When arriving in Mexico for a visit (outside the border zones - which is about 20 miles south of the border, also known as the “Frontier”.) you are issued a Mexican Visa, also known as an FMM card. (Forma Migratoria Múltiple)
If you bring in a vehicle, and travel more than 20 miles into the interior, a car permit is required. If you do not get this, your vehicle, and the items in your vehicle, are subject to being impounded.
If you've brought in a car to Mexico, were issued a permit, and did not cancel the permit, you will not be allowed to bring in another vehicle until the older permit is canceled. (The permit is linked to your passport. If you have dual citizenship, show a different passport, and you shouldn't have any problems)
To give you an idea how this works, I had a permit that I did not cancel from a previous visit in 2010.
It took me thirty-two days to get the permit from 2010 canceled, so I could bring in a different vehicle and get a new permit.
It took me 32 days to get the old permit canceled, and when I was issued a new permit, it was good for 148 days (180 days - 32 day delay = 148 days left on my FMM visitor permit)
What the Mexican government is trying to stop is people bringing in cars and not paying the taxes owed on them. (Regardless of the rules or laws, this happens every day)
When you apply for a car permit, you'll be charged $25. That's the fee Banjercito charges for the "privilege" that you get for bringing in a car to Mexico.
I brought in a 1995 Toyota in 2010, and my deposit was $200.
I brought in a 1998 Ford Explorer Sport, and the deposit was $200
The deposit is based on the year and value of the vehicle you're bringing into Mexico.
This is refunded, if you cancel the permit within the permit period. (I have 148 days when the permit was issued to cancel the permit. If I had gotten the permit the same time I received my FMM card, I would have had 180 days)
If you do not cancel the car permit within the appropriated time, you lose your deposit.
Now, if you do not cancel the permit, there are a few things that can happen.
If you have the same car and the permit is still attached to the window, just go to any Mexican border crossing.
Ask a representative from Banjercito to come take a look at the permit and the car, and then they will cancel the permit. (You will not get your deposit back if this is not done while the permit is still in effect!)
If you have the permit, but do not have the car anymore, the process is a little more complicated.
You’ll have to show the permit, and fill out a form explaining what happened to the car - if it was sold, totaled in an accident, or stolen. (A photograph of the form is included in this article)
This information is then turned over to SAT (Servicio de Administration Tributaria - this is customs. And within the SAT organization, there is a department that handles the cancelation of car permits) They have three (3) people that work on the issue of canceling permits. Maybe one (1) out of the three (3) speak English.
They then decide if your story is acceptable, and if so, they contact Banjercito and tell them to cancel the permit.
This will take anywhere from five (5) weeks to six (6) months. The wheels of bureaucracy move slowly.
(I wrote and called them every day. I contacted the Mexican Embassy, complained to the people who handle the corruption phone and anyone else I could think of. I’m not sure if this sped things up, but there was a lot of interest on SAT’s Facebook page about the trials and tribulations of getting a car permit canceled that I posted on their site!)
The last event that could happen (as it did with me) is you do not cancel the permit, you sell the car without taking the permit off the window.
You have no proof of the sale. (You don’t keep the paperwork on the sale of the car) SAT has to rely on your honesty.
There is one form (The form is included in this article) that has to be filled out. It is your explanation of:
1) Why you did not cancel the permit
2) What happened to the car
2) Any proof that you have that you did not sell the car in Mexico. (I had visa stamps on my passport that showed I had taken the car into other countries south of Mexico as proof that I did not sell the car in Mexico)
This, too, will take anywhere from five (5) weeks (that’s how long it took me to get my permit canceled) to six (6) months.
Both situations - where you have either sold the car but kept the permit, or sold the car and no longer have the permit - are looked at, and resolved in Mexico City. The main office of SAT is located there. No border office of SAT will be able to resolve the cancelation of the permit - it is done only at the SAT office in Mexico City.
A few suggestions when dealing with SAT and other government agencies.
1) It can be frustrating - having a toll free line for Americans and Canadians, but having no one man the phone that speaks English. Silly, stupid, idiotic, etc., but that’s the situation. Try and find someone that speaks Spanish and English. If your “helper” just speaks Spanish, you won’t get a full understanding of what’s going on.
2) Try and be polite in your dealings with the people you’re communicating with. Remember the average wage is 100 Pesos per day (Exchange rate is 12.5 pesos per dollar - about $8.00 per day). They aren’t making a lot of money, and they do have a ton of work. Over worked and underpaid - I’m sure you can relate!
3) Realize the Mexican bureaucracy is not set up to be efficient. It really is set up to make things difficult. No one seems to be in charge, and if there is someone in charge, they don’t want to be bothered. That’s why they have subordinates!
But, I was stubborn, talked to the main manager at the Ciudad Juarez border, and he seemed to make a few contacts that sped things up.
I was not rude, but I would not accept the answers that his subordinates were giving me. After about 15 minutes, they finally talked to him, and he agreed to meet with me.
Part of the article includes a photograph of the form that must be filled out if you want to cancel a car permit in Mexico.
It is called the “Solicitud de cancelation del Permiso de Importations/Internacion Temperol de Vehiculos”. It is only in Spanish.
So, unless you're fluent in Spanish, you’ll have to find someone who speaks Spanish and English to help you.
This form and any documentation has to be in Spanish.
Any documents that show what happened to the car and permit are to be attached, and sent to the main office of SAT in Mexico City, Mexico.
Their address is located on the photo of the form that’s required to be filled out by SAT.
The SAT’s Facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/satmexico?ref=ts&fref=ts.
The SAT’s website is located here: http://www.sat.gob.mx/Paginas/Inicio.aspx
SAT’s phone number for trying to resolve a car permit issue is 1 877 448 8728. Then you have to dial these extensions to get to the right department - 7, 2, 2, 1, 1.
Banjercito (which for some reason is classified as a military bank) will do nothing for you when you are trying to cancel a car permit. Unless you have the car and the permit, you are totally at the mercy of SAT.
Banjercito’s phone number is 01 800 712 37 72 - toll free in Mexico only. The second number is 011 52 53 28 23 54 This will be a long distance, international call.
Banjercito’s email address is email@example.com. As of July, 2014, there is a lady named Patricia (Last name unknown) that speaks very good English. But, she will tell you tell you that there is nothing that Banjercito can do to motivate SAT to act on the cancelation of the permit.
This information was gathered from my personal experience in Mexico.
I now know to cancel the permit before leaving Mexico within my allotted 148 days.
Understand that the process for canceling a permit is slow, and you are in the dark until someone, somewhere at SAT decides that they will or will not cancel the permit.
This is all done by mail, there is no paperwork that has to be sent from SAT to the person with the permit problem. (I was told I needed to have an address that SAT could mail information to - I found this to be false)
It was suggested that I hire an attorney - with no guarantee that he/she was going to do anymore that what I could do myself.
I was offered a quick solution to the permit problem - a bribe to a clerk at Banjercito, through a third party - with a price tag of $500 U.S..
This is illegal.
Mexico is trying to crack down on corruption within their system. If you do this, you encourage the corruption, and there is no guarantee that the bribe will give you the results you expect.
Though the process was supposed to take fourteen days (14) and turned out to take thirty-two days (32), the process (In my estimation of Mexican time to get things done) time was acceptable.
The problem really stems from the fact that there are very few Mexican people who work for SAT that speak English. (If you’re bilingual, you can ask for higher wages) Hence, when you go through the permit process at border crossings, the instructions for canceling the permit are given in Spanish. If you don’t speak fluent Spanish, you’re in the dark about the permit process
I’ve been told, and I follow the advice - DO NOT DRIVE AFTER DARK IN MEXICO!