VEHICLE ENTRY INSPECTIONS:
Just like crossing into Mexico on foot, they employ the green-light,red-light system for random searches. When you cross into Mexico, there will often be a traffic-light signal for you to press (if on foot) or it'll activate when your car pulls through the lane.
Green Light: Drive right on through (Again, unless you have a truck or van or a large car and they think you may have quantities of taxable items, then they may tell you to pull over anyway!)
Red Light: Pull your vehicle over to the parking spaces in the center for inspection of your vehicle's contents
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Customs officer(s) may ask what you have/where you are going - Then they may pass you through, or do a quick visual search of your vehicle's passenger areas, and or trunk,etc. If you're in an RV, towing recreational vehicles, or just have a 'big' car, expect to get pulled over and given the once-over. Don't take any offense - the bigger the car, the more interesting it is, so they'll want to take a look.
Then again, they may take one look at you and wave you through.
If you have anything over the legal import amount you will pay a fine to the bank there & will be given a receipt (The tax/fine may be from 30%+ to 2 times the item's value - they will ask for your receipts)
NOTE: If you are importing something pull over to the left parking area-don't go up to the light - Walk up to the tax clerks window, and you will only pay a tax of .15 (15%) times the items value (T.V., air conditioner, building supplies, couple cases of Budwiser, etc!)
HOT TIP: Buy what you can in Sonoyta or Puerto Peñasco!
Carry all vehicle registration paperwork, or you may be turned back at the border (or may get them confiscated) by Mexican Customs (includes quads, motorcycles, dune buggies, etc.) The car's title is not necessary (a xerox copy in your wallet wouldn't be a bad idea) but you should have proof of ownership of some sort.
PETS: (Dogs & Cats Only) Bring a valid U.S. Veterinarian Health Certificate Form & Rabies Certificate # 77043 (not more than 6 months old) While many people say 'we've never had a problem bringing our pet back and forth across the border', you really, really, really should get valid U.S. Veterinarian Health Certificate & Rabies Certificate - not more than 6 months old. Any local vet should be able to provide these for you. The thing is, most border checks aren't going to give you a hard time about it -- but should they, and they have the right to do so, they can hold/quarantine your pet which is both traumatic and expensive. So get the forms!
Duty Free Items
You are allowed $50 USD tax free in new merchandise per person. Merchandise has to be in the same vehicle driven by the person(s) declaring. The following is a list of items which you may bring into Mexico tax free.
- Items for personal use such as clothing, shoes abd toiletries according to the length of your stay.
- One (1) photographic or motion video camera, including a power source and rolls of film or video cassettes. (No professional equipment.)
- Books and magazines.
- One (1) used sports article or piece of equipment for individual use which can be transported by 1 person.
- Two (2) cartons of cigarettes or 100 cigars.
- Three (3) liters (appx. 3 quarts) of wine or Alcohol (including beer) per person if the passenger is an adult (21 or older).
- Medicine for personal use (with your prescription).
- Suitcases to transport your items.
If your are legally a resident of another country, in addition to the items listed, you may also bring the following items:
- Camping equipment
- Portable television, radio and 20 tapes
-T ypewriter or laptop computer
- 5 used toys if the passenger is a child
- Fishing tackle
- Pair of skis
- 2 tennis rackets
- A non-motorized boat up to 5 ½ meters
in length or a surfboard with or without
If you are traveling by a camper, trailer, motorhome you may also bring in:
- Bicycle with or without a motor
- Household linens
- Kitchen utensils
- Livingroom & bedroom furniture
You may Import additional merchandise valued up ro $1,000 USD per vehicle by paying the corresponding tax without the intervention of a customs broker. Importing merchandise over $1,000 USD requires the assistance of a broker, which are located just across the border in Sonoyta.
Firearms & Drugs
Firearms, illegal drugs and ammunition are NOT allowed into Mexico. Hunters may bring their firearm with the proper paperwork/clearance. Possesion carries a penalty of 5 to 30 years in prison.
You are allowed to bring in $50.00 USD per person worth of new merchandise – this does not include your personal items such as clothing, toiletries, etc. If you have new
merchandise in excess of $50 per person you will need to declare your items and paythe impuestos (taxes) before crossing into Mexico. You may import up to $1,000 USD
of new merchandise per vehicle without the assistance of a customs broker.
To declare items you are bringing into Mexico, turn left as you cross the border, just beyond the chainlink fence. Park in the designated spot and go into the Aduana
Building in the middle of the two lanes. See Crossing the Border for more information on declaring merchandise.
If your merchandise totals more than $1,000 USD per vehicle, you will need the assistance of a customs broker. Customs Brokers are located on the Mexican side
of the border. Park on the U.S. side and walk across to one of their offices.
Customs Brokers in Sonoyta, Mex.
Agencia Ibarrola (011-52-651) 512-1878
Aserco Imp. (011-52-651) 512-0009
(011-52-651) 512-1593 or 1599
NOTE: If you encounter any problems or harassment from Mexican border officials, write down their name, badge/employee number & report it to 'The Federal Office of Investigations' at 91-800-00-148
RETURNING TO THE US
F.Y.I. U.S.Customs Service (Arizona) 520-387-6005. They have a ton of Arizona offices.
Closed midnight to 6am. So get there with some time to spare... Note that seasonal, holiday, and/or spring break traffic can bump crossing waits into several hours. Labor disputes, trucker strikes, etc. can also snarl up the border crossings.
When you re-enter, you'll be asked what you purchased - declare everything you are bringing back from Mexico. Anybody who says 'nothing' is almost automatically searched.
Authorities have the right to search your vehicle. Don't give them a hard time. Again, if you're driving a high profile vehicle such as a van or an RV or a truck or an SUV, you are more likely to be searched.
Be sure all occupants in your vehicle can prove U.S. Citizenship, or legal entry into the U.S. You are technically required to have proof of citizenship - and a US driver's license is NOT proof of citizenship. You should carry a U.S. passport, a birth certificate, or a voter's registration card -- as well as a photo ID, such as your driver's license. Please review passport requirements.
Have receipts for any big ticket, high dollar items.
Liquor and smokes!
You are allowed to enter free of duty any purchases with a combined value of up $400 per 30 day time period. Every visitor over 21 years old may bring into the United States, duty-free, the following:
3 liters of wine or hard liquor
200 cigarettes, OR 100 cigars (but not from Cuba), OR 3 pounds of smoking tobacco
$100 worth of gifts
... and while we're on the subject of cigars, if U.S. Customs catches you with Cuban cigars, they're taking them. They might fine you. They're gonna yell at you, that's for sure. We hereby refer you to this site for some more info on the subject, in that site they get into the specific details of how Cuban cigars are distinguished from non-Cuban cigars. Please follow the rules, they are enforced.
It is becoming more and more popular for US Citizens to buy prescription drugs in Mexico as the prices are cheaper. Canada is another popular alternative source for prescription drugs.
As a rule, you have to have a U.S. prescription for any prescription drugs you pick up in Mexico, even though you probably won't have to use said prescription to buy the drugs. Certain limitations on quantity (usually a 3 month supply) may also apply.
Even though the rules and legislation on the prescription drug situation is changing pretty frequently, U.S. Customs agents are aware of the 'good' and the 'bad' drugs out there, and will strictly enforce the current law. If you're picking up Retin-A, it probably won't be a problem. If you've got a bunch of Valium or Viagra, expect to be asked for your U.S. prescription. As they say, 'US Customs reserves the right to use its judgment in allowing the transport of prescription drugs. '
For more info, the University of Arizona Department of Pediatrics, oddly enough, has a well-written writeup that covers some of the specifics on picking up prescriptions in Mexico, and the U.S. Customs website has more up-to-date details.
Desert/Marine Wildlife or Plants
Coral/Whale skeleton parts
Avocados (with seeds/pits) or mangos
Firearms - Weapons
BORDER PATROL STOPS?
Even AFTER you've made it back through the US/Mexico border, it is not unusual to hit a US Border Patrol stop a few miles later. Different agencies, same goal, although the stop further in is usually more targeted towards illegal immigrants and narcotics/drug detection. I've had my vehicle once-overed by many a German shepherd, and you may be asked to provide proof of citizenship (again) and/or pull over for a quick once over. The location and times of these stops vary, but be prepared to go through the drill even after you're back on US soil.
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