In a related article, we explained the procedures for bringing a foreign-plated vehicle to Mexico. This article provides a detailed list of FAQs about an essential document you need to obtain when you drive your vehicle to Mexico: a Temporary Import Permit, or TIP.
What is a vehicle Temporary Import Permit (TIP)?
A TIP is legal document that allows a foreign-plated vehicle to be imported to and driven in Mexico for a defined period of time. The vehicle must be exported (driven out of Mexico) before the TIP’s expiry date. If you fail to export the vehicle and surrender/cancel the TIP, you will lose your deposit, you will not be allowed to import another vehicle in future; and you can also face fines and have your vehicle confiscated.
Who needs a TIP?
Anyone who wants to bring a foreign-plated vehicle into Mexico and drive outside of the Free Zones. The Free Zones are:
- within 25km of the land border;
- the entire Baja California peninsula;
- a defined area in the northern state of Sonora; and,
- the southern state of Quintana Roo.
If you intend to drive your car beyond the 25km border zone (checkpoints exist), or anywhere outside of a defined Free Zone, you must have a TIP to avoid fines and confiscation of the vehicle.
Who can apply for a TIP?
Visitors entering Mexico under the auspice of a Visitor permit (FMM) and holders of a Residente Temporal residency visa/card may apply for a TIP. If you are the holder of a Residente Permanente visa/card you cannot apply for a TIP or take your foreign-plated vehicle to Mexico outside of the defined Free Zones.
Who issues the TIP?
Temporary Import Permits for foreign-plated vehicles are issued only by Banjercito, and by a limited number of Mexican Consulates (see below) who act as facilitators for Banjercito. No other companies or agencies are authorized to issue the TIP and you should never deal with anyone other than Banjercito when buying a TIP.
How do I buy a TIP?
You can purchase a TIP in advance online, or at certain Mexican Consulates in the US, or you can purchase a TIP in person at a Banjercito office situated at major land crossing points. The TIP carries an administrative fee, and you’ll also be required to leave a deposit. (The size of the deposit varies depending on the age of the vehicle.) You will lose the deposit if you fail to export (drive out) the vehicle from Mexico before the TIP’s expiry date, or violate any other rules related to the TIP.
How long is a TIP valid for?
A TIP is tied to your immigration document and is valid for as long your immigration document is valid.
Entering with a Visitor Permit: If you enter Mexico under the auspice of a FMM (Visitor Permit) this is valid for a maximum of 180 calendar days from the date of your entry to Mexico.
Entering with a Residency Permit: If you enter Mexico with your foreign plated vehicle under the auspice of a Residente Temporal visa or card, the TIP will be valid for as long as the temporary residency status remains current. Holders of Residente Permanente cards are not allowed to bring a foreign-plated vehicle to Mexico.
Can I leave Mexico if I have a foreign-plated vehicle here with a TIP?
When you bring your foreign-plated vehicle to Mexico, your TIP will either be tied to a Visitor Permit (FMM) or to a Temporary Residency Permit.
Whether you your TIP is tied to a Visitor Permit (FMM) or your Residente Temporal permit, you can leave Mexico without your vehicle and the vehicle will remain legal in Mexico for so long as the TIP remains current (not past its expiry date).
The TIP’s expiry date is usually tied to the expiry date on the FMM you used when you first entered Mexico with your vehicle, or the expiration date of your residency permit—cross check your TIP documentation to be sure.
When the TIP expires, your vehicle will become illegal in Mexico regardless of your current FMM expiry date, so it’s important export your car (drive it out of Mexico) before the TIP’s expiry date.
What documentation is needed to get a TIP?
To apply for a TIP, you will need to be in possession of certain supporting documentation. We recommend you carry two black-and-white copies of each of these documents when you drive to Mexico:
- A valid passport, or passport card;
- Your Mexican immigration permit: if you are visiting Mexico as a tourist this will be your FMM; if you are a resident, your Residente Temporal visa or card. Residente Permanente visa/card holders are not allowed to obtain a TIP;
- A non-Mexican driver’s license (with photo);
- Original and photocopy of the title and registration of the vehicle issued by a foreign authority in the applicant’s name. If the title or registration is in the name of a spouse, a marriage certificate must also be presented. Only the titled owner of the vehicle and/or their spouse can get a TIP;
- Proof of temporary Mexican auto insurance for the vehicle.
What if the vehicle is rented, leased, financed, or owned by a company?
If the vehicle you intend to drive into Mexico is not registered in yours or your spouse’s name, you will also need the following documentation to accompany your application:
Rented vehicles: If a rental car company allows you to drive one its vehicles into Mexico, you will need a notarized letter of permission from the rental car company.
Leased vehicles: If the vehicle under lease, you will need to show the lease contract and a notarized letter of permission from the leasing company.
Financed vehicles: If the vehicle is under a finance arrangement, you will need to show the credit contract and notarized letter of permission from the finance company giving permission for the car to be driven to Mexico.
Company car: If the vehicle is owned by a company (a company you own or a company you work for) you will need a notarized letter of permission (on headed paper) confirming the employment relationship and authorizing the employee to drive the vehicle into Mexico.
What is the TIP application procedure?
When you have your documentation gathered, you can begin to make the application for your vehicle’s TIP:
Where: You can apply online, or go to one of a defined list of Mexican Consulates in the US, or you can apply in-person a Banjercito office near one of the main land border crossings.
Declaration: You will be asked to sign a declaration, pledging to export the vehicle within the period for which the permit is valid and not disobey any other regulations related to the issuance of the TIP.
Payment: There is an administrative fee of around US$50 that can be paid with cash, or a non-Mexico issued credit card. You cannot use a Mexico-issued credit card for this purchase; whether buying online or in-person. The name on the card must match the name of the person on the TIP.
Deposit: In addition to the administrative fee, you will need to pay a deposit of between US$200 and US$400, depending on the age of the vehicle. The deposit is refunded if the TIP is canceled/surrendered before its expiry date and no violations have taken place. It can take some days or weeks for the refund to be returned to a credit card after cancelling/surrendering the TIP.
Holographic Windscreen Stickers Being Phased Out
In years past, vehicles with a TIP were issued with a special ‘holographic’ windscreen sticker that provided visual evidence of the vehicle’s legal status in Mexico.
Since January 1, 2020, Banjercito no longer issues holographic stickers for placement in the windshield and the permits are validated by email instead, although we recommend that you print out the documentation and keep it on-hand at all times, in case you cannot access your email if you are stopped and questioned about your vehicle’s presence in Mexico. You may be asked to show proof the vehicle’s legal presence in the country at any military checkpoint and/or by federal or traffic police.
If your vehicle still has a holographic sticker that is still valid, it’s important that you leave it in place and do not remove it. You should never remove the sticker yourself: the official at the Banjercito office at the border should do this for you when you cancel/surrender your permit.
Where can I buy a vehicle TIP?
You can still obtain a TIP in-person at the border but applying for the TIP via the Banjercito Website will speed the process and avoid potentially long lines at the border.
Note: If you apply online, you must first get your FMM online (or have your Residency visa or card issued) before you obtain the TIP. When you get your FMM online, you must stop at the border and get immigration (INM) to stamp/validate the document. Carry a printed copy of the FMM and your receipt to show proof of payment when you do this.
When approved, you will receive your TIP by email. Print out your TIP and receipt and keep the printed copies with you while driving in Mexico. Keep and use the email version only as verification of your TIP approval.
Buying in person at the Land Border
Temporary import permits may be purchased at CIITEV offices located at Customs offices near various U.S./Mexico border locations in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Check beforehand that the crossing you use has a CIITEV office. When you apply in person, Banjercito will send an email with your TIP and hand you a printed copy of the TIP and your receipt. Keep the email and paper copies to hand at all times while driving in Mexico.
Buying a TIP at a Mexican Consulate
A limited number of Mexican Consulates in the United States offer a TIP-issuing service. Although the Consulate acts as facilitator, it is Banjercito that issues the permit. Consulates in the following US States offer TIPs (we recommend you contact them beforehand to ensure that their TIP issuing service is available):
- Arizona: Phoenix
- California: Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Sacramento
- Colorado: Denver
- Illinois: Chicago
- New Mexico: Albuquerque
- Texas: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston
How do I surrender and cancel my TIP when I drive out of Mexico?
A TIP must be cancelled and surrendered before its expiry date.
Once you have a TIP issued, the person whose name is on the register must drive the vehicle out of Mexico before the TIP’s expiry date and stop at the border to cancel/surrender the TIP. This action notifies the Customs authority that you have exported the vehicle and complied with the rules.
If you do not stop at the land border and cancel/surrender your TIP (or forget), you will need to drive the vehicle back to a land border crossing to cancel the TIP. You do not have to exit Mexico from the same port as you entered to cancel your TIP, but you must visit an approved Banjercito office to undertake the procedure. Not all border crossings have a Banjercito office, check beforehand.
Your deposit will be refunded provided you have not overstayed in Mexico beyond the TIP’s expiry date and that you have not violated any conditions of the TIP.
How does a TIP work when I arrive in Mexico with a Residente Temporal Visa?
There’s an additional procedure to take into account if you enter Mexico with a TIP and a Residente Temporal sticker in your passport. If you don’t undertake this procedure your car will not become illegal, but you will lose the deposit you left with Banjercito.
If you have been granted temporary residency in Mexico and have a Residente Temporal sticker in your passport (before you are issued the residency card) your TIP and FMM will have a 30 day limit documented, because this is the time frame you have to submit the paperwork to exchange your visa sticker for a residency card. (If you already have a Residente Temporal card when you get your TIP this situation will not arise.)
If you have the 30-day limit on your TIP, you need to go the immigration office nearest to your address in Mexico and process the paperwork for the exchange of your visa sticker for a residency card. When you submit the paperwork, you will be given a printed receipt showing a NUT (Número Único de Trámite) reference.
Before the 30-day expiry date, you then need to go to your nearest Customs (Aduana) office, and present them with a letter (in Spanish) explaining that your residency card is in the process of being prepared, and give them a photocopy of the NUT receipt, and a copy of your passport. When your card is issued, you will need to also give them a photocopy (front and back) of the residency card. If the office where you are making the exchange gives you your residency card within the 30-day window, you can undertake this procedure in one visit to the Customs office once you have your residency card, with a letter explaining that your residency card is issued, and enclosing a copy of it. If however the immigration office takes longer to issue your residency card, you will first need to submit the letter stating you have applied for your residency card, a copy of the NUT receipt and your passport, and then return with a copy of your residency card when when it’s issued to you.
Some important points to note about Mexico’s vehicle Temporary Import Permits
- TIPs are tied to your immigration document and its expiry date: they cannot be extended or renewed
- Only holders of a visitor permit (FMM) and a Residente Temporal visa/card may obtain a TIP. Holders of Residente Permanente visas/cards cannot bring foreign-plated cars into Mexico
- When your TIP is issued, you can drive the car back-and-fro across the land border provided the TIP remains valid
- You cannot cancel/surrender or obtain a new TIP anywhere within Mexico
- You cannot cancel/surrender a TIP online. The person who is named on the TIP must present the vehicle physically at a Banjercito office at the border to undertake the cancellation procedure
- You cannot surrender a TIP through a Mexican Consulate abroad
- If your vehicle has not been physically returned to a Banjercito office at the border and the TIP cancelled/surrendered, a new permit cannot be issued for that person or vehicle
- Hybrid and Electric vehicles are not exempt from requiring a TIP if you intend to drive the vehicle beyond one of the Free Zones.
- Applications online are checked in real-time on US/Canadian vehicle databases. Your application for a TIP will be denied if the vehicle has any restrictions marked, e.g. reported as stolen or as sent for scrap.
Is auto insurance compulsory when I drive a car into Mexico?
You will need to show evidence of having a valid temporary insurance policy when you apply for a TIP. Whether you are driving in the Free Zones or going further into Mexico with a TIP, ensure your road trip is properly insured with a policy is valid in Mexico, especially for third party liabilities.
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