Preserving Your TIP Deposit and Legalising Your Vehicle Status After Entering Mexico on a Residente Temporal Visa in Mexico

I went into Progreso at about ten this morning and drove around in circles for a bit near the INM office looking for parking. Like many Mexican cities, Progreso is a maze of one-way streets so it’s not hard to get out of your way while being a block from your destination! Once parked, I immediately went to a little photography studio near the INM office so I could get the necessary pictures taken.

They were going to take about 15 minutes to process, so I went up the street to the Santander bank. When I came back, I was told there was a problem with the printer and someone was working on it. Just as I was going to give up and ask if there was another studio I could try, the issue was resolved. The photos were only $25!

It was then a block’s walk to the INM office…

…where I was told they’ve been having trouble with their system for a few days and that they would call me when they could process my fingerprints. Finally, something goes wrong! 😀 I was bummed because I’m on a tight work schedule this week, but I figured that if I was in Progreso, I might as well bite the bullet and go to Aduana to see about preserving the TIP deposit on my truck and making it legal for the next year. This is where the post gets “fun.”

Again, my disclaimer:

Please do not take the following information as being generally valid and legally binding advice. This is just my own personal experience and knowledge. I will not answer specific questions about the Mexican immigration process or temporary vehicle import because I am not qualified to do so.

As way of background, again, Mexico is quite particular about foreign plated vehicles coming into the country. You therefore have to import them temporarily according to the length of your stay. Only visitors and temporary residency holders can have a foreign plated car in Mexico. Those with permanent residency status or citizenship are not allowed to have a foreign plated car in Mexico.

Because I was only granted a 30-day entry with my residente temporal visa, I was only able to import my truck for 30 days. At the end of that 30 days, my truck would be here illegally and I would lose my 200USD deposit on it. You are supposed to extend your temporary import permit (TIP) once you get your temporary residency card. The catch is that it is just about impossible to get the card before the deadline to extend your TIP comes up . There is a 15-day grace period to get legal, so that tends to be enough time, but you lose the deposit.

The advice I found to preserve the deposit was to go to Aduana (customs) at every step of the journey to getting your residency card and advising them of each minor update. Because I’m doing immigration out of a small office, I knew things would move quickly and going to Aduana up to five or six times would be a waste of my and their time. I was also given conflicting info that there is absolutely no point going to Aduana until you have your residency card in hand. I decided to go to the halfway point of both points of view and go to Aduana once I had in hand proof that my temporary residency was granted.

Last night, I made copies of the following:

-the letter from INM confirming that I’m officially a temporary resident;

-all the documents I got from Aduana/Banjercito when I crossed the border (including the official-looking thing the holograma is stuck to before you peel it off and stick it on your windshield);

-my passport;

-my vehicle registration.

And I’m pretty sure I had more in there, but that was the bulk of it. I also painstakingly wrote a letter explaining what I wanted them to do. I found a template for that, but modified it significantly since I saw glaring vocabulary errors in it that didn’t make me trust it too much. So I’m not even going to share the link to it.

My hosts explained to me how to get to Aduana and boy was I grateful for that because it was very intimidating! First, they said to find and follow a big truck as it would very likely be going to Aduana. Solid advice! I got to the entrance with no issues. I then had to present myself at a control checkpoint.

There, I was asked my purpose for going to Aduana and to present my passport, driver’s license, and the documents I was going to show Aduana. The guard understood what I wanted and he went through my papers. I heard him say, “Perfectisimo,” sounding impressed, under his breath. This boded well! He then explained to me that I had a long drive ahead of me, that there would be three different speed limits, and that I could not pass other cars. Then he cleared me to go.

He wasn’t kidding about the long drive!

Aduana was on the wrong side of the median and I missed my turnoff. F&V warned me that if I did that it would be a mess to sort out. So with traffic being non-existent, I just turned around and drove the wrong way back to the turnoff. 😀

I went into the Aduana building and was greeted by a surly guy at a desk. I explained what I wanted and asked if I was at the right place. He said yes, but didn’t volunteer any other information. Undaunted, I pulled my wad of paper out of my folder and presented it to him. We exchanged more words and then he took my letter from INM and went to another room. When he came back, he had me sign in and was quite snippy when I didn’t understand all his instructions. Bring a Spanish-speaking friend if you’re going to do this. I rather wished I’d had one! I was then told to sit and wait.

It wasn’t long before a smiling woman came to see me! I again explained what I wanted and she went through all my paperwork, handing back whatever she didn’t need. Finally, she sighed and said, “Sorry, you’re missing a…” All I caught was “comprobante” (receipt or voucher) and “domicilio” (residence). My brain pedalled hard and I blurted out, “Proof of residency, like a water bill?” She said yes. I dug into my folder and pulled out the water bill V&F left for me that they said I would need a lot and for which I should have had copies. I was very annoyed with myself that I’d come all that way and would have to come back for my lack of foresight.

Well, the woman took the document, examined it, smiled even more brightly, and said, “Let me go make a copy.”


Don’t ever take for granted that copies will be made for you. This is the third time I’ve been caught without a necessary copy and only the second that Aduana took care of it for me.

When she came back, she bundled my paperwork, had me fill out a few small forms, then took my forms to another desk to be stamped and processed. She then handled me a bundle and said to come back next Monday between eight and three to get my “results,” which I’m hoping means the necessary paperwork to be legal till next year!

I remain amazed that my language skills are sufficient to do this stuff. If your Spanish is poor or non-existent, do yourself a huge favour and get a “fixer” to help you out that will save you lots of frustration. Also, copy everything you’re given and all your official documents and proofs of identification, keeping them in a folder that you should have with you at all times. From the stories I’ve read, being caught without a copy of something is the main reason why people end up having to do multiple trips, whether it be to INM, Aduana, the bank, vehicle licensing, etc.

Okay, back to work I go. It’s going to be a late one again since I suspect I’ll be back at INM tomorrow!