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Paisano Program: what do you need to travel to Mexico?

Created: 23 December, 2009
Updated: 13 September, 2023
4 min read


It is around this time of year when thousands of Mexican immigrants or Mexican-Americans prepare to go back to Mexico during the holidays, a trip that is eagerly expected but can turn into a disaster if you don’t comply with Mexican laws and take a few precautions.

For the last 20 years, the Paisano Program has been put in place during the holidays by the federal government, as a way to fight corruption and abuse in the hands of Mexican police, as it gives out accurate paper work information to travelers as well as visitors hotline.

From November 10th this year, to January 10th 2010, Mexican Customs allows for 300 dollars worth of Duty free merchandise (the usual amount is $75), and transit authorities in Mexico City allow foreign cars to travel trough the city without obeying the strict “no-driving-day” policy.

The Paisano webpage has new features this year, allowing travelers to map out their rout, from beginning to end including toll roads and gas mileage, as well as calculate their tax payments on line.

But what do you need to travel to Mexico? According to Paisano, you first need to state your citizenship, then declare your items at Customs and do a temporary importation of your car.

In order to claim citizenship, travelers can show their Mexican passport, their “matrícula consular” [consulate issued card] or simply state it and sign a free form.

Travelers can bring many items that are considered duty free; new and used shoes and clothing, up to 2 video or photo cameras; 2 radios or cel phones, a DVD player, a video game player (such as as Wii) up to 5 USB’s or MP3 players or memory sticks and for those over 18; up to 20 packs of cigarettes, 2 liters of wine and 1 liter of liquor.

Everything else is taxable if it’s worth more than $300 US, but this amount is individual and can be added on by family members (including kids) traveling together in the same car.

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For people traveling with controlled medication, it is recommended they do so only with limited quantities of medicine and always with the prescription signed by a doctor and bearing their name as the patients.

After paying taxes the third step is the temporary importation of your car, so you can travel throughout the country with US issued license plates.

Paperwork and payment can be made on line at  so travelers can receive their payment receipt and sticker in the mail at a US address, but this can also be done at the Mexican Consulates in Albaquerque, Nuevo México; Phoenix, Arizona; Chicago, Illinois; Austin, Forth Worth and Houston, Texas, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Bernardino, California.

If it’s too late for the web form you can always do the paperwork as you enter Mexi-co at the Mexico gate (you can ask customs agents where to go).

Prices vary, if you do the paperwork at the border ($29.70 US), Mexican consulate ($39.60 US) or on line ($49.50 US) the deposit for the car that you will get once you re-enter the US with the vehicle, range from $400, $300 and $200 US depending of the year and model of the car.

In order to obtain the temporary import you need to have proof of US citizenship or permanent residency (green card) as well as the car title. Once the payment is made you will get a special sticker you need to put in the front window of the car.

Once you return to the US, you cancel the permit and obtain a receipt you will need to get your deposit back.

If you need more information you can always visit or call free toll numbers for information or help, available 24 hours a day everyday of the week. From Mexico dial 01 800 201 85 42 and 1 877 210 94 69 from the US and Canada.

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Another important thing to consider is traveling with pets, because dogs and cats traveling to Mexico must pay for a vaccination sheet and health certificate costing around $120 US.

All guns and ammo are prohibited in Mexico, as well as having 10 thousand dollars in cash, in turn, getting arqueo-logical pieces and historical documents out of Mexico is also a crime, as well as the transport of native animals and plants.

If you still encounter rude officials or are shaken down for a bribe while you are in Mexico, call 01 800 386 24 66 to file a formal complaint.

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