Driving Legally in Mexico & Importing Your Vehicle: What you Need to Know

Driving Legally in Mexico & Importing Your Vehicle (Photo: Google)

Despite the announcement made by the head of “Aduana” just two months ago, enforcement has resumed as of June 7, 2015 on Mexicans driving foreign plated vehicles. However, this new regulation includes those on “Permanent Residency“, so beware.

By law, only federal officers/officials, and military can ask you for your proof of immigration status. If you are stopped you must present a valid license which corresponds with the country of your valid plates (don’t whip out your Mexico’s driver’s license!)

Writing a note authorizing a Mexican to drive your car will not exempt you from the fines, in some cases the cost has exceeded $1,500USD! Plus time to retrieve the vehicle.

Any Mexican police officer CAN site you for driving on expired plates or license, regardless of your country of origin.

Remember that proof of liability insurance continues to be required to drive on Mexican Federal Highways.

If you have Permanent Residency status in Mexico you must import your car to drive without worrying about being pulled over by the police.

Only Federal Law Enforcement, Immigration and Military have the authority to ask for your immigration status. We have double checked this with the sources and this older regulation will be applied with more vigor this season.

In every municipality there is a law governing the necessity for a foreign car (from outside Mexico or from another State within Mexico) to have plates issued by the municipality where one lives in within a certain time frame after the owner has moved into the municipality, anyone not respecting the law opens the door to be arrested and the vehicle confiscated.

Also, it is a Federal offense to have a car in Mexico without proper importation when one resides in the country and “Polcía Federal de Caminos” (equivalent to Highway patrols up North) can confiscate the vehicle on federal highways and apply fines and in some cases arrest the driver and / or owner.

If you are a Permanent Resident, Customs can also go to your home and confiscate non imported goods such as motor vehicles.  If you reside in Mexico you should follow the rules to avoid legal problems; when you move to Mexico from abroad to reside permanently, you must import legally all the goods you bring into the country.

In the event that the good is a vehicle, land or aquatic, you must use the services of a broker at the border so that proper importation is done, two types of importation exist, temporary or permanent.

Driving Legally in Mexico & Importing Your Vehicle (Photo: Google)
Driving Legally in Mexico & Importing Your Vehicle (Photo: Google)

If you reside in Mexico, and have an immigration card indicating residency, you must abide by the local municipal laws and acquire local plates and driver´s license.

If you live in Mexico and you acquire “car plates” from a foreign country by mail, you are committing a crime, Federal Police are enabled in within the immigration law to request from anyone immigration ID and if you have an immigration ID card (temporary or permanent residency), you can be fined for not having proper plates and driver´s license.

Local Municipal police are enabled by law to request any ID to prove you are residing in a certain municipality and if you do not have proper plates and driver´s license, you can be subject to fine and confiscation of the vehicle.

If one did not import his/her vehicle at the border, then one must return the vehicle to a point of entry and use the services of a broker.

Notes: Two civil associations provide a “plate”, sticker and ID documents in return to a certain payment, said plate and sticker are not recognized as legal by Federal highway patrol or municipal police, fines will be issued for driving a vehicle without proper plates (the only advantage is that the vehicle cannot be impounded).
To eliminate or at least help in reducing stolen foreign vehicles: It is illegal for a Mexican national (born or naturalized), who do not have an ID indicating that he lives abroad, to drive a vehicle with foreign plates, thus vehicle will be immediately impounded. (If the foreign owner is with the driver there is no problem).
Obviously, who drives a stolen vehicle goes directly to jail… therefore, before buying a used car in Mexico one should first present the VIM number to the Federal, State (PRG) and municipal police departments requesting information on the car, so that it can be checked on the list of stolen vehicles, (each police department have their own list, so you have to check at the 3 departments: Muncipal, State and Federal).
Anyone contributing to corruption by paying off police officers instead of accepting a fine should not do it for any reason, if one is stopped by any police officer and did not do anything wrong should ask to speak with the Captain at the main police station, if one does not speak Spanish one should have with him a small paper which says: ”POR FAVOR, QUIERO VER AL CAPITAN Y TENER UN PERITO TRADUCTOR” (Please, I want to see the Captain and have an expert translator).

If you did a wrongful maneuver then you should accept the fine.

Fines are paid at the main police station, online or at the bank, if you have to pay a fine in a municipality benefit, you are granted a 50% reduction if you pay within 72 hours. In the case of a fine by the “Policia Federal de Caminos” you have 21 days.

Anyone arrested has the right to a free of charge certified translator, a lawyer (one can ask for a legal aid lawyer) and refrain from making any declaration or signing papers which cannot be understood because of language. If one´s rights are not respected one should ask the name of the officer.


By Alfonso Galindo

Alfonso Galindo thumbnail




Alfonso Galindo

Director at I GO YUCATAN.com (Real Estate and Expat Affairs Specialist)



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