When you move to Mexico to live part-time, full-time or for a fixed period, you may want to bring personal goods to furnish your home and/or items which hold sentimental value to you.
Under international trade agreements, there are strict limits on goods that individuals can move across borders (usually restricted to a few hundred dollars’ worth of items per crossing) and anything over this limit requires import duty and sales tax to be paid on the value of the goods.
One-time tax-free import of personal goods
To help individuals, couples or families who have legal residency in Mexico move their personal things here, the law allows for a one-time import of personal goods duty and tax-free.
The process is subject to certain rules and must be completed within six months of your first entry to Mexico as a legal resident.
This article explains the rules and procedures, what’s allowed and disallowed in your shipment, how to begin the process, and what you’ll need for Mexican Customs to release your shipment.
In all cases, you need to apply for a Menaje de Casa (an inventory of household goods) which is applied for and granted through Mexican Consulates abroad.
The application process
You must apply for your Menaje de Casa at a Mexican Consulate abroad. The applicant must attend the consulate in person: you cannot hire a third party to petition the application on your behalf.
Types of Menaje de Casa
There are different categories of Menaje de Casa, but the ones which apply to most people moving to Mexico are these:
Temporary Menaje de Casa
For foreign residents who have a temporary residency permit and intend to stay in Mexico for between 1-4 years. Temporary residency permits can be exchanged for permanent residency permits after 4 years in some circumstances, but if you don’t become a permanent resident, the law stipulates that the goods you import under this regime must be exported from Mexico at the end of your stay.
Permanent Menaje de Casa
This is issued to foreign residents who are granted permanent legal residency in Mexico. Items imported under this regime are deemed a definitive import and do not need to be returned to their point of origin.
A special category of Menaje de Casa exists for Mexican nationals living abroad who wish to bring back their goods and any work tools to Mexico. Items imported under this regime are deemed a definitive import and do not need to be returned to their point of origin.
Other types of Menaje de Casa
If you are working in the clergy, for a national government, or in the diplomatic service, other types of Menaje de Casa might apply to your circumstances. Other specialized classifications also exist. You should seek advice from the Mexican Consulate, or your removal company—the good ones are well-versed in the rules and provide practical help to facilitate the smooth crossing of your personal goods into Mexico.
Documentation required for your Menaje de Casa
You will need to complete some documentation. If you are using the services of a professional removals company, they can assist with some of this:
The application form
An application form, available from the Mexican Consulate, duly completed and signed.
Your current passport
Original of your current passport and 4 copies of the information page.
Letter requesting the service
A typed letter, addressed to the Consulate General of Mexico, requesting the Household Goods Import Certificate. The letter must include the date of travel, the port of entry, and must also include the current address in U.S. and the address where you will be living in Mexico. It should be signed by the applicant.
Residency visa or card
Your current Mexican residency card or Mexican visa (sticker in your passport) —Temporary or Permanent— and 4 copies of this.
Resident Visa vs Resident Card
If you present your resident visa (the sticker the consulate places in your passport following a successful residency application) instead of your resident card as a proof of your immigration status when you apply for a Menaje de Casa, then you will need to acquire and present your Mexican resident card before the Customs authorities will release your shipment.
If you fail to complete the visa-sticker-to-residency-card exchange any shipment you have in train will not be released by Mexican Customs.
If your resident card issuance is delayed you might have to pay storage fees while you wait for your paperwork to wend its way through the system. We therefore recommend you have your residency card in hand before you finalize your intended shipping dates.
Your household inventory
You will need to present a detailed inventory of all the goods you want to ship to Mexico. The inventory needs to be presented in Spanish in a specific format. (Ask the Mexican Consulate or your removal company about the format required for the inventory.) Each item needs to be numbered sequentially, and include a description, the quantity of each item, a marque (brand), model, and serial number if relevant. Some items may be grouped together, but we recommend you get advice from a removal company about this, as grouping the ‘wrong’ things together can cause problems with the import process. See green and red boxes below about allowed and disallowed items.
The consulate and/or the removals company if you use one (recommended) may ask you for additional documentation to be completed to facilitate the shipment of your consignment of goods to Mexico.
The Mexican consulate will charge you a fee of about US$130 (or local currency equivalent) which must be paid in cash. Removal companies may charge additional fees for paperwork preparation—ask your chosen removal company for details.
Request submission and acceptance
The Mexican Consulate will process your application, usually within two business days, and issue you with a certificate. This certificate must accompany your shipment.
Items that are allowed and disallowed
There are rules about what constitutes ‘personal household goods’ and you will not be allowed to import any goods which are new, or restricted.
Items Allowed in Your Shipment to Mexico
Every item should be six months of age or older and used.
Household items include things like domestic furniture, clothing, bed linens, curtains, decorative items, outdoor garden/patio furniture, mirrors, art and art supplies, musical instruments, books, bicycles (but not motorcycles or scooters—see red box below), children’s toys, domestic tools, computers, electronics equipment, domestic appliances, statues and ornaments, home-office equipment, medical appliances and equipment that supports people with low mobility or disabilities.
Items Disallowed in Your Shipment to Mexico
New items are not allowed—all items must be used and at least six months old.
Firearms and ammunition are illegal and cannot be brought to Mexico.
You can only bring one of each domestic appliance or electronics equipment. Any vehicle that requires a plated registration license –including scooters, motorcycles, and cars– are not considered household goods.
Common items which people try to import but are disallowed include liquid propane gas tanks (e.g. for BBQs), caustic acid or solvent-based chemicals or cleaners, clothing with store labels or tags attached, perfumes and toiletries, new electronic equipment, new home appliances, new furniture, and food items.
Other items which are also disallowed as part of a personal consignment include taxidermy, high value antiques and artwork, artworks which are destined for a gallery, vehicle tires, as well as any goods which are primarily designed for commercial or industrial use.
Shipping your personal goods to Mexico
Self-move: If you ship your own goods, you will need to use a Mexican Customs Broker to help you get the shipment across the border, submit the required paperwork including your certificate from the Mexican Consulate, and then onward-transport the shipment yourself. If you’re moving using a foreign-plated vehicle, you’ll also need an import permit for that, too, known as a TIP (Temporary Import Permit). Note that Permanent Residents cannot import a foreign-plated vehicle into Mexico.
Using a removals company
We highly recommend that you use the services of a removals firm to ship your goods to Mexico. They have the packing teams who will help to minimize damage to your goods in-transit, they know the best and most cost-efficient routes to ship based on your final destination in Mexico, and know the detailed import rules and procedures to ensure that your Menaje de Casa is properly formed and that your consignment of personal goods will clear Mexican Customs as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Having your shipment delayed at Customs is expensive: you’ll be charged storage fees, it’s time consuming dealing with the bureaucracy, and in some cases problems might cause your goods to become confiscated or returned to their point of origin if something is amiss with the paperwork or procedure.
Useful resources and contacts
Here is a list of useful contacts and resources related to importing your personal goods to Mexico.
Mexican Consulates: All applications must be made through any Mexican Consulate abroad.
Removal Companies: We recommend you use a professional removals company to help you ship your personal goods to Mexico, You can begin your search here (Google)
Bringing Your Pets: Read additional information about procedures and paperwork needed to bring your pets to Mexico
Temporary Vehicle Imports: Useful information if you plan to use your foreign-plated vehicle to move your things to Mexico.
Mexican Customs: If you want further advice, visit the Mexican Customs website
Customs Brokers: If you decide to self-ship, we recommend you contact a Customs Broker for advice and help to get your consignment through Customs. You can begin your search here (Google)
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