Mexico Cruising Guide Part 4: New TIPs resolves ‘paperwork Cha Cha’ problems

The Mexico cruising “Class of 2014” will be the first to use the revamped TIPs — or Temporary Import Permits — for U.S. or non-resident boaters entering Mexican waters for the first time. Last year, problems with the TIP form – which ordinarily allows boaters to keep their vessels in Mexico tax free for up to 10 years – inadvertently lead tax investigators to impound 330 yachts in nine marinas.

The new TIPS were unveiled in San Diego in June by officials from Mexico, and they were first made available to boaters in August. Licenciada Dina Madrid came from Mexico City to announce the newly released 10-year TIP at a boat show seminar packed with recreational boaters and marine industry representatives.

Madrid delineated 22 specific changes on the new TIP forms and explained how each improvement now clarifies in English and Spanish some of the more confusing terminology, and how each change corrects past deficiencies.

She explained that one of the first changes is that the vessel owner’s name may be different from the person bringing the boat into Mexico, but the TIP will always be carried in the owner’s name. If ownership changes, the original TIP must be cancelled before the new boat owner can obtain a new 10-year TIP for that vessel. Another major clarification is the difference between the hull identification number (HIN) and the vessel’s state registration or Coast Guard document number. Mistakes in these three areas caused most of the impoundments.

She also announced newly streamlined rules for how U.S. boaters can obtain and renew TIPs in the future. It can be obtained for $45 in advance online, or in person for $51.

Madrid also announced the new English / Spanish website where the new TIPs can be obtained online:

Lic. Alejandro Santander, director of the Mexico Consulate, assured the crowd of boaters that Mexico has taken the impound issue seriously and has been working for months on changes to the federal tax and importation laws so this problem doesn’t happen again.

Santander said boaters who already have a TIP and need to make changes – such as replacing boat parts brought down from the U.S. – may do so at the nearest Port Captains office or nearest Aduana office. They don’t need to exit Mexico to update their TIP. But he reminded boaters that they are legally required to keep the TIP onboard the boat while in Mexico.

He made the analogy of driving in the U.S. without your drivers license. “You can’t just tell the officer that you have one but you left it at home.”

Santander’s office is in the Mexican Consulate Building in downtown San Diego, and he invited boaters to contact him if they encounter problems with the new TIP.

Sra. Tere Grossman, president of the Tourist Marina Owners Association of Mexico, came from San Carlos, Sonora, to speak about the most common mistakes boaters have made in filling out the TIP forms, and how to remedy these problem. Grossman is the founder of Marina San Carlos and Marina Seca, where hundreds of U.S. yachts summer over each year.

Grossman said the marina owners group has been working with the federal tourism department for 15 years to iron out paperwork wrinkles – usually before they occur, she said. During the question and answer session, Grossman was able to help many boaters in the audience with specific concerns.

Also presenting the paperwork seminar were the marina managers or dockmasters from 13 different marinas along Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Basic paperwork Cha Cha

International Entrance into Mexican Waters

At your first Port of Entry you make your International Entrance (Entrada Internaciónal) and clear into Mexico. Ensenada has the only CIS (Centro Integral de Servicios) office so far on Pacific Mexico, where yachts can get the streamlined clearance. Here, representatives from all the required port authorities (Migración, Capitanía, Aduana, API, plus SEMARNAT and the Navy) are on duty 9-5 M-F, plus a bank kiosk where you pay several small fees at once by credit card. Instructions are posted in English; they speak English. When done, copy and keep all stamped documents and receipts safe until you leave Mexico.

Note: We urge yatistas to clear in at Ensenada, because you’re an undocumented migrant until you go somewhere else. If you continue down Baja and are boarded or have trouble, you will be in violation of the law. The only exception is for individual pleasure boats formally registered in a current Baja Ha Ha, FUBAR or sanctioned yacht race, because before you left the U.S., those event organizers had completed your international port clearance paperwork listing all the vessel and all people onboard.

To enter Mexico at any Port of Entry other than Ensenada (Pacific Coast) or Puerto Juarez (Caribbean Coast), you must do it the old way: visit Migracion, Capitania Aduana and API (if it’s an API port) separately, often spread across town. Between each office, you dash to a bank to stand in line to pay a small fee, dash back to get a stamp, then on to the next port official elsewhere. That method of International Arrival can take all day – two days if you don’t start early or it’s a weekend or local holiday.

Domestic Port Clearance 

After you’re cleared into Mexico, each controlled port (i.e. it has a Port Captain) that you enter requires you to notify the Port Captain upon your arrival and departure. To comply, notify either (a.) the marina you’re using in that port (call on VHF, sign their log book or fill out their form), or (b.) the Port Captain by VHF 16 / 22 or go in person. This is the streamlined version.

If someone on your Crew List wants to leave your crew, you must draw up a whole new Crew List and perform a complete domestic port clearance with that person’s passport before he or she departs. It’s considered a crime to arrive in port with someone on your Crew List missing. If you wish to add someone to your Crew List, same procedure: visit at least the Port Captain and Migracion to get your new Crew List signed on and stamped. Mexican Navy patrols can inspect your despachos in port and at sea, insuring that the passports and visas of the people on board exactly match your Crew List.

International exit 

At your last Port of Entry before you depart Mexico, take your Crew List and receipts from your Entrada Internaciónal to the Port Captain, and you’ll get a Zarpe or International Exit paper to cover you while crossing borders. If you’re southbound from Mexico, the Navy or Port Captain in your next country will certainly ask for your Zarpe. (For U.S. registered boats and U.S. citizen crews returning to the U.S. directly from coastal Mexico, you do have to clear into the US, but in this case it’s up to the discretion of the boarding officers – USCBP or USCG – to inspect your Zarpe from Mexico or not.)

Documents Checklist

Stow all ship’s documents in a water-tight safe or secure place onboard. Make 12 copies of everything, but don’t laminate anything. Carry documents ashore in a zip plastic bag.

Have on board before entering Mexico:
1.) Vessel Documents or Registrations
2.) Passports
3.) Applications for Visitor Visas
4.) Proof of Vessel Insurance & Endorsements
5.) Crew List (See below)
6.) Fishing Licenses (if fish hook onboard)
7.) Serial Numbers List (recommended for your TIP)
Receive at International Entrance:
8.) Validation of Visitor Visas.
9.) Temporary Import Permit or TIP
10.) SEMARNAT park visitor permits
Misc documents:
11.) Captain’s Permission Letter
12.) Minor Child Permission Letter

1.) USCG Vessel Document or state Registration: Have one or the other for (a.) your yacht, and (b.) your dinghy, and (c.) any other motorized craft such as jet boat or land scooter. If your vessel document or registration says “commercial,” the streamlined pleasure-boat rules don’t apply to you; do all port clearance the old-fashioned way or hire a ship’s agent to clear your papers in each port.

2.) Passports: Everyone aboard needs their original valid passport, the booklet kind, not just the little card. Before you depart the US, make color photocopies of at least the 2 data pages, and stowed them in a separate location onboard. If your passport’s due to expire before you return or if the back pages are nearly filled, turn it in and get a new one before entering Mexico. Allow 60 to 90 days for a new or renewed passport, valid for 10 years.

3.) Visitor Visa Applications. As of 2013, the old Tourist Cards are phased out. The simplest option for recreational boaters who are US or Canadian citizens is, before leaving the US, download & fill in a 2-page application for Visitante Visa; it includes instructions, but do specify NON BUSINESS:

Present these applications at your first Port of Entry such as Ensenada. INM will give you validated Visitante Visas, about $23 USD per person. This single-entry tourist visa allows recreational travel anywhere in Mexico, but it prohibits business or working. It’s valid for 180 days, when you must exit Mexico (visit family, restock boat parts with your TIP, or make a quick U-turn) and get a new visa upon reentry. If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, ask a Mexican consulate.

If you’ve decided to establish official residence in Mexico, the new Temporary Resident Visa (valid to 4 years) and Permanent Resident Visa (no expiration) allow multiple entry and employment in Mexico. Applications for residence are also online, but applicants need 2 personal appearances at a Mexican Consulate in the US. Bring a Letter of Intent in Spanish and up to 6 months recent financial documents proving each person’s monthly income and investments are above a minimum amount. Applicants are interviewed, photographed, fingerprinted; then the approval process takes time.

4.) Proof of liability insurance from a Mexican insurance provider is required by marinas and haul-out yards. Your regular insurance company may be able to link you to a Mexican provider, such as ACE Seguros S.A. de C.V.

5.) Crew List or Lista de Tripulantes: See form below.

6.) Fishing Licenses: If your boat, dinghy or life raft contain a fish hook, you’re required to purchase an individual sport fishing License for each person aboard from CONAPESCA. The free online Request form includes instructions and lists current pricing, so you can pay the exact amount by cashiers check by mail.
Or go in person for same day service, CONAPESCA, 2550 Fifth Avenue, Suite 15, San Diego. Phone (619) 233-4324, fax (619) 233-0344.

7.) Serial Number List: Make a serial number list including your boat hull, engines, outboard, dinghy, generator, installed and hand-held radios, GPS and other electronics. (Mark or engrave you boat name or other ID number on any valuable item not already numbered; this discourages theft and helps recover stolen property. Send a copy to your U.S. or Mexican insurance company.) Filing this list with the Aduana when you get your TIP upon entering Mexico helps you later to import parts duty free.

8.) Visitor Visas Validation by INM occurs at your first Port of Entry. If you have guests flying down later, tell them to download and fill out the new Application for Visitor Visa for tourists.

9.) TIP or Temporary Import Permit (about $54 USD) is valid for 10 years, allows you to leave your boat legally in a marina or boat yard while you fly out and  in, also to import parts for your boat duty free, which is a huge savings. Get your TIP at the Aduana’s office (Customs) in your Port of Entry, or you might handle it online from the US by using the Banjercito

10.) SEMARNAT parks permits are most economical when purchased for 12 months, covers all the national, state and regional parks, islands of the Sea of Cortez, etc. Buying your boat load of parks permit at your Port of Entry saves time, money and hassles later.

11.) Captain’s Letter: When anyone clears a boat into Mexico without the registered owner onboard, that person becomes captain and must present a NOTORIZED letter in Spanish from the boat’s legal owner – Carta Capitan. (See example below.) The Port Captain and Aduana want to see and stamp the original letter, and each may keep a copy on file, so make extras. The purpose is to discourage boat theft.

Example: I, Joe Blow, owner of the recreational vessel ‘Free Time’ (46’ Hunter sailboat, Reg # 654321, homeport San Francisco) hereby give permission for Bob Miller (US passport # 12345) of Seattle to captain said vessel from San Diego to Acapulco between the dates of January 5 and March 5, 2014, and to act as my vessel representative within the letter of the laws of Mexico. Signed, Joe Blow, date, notary seal.
Carta Capitan: Me, Joe Blow, propietario del embarcacion de recreo “Free Time” (46’ Hunter velero, Reg # 654321, puerto base en San Francisco) doy permiso para que Bob Miller (pasaporte EE.UU. # 12345) de Seattle, para capitán de dicho recipiente de San Diego a Acapulco entre las fechas de 05 de enero y 5 de marzo, 2014, y para actuar como mi representante embarcación dentro de la letra de las leyes de México. Firmado, Joe Blow, fecha, sello del notario.

If the boat’s owner is a corporation, the Captain’s Letter must be on corporate letterhead stationery, and a list of the corporate officers and contact phone numbers must accompany the letter.

12.) Minor Child Permission: If a child under 16 travels without both parents, the present named parent must give to the Port Captain, Migración and Aduana at the Port of Entry an original NOTORIZED letter in Spanish from the other named parent stating that he/she gives specific permission for the present parent to take the named minor into Mexico for a specific time period. A death certificate would fulfill this requirement, but divorce certainly does not, because the purpose is to discourage kidnapping for ransom and child-custody disputes. Make copies for Port of Entry officials to keep on file.

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