Discusses requirements for products entering the country/economy temporarily. Includes information on warranty and non-warranty items shipped for repairs.
There are three types of temporary import documentation: under the maquiladora manufacturing program, under a temporary import permit for samples and other goods to be returned to the United States, and under an ATA Carnet.
Mexico’s maquiladora program, officially known as Manufacturing, Maquila and Export Service Industry (Industría Manufacturera Maquiladora y de Servicio de Exportación or IMMEX), allows manufacturers in Mexico to import raw materials and equipment into Mexico as a temporary import tax and duty free (including the value added tax, IVA). To receive this benefit, the goods to be temporarily imported must be used in an industrial or service process intended to produce, transform, or repair goods for subsequent export. These temporary imports must end up being part of a final export. Further information on this program can be found at the Secretariat of Economy’s (Secretaría de Economía or SE) website.
Temporary Import Permits
Other temporary imports from the United States, however, are not assessed import duties, taxes, or compensatory fees, but they must comply with all other obligations set forth in Article 104 of the Mexican Customs Law (Ley Aduanera).
There are different types of temporary imports into Mexico, including:
- Temporary imports to be returned in the same condition
- Musical instruments for artists
- Temporary imports for cultural and sporting events
- Temporary imports for conventions, congresses, and trade shows
- Temporary imports for press, journalism, and cinematography
The first category applies to temporary imports that remain in Mexico for a limited time and with a specific purpose and are returned to the United States in the same condition and within the time limits established in the Customs Law (Art. 106). Such is the case of equipment for demonstration that is temporarily imported into Mexico for exhibitions or sales visits. U.S. representatives do not need to contract the services of a Mexican customs broker, and may complete the declaration themselves, using the declaration lane at the time of entry. Overlooking this requirement may result in the confiscation of the products, with a high penalty fee for recovery. Temporary imports may remain in Mexico for up to six months.
In the case of medical devices, interested parties need to request an import permit for the specific exhibition and/or sales visit. The request needs to be submitted by a Mexican company authorized to sell/distribute medical devices in Mexico. The import is processed under a temporary importation form and there are basic requirements to obtain the clearance from Mexican Customs, including:
- A list of the products for temporary importation into Mexico.
- A letter from the U.S. company stating that the product is for temporary entry into Mexico and that it will not be sold.
- A letter from the Mexican partner or company indicating the nature of the business relationship with the United States indicating that they take full responsibility for returning the product to the United States within the designated period.
- Preparation of a Temporary Customs Entry form (Pedimento de Importación Temporal).
The list of the products to be temporarily imported into Mexico must also be presented to U.S. Customs before the equipment enters Mexico in order to facilitate the duty-free return to the United States.
The laws on IVA and the Special Tax on Production and Services (Impuesto Especial sobre Producción y Servicios or IEPS) as enacted in 2015 require that these taxes be paid on temporary imports by deposit, bond, or tax credit (the latter only applying provided that the company has a certification). The benefit of the certification is not having to pay IVA or IEPS at the time of importation by obtaining a tax credit for the payment of these taxes.
The website of Mexican Customs provides the steps and requirements to follow for almost all circumstances and sectors that involve temporary imports into Mexico, though this material is only available in Spanish.
The ATA Carnet Option
For temporary imports for trade shows, sales promotion, commercial samples, exhibitions, and demos, U.S. exporters have the ATA Carnet as a resource to ship and use equipment and merchandise in Mexico duty free and tax-free for up to six months. “ATA” stands for the combined French and English words “Admission Temporaire-Temporary Admission.” Mexico acceded to the ATA Carnet system in 2014, and Mexican Customs officers are very familiar with the process. Many U.S. companies have had samples or equipment impounded when attempting to import the goods without an ATA Carnet, so we urge you to consider this option.
The ATA Carnet can be used in two ways. A passenger can directly show the equipment or merchandise to the Mexican Customs authority without needing to contract a Mexican customs broker. In this way one obtains approval directly from Mexican customs officers upon arrival. Alternately, if the equipment or merchandise is shipped via cargo airplane, ship, or in considerable volume, it is recommended to contract a customs broker to support the import process. Using an ATA Carnet will eliminate the paperwork involved in a regular import operation.
There are several advantages of the ATA Carnet:
- Duty- and tax-free temporary import of goods
- No need to use a customs broker for clearance in the import process
- Easy steps to arrange customs clearance, without losing time
- For shipments arriving in the morning, goods can be cleared on the same day
- Replacement of regular customs documentation for temporary entry—i.e., the traveler or the Mexican importer simply provides the ATA Carnet to Mexican Customs officers
The ATA Carnet website provides more detail on how to obtain an ATA Carnet for Mexico.
For more information and help with temporary regimes and entries please contact
Manuel “Manny” Velazquez
U.S. Commercial Service—Monterrey
Tel.: +52 (81) 8047-3248