For most of the history of the Mexican Marina Owners Association, Tere Grossman, whose family has several marinas in Mexico, has been president of the association. Over the years she has spent a tremendous amount of time — and no doubt money — helping foreign boatowners who have had TIP (Temporary Import Permit) and other problems. So we suggest you pay attention to what she has to say about TIPs.
“I am enclosing the following circular that I have sent to all our marina clients so that they don’t get into trouble with the Mexican authorities because they lacked important information about TIPs.
“As all foreign boatowners know, in order to legally have a boat in Mexico, you have to obtain a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) before you arrive. You can get them online before you go to Mexico. This TIP is valid for 10 years and only costs $50. It’s a real bargain, as it’s more than the yearly registration for the boat in the States.
“However, there are serious consequences if you: 1) Let the TIP expire while the boat is still in Mexico. It has to be renewed BEFORE it expires. And 2) If you sell or buy a boat in Mexico.
“When a Mexican tourist goes to the United States, he/she has to get a permit that allows him/her to be in the States the amount of time that they ask for. The maximum is six months. But if he/she gets caught with that permit expired, he/she can be deported or even imprisoned. So the Mexican tourist has to be very aware of the expiration date of their visa.
“It’s the same thing in Mexico with your boat’s TIP. At our marina, we try to remind everyone when their TIP is about to expire so that it can be renewed before it expires. Some clients don’t take it seriously, and thus don’t do anything.
“Recently a client of ours not only let the TIP expire, but with it already expired, he went to the Customs office to renew it. It was as if a Mexican tourist in the United States went to the police to let them know that their visa has expired, and thus they were in the country illegally. Not good.
“If you buy or sell a boat in Mexico that has a TIP, even if the TIP is current, you could lose the boat. That’s because buying or selling a boat with a TIP in Mexico is illegal, because it’s on a TIP, and TIPs can’t be transferred.
“I know of cases where a boat owner has gone to the authorities and told them that he/she just bought a boat in Mexico and wants the TIP transferred to their name. What that person is doing is telling the authorities that they just illegally bought a boat in Mexico. The boat is thus considered contraband and is subject to confiscation. It may not be confiscated, but it could be.
“So please, please, please, if your TIP expires, don’t go to the authorities, come to the marina office so we can help you solve the problem and give you the options that you have.” — Signed Tere Grossman
We can’t echo Tere’s advice strongly enough. TIPs are ridiculously inexpensive and they are easy to get. Get one! And don’t let it expire without getting a new one.
If you do have a problem with a boat in one of her marinas, contact her. If you have a boat with a TIP problem that is not in her marina, we suggest that you confer with Victor Barreda of Agencia Barreda in Cabo San Lucas. Victor, and his father before him, have been handling boat paperwork and paperwork problems in Cabo since 1975, when it wasn’t much more than a two-burro town. He can be reached by email.
More than half of the Baja Ha-Ha boatowners use Victor’s services to check into Mexico each year. If you’ve got a paperwork question, he’s a great guy to ask. Tell him the Grand Poobah sent you.
As for the legality of buying and selling a boat in Mexico, we suspect that Tere Grossman is correct that it’s technically illegal. That said, we know of many people who have bought and sold boats in Mexico without a problem. We’re not sure how they have done this, just that they have. The law in Mexico can sometimes be very flexible. For example, all boats are supposed to have a TIP — get yours online — before arriving in Mexican waters. But for as long as we can remember, there hasn’t been a problem with boatowners who didn’t get a TIP until their first chance in Mexico, which would be Ensenada or La Paz — but not Cabo because it doesn’t have a Banjercito. Nonetheless, you want to know what the law is.
When at all possible, comply with all Mexican laws, even if they are often flexible. Officials are given a lot of discretion in how to enforce the law, and what some officials will allow, others won’t.
By and large Mexico makes it very easy to comply with their rules. Don’t foolishly give them the opportunity to make life miserable for you.