Safe Returns / Retorno Seguro Permits for Taking TIP Cars to the Border

Yucalandia is fortunate to have diligent readers who report their experiences – and this post details  one  successful step in permanently importing his vehicle.

When expats with expired TIPs decide that they want to take their car to the border,   they need to get a Safe Returns permit from SAT/Hacienda to legally drive their car out of Mexico:   What to Do If Your Car Becomes “Illegal” – The Retorno Seguro Program / Permit:.

Here’s one reader’s experience in getting his Safe Returns / Retorno Seguro permit from Merida’s Hacienda office,  to take a TIP car to the border.

Keeping and nationalizing my 2005 vehicle is exactly what I have wanted and expected to do all along.     So,  the only difference now is the need to do it at a border.    I can live with that.

I was (now hopefully past tense) planning a trip to Texas to sell the car and have visited SAT and have some bits of info to pass on regarding that.

The Hacienda office was busy with crowds of people but the SAT business is off in another part of the building to the left with no waiting lines. A very helpful girl there gave us the application form to be filled out in UPPERCASE with black ink. You can pick up the blank form, fill it out there or take it away, and return later to submit it.

You need:
1) original of the Aduana import document issued when the car came in. This is the odd shape paper the windshield sticker came from.
2) original of the car title
3) your ID, preferably passport
4) drivers license
5) current INM document

As always, originals for them to look at and copies of each item for them to keep.

You will get the full five days if intending to go to Texas. That’s five working days so if the permit is effective on any Tuesday through Friday you get the weekend days as a bonus.

SAT requires four days to prepare and issue the permit. For example, turn in the application on a Monday. Pick up the permit and begin your five working days of travel on Friday and have the weekend plus the following Monday-Thursday to travel. I would recommend NOT submitting the application on Tuesday because then the travel begins on Monday and you only get the five working days.

Note that you cannot turn in an application requesting travel to begin on some future date of your choice.   The five working days of travel begin 4 days after you hand in the application.

Thanks for your help.    I’ll let you know what happens with the rest of the import process.”
A satisfied reader…

*     *     *     *
Further details on these issues can be found at:  Importing & Driving a Car in Mexico   and   Options for Foreign-Plated “TIP” Car Owners in Mexico, esp for Permanent Residents
Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
© Steven M. Fry

Read-on MacDuff . . .

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30 Responses to Safe Returns / Retorno Seguro Permits for Taking TIP Cars to the Border

  1. says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience regarding the Safe Return document.. Can you please tell us where in Merida the Hacienda office is???

    • yucalandia says:

      North side of Merida

      Calle 8 No. 317 x 1 y 1-B, Fracc. Gonzalo Guerrero,
      C.P. 97118, Mérida, Yucatán
      en el Centro Hacendario Mérida

      Lunes a Viernes de 8:30 a 14:30 hrs. Citas 01 800 46 36 728

  2. sharynbates says:

    Hi, I’m presently awaiting my Perm Res card. My old truck is from 1995 Toyota Tacoma. It was my understanding that it is too old to nationalize now? When I bought it and brought it here in 2008 or 9 I could have done it, but I hesitated, and they changed the law to say only trucks under 10 years old and older than 8.5 years could qualify. Have they loosened up on that? Also, I have lost the original paper that had the sticker on it. I do have a copy, and the sticker is on my windshield. I talked to SAT in Queretaro and they did some research and told me that I do not have to have my original if I have the copy. But what will happen if I drive to the border and the truck is too old to nationalize, or the authorities there want the original permit?

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi sharyn,
      1. The typical procedure is to close-out/surrender the old TIP. When you have lost your paper permit, you have to go to the border, and stop at Banjercito first to report that you want to surrender your old TIP, explaining that you have lost the original paper permit. Make a cover letter addressed to Aduana at your border crossing that describes this, including your name, passport number, TIP number, VIN number, make, model, and year. Include originals and copies of: your passport, the title, and registration from the USA, plus the copy of the missing TIP.

      We have done this for friends 2 times, and we know another couple who has done this, and every time for all 3 lost permits, we each had to wait between 4 hrs and 6 hrs for Aduana to process the missing TIP, and approve the cancellation of the old TIP. Once the old TIP is cancelled, then you can re-import the vehicle, but at the US border you will have to also get it emissions tested before re-importing it. If you go to NM or TX to do the importation, then another issue arises with trying to find a station to get emissions tested: If you still have a valid US registration, you could drive to Albuquerque in NM or to Houston in Texas to get emissions testing, because only a few counties in TX and NM have emissions testing.

      So, yes, you can import any NAFTA vehicle that is 6 years old or older, but it will need emissions testing, and you will need to use a customs broker. See our articles on this at 2 places: :Options for Foreign-Plated “TIP” Car Owners in Mexico, esp for Permanent Residents
      Importing & Driving a Car in Mexico

      • Ron Grant says:

        I need some clarification as to where… you can apply for a safe returns permit! In these postings it says you can only do this through a courier service to the office in Mexico city! Yet, There is a posting that says they received their permit through aduana in Merida. I live in Jalisco and obviously would like to get a permit, in person, from an aduana in Manzanillo. Is this an either or situation! Thanks, Ron Grant

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Ron,
        Generally, the Aduana offices do NOT issue the Retorno Seguro permits – only the regional and central SAT/Hacienda offices issue the permit.

        Hmmm…. If it says what you claim, (only SAT Distrito Federal), then I need to check and fix the text above.

        but when I check the text above, I cannot find anything like what you have described (in this post). Where do you find the out-of-date problematic statement?

        For years, in the past, the only way to get a Retorno Seguro permit, was to apply to Distrito Federal SAT.

        About 3 months ago, Merida’s SAT and some other satellite/regional SAT offices learned how to offer and approve them locally.

        I would assume that other regional SAT offices (think Hacienda) around Mexico have learned how to issue the Retorno Seguro Permits. (since Aduana is a sub-organization within/below SAT) Have you checked with your local Hacienda/SAT office?

        I am “off” … to search for the presumed bogey.
        THANKS !

  3. John MacIVER says:

    I drove my truck to PV and must return by June 20 in accordance with the 180 day regulation. I have the tourist card but my drivers licence has expired. I am flying to Canada for 10 days to renew it and then fly back to PV. My questions are. will there be any problems at airport? can I obtain an extension on my vehicle? if not, do I then have to drive it all the way to Canada, or just across the US border and return to PV. Confused. I want to do the right thing and have no complications.

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi John,
      The moment you fly out of Mexico, you cancel/surrender your tourist card, which makes your car TIP also expires, so, you lose the deposit, and the vehicle become illegal and must be taken to the border (US-Mexico border) sometime.

      Why? when you got the TIP, you agreed in writing to take the car out of Mexico: before the 180 days or as long as your tourist card is valid.

      If you want to save the deposit, this means you need to take the car to the border before flying…
      or fly, sacrifice the deposit, return, do not drive the car, then apply to SAT/Hacienda for a Safe Returns permit (described above), and then drive to the border during the 5 day window of the Retorno Seguro permit – going to the border to surrender the old TIP permit, and get a new TIP permit.
      Wish the news were better,

  4. Cathy Posey says:

    I’m living in Quintana Roo and need to take my pickup to the border with Belize again. In the past I paid with dollars. The last time I went, my FM3 renewal was pending so the aduana refunded my deposit and told me to just drive within 15 k of the border, that is along the coast, and come back later to get the pickup permit. Now I’m ready to go back and get that sticker. Do you know if I can pay with a credit card or do I need to bring dollars to the aduana? Thanks

  5. Sarah says:

    The info above on how the safe returns permit worked for the poster from Merida Hacienda is a little different from what we are being told in PV SAT. The reason the permit is said to be good for 3-5 days is that you have 3 weekdays and then the weekend if your trip butts up against one. The permit is given at the time you apply and takes effect the following day. Maybe all SAT offices are handling it differently, big surprise.

  6. Pingback: Aduana DF Publishes Rule Prohibiting Residente Permanente from Operating TIP Vehicles | Surviving Yucatan

  7. J says:

    My Friend is thinking about buying another persons US plated vehicle here in Jalisco and driving it back to US>
    Any thoughts?
    WOrries are permit will not be in his name
    He will apply for the return permit.
    WIll this work???
    Thank you for any thought or help

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi J,
      Your friend should get a Carta de Poder from the owner, granting him all rights and responsibilities as if he were the owner. Have Aduana/Banjercito cancel the old TIP, take off the sticker, and issue the document proving that the TIP is canceled. (Use a basic solicitud letter to Aduana from the original owner requesting that the TIP be cancelled). Then, the US title (already signed-off by the old owner) would be filled in with your friend’s name and the date – transferring ownership officially over to the new owner after Aduana has cancelled the old TIP. Then the friend would use his FM2 Inmigrante Rentista, FM3 No Inmigrante, or Residente Temporal, using the title signed over to him, plus a bill of sale from the original owner, that shows the friend as the new owner. If the friend has the same INM visa type (also a type listed above), the friend can drive it legally to the border – but if they have different visa types, he would need a Retorno Seguro permit to drive it out of Mexico.

      This import process would not work for Baja California or Baja California Sur, (where foreign-plated cars must have valid US or Canadian registration). I would also check with the friend’s insurance company that they will approve a policy for your friend with this process.

      This routine has worked well at the Mexico-Belize border.

      • mary ellen conklin says:

        Can the friend drive the car to the border if he is Mexican and has a Retorno Seguro permit and a Carta de Poder? I am a 75 year old lady and have a very old (tip) car that I am afraid to drive from Guanajuato to Laredo. It would be great if my Mexican friend could do this for me. I now have my residente permanente visa!

      • yucalandia says:

        Hi Mary Ellen,
        Yes, your plan is good. Include the Mexican’s IFE number in the Carta de Poder.

  8. I went to my local SAT office today to do a Retorno Seguro permit and was sent away. Apparently, the Retorno Seguro must be applied for in Cancun. I was told by the SAT hotline yesterday that the permit would take between 10-15 business days to process.

    • yucalandia says:

      Good update.

      Local reports of how things work in your area are valuable, because Govt. services are so variable across Mexico. Our local Hacienda office issues the Retorno Seguro permit in a consistent 4 days. It can be important to know your local office’s processing time, because the Retorno Seguro permit starts the next business day and must be used within the 5 days following the permit’s issue date. If you receive the permit on a Friday, you definitely get the weekend “for free”, giving you 7 net days. A few people have written on the web that everyone gets the weekend days for free, but we have no official confirmation of this. Our Merida SAT office says only permits issued on Fridays get the 7 day quirk.

  9. Lopo says:

    Hi. Steve. Not sure if this is the right section to ask this, but can’t find any reference to the Guatemalan borders. Does anyone know if there is a Banjercito office at either border for purposes of removing a car from Mexico with a Seguro Retorno?

  10. my brother drove his family in at Nogales they required $200 cash for TIP, he only had a credit card, they told him to pay cash and they would debit his card when he returned. That didn’t sound right to him-(toddlers in the car and the A/C went out) he drove on without the TIP! He only has FMMs for all passengers. He is in Sinaloa and I advised him not to go farther.

    Can Aduana help him, or does he have to return his car to the border? Will they take the car? please help.

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Azalia,
      There have been almost no confiscations of foreign plated cars this past year. He really should have not driven in without the TIP (as you know) – and would have been better off stopping at an ATM, getting cash, and paying the TIP bill. He has to return to the border to straighten things out, and the safe way to do this is with a Retorno Seguro permit. His biggest risk is one of getting into a car accident with no legal permit, and that the police can confiscate the car permanently – stranding him and the toddlers. We hope it works out fine for him and the kids.
      All the best,

  11. Dianne says:

    I drove my non-TIP stickered car to the Texas border recently with no issues. (I had mistakenly asked to have the TIP removed during a short first trip back to Texas. Upon my return to Mexico, one week later, I was denied a second TIP because my immigration status was pending. (I was not a tourist and not yet temporal or permanent.) So I illegally drove my car back home to Jalisco, Mexico without a TIP. (I don’t advocate doing this. I was desperate to get home in Mexico with my car loaded up to the roof with my belongings.)
    I had the paperwork all ready to comply with the Safe Return program, but drove right across the bridge in Laredo, Texas for this second trip to Texas. No one commented on my lack of a TIP when leaving Mexico. Upon my return home to Mexico, the surly TIP officer really wanted to deny me another TIP, as he had done a few months back, but as I now have a residente temporal card, it was out of his hands.

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Diane,
      I’m glad that it all worked out safely for you.

      Other people might also realize that there’s a potential hidden catch in that story: loss of insurance protection if you have an accident. Regardless of what your insurance salesman may tell you, insurance policies can have buried fine print clauses that invalidate your accident coverage if your car is not fully legal. Since the formal liability in Mexican states assess up to $5 million pesos per death in a car accident, in the case of an accident with say 2 fatalities can put us in Mexican jail indefinitely until we prove we can personally pay the $10 million pesos owed.

      I doubt that most readers can come up with the $770,000 dollars in cash that would be needed… So, realize that the risks are more than just having your car confiscated, or having to pay some modida.

      Still, I’m VERY GLAD that it all worked out for you,

      • Dianne says:

        You are absolutely correct about the real risk of getting one’s car impounded. I hardly drove the car because of that risk, and that is also why I took your advice and got myself to the border ASAP. Like I said, I don’t recommend doing what I did. There’s no guarantee that the next person won’t be unlucky. Unfortunately. Anyway, thanks again for the good advice and moral support! Dianne in Ajijic

  12. maybelw says:

    My brother had a paper issued from Customs to take his car out of Mexico. He had a company transport the car to the border. The five days has expired and the car is not there yet because the company had an accident. My brother traveled to San Diego to pick up his vehicle on the appointed day. The car might her to Tijuana in another week, we hope.
    What would you do in a case like this. He did follow all the rules and now this company messes up. Thank you

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi May,
      Hopefully they will deliver the vehicle soon.

      If they need another permit, we get the 5 day transit permits from SAT/Hacienda (The tax and money department of the government), not from Customs/Aduana.

      When you say “He had a company transport the car to the border. ” … Do you mean they drove the car to the border, or that they put the car on a trailer and transported it to the border.

      If they drove the car to the border, we hope that the car was not damaged in the accident.
      Best of luck,

  13. andrew says:

    hello! can anyone answer….once your car is impounded is it too late for retorno seguro?

    • yucalandia says:

      Hello Andrew,
      It all depends on
      ~ who impounded the vehicle (what agency)
      ~ for what reason was the vehicle impounded
      ~ what circumstances surround the impounding
      ~ where is it impounded

      e.g. We have friends whose big old truck was impounded for having a motor whose VIN number did not match the VIN number of the body… The Yucatan State police impounded the vehicle – but ONLY kept it in their back parking lot on Av. Industrial (not the ‘gone-forever’ impound lot on Av. JAcinto Canek).

      A payment of a $3,000 peso ‘fee’ got the truck released, including a document authorizing the motor VIN to not match the body’s VIN.

      Details of your situation?

      • andrew says:

        oh my Steve that is interesting!
        sadly it was SAT/aduanas who, at the point of a gun so to speak (military rifles) forced me to sign the ugly papers and took it to their lot which clearly is the ‘gone forever lot’.
        although they SWEAR it is not being ‘taken’ only ‘impounded’ until it is ‘legalized’ by a broker of my choosing. which would mean paying the heavy fine and applicable taxes (not the friendly NAFTA taxes rate but the ugly ‘50%’ rate).
        I would assume most people just walk away (gone forever….). however in doing so
        I would assume this not a solution either. because the fine has NOT been satisified.
        in all this is a HORROR of course.
        my goal is pay the fine, the horror tax, and exit the country without the EXPORT from USA/IMPORT to MEXICO re-title and re-plate nightmare. (as the car can not be re-imported to the usa…driven, but not re-imported. although word is you can salvage and rebuy at a local auction)
        any knowledge?

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