What Do I Need to Cross?

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When entering Mexico by plane, travelers are given an official Customs Declaration Form to complete along with the tourist card (FMT). When crossing into Mexico by car, however, you must select carefully which lane to enter. When crossing at the Lukeville-Sonoyta entrance, there is generally only one “Nothing to Declare” lane open, while for “Voluntary Declaration” you will need to turn left BEFORE going forward to the stoplight, park, and walk to the small office located in the center of the entry in order to make a formal declaration and pay any taxes, as applicable. More info on Mexico Customs
If you are not doing a Voluntary Declaration, as you progress past the US/Mexico border, there is a stoplight as well as a traffic arm. A Green light means you may continue without further inspection. After the traffic arm goes up, it is still best to see if the customs agents signal you over to the left for an inspection anyway. A Red light means you must pull into the customs inspection area, located on the left. Roll your windows down, but do not get out of the car unless asked. The inspection generally involves a few questions as well as looking through items you may be transporting in the car. Important! If you have more than the allotted amount of merchandise and fail to Declare Voluntarily, your vehicle and all other items can be confiscated.

Car Insurance in Mexico
In Mexico, U.S. car insurance policies are not valid. If you plan to drive while traveling in Mexico, you need Mexico car insurance because it’s required and US /Canadian insurance coverage stops at the Mexican border. Every year Mexico implements stricter laws for uninsured motorists…not having quality Mexico Insurance can cost you money due to damage/loss to your vehicle, fines and more.

  • You’ll need a photocopy of the current registration of any vehicle you plan to insure.
  • The year, make, and model of your car.
  • Your license plate number.
  • Your driver’s license number.
  • Your coverage details (e.g., if you have comprehensive and collision coverage).
  • Your leasing information (if applicable).
  • Whether you’ll be towing anything (e.g., a car or boat) and, if so, what you’ll be towing.
  • The dates you’ll be staying in Mexico and the reason for your visit.
  • Whether any drivers under 21 years old will be driving the vehicle.
  • Where you’ll be staying and traveling in Mexico.

NOTE: If you want to drive a financed, leased, or borrowed vehicle into Mexico, you will need a notarized document from the lien holder, owner of the borrowed vehicle, or leasing company authorizing you to enter Mexico with that vehicle.
At the very minimum, you’ll need to purchase liability coverage to avoid breaking Mexican insurance laws.
If you cause an accident, your liability coverage will pay for:

  • Damages you cause to other party’s property.
  • Injuries to the other party and his passengers.

Temporary car insurance in Mexico may also include coverage for:

  • Medical expenses.
  • Legal and bond assistance.
  • Towing expenses.

Individuals traveling into Mexico as tourists by car are allowed $75 USD tax free* each in new merchandise per person (it is helpful to have receipts). *Note: Border zone residents (of legal age – 18) are allowed up to $150USD (i.e. Mexican residents in the border region, or foreigners with FM2, FM3, or immigrant status visas), though this may not exceed $400 US per car when traveling with multiple passengers.  *Programa Paisano is a program for Mexican citizens residing abroad that increases the amount on duty-free items during specific times of the year (i.e. Winter holidays Nov – early Jan., around Semana Santa / Easter Break, and Summer) for travel beyond the border region (or rather, these increases do not alter the amounts allowed for tourists, Mexican citizens who reside in the border region, or foreigners with Temporary/Permanent Resident visas living within the border region…Rocky Point is considered within the border region).
In addition to the information above, travelers may have personal items including:
•  Articles for personal use including clothing, shoes, hygiene and beauty products – provided that these correspond to the length of the trip. This includes one bridal ensemble (dress, veil, etc.).  For babies, articles may include items for hygiene and entertainment including portable crib, stroller, chair, among other items, as well as accessories (infant must be in vehicle).
•  2 cameras or video cameras, including 12 rolls of film or video cassettes, photograph material, two cell phones or radio equipment; a portable typewriter, electronic planner, a portable computer (laptop, notebook, omnibook, etc.); a portable copier or printer, portable projector, and accessories.
•  2 sets of personal sports equipment, four fishing rods, three (surf)boards with or without sails and accessories, trophies or acknowledgments provided these may be transported normally by a traveler; a stationary walker and stationary bicycle
•  1 portable apparatus to record or reproduce sound, or a digital sound reproducer or portable CD and a portable DVD, as well as set of speakers and accessories
•  5 laser disks, 10 DVDs, 30 CDs or audio cassettes; 3 packages of software and 5 electronic storage devices
•  Books, magazines, and printed documents
•  5 toys, including collection items, and a video-game console, as well as 5 video games
•  A device to measure blood pressure or blood glucose, as well as medication for personal use (with your prescription).
•  Luggage or suitcases to transport items
•  For passengers older than 18:  20 packs of cigarettes, 25 cigars or 200 grams of tobacco; up to 3 liters of alcohol (that is not wine) and 6 liters of wine
•  One binocular and telescope
•  2 (portable) musical instruments and accessories
•  1 tent and other camping articles
•  For older adults or those with disabilities: articles that decrease limitations including walkers, wheel-chairs, crutches, and canes, among other items.
•  A (portable) tool kit consisting of a drill, wrenches, screwdrivers, car cables, among others.
•  2 cats or dogs, accessories for their travel and hygiene – provided presentation of animal certification issued by the Secretary of Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Development, Fishing and Feed (SAGARPA)

•  If the value of new merchandise you are carrying surpasses the allotted customs amount of $75 USD per person (or $150 USD for border residents – see details above), as you cross the US/Mexico border and prior to going through the entry lane, turn left and park in the designated area (this is at the Sonoyta entry). Collect receipts for all items and present these to the Tax (Hacienda) official located in the small building located between the lanes entering and exiting Mexico.
•  The Tax official will fill out a form indicating the items you are transporting, value, and tax assessed. Sometimes they will inspect the vehicle and goods directly. Merchandise is subject to a flat 16% tax (or 90% for alcohol or tobacco above the allotted amounts).
•  After completing the form, take this to the Banjercito window (the tax agent should direct you) located around the side of the principal customs building on your left (entering Mexico). NOTE:  Banjercito DOES NOT ACCEPT US DOLLARS and there is NOT an ATM machine nearby.  If you are crossing after 6 p.m., you may pay applicable fees in pesos or dollars directly in the office of the Tax Official, otherwise you can exchange dollars for pesos at one of the import offices located just near the border (if you visit Mexico frequently, it is a good idea to keep pesos on hand).  Pay applicable taxes at Banjercito IN PESOS and return to small customs/tax building; they will keep a copy and give you a copy of the declaration. KEEP COPY OF DECLARATION WITH YOU! This will accredit the legal entry of the merchandise you are carrying.

For crossing back into the U.S. by land – IMPORTANT!!: As of June 1, 2009 a passport or passport card is required for returning to the U.S under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
U.S. Border Crossing Requirements Have Changed- Make sure you are compliant today!
Starting June 1, 2009, U.S. citizens returning home from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or Bermuda, by land or sea, are required to present one of the following travel documents:

  • U.S. Passport
  • U.S. passport card (only valid for travel by land and sea)
  • Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL)
  • Trusted Traveler Program cards: Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST
  • Children under 16 arriving by land or sea my present an original or copy of birth certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Naturalization Certificate
  • U.S. lawful permanent residents: Permanent resident card (Form I-551)
  • U.S. Military: Valid U.S. Military identification card when traveling on official orders

Knowing what documents are required and having them ready when you return home will help streamline the entry process and ensure your return to the U.S. is as smooth as possible. For additional information please visit www.getyouhome.gov

Do we need any special documentation to take our dog and cat to Mexico?
Yes. According to the Mexican Consulate, in order to cross over the border into Mexico with pet dogs or cats (and to make sure they return home safely with you!) you will need to carry two main documents throughout your journey:

  • An International Certificate of Good Health (Form 77-043) issued by a licensed veterinarian (signature must be approved by the State Veterinarian) who has examined your pet and…
  • Proof of vaccination against rabies and distemper, administered at least 15 days before your pet enters Mexico.

No Consular certification is required. Visit the Mexican Consulate’s website for the latest information.

  • It is also recommended to bring proof of ownership just in case you need it.

Is there any information should be included on the International Certificate that my vet writes for our pet?First, be sure that the actual dates of vaccination appear on the health certificate. According to the USDA, your certificate for each pet must…

  • be presented in duplicate (you should always keep an extra copy!)
  • clearly state your name and address
  • include a complete description of your pet (species/age/sex)
  • state that your pet has been examined and found to be free of all contagious diseases

In accordance with the Law of the General Taxes of Import and Export, the following products are prohibited for the import and/or export:
• Firearms and ammunition. In order to import firearms and cartridges you must secure an import permit from the Ministry      of Economy and from the Ministry of National Defense.
• Live predator fish, in their states of young fish, youthful and adult.
• Totoaba, fresh or cooled (fish).
• Frozen Totoaba (fish).
• Turtle eggs or any class.
• Poppy seeds (Narcotic).
• Flour of poppy seeds (Narcotic).
• Seeds and spores of marijuana (Cannabis indica), even though when they are mixed with other seeds.
• Marijuana (Cannabis indica).
• Juice and extracts of opium, prepared to smoke.
• Extracts and juice derived from marijuana (Cannabis indica).
• Mucilage and condensed products derived from the marijuana (Cannabis indica).
• Stamps or printed transfers in colors or in black and white, displayed for their sale in envelopes or packages, even when they include chewing gum, candies or any other type of articles, containing drawings, figures or illustrations that represent childhood in a degrading or ridiculous way, on attitudes of incitement to violence, to self-destruction or in any other form of antisocial behavior, known like Garbage Pail Kids, for example, printed by any company or commercial denomination.
• Thallium sulfate.
• Insecticide (Isodrin or Aldrin).
• Insecticide (Heptaclor or Drinox).
• Insecticide (Endrin or Mendrin or Nendrin or Hexadrin).
• Insecticide (Leptophos).
• Heroin, base or hydrochloride of diacetylmorphine.
• Medication prepared with marijuana (Cannabis indica).
• Medication prepared with acetylmorphine or of its salts or derivatives.
• Skins of turtle or doggerhead turtle.
• Goods that have been declared as archaeological monuments by the Secretariat of Public Education.

The SENASICA office (National Service of Health, Food Safety and Quality) of SEGARPA (Secretary of Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Development, Fishing and Feed) defines just exactly what type of food is permitted to bring across the border. Presently, it appears that bringing meat of any kind, other than fish, is no longer much of an option. Prior to considering bringing agricultural, meat, or cheese products into Mexico be sure to review information on the SENASICA site (available in Spanish/English) – once there, scroll down to open the document “Products with Regulations and Prohibited Products”:   Bringing Agricultural Food Products
Poultry – Pork – Beef
The current list of regulated or prohibited products states the importation of the following products is prohibited (2016):

  • Pork meat, fresh, dried or frozen.
  • Poultry meat, fresh, refrigerated or frozen.
  • Fresh, refrigerated or frozen beef.
    Ham – Milk – Cheese, etc.
    Additional items including ham, cheese, milk products from butter to cream, etc. are often allowed though in limited quantities and nearly all with the following indication:  “unbroken packaging, labeled in Spanish, English or another understandable language (Italian, Portuguese, French, etc.) and with the health authority’s seal.”

    Smoked chicken or turkey
    “It should arrive with packaging completely intact, labeled in Spanish, English or other understandable language (Italian, Portuguese, French etc.) and with the health authority stamp. It must only originate from countries that fulfill the combination of MCRZI zoo sanitary requirements.” – Up to 6kg or 1 -3 packets per family, provided that they do not surpass the allowed weight

Upon driving into Mexico, the different officials one sees at the border include Aduana (Customs), as well as SENASICA inspectors who are part of the Secretary of Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Development, Fishing and Feed (SAGARPA). The SENASICA office has been operating in Sonoyta for the past four years in an effort to enforce regulations regarding bringing meat, lactose, and other items (including pet food) across the border.
In October, 2011 we ran our first note on guidelines on animals, plants, and products that may enter Mexico based on information from the official SENASICA site (www.senasica.gob.mx). These links are frequently moved, and though there is an English option in the upper right hand corner, much of the text is often only found in Spanish.
Pet food / traveling with a pet. In Mexico, only cats and dogs are considered to be pets, and must have vaccination records (health certificate) issued by a vet. No fee for travel with one or two pets.
“You will be able to enter with the daily ration of loose, balanced pet food. We will remind you that, in Mexico, this type of food is available at Registration and Authorization at SAGARPA-SENASICA.”
On the list of regulated or prohibited products, it is worth noting SENASICA indicates it allows “Packaged and labeled dry feed, without anything of ruminant origin (for pets)” [or rather, no beef product]
NOTE: There are NO FINES for carrying food (or pet food) goods, though upon detection you will need to either return these to the US (for example, take back and drop off at Lukeville gas station) or have the items taken from you.
Just about everyone in town has an experience to share about having their groceries inspected at the border and sometimes having certain items “confiscated”, so in the end you just plan on visiting Rocky Point’s local markets!

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