Nationalize Foreign Plated Car to Mexican 2016-03-03T13:18:33+00:00

Nayarit license plate


It seems it’s all clear at the Nogales border to nationalise your car.  Someone recently did so, it was a smooth process, using the services of Nogales broker Hector Banuelos.  For him to advise you, give him your nationality and age of car. Details are:

Tel: USA 520 281 1508
Tel Mex: Nogales 631 314 2312

As always please help everyone and report your experience, just click on Contact Us


 15 November 2014: published the following update:
On Nov. 13, 2014, the US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) issued a formal memo, reaffirming the 1992 US Customs rules that American citizens must formally export their US-titled used cars, before the vehicle is permanently imported into any other country.

Importing your car : age change possible, 01 January 2015

As most of you are aware you can import your car if it is at least 6 years old. The next change of age, under the NAFTA Agreement, making it at least 4 years old, was scheduled to come into effect on 01 January 2015.

This is the appropriate paragraph in the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Annex 300-A Trade and Investment in the Automotive Sector:

“(d) beginning January 1, 2015, Mexico may not adopt or maintain a prohibition or restriction on imports from the territories of Canada or the United States of originating used vehicles that are at least four years old;”

Previous NAFTA dates and years were: 2009: 10 years old; 2011: 8 years old; 2013: 6 years old, and these were all processed accordingly.

There are further clause relating to the years 2017 (2 years) and 2019 (no age limit), but given all the various changes that have occurred just in the last year alone that’s too far off to go into. state:

“As in other complex legal agreements, there may be other clauses that modify or overrule this prescription, allowing Mexico to set different policies or add modifications, but when we review the dates of past changes in Aduana import policies, we find that they agree with the NAFTA requirements listed above.”

Please go to their website to read further updates effective 01 January 2015.

We strongly advise you check with your appropriate vehicle registration office before you start driving down!

Disclaimer: This information is not meant as legal advice. It is for educational and informational purposes only. Government policies vary between States and offices, and Mexican Government officials have broad discretion in how they individually enforce policies, so, your personal experiences may vary. See a professional for advice on important issues.


Here is previous information: 

Update 28 September 2014:

 At Nogales border the local agent Oscar Angulo advised that pending verification of new regulations, the Aduana was not allowing any more legalising of vehicles ( 08 September 2014). So that effectively stopped anyone legalising their vehicle. The Aduana agencies re-opened as of 23 September.  BUT there are exporting restrictions which apply to both American AND Canadian cars!

 Oscar now advises that: ” The title doesn’t need a stamp after all because they are doing it as a shipper of exportation, there is a $50 fee  for the shipper.”  You should scan front and back of your title/registration,  your VIN number, plus a copy of your passport photo page and send it to Oscar FOUR DAYS before you intend arriving at Nogales.    Give him the details of your vehicle and he will tell you the cost.  We don’t know if the PV Onappafa “paper importing” will still hold good – according to Oscar: ” it is MANDATORY to have the car at the border”.

Oscar Fco Angulo

Anco Commercializadora

USA cell: 520 988 5060

Mex Cell: 045 631 120 1015

Mex office: 631 31 52571


We strongly advise you check with your appropriate vehicle registration office before you start driving down!


You can check if your vehicle is legally imported by going to the following website:



Given below is previous information issued:-

Just a couple of weeks ago we thought we had good news about “paper only” importing and nationalising your vehicle, necessary if you are a Residente Pemanente, and we thought it would only last a short while … and unfortunately it would seem that window of opportunity has been closed, and the situation is even worse – that NO cars can be imported at all, without having an official stamp “Exported” from America on the papework.

The highly esteemed website Yucalandia has published the following:

”  The Mexican Federal Government recently put on a push to stop illegal imports of American used cars into Mexico. This new effort has taken several forms:

As of September 1, 2014, SAT has issued new rules for permanently importing used cars from the United States. The biggest change is that the individual importing the used NAFTA car into Mexico must first prove that the car has been formally EXPORTED from the USA following US CBP laws.

This means that the US title on every used car permanently imported into Mexico must be first stamped “EXPORTED” by US CBP. US Customs and Border Patrol have had this requirement on the books for over 20 years, but the rule has not been followed by most Americans who bring their cars into Mexico. If you used a licensed Customs Broker to permanently import your car into Mexico, with a CBP check at the US-Mexico border, then they likely did the formal export. We at Yucalandia have another article waiting for publication on how the process works with CBP, but need some final confirmatory details from CBP before publishing. We waited to post Mexico’s new rules until there was confirmation in public media.

The second prong of the Mexican Federal Government’s actions to stop the illegal importation of used American cars into Mexico involved charging 17 Customs Brokers at the US-Mexico border, along with some Mexican Judges, Magistrates, Mexican Aduana border office managers, Aduana officers, et al. As a result, all permanent imports at the border were suspended last week, and there is no formal word yet on when they will begin again – this time following both US and Mexican laws.

Since the new laws for importing US cars into Mexico require having the US title formally stamped “EXPORTED,” and since the only way to get your US title stamped this way REQUIRES taking the car to a US CBP border station, we really cannot see how “paper-only” imports can continue under these new laws.

Originally published by YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan’s Steven M. Fry

Disclaimer: This information is not meant as legal advice. It is for educational and informational purposes only. Government policies vary between States and offices, and Mexican Government officials have broad discretion in how they individually enforce policies, so, your personal experiences may vary. See a professional for advice on important issues.

For what it’s worth, here’s the article again regarding the “paper only” details of importing, in case this is still valid. 

There is an alternative to driving back up to the border to nationalize your foreign car! We don’t know how long this “window” will remain open.

You need to contact ONAPPAFA, the organization who previously issued plates that look different to the regular one above, and costs in the region of 1,500 pesos. But this process legal advisers have said is not strictly legitimate and you could be leaving yourself open to all sorts of problems. However, ONAPPAFA are currently able to do all the paperwork locally to legalise your car. Contact details are: Lic. Aldo Gomez Perez, cell 322-111-6122

Or call the office landline: 322 222 8995 (Alfredo Pena was very helpful).

To go to the office, take the tunnel road in PV. Go one block to the lights, Fco. Villa and turn right. Go to the 4-way stop, 3-4 blocks, and turn left. Go past the athletic fields, several blocks uphill. There is a fire station on the left, ONAPPAFA is on the right.

You need the title, proof of residence, passport, but check with them in advance for anything else. There is a copy place across the street. Valiene, who kindly shared all this information with us, (August 2014) paid 22,500 pesos – there are no other fees payable anywhere else – in full in advance, received an official receipt and was told to call in two weeks. At that time, it was ready, and she collected her facture and pedimento which had been issued in Mexicali.

She took all her paperwork to Tepic for approval and then to Transito in Mezcales above the bus station where they checked again. The next step was attending at the State Police office in Bucerias – next to the Gecko Bar on Morelos, to verify the car was not stolen. Unfortunately this is not always open, and no indication when it will be, so add in some waiting time. The final step was to return to the Transito office in Mezcales to receive the plates.

This procedure is much cheaper than driving up to the border – no gas,tolls, or hotels!


And here are still the details previously published on this site in case any of this might yet be of help.

Importing your vehicle is  under the governance of the “Aduana” – Customs Department .  (Nothing to do with Immigration).   Strictly speaking, only an officer of the Aduana has the right to stop you, check your papers, and – confiscate your car.  Yes they can.

 The new Immigration laws of May 2010, revised November 2012 and now in effect, had many people of all nationalities driving back to the border to legitimise their vehicles to pre-empt the potential enforcement of the new laws.

Although there are exceptions, if you are on  Permanente  Residente status then you are NOT able to keep your non Mexican plated vehicle legally in Mexico.  

If you come in as a tourist/visitor :

Nothing has changed!  You can bring in your car / motorbike/ motorhome – and it is valid for the same amount of time as your Visitor’s visa (up to a maximum of 180 days).  You are NOT allowed to sell it down here, and you MUST return to the border where you entered in order to get your deposit reimbursed – using the same method, ie card or cash.  (See Full details under “Driving In Mexico”).

You can only import/nationalise a used car manufactured or assembled in a NAFTA agreement country, ie USA or Canada.  The VIN numbers start with Number 1 for USA and Number 2 for Canada.  If you have a Japanese vehicle, the VIN starts with J.  A Korean vehicle, the VIN starts with K .  If your VIN starts with a letter – you cannot import it … UNLESS they are totally brand new.

The only legal way to change over your plates is to return to the border – it does NOT have to be the one you crossed at.  (If you brought your car in by sea then you do have to return to that port).    As of January 2014 your are now not obliged to use a Government registered customs agent.   But the full list is on their website: or   You can find an aproximation of what the taxes will be by going to this site:

Unless you had the paperwork and the forethought to do it on your way down,  yes it’s a costly exercise – the import taxes, tolls, gas, hotels, North and South, and the use of an agent which makes life a lot easier.  But far better that than risk having your car taken away.  There is at least one agency here in Vallarta who promote they will do all of this for you so that you don’t have to do the run to the border:   ONAPPAFA.

Legal experts locally strongly advise against using them stating  this “cheaper option” is not legal at all, and you still run the risk of having your vehicle taken from you.  And as their plates are very distinctive with their extra large lettering, it makes it very easy for the appropriate authorities to wave you down!  There is a discussion on Mexico Connect (it is now over a year old):;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;forum_view=forum_view_collapsed;;page=unread

As Residente Temporale

Aduana/SAT offices in different towns/states have been responding in different ways to the various new laws. Several of them categorically said residente temporale were not eligible to drive foreign plated cars.  At a meeting in Vallarta on 13 Feb 2013 they said: “We stress that the only immigration condition at this moment that can be used for the temporary importation of vehicles is: VISITOR (TOURIST).” 

The excellent website Yucalandia gave an update on 21 September 2013: “There is a new version of the ley aduana which harmonises with the November 2012 changes made to the immigration law…   which basically now allows the new INM status residente temporale to drive foreign plated cars.  Please note that this has yet to be formally signed into the law

As Residente Permanente

You are not allowed to own a foreign plated car and theoretically you should have taken it up and across the border beforehand (& left it there) or officially imported it before your status changed as there is no grace period.  However, you can apply for a 5 day “Safe Passage” permit to give you peace of mind.  Go the SAT (tax) office on Fco Villa, in Vallarta –   This is near the inland ending of the Fluvial & has limited parking in front.  They are very helpful.

For the Safe Passage Permit (“Retorno Seguro”) you will need:

  • Originals and a complete set of copies, front and back of the following:
  • Valid Driver’s License
  • Passport
  • Mexican Visa
  • Car Title
  • Original import certificate

Two completed  forms that they give you at the office, saying that the car isn’t subject to any legal proceedings, and a request for the Retorno Seguro.

You must have your car there.Thank you Dick Pickup for this information.
March 2013.  As of 2013 your car needs to be only at least 6 years old.  You will need proof of ownership, registration & title and your papssport.  If you call them with the VIN number of your car they will give you the cost.

Here are details October 2013 from Pauline & Bruce Morin:
Marco Legalizaciones : Marco Rzeslawski
Asesoria Aduanal
323 Crawford St.
Nogales, AZ 85621

480-248-0318; 520-313-4800; 520-287-0145. Fax 520-509-3760

We had a very good experience with him. He came to our hotel, spoke with us and took information and pictures of our vehicle. Within an hour he gave us our quote for his services and completed our paperwork. He sent someone from his office with us to cross the border. We first went to customs where we paid for the items we were importing (not the vehicle). We made the goods importation payment at the bank next to customs. We were then taken to the vehicle inspection station. They did some paperwork took pictures of our vehicle, placed the sticker on our vehicle and we were on our way. The cost for the vehicle inspection and papers was $60.00. We tipped Marco’s assistant $35.00 for his services. Our next stop was at immigration a few miles down the road, where we had our passports stamped for our return to Mexico.
The agent fees for legalization are based on: age of vehicle, gas or diesel, number of cylinders. Diesel and pickups are more expensive. The person in front of us paid $90.00 for the legalization of his 1997 van. We paid almost $1,200 for our 2003 F350 diesel pickup. I do not know what the fees will be in Tepic.
Marco says the fees on the Mexico side of Nogales are more expensive. If a client driving up from Bucerias does not want to cross the border he will come to the Mexico side.”

March 2013, Marilyn: “We elected to go to San Luis Rio Colorado, which is just below Yuma, as it was convenient for our onward trip.   We used:  The Garza Agency : Karla :  Mexican phone number: 653  534 1856; 653 534 1857.

 ” Karla spoke perfect English and was extremely helpful. When we arrived we called her and she sent someone to escort us to her office where we produced our papers. YES – they do accept that silly little paper Canadians get for registration!  Next Adrian from her office took us to Aduana where they removed the decal we received when we entered Mexico. Back to the office where Karla said we were no longer required as she could complete the rest.  She contacted our insurance agent to make sure proper coverage was in place. Adrian escorted us to a moderately priced hotel and made sure we got a good rate.  2 1/2 hours later Adrian returned, the car was in the garage of the hotel and he returned our keys, paper work, and wished us a good trip home. Total cost for our transaction was $ 850 US.
You must register in Tepic if you live in Nayarit at the Palacio del Gobierno : this is on the main road going through the centre of town, on the corner of Avenida Mexico and Abasolo, same road as the Cathedral, and across the road from a very large plaza.   You might be told to be in Tepic within 5 days of being at the Border, however there is a one month window to do this.  

The Tepic phone number: 311 215 2264.

The office for your license plates HAS MOVED FROM SAN VICENTE TO MEZCALES, as of May 2014.  (This is also where you get/renew your Mexican driving licence).  One block North of the traffic lights on the lateral, above bus station, parking lot at the back.
” After the usual paperwork, payment of fees to change to Nayarit plates, and standing around, an employee accompanied us to our vehicle in the car park where he took a copy of our VIN number using a pencil to make a rubbing on scotch tape. “
Ordinarily, you hand over your existing plates and get the new ones straight away, but  every 3 years everyone has to get new plates.  2016 will be the next time this happens.  It is a good idea to keep copy paperwork in the vehicle until you can return to receive your new plates.
This information is from Tom & Glynda Ballinger, October 2013:
They did everything as above.  But on many American cars the VIN is way down between the front windshield and the dashboard and they are unable to make a decent rubbing – which meant reporting to the vehicle processing department in Valle de Banderas.  They did get a rubbing of the ID number taken from the transmission.  The official at Valle looked at the car again, at the rubbing, and signed the document. This enabledtghem to return to the office, pay and to receive the plates.
The vehicle processing building is opposite the DIF in Valle – where you go for your seniors card.  See driving directions under Essential Info: INAPAM.
Reminder: The latest (2013) is that your car needs to be  six years old or older.
This information is correct as of 06 November 2013, with office relocation May 2014,  reference to 01 January 2015, updated adfana situation 29 March 2015.  If you encounter anything different, please help this site and let us know by using:  Contact Us

Disclaimer: This information is not meant as legal advice. It is for educational and informational purposes only. Government policies vary between States and offices, and Mexican Government officials have broad discretion in how they individually enforce policies, so, your personal experiences may vary. See a professional for advice on important issues.