While what household items you decide to bring is ultimately a personal choice, here are a few tips to assist you in the decision making process.
What Can You Ship?
Article 90 of the Mexican Customs Law states that the items you bring must be used personal items and furniture of a house, e.g. clothes, books, furniture, appliances, and electronics. Tools and implements are also allowed if they are required for your profession or if they are used for a hobby. Medical equipment, such as a wheelchair, blood pressure or sugar monitors, and oxygen generators are allowed duty-free. New (unused) items and those in unopened packaging may be allowed into Mexico but will likely be subject to duty and other requirements.
What Can’t You Ship?
You may not bring in guns or ammunition of any caliber, as well as most other weapons. Also, no fresh or frozen food, plants, spices, or seeds are allowed. While personal medication, supplements, and perfumes and other cosmetics are allowed when carried with your luggage, it is not recommended to ship these items with your household goods. Vehicles, including cars, boats, recreational vehicles, and trailers are not considered household goods and must be declared and approved separately.
Up until very recently, we would have recommended bringing all of your electronic devices with you, but times are changing and most items including Apple products are priced comparably to the U.S. (although not less expensive). There may not be the same selection of devices (Apple advertises four different iPad memory storage capacities on their U.S. site, but only two are available on the Mexican site.) Because electronics prices here are basically U.S. prices or more, if you are retiring you may want to consider updating all of your technology prior to retirement, so that you can go a longer time without replacing them. Just make sure you bring them in as ‘used’ goods, i.e. removed from packaging and in use. There are a wide variety of televisions available in Mexico at very comparable prices, making it largely unnecessary to bring televisions unless you have the latest and greatest most expensive brand.
Again, this is an individual choice, but keep in mind that many U.S. styles of furniture do not fit well in Mexican homes and beautiful and custom made furniture is readily available here. The selection of mattresses available, for example, is comparable to the U.S. or Canada. IKEA is also opening a store in Guadalajara in 2019.
Lakeside consignment stores are full of things that expats have left behind for one reason or another. Shipping is expensive and not straightforward, so it would be a shame to spend all the time and trouble only to discover that you no longer treasure something you brought at great expense.
Only you can decide if it’s wise to bring treasured heirlooms or expensive jewelry, but if you do, be sure to invest in a safe and have it bolted down. (Costco Mexico has a great selection of safes in varying sizes from a small one for passports, etc. to a large closet safe.) Even this is not insurance against a determined thief, but it is a deterrent. And if you really can’t live without grandfather’s WWII medal and your heart would be broken if it is lost or stolen, you may want to consider leaving it with a relative. Robbery is not unheard of here and you should carefully consider what you feel comfortable doing with absolutely irreplaceable items, depending on your risk tolerance.
When it comes to photos, consider digitizing them and leaving the originals in your home country.
Today in Mexico, you can get most household items available in the U.S. although prices of imported household items are usually either equal to or more expensive than in the U.S. Here are a few current household item price comparisons all in U.S. dollar equivalents:
|Amazon U.S.||Amazon MX||Costco MX||City Market MX|
|Cuisinart Grind & Brew Coffeemaker||
As you can see from the chart, prices vary widely. Many items are now available with reliable free shipping to your door from sites like Amazon Prime Mexico and Costco Mexico, just like home. Neither of these has everything that is on their U.S. site, but they do have a large selection of items.
High quality tools are still largely imported into Mexico and are quite expensive, so you may want to bring those if you have special tools for a hobby, etc. Guns of any sort are not permitted to enter Mexico.
A list of your household effects must be certified by the Mexican Consulate for Customs in Mexico. You must present the following:
- Residente Temporal or Residente Permanente issued in the applicant’s name plus a notarized copy
- Sorry ladies, in Mexico the man is the head of the household. If there is no man, then you do get to bring your “stuff” in your own name, but if there is a man, the application must be in his name unless you apply separately.
- A typed list of household effects (inventory), in Spanish, accompanied by four additional photocopies, listing all items to be imported. Brand, model and serial numbers must be stated when listing electrical appliances.
- Proof of domicilo (address) in Mexico
- Consular fees
It is important to make your list by box, that is,
- Box 1 Inventory List
- Box 2 Inventory List, etc.
and label the boxes accordingly.
Once the household effects list has been submitted, all furniture and appliances must enter the country within six months from date of the issue of the Residente Temporal or Permanente visa. Household effects can be brought into Mexico duty free only once in a lifetime, so plan carefully.
Let’s Wrap This Up
By Bette Brazel, Focus on Mexico Content Manager
Focus On Mexico offers 6-Day Educational Programs to Ajijic and Lake Chapala, Mexico. Join us and learn why thousands of Americans and Canadians chose to retire in Lake Chapala.Our programs offer the perfect balance; a wonderful vacation and an insightful, educational experience. Our expert speakers cover all topics: Health Care, Real Estate, Legal System, Safety, Immigration, Assisted Living/Care Options, Bringing Pets, Cost of Living, US Taxes for Americans, Non-Residency for Canadians, Living on the Lakeside, Investing in Mexico, Mexican Economy and much more…