This page explains what permits and insurance are needed and how to get them.
What to expect and what to do when you reach the border
In this section we describe what you should have when driving to Mexico, and how to obtain them:
If you plan to travel beyond the border area, usually south of Kilometer 25 (about 16 miles), a Tourist Permit is required for each adult person in your party (issued by Mexican Immigration) and a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (issued for Mexican Customs by Banjercito) is required for vehicles.
Temporary Vehicle Importation Permits are NOT required for travel to the following geographic areas in Mexico:
Tourist Permit FMM (Customs)
YOU CAN EASILY GET YOUR TOURIST PERMIT ONLINE:
Complete a brief online application and print the permit at the end of the process.
If you will be in Mexico seven days or less, there is no charge.
If you will be in Mexico more than seven (7) days the charge is 500 pesos or about (US)$27 as of November 2017. The cost will vary with the exchange rate dollars vs pesos.
If you plan to stay in Mexico more than seven (7) days, we recommend getting the permit for the maximum, which is six months. The cost is the same for eight (8) days or six months.
If you get your tourist permit online, YOU STILL NEED TO STOP at the Mexican immigration office on the Mexican side of the border to have it stamped.
If you paid for a permit when you got it online, BE SURE TO PRINT AND TAKE YOUR RECEIPT when you have it stamped.
Para obtener tu permiso de turista FMM en la frontera:
In some locations the permits are issued at the Immigration Office right at the border on the Mexican side. At other locations they are offered some distance south of the border (i.e., Kilometer 25-50). At or beyond that point you may encounter check points where Tourist and Vehicle Permits may be inspected.
Each person over the age of two years must obtain a Tourist Permit. To obtain the permit you will be required to present proof of citizenship, which may be in the form of a passport, birth certificate, or voter registration. Beginning June 2009 a passport is required for re-entry to the U.S., so that is really the best document to use to obtain your Mexican Tourist Permit.
The application form for the Tourist Permit is in English and Spanish, is short, and takes only a couple of minutes to complete.
If you plan to stay in Mexico as a tourist you are required to depart the country every six months and obtain a new Tourist Permit upon re-entry.
If you regularly cross into Mexico, a six month Permit is more convenient and economical.
Tourist Permits are issued for periods of 1 day up to six months, depending upon your length of stay. A permit of seven days or less is free and for eight days or longer, 500 pesos (as of January 2017, about US $27 as of November 2017. The U.S. dollar amount will vary depending on the exchange rate.
Once the Tourist Permit is issued, you must go to a bank and pay the applicable fee, usually located very near the office issuing the permit. The process may vary from location to location, but generally the officer issuing the permit gives you a payment slip to take to the nearby bank.
Once paid, the bank teller will stamp the permit “Pagado” or paid, in two places. Return to the office issuing the permit and give the officer the paid receipt. The officer will keep one copy of the paid receipt and give you your Tourist Permit and your stamped receipt.
Double check to make sure the receipt is stamped “paid” before you leave the teller’s window.
Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit
Once you obtain your Tourist Permit, you will obtain your Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit. This is usually done on the same premises, or very nearby, where the Tourist Permit is issued.
A permit is required for each vehicle, including trailers and other vehicles you have in tow. Permits are issued from one to 180 days.
A separate permit, issued for ten years, is required for boats and motor homes. As of October 2019 you can obtain a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit by visiting one of the following Mexican Consulates:
Only one permit per person is allowed for self propelled vehicles. However, in 2006 a “tourist friendly” exception to this rule allows a permit for a second power unit being pulled behind a motor home to be issued to the same name as the permit for the motor home.
For convenience we recommend the validity dates for the Vehicle Permit correspond with the dates of your Tourist Permit.
You can get a jump-start by obtaining your Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit online. If you do so, you can have your vehicle permit delivered to your home, usually in just a few days. As of November 29, 2017 the cost, at 18.75 pesos per U.S. dollar, is US $52.20 for cars, SUVs, and pickups. RV and boat permits may cost more but they are valid for up to 10 years.
You can apply for your vehicle permit online between 11-60 days in advance but we recommend doing it at least three weeks in advance for this convenient service, especially in the run-up to Christmas travel. As of November 2017, Banjercito’s website says permits will be processed with 11 working days.
The Mexican government agency (Banjercito) has made great improvements to the online vehicle permit process. The website advises using Internet Explorer for your web browser, so if you have difficulty using another browser, try switching to Internet Explorer. We have successfully used Internet Explorer on this site when other browsers did not work. We use Firefox for our browser and it worked fine in November 2017.
Before starting the vehicle permit application process you must go to the following webpage http://www.inm.gob.mx/index.php/page/Pre_Autorizacion/en.html in order to apply for your immigration pre-authorization. The vehicle permit will be issued for the same period as that stated on your immigration pre-authorization. Furthermore, once you‘ve entered Mexico you must go to an immigration office to exchange your pre-authorization form for the proper FMM immigration document. Or, as described above, you can obtain the FMM online.
Once you have the immigration pre-authorization, go to the English language version of the website address to obtain your vehicle online: https://www.banjercito.com.mx/registroVehiculos/#
You will be asked to select the country you are from . . . but you may not find the United States. That is because they use the Spanish language name for the U.S. If you are from the U.S., scroll down and select ESTADOS UNIDOS.
The English translation of the website has been significantly improved but at times may not be easy to follow.
Also, if you put a “period”, i.e. “.” In your street address, for example after the “N” for north (N.) it will not allow you to proceed but it does not tell you why. When you input your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) the program will automatically default the Year and Make of the vehicle.
When you complete the online application, you will be shown a confirmation or folio number, referred to by the website in English as a “leaf” number. We print this page and write down the “leaf” number.
When you go in person to obtain your Vehicle Importation Permit you will need a photo copy and the original of the following documents:
The following information appears on the Banjercito website (December 2015):
"The Ministry of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) has issued a decree which states that beginning on June 11, 2011 anyone applying for a temporary import permit for vehicles must make a deposit in the amount determined by the following table:"
Vehicle Year Model
Amount to be paid in Mexican Pesos based on applicable exchange rate
2007 and later
2001 until 2006
2000 and earlier
"This deposit is compulsory and can be paid by credit card, debit card, or cash (in US Dollars only). Users must keep in mind that if the deposit is charged to a credit card, the charge will be made in Mexican Pesos and will be calculated based on the exchange rate of the day on which the payment is made. This deposit will be refunded to the same credit card on the next banking business day after the vehicle is fully returned and based on the exchange rate of that day."
The vehicle must be returned on time and within the time period stated on the temporary import permit. If the vehicle is returned after the stated time period, the entire deposit amount will be transferred to the Office of the Treasury on the day following the expected return date, as allowed by current law” (author’s emphasis). In other words, you lose the deposit if you do not surrender the permit prior to its expiration.
While you can pay the security deposit in cash or via credit card, it is MUCH easier to pay via credit card because when you return the permit to be cancelled, the agent will scan the permit, which triggers an automatic credit back to your credit card. If you paid in cash, you will have to go inside the office and wait in line to receive your cash deposit back.
You have a choice of presenting either the Vehicle Registration or Title to obtain your Vehicle Permit. It is risky to travel with the Title and problematic if you lose it. If you do travel with your vehicle Title, do not, under any circumstances, leave it in your vehicle. The Vehicle Registration is a much safer choice.
If the vehicle is leased or rented, or if the vehicle belongs to someone else, you will be asked to present a notarized statement from the leasing or rental company, or the legal owner authorizing you to take the vehicle to Mexico.
The cost of the Vehicle Importation Permit is about US$52.20 (November 2017) and will vary with the currency exchange rate.
It is much easier to process the Vehicle Permit with a credit or debit card than it is with a cash deposit.
When the paperwork is complete, a Customs official may accompany you to your vehicle where he will place the import decal on the inside on the windshield, usually top, center, behind and above the review mirror. In some locations they will simply give you the decal and paper work and you put the decal on the inside of your windshield.
If you obtained your permit online, just place it on the top center of the inside of your windshield.
In addition to the decal, you will also be given a paper copy of the import permit. Keep the paper copy in a safe place because you may be asked to show it a checkpoint down the road.
When you complete your trip in Mexico or the Vehicle Permit has expired you must return the permit to Mexican Customs to be cancelled and to have your deposit returned.
To cancel the Permit and the bond or to receive the cash deposit back, you must stop at a designated Customs office before you leave Mexico. On most highways leading to the U.S. there is a location roughly 15 miles south of the border where you can turn in your permit. These locations are well marked with signs in both English and Spanish. They are usually convenient drive-up kiosks. The official will remove the decal from the inside of your windshield, cancel the permit in their systems, and give you a receipt confirming the permit has been cancelled.
If the location is not a drive-up, go inside and tell the official you wish to cancel your vehicle permit.
The official may accompany you to your vehicle and remove the permit from the windshield, or they may tell you to remove and bring the decal back to the Customs office window.
When the permit has been cancelled, you will be given a document confirming cancellation. We strong advise retaining the confirmation of cancellation.
If your vehicle is stolen or results in a total loss from an accident in Mexico, the Legal Assistance, which is part of our MexVisit Travel Assistance, will handle cancellation of the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit for you. Please see the following section about Mexico auto insurance.
If you do not cancel your Vehicle Permit and paid cash for the bond you will forfeit the cash deposit. Equally or much more important, you will not be allowed to obtain a permit for any vehicle in the future.
EXCEPT FOR RVs, tourists are not allowed to bring vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight greater than 3.5 tons or 7,716 pounds. At some border crossing they do not pay attention to vehicle size, but others, most notably across from El Paso, Texas area, this rule is pretty strictly enforced. Again, RVs 7,716 GVW and greater are not a problem.
Beginning in 2008 and continuing to the present (October 2019) we have heard of tourists having difficulty with vehicle permits at the crossings in and around Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso. If you plan to cross at these crosses it is highly recommended that obtain your vehicle permit online.
We have also heard that one of the Nuevo Laredo crossings required showing a copy of Mexican auto insurance before a permit would be issued. Continue reading below for information about Mexico auto insurance.
Mexico Auto Insurance.
WHY GET MEXICAN AUTO INSURANCE?
MotorMexico.com offers Mexico auto insurance from five different authorized Mexican insurance companies. In just a couple of minutes you can compare cost and coverage for all six Mexican auto insurance companies, all on one easy to understand Quote Result screen.
Upon deciding on the policy that best fits your need, it takes only a few more minutes to complete the online application, pay via credit or debit card, and immediately print your Mexico car insurance policy.
NOTE: If you obtain your Temporary Vehicle Import Permit online as described above, you may also be offered the opportunity to purchase Mexican auto insurance. However, you will not have the opportunity to compare premium and coverage with multiple insurance companies, and the coverage provided is much more limited than the best policies offered on MotorMexico.com.
It really pays to comparison shop premium cost and coverage for Mexico auto insurance. You will see that we have made it super easy to compare and purchase online at MotorMexico.com
Pesos versus Dollars
Mexico’s currency is the Peso. You can make your visit to Mexico infinitely more convenient by exchanging your Greenbacks or Loonies for pesos, thus enabling you to make all of your purchases in pesos.
Nothing is more confusing than buying gasoline with dollars and wondering how the purchase compares to the cost at home (liters to gallons and pesos to dollars). Not only are you trying to convert dollars to pesos, you are also converting liters to gallons!
When you pay for your purchases in dollars, you are basically leaving it up to the other party to establish the exchange rate . . . and you will almost inevitably end up paying more for your purchase.
Where to get pesos:
For a couple of reasons we recommend using ATM machines inside Mexican banks. The exchange rate is generally much better and it is also safer inside a bank. We avoid ATM machines in super markets, convenience stores, and hotel lobbies due to the incidence of credit card cloning.
On both sides of the border at most border crossings you will see money exchanges/Casas de Cambio businesses, identified by neon signs advertising their exchange rates to buy and sell pesos. Remember, for your entry into Mexico you are buying pesos and selling dollars. On the U.S. side these exchanges are often located at a window inside a convenience store or gas station and are found to be secure.