Sooner or later life will be back to normal and we will resume those fantastic trips to Mexico. Since thoughts of sailing adventures are swimming in my head, I thought the least I could do was write about it! So, here goes.
Vessel Documentation Requirements To Enter Mexico
Every vessel entering Mexico must carry its Original and current USCG Vessel Documentation or State Registration that proves ownership. A notarized Bill of Sale and travel letter is also accepted in case the USCG documentation is pending. If there is a tender or dinghy onboard you must also have the Registration or Bill of Sale.
If vessel is owned by a Corporation or LLC or the person operating the Vessel or obtaining the TIP is not the individual owner, you will need a notarized Power of Attorney, Corporate Resolution, Letter of Authorization, to operate the Vessel and granting the person operating the vessel the right to operate the Vessel and obtain and execute TIP forms and documents.
Be aware that the passport of the person who signed the Power of Attorney, letter, or resolution is also required to be attached and the Power of Attorney, letter, or resolution must be signed exactly as the name reads on the passport.
Obtain A Temporary Import Permit (TIP)
All vessels larger than 15’ are required to have a TIP when in Mexico. The original TIP must be on board the vessel at all times. A TIP is valid for 10 years form the issue date, allowing for multiple entries during this period. Without one, marinas will often turn you away, and Mexican authorities can impound your boat and assess large financial penalties.
You can apply in person and receive your TIP the same day if you go in person to a Banjercito, a Mexican military bank. Most Banjercitos are in Mexico, but some Mexican Consulates in the United States also have one. The Mexican Consulate in San Diego currently does not, but the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Phoenix, and Denver do.
A TIP may also be obtained from the following sources:
- Online within 7-60 days of your departure from https://www.banjercito.com.mx/registroVehiculos/
- At the first Mexican official port of entry at the Banjercito CIITEV office.
Documentation required to obtain the TIP includes:
- Vessel Certificate of Documentation or state registration
- Credit card
- Dinghy registration
- Serial numbers for your engines (inboards and outboards)
- A list of equipment on the boat (Mobil Accessory List).
- For company-owned boats, the notarized letter, POA or Corporate Resolution discussed
You must have current vessel insurance policy with liability coverage in Mexico. Check your policy. Many policies have geographical; exclusions or exclude coverage in Mexico for certain time periods (i.e., June through October 31 – Mexico’s hurricane season).
All foreigners traveling to Mexico, including U.S. Citizens, are required to carry a valid and current passport to enter Mexico. Children under 18 need a notarized letter for travel if not accompanied by both parents. When arriving at your first Mexican Port of Entry, you must check in at the local immigration office and each crew member must present his/her passport and fill out an entry permit, now called an FFM, and pay $558.00 Mexican Pesos at the bank, unless the fee was paid online prior to arrival. If that was done, be sure to present every individual’s online payment receipt.
You can get FMMs online before you cross into Mexican waters, but website is confusing and extremely difficult to navigate.
Clearing INTO Mexico For the First Time
- Complete an ARRIBO Arrival Crew List Document (available online);
- Go to the immigration office and get the Crew List stamped and have the FFMs issued for each passenger;
- Go to the Port Captain’s Office with the completed form to pay the Clear-In Fee (based on your vessel’s gross tonnage) and have the document authorized and stamped. In some ports you may be required to pay a Port Use Fee with the API (Port Administrator).
Clearing In and Out of Ports in Mexico
If you are navigating from one Mexican port to another you are required to inform the Port Captain or Harbor Master by way of an AVISO, a notice. Depending on the port, some may require a written Aviso, some allow a verbal Aviso via VHF, Channel 16. Additionally, any marina can help you notify the port captain, and may charge a fee for the service.
Clearing Out of Mexico
To clear out of Mexico you must:
- Complete the Crew List for exiting Mexico (the “Despacho”, formally known as a “Zarpe”);
- Go to the Immigration Office to get the Crew List Stamped and surrender the FFM forms; and
- Go to the Port Captain’s Office and pay the Vessel’s Check-out fees and have the crew list stamped with the authorization to exist the country of Mexico.
If you are departing Mexico and will be selling your Vessel in the U.S., cancel the TIP. Youi may do so by sending the Port Captain clearance; the Mobil Accessory list; and Original TIP by registered mail to the Banjercito Central Offices of to a CIITEV office at any port of entry.
Ocean Search & Rescue in Mexico
Ocean Search, Rescue and Surveillance (ENSAR) is administered by the Command and Control Center of the General Armed Forces of Mexico. There are 20 Naval Stations with ENSAR capabilities on the Pacific Coast of Mexico reachable by telephone or by satellite phone. ENSAR Ensenada may be reached at by telephone at (0052) 646-172-4000 or by sat phone at 8105-2154.
Clearing Back into the US
The new CBP ROAM app is a very convenient way for boaters to report their entry to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Download the CBP ROAM app and complete the application. A CBP officer may initiate a video chat or video inspection.
If you do not have the CBP ROAM, you must report and request an inspection from CBP at the nearest customs dock when first entering the country.
You must report:
- Upon arrival from a foreign locations;
- After contact with a foreign vessel;
- When receiving merchandise outside U.S. territorial waters;
- When having more than $10,000 in cash or other monetary instruments; and
- After acquiring alcohol, tobacco or agricultural goods.
Reporting is not required if your vessel leaves as U.S. port and enters Mexican waters without arriving at a foreign port; i.e., a fishing trip, dive trip, or pleasure cruise.
There are three reporting locations for CBP inspection in the San Diego Area. Arrival notifications may be made 24/7 at any of the locations by calling (619) 685-4300, option #4 (after hours at 619-550-9079). Although CBP officers work 24/7, be prepared to wait several hours for their arrival. The locations are:
- Shelter Island Harbor Police Dock, 1401 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego (The dock is only 235 feet long, so vessels over 130 feet must contact the Harbor Police Communications Center at(619) 686-6272 eight hours prior to arrival and request dock space);
- Dana Launch Ramp Public Dock, 1800 Dana Landing Road, San Diego; (Vessel must be less than 50’ long and less than 42’ vertical clearance and able to pass under Ventura Bridge in Mission Bay);
- Fifth Avenue Landing, 600 Convention Way, San Diego (Only for vessels 125 feet – 300 feet).
Prepare for your inspection by having your passports and boat documentation or registration papers available. Keep your receipts, especially for large purchases, for anything you’re bringing back, whether for personal use or gifts. Better yet, make a list of purchases.
Alcohol is limited to one liter per person over 21 per month.
Inspectors ask what fruits, vegetables and meats you are bringing into the country. Some, like citrus, are always prohibited, others temporarily because of disease outbreaks or infestations.
Understand that inspectors have the right to search your boat and ask for details of your travels.
Current law states that pet owners may enter Mexico with their pets provided they carry two documents. First, they will need an International Certificate of Good Health. Your licensed veterinarian may issue this certificate (Form 77-043) upon performing an examination of the cat or dog. In addition to the International Certificate of Good Health, pet owners will need a document showing proof of their pet’s vaccinations. Pets must have the vaccination for rabies as well as distemper. Apply these vaccinations at least fifteen days before crossing. You will need these documents to return your pet to the U.S. The U.S. requires that your pet must have current vaccinations (within 30-365 days).
Vessels entering Mexican waters with firearms or ammunition on board must have a permit previously issued by the Mexican Embassy or a Mexican consulate. Mariners do not avoid prosecution by declaring their weapons at the port of entry.
The penalties for having an unauthorized gun on board are severe and can lead to the seizure of the yacht and imprisonment of the captain. Officials now use a drug/gun sniffing dogs to search boats on arrival.
Mike Wales is a maritime attorney and co-owner of AGL Yacht Sales, Inc., along with his wife Leilani Wales, a licensed California Yacht Broker. You may contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 480.250.5651.