Update on US CBP Requirements for Bringing US-Titled Cars into Mexico

Jan. 12, 2015
Jan. 2015 Update for Rules on US Vehicle/Car Imports into Mexico

The US Homeland Security CBP “Officer Program Manager of the Export Control Division” has sent an email to a Yucalandia reader, answering his questions about CBP’s rules for the 3 day formal Exporting Rules for US-titled vehicles, before bringing them into Mexico.

The US CBP email is published on Mexconnect’s forums, explaining CBP policies on how many American vehicles are required to go through the 3 day export before being imported into Mexico.   See “Playaboy”‘s original post, and the CBP email at:   http://www.mexconnect.com/cgi-bin/forums/gforum.cgi?post=203928;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;forum_view=forum_view_collapsed;;page=unread#unread (Playaboy has been on the front lines of this issue,  running a business that legally takes US cars from Chapala to the US border for sale or processing for years).

Why pay attention to this?
The CBP official email describes some of the potential issues that  might  cause American citizens legal problems with CBP and Homeland Security.  Here is a summary of some of the legal issues for Americans   for both:   ~  permanent imports of American titled cars  and for  ~ temporary imports of American titled cars  (TIP cars)brought into Mexico:

  • The only part of CBP law on vehicle Export rules that is   “new”    is the Census Bureau filing requirements   regardless of dollar value and destination.
  • US-titled  vehicles that are imported into Mexico or Canada must be first formally exported using the CBP’s 3-day inspection and investigation process at the US-Mexico border, prior to being taken into Mexico.
  • These same rules have also applied for years to US vehicles taken into Canada – for people who want to read US Homeland Security / CBP  existing previous websites (described for taking vehicles into Canada) on the USA’s Vehicle Export policies.
  • The US CBP acknowledges that the US Homeland Security system for tracking vehicles and exporting vehicles was previously not well-coordinated with Mexico’s import processes,   but now,  Homeland Security and Mexico have changed their systems to work together:
  • Homeland Security now has electronic databases in place to track the movements of US-titled cars being taken out of the USA,  and
  • Now,  Mexico’s Aduana requires that US vehicles imported into Mexico must have their US-titles officially cancelled by US CBP before Aduana will process them,   and
  • Mexico’s Aduana is now sending US Homeland Security the Aduana’s electronic records of the US vehicles that are being brought into Mexico,
  • The US Govt now has the ability to   enter our Passport numbers   or  names   or   VINs   into their database,   and potentially check whether we have taken a US-titled out of the USA,   and    imported it into Mexico    without previously completing the 3 day CBP export process at the border.
  • This means that US Homeland Security databases and CBP now  also have the capability to track the “paper only” imports done inside Mexico, like Sonia & Canadian-John (of San Miguel Allende) and other auto brokers who do NOT take the US cars to the border – putting their US clients at risk.
  • Since Sonia & Canadian-John’s and other’s “paper only” processes that have had no drives to the border,  include our vehicle VINs and our US passport information,   CBP now has the tools to easily find,   prosecute   and penalize Americans  who break US CBP / Homeland Security law.   *sigh*
  • The US CBP Export process is needed to stop/limit  the car theft rings that operate on both sides of the US-Mexico border,  as the 3 day hold allows CBP to search all 50 states auto theft database records,  ferret out “salvage titles”  of vehicles that likely consist of stolen-car parts,  etc.  Again,   ordinary US citizens are inadvertently caught in the nets designed to stop criminals. …
  • Once a US-titled vehicle has passed the 3 day VIN checks, motor checks, and background checks at the border,  the US CBP CANCELS THE TITLE…  and sends that information to the Mexican Aduana officials.

There’s not much good news here for US citizens with US-titled cars that have been in Mexico for more than 12 months,  nor for US citizens who have gotten  ‘paper-only” imports from inside Mexico,   as US Homeland Security begins to enforce the laws they’ve had on the books for years,

This means that the routes and practices we used in the past,    processes that worked easily in the past,  are now subject to prosecution and fines.      (Just like what has happened in Mexico – shifting enforcement of the rules)  *bleah*

Finally,    once a US vehicle has been formally exported by CBP,   cancelling our US state title,   how do we get a new title to take the vehicle back into the USA ?

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For more details on importing cars and driving in Mexico, see our main article on importing cars at: Importing & Driving a Car in Mexico .
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Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution:
YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan. ©Steven M. Fry

Read-on MacDuff . . .


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14 Responses to Update on US CBP Requirements for Bringing US-Titled Cars into Mexico

  1. Pat H says:

    I have a Mexican 2004 Chevy Aveo which has 26,000 klm. and passes the “fuma” test and I have the print out . Can I take that car back into the USA ? for the summer ? Pat at ph1tx@yahoo.com .

  2. Christine says:

    Steve, I’m a bit confused by this article since you mention TIP entrances. I have a girlfriend coming down from Colorado in her Toyota with her dogs, to stay with me in SMA for the month of Sept. Does she need to behave/do anything differently before coming in, or at the Banjercito when she gets her tourist visa and car permit than I did, when I crossed in as a tourist 3 years ago? Thanks,Christine

  3. Joe says:

    “This means that the routes and practices we used in the past, processes that worked easily in the past, are now subject to prosecution and fines.”

    Steve, can you direct the readers to the section of law that set outs the penalties and the acts which constitute the violations?


    • yucalandia says:

      Hi Joe,
      It depends on the crime. The basic starting Aduana fine is 40% of the value of the vehicle at the date when the fraudulent import was done.

      Some people have been prosecuted for fraud, which has it’s own criminal penalties, in addition to the Aduana fine.

      There’s also the potential for being charged with dealing in stolen cars or stolen auto parts, with their own fines/penalties and jail time.

      Bad acts? Using cloned (stolen) pedimento information. Fraud. Auto theft. … ?

      The fraud prosecutions are the ones we’ve heard of with the nastiest consequences so far.

  4. Joe says:

    From your article I understand that there are processes required on the U.S. side, by U.S. Law, to prepare a car for export and that the Mexican authorities are now sharing information about cars imported from the U.S., creating the possibility of negative consequences to the owner who has gone through a nationalization process in Mexico without having gone through the formal export process in the U.S. first.

    Perhaps because the subject is complex what I find lacking here, as well as in the closed discussion in Mexconnect at http://www.mexconnect.com/cgi-bin/forums/gforum.cgi?do=post_view_flat;post=203928;page=1;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;mh=25;guest=68281210
    is any specificity as to what laws are violated by what acts and with what penalties on the U.S. side, in a case in which a U.S. owner has gone through a nationalization process in Mexico without first having gone through the formal, U.S. export process, where the U.S. expat was, in fact, the owner of the car at all times and the process employed was lawful under Mexican Law at the time.

    It may be asking too much to ask you to direct our attention to the specific U.S. Law that would be violated in such a case but there may be readers who would like to know, since their anxieties have been stirred on this subject.

    • yucalandia says:

      Somewhere here on Yucalandia is a description of the fines/penalties for taking a US titled car into Mexico and importing it into Mexico without first completing the US CBP 3 day formal export process.

      In summary, Mexico has required that American titles be clearly stamped as cancelled by US CBP, since last fall, so it is not just an issue of the Mexican govt sharing data with the US govt.

      Next, there is a $500 USD fine by Homeland Security / US CBP for the first violation of not formally exporting a US titled car, along with no evidence of intent to commit fraud. Multiple violations, or intent to commit fraud, can trigger $10,000 fines … focusing on dealers/brokers who fraudulently dodge US export laws.

      So far, we have seen ZERO reports of the US CBP prosecuting or fining any private individual US citizens for violating the export law.

      The specific US rules are listed in 19 CFR Part 192 and also in Dept of Commerce regs…

      Here’s a starting point: http://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/export-docs/motor-vehicle


      • Joe says:

        Thanks Steve. Could you give us your source for the information that there is a potential $500 fine for failure to formally export a U.S. titled car? That information
        does not appear in 19 CFR Part 192, which speaks of bond forfeitures and specifically says it does not apply to the collection of fines.

    • yucalandia says:

      glad you found it.

      Reading tHe CFR can be mind-numbing, but I was sure that I had read the penalties back in 2013 when reading about the 2013 change to require that all US titled cars being taken for import into Mexico must be exported (eliminating the prior $2500 exemption).

      Happy Trails,

  5. Joe says:

    Based on what you’ve been able to gather about this, and reported here, it doesn’t look like those who haven’t gone through the formal exportation process in the U.S.- but nevertheless satisfied the Mexican authorities, and got their Mexican registration, are at much risk, especially if they don’t attempt to drive back into the U.S. later.

    Thanks for taking the time to try to dig into these and other subjects: it takes a lot of time to get to the bottom of these things and its nice that some are willing to do it.

    • yucalandia says:

      Hi joe,
      Agreed on all counts.

      Many 1,000’s of Americans who permanently imported their US-titled cars into Mexico (without doing the CBP export) have made many 10.000’s of trips back into the USA with their now-Mexican-plated vehicles … with no problems.


  6. I bought a 2012 honda civic at a car auction
    that is salvage can i import this car in mexico.

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