Tuesday, April 16, 2013

towing the line

I hate to plan.  Even for major events.

And that usually serves me well.  The best example recently was my decision to buy a new Mexican-licensed SUV -- after driving the Shiftless Escape out of the country.

A little back story may help.  When I decided to apply for a permanent resident visa, one question that was still unresolved was whether a permanent resident could own a duty-free vehicle in Mexico.

My instinct told me the answer was ”no.”  Owning a tax-free vehicle did not seem to be consistent with the notion of permanent residency.

But there were rumors everywhere.  Partly because the Custom folks (Aduana) had not yet made final decisions on how to deal with the new visa regimen.

The decision of whether to risk a fine by maintaining a foreign-plated vehicle was rather easy for me.  It was time for a new vehicle.  If I drove the Escape out of the country, I would be legal -- no matter what Aduana decided.

That may have been a wise decision.  While I was in Pátzcuaro this summer I met Kathy Butler while volunteering with the El Sagrario program -- providing daily meals for the elderly and poor. (seduced by my own threads)

Kathy posted a story on the Morelia message board.  Apparently, Aduana in the Morelia area is getting very serious about cracking down on duty-free vehicles owned by people with visa irregularities.  Including people with permanent resident visas.

She reported that a friend of hers was driving near
Pátzcuaro when he was stopped by what may have been the fiscal police who work for Aduana.  The friend had started the process of legally importing the vehicle.  But the car had not yet been licensed in Mexico.

Several vehicles had been stopped and were being trucked away by the police.  Kathy’s friend managed to drive the car away.  Others were not so lucky.

I trust Kathy.  I do not know her friend.  But the incident certainly sounds plausible.  And it is consistent with a blog that has carefully been following the issue in
Yucatán.  Options for Foreign-Plated “TIP” Car Owners in Mexico, esp for Permanent Residents
The writer points out: ”[T]he current official Aduana policy still leaves Residente Permanente card holders on the hook – making their TIPs invalid, and making the TIP cars illegal to drive in Mexico, unless you get a Safe Returns permit or permanently import the car.”  He then provides a list of interesting options:  Including: remove the vehicle from Mexico; park the vehicle and wait for legislative action; legally import the vehicle; among other possibilities.

I chose the first option.  Others may be more interested in rolling the dice.

If I lived in the highlands, I would not have even thought about taking the risk.  The only time any Mexican official checked my duty-free documents was on a summer trip to San Miguel de Allende last year.

But none of those concerns will now be mine.  There is a shiny Mexican license plate in my future.

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