Home for the Holidays - Mexico’s Héroes Paisanos Program
If you are a Mexican or dual citizen living abroad and are planning to travel to Mexico for the holidays, Mexico has a special program to help its citizens in their travels back to their homeland. It’s called the Programa Héroes Paisanos.
Mexico developed the Paisanos Héroes program to demonstrate the value it places on its citizens living abroad. It provides Mexican citizens, residing in the United States or Canada, various services that make it easier and safer to visit Mexico.
The program runs all year long. And, during the high demand periods including Easter, summer, and the December holidays, there is higher levels of staffing and assistance.
One of the benefits provided is access to program representatives at major ports of entry, like border crossings, airports, and bus stations. These volunteers will assist travelers in completing paperwork and providing needed information to get across the border and travel legally in Mexico.
Their comprehensive guide for Mexicans living abroad may be available at your local consulate, or can be downloaded online.
If you have questions regarding your upcoming trip to Mexico, we may be able to answer them below.
- What documents do I need to enter Mexico?
- What items may I bring into Mexico duty-free?
- What is the exemption amount and what is the duty rate?
- What do I need to bring my foreign-plated vehicle into Mexico?
- Do I need insurance for my vehicle?
- Is it safe for me and my family to drive in Mexico?
What Documents Do I Need to Enter Mexico as a Citizen?
If you are a citizen of Mexico, you will need ONE of the following documents to show to immigration upon your entry:
- Your valid and current passport—If you are a dual passport holder, you must enter Mexico using your Mexican passport.
- Citizen identity card or personal identity card, or its equivalent.
- Certified copy of birth certificate If you were born in the United States and your birth was not registered with the Mexican consulate as a birth abroad, you need to have your birth certificate apostilled (essentially certify it is authentic). This can be done through the secretary of state of the state in which your birth certificate was issued.
- Consular registration, also known as a Matrícula Consular Card—In use since 1871, this is the card issued by Mexican consulates to their citizens living abroad.
- Letter of naturalization, or certificate of Mexican nationality.
- Credential issued by the National Electoral Institute (INE), your voter ID.
What items may I bring into Mexico duty-free?
Generally, this includes your luggage, clothing, personal care items, computer, phone, camera, sports equipment, etc. These items do not contribute to your exemption amount allowed at customs upon entering Mexico. A complete list of items that can be included as “luggage” is located on the Aduanas website.
What is the exemption amount and what is the duty rate?
When you enter Mexico with dutiable goods, there is a certain dollar amount that you can bring in duty-free. If you’re coming to Mexico by air or sea, your exempt amount is $500 per person.
By land, the exempt amount is usually $300 per person. The exception is for residents of the border areas, whose exemption amount is $500/person. And, during the Paisano Héroes periods (Easter, summer, and the December holidays) the exemption amount increases to $500/person for land travel.
You can prove the value of your goods by providing receipts or by simply stating the value on the duty forms. However, if you do not have receipts, you will be at the mercy of customs agents, who make the final value determination (they have been known to look up values on their phones).
As of the date of this article, the remaining Paisano Héroes exemption period for 2021 is from November 29, 2021, to December 31, 2021. No matter how you enter Mexico during this time, your exemption is $500 per person. This exemption is for adult Mexican citizens only and you can combine the amounts if there’s more than one adult per vehicle. The current duty rate is 19% on the declared value of the goods you are importing.
What do I need to bring my foreign-plated vehicle into Mexico?
If you live in the United States or Canada as a permanent resident and drive a vehicle plated in one of those two countries, you will need to get a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for your vehicle, unless you will be staying in what is known as the “Free Zone” (meaning no TIP required).
The Free Zone extends 20 to 26 kilometers from the border (northern or southern), the part of Sonora west of the 15D highway, and the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Quintana Roo.
TIPs available to Mexican citizens vary slightly from the ones available to foreigners. As a Mexican citizen residing abroad, you can get a TIP valid for one year, although your vehicle can only be in the country for a total of 180 calendar days at a time.
You must check in and out of the country at the Banjercito booth to record the number of days your vehicle is in country. This allows you to only pay for one permit per year if you are making multiple visits to the country. You may need to show proof of your residence abroad by presenting your Matrícula Consular card, resident alien card, utility bill, or other proof that you are living abroad.
Do I need insurance for my vehicle?
Yes! You absolutely need Mexican insurance for your vehicle. Every Mexican state requires drivers to carry liability insurance and it needs must be provided by a Mexican company.
Even if your current insurance company says it will cover you in Mexico, it is not going to cover the third-party liability required by Mexico. Your Mexican insurance company will send an adjuster to any accident scene to negotiate on your behalf and prove that you have financial coverage, should you be determined to be at fault.
Mexpro has several Mexican insurance options for you to choose from. Get quotes from multiple Mexican insurers at Mexpro.com.
Is it safe for me and my family to drive in Mexico?
Generally, yes, it is. The road conditions on the toll roads (cuotas) are as good, if not better, than many roads north of the border. Of course, there is the usual road construction that plagues road travelers everywhere. The free roads (libres) have widely varying conditions.
Most people are concerned about personal safety when traveling Mexico’s roads. In most of Mexico, you should not have trouble. There is currently (as of fall, 2021) one hot spot on the highway between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo, the 85D. Currently many people are entering Mexico to the west of Nuevo Laredo to by-pass the hot spot.
If you must travel that way, the National Guard (La Guardia Nacional) is providing security to those traveling to the interior of the country via a program called Operativo Escalón. This operation provides escorts to caravans of vehicles from Nuevo Laredo to the Monterrey area.
To join this caravan, meet between the two border bridges in Nuevo Laredo, in the Banjercito parking lot. Meet-ups are between 6:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. – 9 p.m. Look for a vehicle with its light bar going. That’s where the caravan line will be forming. One National Guard vehicle will drive in the front, and one will be in the back of the caravan. The authorities have also increased arial patrols of the highway for your safety.
To further assist their Paisanos Héroes, the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior and the Secretaría de Función Pública have developed an app, Denuncia Paisano, where you can report any acts of corruption or abuse by authorities in the border region.
This app is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. Download it and become familiar with it in case you need it.
Travelers can also call to make corruption complaints while in Mexico at 800-201-8542, or upon their return to the U.S. at 1-877-210-9469, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Only by reporting incidents can they be stopped.
Come, Enjoy Your Country
Come and enjoy Mexico and your family during the holidays with assurance that your travels are secure. If you have questions, call your local Mexican consulate. Their primary function is to help you.