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As a U.S. citizen in Mexico on an FM3 visa, can I leave my car in Mexico when I travel to other countries as long as my visa is still current, or must my car follow me when I leave the country?

If it is legal to leave my car in Mexico, how long can I leave it there? I would guess if it is permitted, it would be limited to the expiration date on my FM3 visa.

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Not sure what you are asking? You want to leave it and make sure it's not stolen? –  Karlson Aug 22 '12 at 20:44
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@Karlson: Mexico has very strict laws forbidding "smuggling" cars across the border into the country. There's a bunch of paperwork in which you promise to take the car back with you and not leave or sell it in Mexico. Penalties apply if you break this agreement. This is a good question and I don't know the answer. –  hippietrail Aug 22 '12 at 21:07
    
my understanding is that an FM3 visa is not a tourist visa, but an immigration one? –  Mark Mayo Aug 22 '12 at 21:30
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@AnkurBanerjee: Perhaps that should be part of my question: How long can I leave it in Mexico? Given complete freedom, perhaps a few months. –  Flimzy Aug 23 '12 at 16:58
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@MarkMayo: I have not done it... but I have a friend who has. Although I don't know if he's doing it correctly/legally. When I have something more solid than simple hearsay, I'll provide an answer. –  Flimzy Oct 31 '12 at 18:46
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The official Mexican Customs website has this document, which states aliens can temporarily import a car into Mexico for as long as their immigration status lasts. In your case, this would be until your FM3 visa expires. Quote:

"Cuánto tiempo puede permanecer en México el vehículo importado ... el plazo que dure tu calidad migratoria"

Also, the Mexican Ministry of Turism (Secretaria de Turismo, SECTUR), provides this document, which on page 16, section 3.2.2.1, states:

"Para ingresar un automóvil que sea de procedencia extranjera (con placas distintas a las de México), se requiere contar con un permiso de Importación Temporal. Dicho permiso se obtiene en cualquier módulo de BANJERCITO ubicado en las aduanas y se otorga para los extranjeros, por el plazo que dure su calidad migratoria, incluyendo sus prórrogas y para los mexicanos, por 180 días dentro de un año, con la opción de entradas y salidas múltiples, siempre y cuando se cumplan con los siguientes requisitos..."

Which translates to:

"To bring an alien car into the country, you need to have a Temporary Import permit, which you can get at any BANJERCITO desk at the customs office, and is granted to aliens, for the term that their immigration status lasts... as long as you abide to the following requisites..."

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