Mexican Consulate will provide temporary vehicle import permits for persons who plan to travel to Mexico

Drawn by its beauty, mysticism of ancient traditions, or love of the country, hundreds of thousands of tourists and Mexican nationals will defy the weather and possible bad road conditions and will venture into Mexican territory during the holidays by vehicle.

However, in order to avoid infractions and legal troubles, those adventurous travelers would have to obtain a temporary vehicle import permit at the border or could save time by visiting the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, where an immigration officer will be offering the service from Nov. 16 to Nov. 24.

“We are bringing the service to their backyard. It is very important that in addition to planning and knowing where they are going, travelers should have their documents ready, including the temporary vehicle permits,” said Carolina Zaragoza-Flores, Mexican Consul. “But first, travelers should cancel their past permits so Mexican authorities know where the vehicle is. They should render the hologram and get a new one to avoid consequences.”

By law, all vehicle owners who travel beyond 20 to 30 kilometers from the border zone must possess a tourist card and a temporary import permit for the vehicle, which can be easily obtained by showing proof of citizenship, or residence, and the car title along with a valid driver’s license to staff at Banjercito, National Bank of the Air and Armed Forces.

Vehicle owners should also submit a notarized letter of authorization to authorities in case the vehicle is not paid off. If the vehicle belongs to any company or employer, drivers will be required to produce an identification of his/her employee. If the vehicle is rented, drivers should submit a rental contract allowing the respective trip.

The process can also be done online at www.banjercito.com.mx by using a valid credit card such as Visa, American Express or MasterCard. At the end of a successful transaction, the bank will provide customers with a password that would have to be shown to Mexican authorities when departing the country.

Fees for such permits range from $39 in person to $50 online, said Zaragoza-Flores.

To check out the car, drivers must return exactly to the same Customs office upon leaving the country, otherwise they run the risk of further credit card charges and/or they forfeit the $200 to $400 bond per vehicle, depending on the model and year.

The vehicle permits can be obtained up to six months before traveling and are good for six months thereafter; however, the process has to be done 10 days prior to traveling to allow time for the hologram to arrive by mail, said Zaragoza-Flores.

Travelers can take their own luggage and additional items up to $50 per person or $250 for a family of five, but they should never exceed $1,000 in total. Those who violate the conditions could face infractions imposed by the Mexican Customs Office.

Despite the possible road dangers, Mexico’s drug war, and risks of H1N1 contagion, thousands of people will visit the neighboring country; some will enjoy famous resort areas while others will reunite with family members.

According to statistics, about 850,000 Mexican nationals residing in the United States will travel back to Mexico during the holidays, and many will do it by car to save money and enjoy a family trip. It is estimated that by the end of the year Mexico would have received more than 21.5 million visitors, which represents a decline of 5.1 percent compared to 2008.

The decrease could be explained by the economic crisis that is impacting the lives of millions of middle-class residents and the fact that Mexico is experiencing its worst drug war in years. According to official reports, Mexico’s drug-related violence has killed more than 9,900 people between January 2007 and early October 2009.

In addition, some people are abstaining from traveling due to the high number of H1N1 victims in Mexican territory. According to recent statistics, the flu pandemic has increased rapidly in Mexico, killing 82 people last week to reach a death toll of more than 500 since it was discovered in April of this year.

Mexican officials presume the number of deaths will increase due to falling temperatures, and therefore U.S. authorities recommend travelers to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to follow proper advices if symptoms break.

As a way to protect oneself from crime, U.S. and Mexican authorities recommend travelers to stay along the beaten path, to carry a cell phone, and to tell others of their whereabouts.

“We encourage people to travel but to do it with caution. Plan, know where you go, make hotel reservations and never travel at night. In case of misconduct by local authorities, it is recommended to report it immediately,” said Zaragoza-Flores. “Mexico welcomes everybody.”

For better service and to report abuses by local police, Mexican authorities offer the following telephone number: 01-800-386-2466. For more information and tips, visit www.sct.gob.mx or www.paisano.gob.mx.

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