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Written by Miguel Sedano   

What do I have to do when crossing the Mexican border?

What do I have to do when crossing the Mexican border?Select carefully the lane to enter the country:

Nothing to Declare Lane
It is used when your exemptions do not exceed the permitted limits

Self-declaration Lane

It is used when you bring goods worth more than the personal or family exemptions, or when the amounts of goods exceed those amounts allowed in your personal luggage

Upon crossing the border, your vehicle will activate the Automated Selection Mechanism (stop light). When crossing the border on foot you will be asked to activate the mechanism:
  • The red light indicates that your luggage will be inspected
  • The green light indicates that you can drive through the Customs facilities without inspection
If you or your vehicle has been selected for inspection, a Customs Inspector will conduct the examination. If the Customs Inspector finds goods that should have been declared and you did not do it, the Inspector will classify and appraise the goods and will impose the corresponding sanctions.

If you mistakenly choose the wrong lane, you may approach a Customs Inspector and ask for a classification and appraisal of your goods for the corresponding payment of duties and taxes.

Customs Inspection
In some cases the customs Automated Selection System (stoplight) may determine, without human intervention that your belongings will be subject to customs inspection.

This is a simple procedure. We would appreciate your cooperation in order to make it an agile one too. Please follow our customs personnel instructions. They must treat you with courtesy and respect while they ask you to open your luggage and proceed with its inspection. Also, they must handle your belongings with care. Remember that all persons entering Mexico are obliged to comply with Mexico’s customs provisions.

What can I bring in duty free?

  • The items allowed in your personal luggage, according to the length of your trip
  • Up to 75 USD per person in permitted goods, or its equivalent in other currencies. Passengers traveling with family members (spouse and children) may combine their personal exemptions only when arriving together on the same vehicle. In order to claim this additional exemption, passengers must have the corresponding commercial invoices or receipts available
  • Beer, alcoholic beverages, manufactured tobacco and motor vehicle fuel (except for the fuel contained in the vehicle’s fuel tank) may not be included in this additional exemption
Which items may be included in my personal luggage exempt from duty?
  1. Goods for personal use, such as clothing, footwear and personal toiletries and beauty products, as long as they are appropriate for the duration of the trip, including wedding party items.
  2. Two photographic cameras or video recorders, 12 rolls of film or videocassettes; photographic material; two cellular telephones or radio phones; a portatil typewriter; an electronic calendar; a portable computer (laptop), notebook, omnibook or similar items; a copier or portable printer; a portable projector, and their accessories.
  3. Two sports equipment, four rods, three speedboats with or without sails and their accessories, trophies or recognitions, provided that they can be transported normally and commonly by the passenger, one stair climber and bicycle
  4. A portable radio for the recording or reproduction of sound or mixed tapes; or a digital sound reproducer or portable reproducer of compact discs and a portable reproducer of DVD’s, such as a pair of portable speakers, and their accessories.
  5. Five laser disks, 10 DVD disks, 30 compact disks (CD) or magnetic tapes (audiocassettes), for the reproduction of sound and five storage devices or memory cards for any electronic equipment.
  6. Books, magazines and printed documents.
  7. Five toys, —included those that are collectible— and a video game console and videogames.
  8. One device that permits measurement of arterial pressure and one for glucose, as well as medications of personal use; in the case of psychotropic’s the medical prescription should be shown.
  9. One set of binoculars and a telescope.
  10. Valises, trunks and suitcases necessary for the movement of goods.
  11. Passengers over 18 years of age, may introduce a maximum of up to 20 packs of cigarettes, 25 cigars or 200 grams of tobacco and up to three liters of alcoholic beverages, and six liters of wine; in excess of the above, cannot be imported without complying with applicable regulations and restrictions.
  12. Baby travel accessories, such as strollers and baby-walkers
  13. Two musical instruments and its accessories.
  14. A camping tent and camping equipment, as well as their accessories.
  15. Handicapped or old travelers may introduce items for personal use, useful to have a better performance of their activities, such as walkers, wheelchairs, crutches and canes.
  16. A set of tools including its case, it might have a hand drill, wire cutters, wrenches, dices, screwdrivers, current cables, among others.
  17. Beddings, that will be able to include a set of matching sheets and pillowcases, a set of towels, a set of bath, a set of table linen and a set of kitchen.
  18. Up to two dogs or cats, maybe introduced as well as their accessories, provided that the corresponding zoo sanitary import certificate issued by (SAGARPA) is presented to the customs officials.

In which cases should I pay taxes?
  • Remember that you are entitled to bring in up to US$300 worth of goods in addition to the goods included in your personal luggage, and that you are allowed to combine this amount with family members
  • If you exceed this exemption, or if your family’s combined amount exceeds the combined exemption, you must pay duties and taxes. There is a flat 15% rate of duties and taxes, which is applied only to the amount exceeding the exemption (individual or combined). You must fill out a payment form, which is available at the Customs counter
  • If the value of the goods surpasses three thousand dollars (per family member) after subtracting the US$300 exemption, or if any of the goods is subject to non-tariff regulations or restrictions, you must hire the services of a customs broker. Private brokerage services are always available at the airport
  • From November 1st, 2009 until January 10th, 2010 you will be able to import goods in the mentioned procedure, as long as its value does not exceed 3,000 dollars
  • If you bring a desktop computer, you may pay duties and taxes by filling out a payment form as long as the value of the computer and its peripherals and accessories do not exceed US$4,000. If the total value of the computer and its peripherals and accessories exceeds US$4,000 you must hire the services of a customs broker

Which other items must be declared?
  • Animals, agricultural products and medications
  • If you are carrying more than US$10,000, or its equivalent in other currencies, in cash, checks, money orders or any other monetary instrument, or a combination of them, you must declare the amount exceeding US$10,000. You will not have to pay duties or taxes, but you must declare it on the Customs Declaration form. Failing to declare it is a violation of Mexican Law and such violation is sanctioned with administrative and even criminal penalties

Which goods are restricted?
  • Firearms and ammunition. In order to import firearms and cartridges you must secure an import permit from the Ministry of Economy and from the Ministry of National Defense.

For further information please visit the following websites: www.economia.gob.mx  and www.sedena.gob.mx.

Which goods are prohibited?
In accordance with the Law of the General Taxes of Import and Export, the following products are prohibited for the import and/or export:
  • Alive predator fish, in their states of young fish, youthful and adult
  • Totoaba, fresh or cooled (fish)
  • Frozen Totoaba (fish)
  • Turtle eggs or any class
  • Poppy seeds (Narcotic)
  • Flour of poppy seeds (Narcotic)
  • Seeds and spores of marijuana (Cannabis indica), even though when they are mixed with other seeds
  • Marijuana (Cannabis indica)
  • Juice and extracts of opium, prepared to smoke
  • Extracts and juice derived from marijuana (Cannabis indica)
  • Mucilage and condensed products derived from the marijuana (Cannabis indica)
  • Stamps or printed transfers in colors or in black and white, displayed for their sale in envelopes or packages, even when they include chewing gum, candies or any other type of articles, containing drawings, figures or illustrations that represent childhood in a degrading or ridiculous way, on attitudes of incitement to violence, to self-destruction or in any other form of antisocial behavior, known like Garbage Pail Kids, for example, printed by any company or commercial denomination.
  • Thallium sulfate
  • Insecticide (Isodrin or Aldrin)
  • Insecticide (Heptaclor or Drinox)
  • Insecticide (Endrin or Mendrin or Nendrin or Hexadrin)
  • Insecticide (Leptophos)
  • Heroin, base or hydrochloride of diacetylmorphine
  • Medication prepared with marijuana (Cannabis indica)
  • Medication prepared with acetylmorphine or of its salts or derivatives
  • Skins of turtle or doggerhead turtle
  • Goods that have been declared as archaeological monuments by the Secretariat of Public Education

For effects of the Customs Law, the import or export of prohibited merchandises is causal so that the customs authorities come to a precautionary detrain from said merchandises and the means of transport. Likewise, it constitutes an infraction related to the import or exports of this type of merchandise and is sanctioned with a fine: Therefore, these merchandises happen to be property of the Federal State, regardless of the penal sanctions establishes by the Penal Code.
 
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