues the TIP.
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 TIP required?
You’ll need a TIP if you want to drive a foreign plated vehicle anywhere in Mexico except the free zones and border zones.
Areas where you don’t need a TIP include include:
- The Baja Peninsula- This includes the entire states of both Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur.
- Sonora Free Zone (hassle-free zone)- The 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 also 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 but 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. If you stay inside of the border zone, you do not need a TIP.
- The state of Quintana Roo- In order to stay legal, your vehicle’s license plates and registration must remain valid.
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.
Who is Eligible for a TIP?
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 who are living abroad are also eligible for a TIP if they have proof that they are permitted to work in a country outside of Mexico for one year or more.
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 then buy another vehicle that is already registered in Mexico.
A Note About Multiple Drivers
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 TIP?
- Passport or passport card- It must be valid for as long as you plan to stay in Mexico.
- A Mexican immigration permit or visa- This could be an FMM tourist permit or Temporary Resident Visa only. You can’t get a TIP with a Permanent Residency Visa. You can get an 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.
- Non-Mexican driver’s license- It must have a photo.
- Your vehicle’s title or current registration- 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. The title or registration must have the vehicle’s VIN and license plate number. If you’re riding a motorcycle, you need to bring the title.
- 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. For more info on Mexican auto insurance, check out this guide from Mexpro.
- A non-Mexican credit card- if you plan to pay by credit card. You can also pay with cash if you’re getting your tip in person.
Try to 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 or registration. If you’re applying online, you’ll need to scan all of the above documents and save them in PDF format.
What if you don’t have a title because the vehicle is leased, financed, rented, or owned by a company?
If you are financing, leasing, or renting your vehicle or if you’re driving a work vehicle, you won’t have a title and the vehicle may not be registered in your name or your spouse’s name. In this case, you will need the following supporting documentation:
- Financed vehicle- You need a notarized letter of permission to drive the vehicle to Mexico from the lienholder or financing company as well as the credit contract.
- Leased vehicle- You need a notarized letter of permission to drive the vehicle to Mexico from the company you’re leasing from as well as 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.
- 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 country and should be printed on letterheaded paper. You need this document even if you own the company that owns the car.
Most of the time, the official issuing the TIP won’t ask for a notarized letter of permission or any support document. If they ask and you don’t have it, they could deny your application. It’s best to have one, just in case.
How Much Does the TIP Cost?
The current fee is 1057.57 Pesos. That’s around $50-55 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).
You can pay the fee and deposit only with cash or a non-Mexican credit card or debit card. The card must be in the name of the applicant. Only Visa and Mastercard is 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.
Which Types of Vehicles Require a Temporary Import 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Street legal motorcycles- Motorcycle TIPs work just like car TIPs.
The vehicle must be in good standing. For example, it must have a current registration, and the tabs must be up to date. The vehicle mustn’t be marked inoperable or stolen. The customs official will check this on a US/ Canadian vehicle database.
When you get your TIP, an official may also perform a quick inspection of your vehicle. This is most common when you’re crossing with an RV.
If you’re towing a trailer, your vehicle and trailer should get separate TIPs. I believe the trailer permit costs 644 pesos (about $32) and is valid for 10 years.
If the official tries to add the trailer to your vehicle TIP, ask for a separate one. The reason is that you’ll have to drive both 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.
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.
Trailered Vehicles and Tow Vehicles TIP
If you’re or bringing in an off-road motorcycle, ATV, dune buggy, etc. you will need to declare it on your tip. The vehicle cannot be street legal and must weigh less than 3.5 tons. Bicycles do not require a TIP. They are exempt.
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 two people driving across the border, you can only tow 1 or 2 non-street legal vehicles.
If you’re driving a motorhome, you can also get a TIP for a tow vehicle.
How Long is the Temporary Import 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 180 days.
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 and Boat TIPs available that are valid for 10 years and multiple entries. These work great for people who like to spend their winters in Mexico or go to fishing in Mexico often.
Who Issues the TIP?
The tip is issued by Banjercito. Banjercito is a military bank. This is the only official Mexican agency that issues TIPs. The bank also handles immigration fees such as the FMM permit fee.
Where Can I Buy a Temporary Import Permit?
You can apply for a TIP 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 consulate does not issue the TIP.
Obtaining a TIP 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 as much time waiting in lines at the border. Only those living in the U.S. or Canada are eligible to apply for a TIP online.
You must apply for your TIP 7-60 days before you plan to travel to Mexico if you’re applying online. 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 by credit or debit card. To make the process as easy as possible, try to gather all of your documents before you start the application process.
Before applying for a TIP online, you will need to get your immigration document. If you’re traveling to Mexico as a visitor, you can get an FMM visitor’s permit online. You can do that on the official INM website here.
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. 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 can apply at your nearest Mexican consulate.
After you submit all of the required documents and pay, you will have to wait for your TIP application to be processed. Once you’re approved, you will receive your TIP by email.
Print the document and receipt out and carry it with you while driving in Mexico. You also need to have the email version on your phone or computer as verification of your TIP purchase. You may be asked to show this at checkpoints.
Benefits and Drawbacks to Applying 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 TIP for a motorcycle. It can also save you some time if you’re planning on crossing the border during a busy time or holiday. 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. More on this later.
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 region, you’ll be fine but if you completely change your route and cross in a different region, 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.
Buying a TIP at the Border
You can purchase a Temporary Import Permit in person near most border crossings. You will need to go to a CIITEV Banjercito office to apply in person. These are located at customs offices (Aduana) near some 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 of the required documents with you when you apply for your TIP. You should also bring copies of each. 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 TIP.
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 30-60 minutes depending on how busy the border is. It may take longer during holidays.
Buying a TIP at a Mexican Consulate
You can apply for a TIP at a handful of Mexican consulates in the United States. These 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 TIP service is still 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 you out a hard copy. Carry both of these at all times while driving in Mexico.
Buying a TIP in Mexico
There are a couple of place where you can get a temporary import permit in Mexico. There is a CIITEV 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 La Paz.
I have read that it is also 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. Please confirm this in the comments if you’ve been there.
In order to apply 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 Visitors Visa. You will also need to pay the 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 Peninsula and part of Sonora is a ‘free zone’ where a TIP is not required. You can drive to La Paz or Guaymas 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 TIP. 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 of Mexico. Only at the border.
The Temporary Import Permit Application Process
The application isn’t too difficult 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. The steps are as follows:
- Gather your documents– You’ll need a passport, immigration permit, non-Mexican driver’s license, title or registration, and Mexican auto insurance. If you don’t own the vehicle, you’ll need a notarized letter stating that you are permitted to drive the vehicle to 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. Save them in PDF format.
- Fill out the TIP application- You’ll need to supply basic information such as the type, make, model, and VIN of your vehicle. The application also asks for your personal information such as your name, phone number, 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, you will 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 1057.57Peso 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 a non-Mexican credit card. The credit 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 age 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 tip 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 Import Permit Works
While driving through Mexico, you will encounter numerous military or police checkpoints. The first one will most likely be around 15-25 miles from the border when you exit the border zone. 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- both the email on your phone and a physical copy
- Proof of Mexican auto insurance.
When you’re asked to show your TIP, 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 TIP. 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 TIP manually. You can just hand the officer your TIP 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 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. Occasionally, they may want to check all of your documents. It’s up to the officer working the checkpoint.
Can I Make Multiple Entries with a TIP?
Yes. You can make multiple entries as long as the TIP is valid. You need to export the vehicle before the TIP expires.
If you’re traveling on an FMM visitor’s permit, you must always enter and exit with your vehicle when you have a TIP. You cannot leave your vehicle in Mexico while you cross into another country. If you cross without your TIP, it will expire when you exit. The reason is that you must turn in your FMM at most borders when you exit. At this point, your vehicle becomes illegal in Mexico. You might be able to get away with it in some cases but it’s not worth the risk.
If you’re traveling on a Temporary Residency Permit, you can legally exit and return to Mexico without your vehicle. As long as both your TIP and Temporary Residency Permit remain valid, your vehicle will still be legal in Mexico.
How to Cancel a Temporary Import Permit
You must cancel or surrender your TIP at an approved CIITEV Banjercito location at the end of your trip after you exit Mexico. There are Banjercito locations at most border crossings in California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico. You do not have to exit at the same border you entered. Remember that not all borders have a Banjercito office so you should check before you cross.
The person whose name is on the document must show up with the vehicle in person to make the cancellation. This must be done before the TIP expires. This way, customs knows that you have exported the vehicle from Mexico and followed up your end of the deal.
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 TIP?
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. Only at CIITEV 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. You can only have one TIP at a time and it is tied to your name. Also, 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 don’t get your deposit back.
Tip: 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 just cancel the TIP after your trip, unless you visit Mexcico often 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).
Violating the TIP
If you violate the terms of the TIP, you will lose your deposit. You may also face additional fines. You may not be able to get another TIP in the future depending on the violation. A couple of common violations include driving the vehicle with an expired TIP, selling the vehicle in Mexico, and overstaying.
Applying for a TIP with a Temporary Resident Visa
There is one additional step you’ll have to complete if you’re applying for a TIP with a Temporary Resident Visa sticker in your passport. If you already have your Temporary Resident Card, you can skip this step. 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, 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 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 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 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 TIP.
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 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 though.
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.
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 TIP. These are available both online and at Banjercito offices near customs in Agua Prieta, Cananea, and Empalme.
The Sonora only TIP 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 TIP 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 Thing to Remember about the TIP
- The Temporary Import Permit cannot be extended or renewed. It expires when your immigration document expires.
- You cannot cancel your TIP inside of Mexico, 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 TIP 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 TIP 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 also limit your trip to the free zones. Without a TIP, you can explore the entire Baja Peninsula as well as most of the state of Sonora. These areas offer incredible desert landscapes and some of the best beaches in Mexico. You can also visit pretty much all border towns on the U.S. Mexico border 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 problem in parts of Mexico. At some point, an officer may stop you and claim that there is a problem with your TIP or that you broke a law. At that point, they may try to solicit a bribe. They may try to tell you that you committed a serious crime and that you’ll have to pay a big fine. You are particularly susceptible to this when driving with a foreign-plated vehicle, unfortunately.
If this happens, you’ll want to 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 take you to the police station to pay the fine. 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. Usually, 500-1000 pesos (about $25-$50) is sufficient.
For more info, check out my guide to police corruption.
Final Thoughts About the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit
Having to arrange a temporary vehicle import permit before your trip is a bit of an annoyance. You need to gather a bunch of documents, pay a fee, stop at the border, etc. When you return, you need to make another stop at the border 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, natural landscapes, culture, food, and much more. Driving your own vehicle makes all of the sites easily accessible. Having your own transportation is also 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. 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. Personally, I think it’s worth the risk.
Have you ever used a Temporary Import Permit to drive your vehicle into Mexico? Share your tips and experience in the comments below!