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  • By LAC Blog
  • Wednesday 30, May 2018

Transporting merchandise over the US/Mexican border by ground is a time-honoured tradition.  Millions of dollars of goods make this journey every single day, and there are huge markets to explore to the south.  However, shipping between the US and Mexico can become very hectic if you don’t know what you’re doing.  There are a number of laws, customs regulations and documents to be adhered to when attempting to cross this border for commercial purposes.  Here’s a rundown of the customs documentation necessary for cross-border shipping to Mexico.

Due Diligence

The first step is to ensure that the importer (usually the “customer” who is receiving the goods in this scenario) is properly designated.  If the receiving party is a first-timer, then they must register as an importer with the SAT (Servicio de Administración Tributaria) beforehand.  This government agency is a deconcentrated bureau of the Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit in Mexico.


When using ground transportation from the United States, certain essential documentation is a must each and every time for cross-border shipping to Mexico.  These are the Bill of Lading and Commercial invoice, the NAFTA Certificate of Origin, the Packing List and Shipper’s Export Declaration.  They must be submitted to either the Mexican customs broker or the American customs broker on US side, before crossing.

There is no excuse for missing or inaccurate documentation, and help will be very minimal once the truck is loaded and rolling.  The burden falls on the shipper to have all thus paperwork completed properly and in a timely manner.

(1) Bill of Lading and Commercial Invoice
The bill of lading is filled out by the exporter (US side) and can be submitted in either English or Spanish.  The exporter (aka the shipper) also completes the commercial invoice.  Submit this to the U.S. Forwarding Agent, who can translate to Spanish (for a fee) if requested.  Invoices must show the following information:

  • Complete business addresses of the seller and buyer 
  • Tax ID # of the seller (Canadian companies should use their Business Number) 
  • RFC # of the buyer
  • The INCOTERMS agreed upon between seller and customer

Product quantities declared on the invoices must show exactly what’s being shipped.  Inaccurate declarations will be penalized by Mexican customs.

(2) NAFTA Certificate of Origin
A uniform credential that is used in the United States, Canada, Mexico to certify that goods being exported are eligible as originating goods, for the benefit of a preferential tariff.  It can cover single or multiple importations (called a “blanket certificate”).  The exporter must complete and sign it, then keep it on file. The importer must submit a copy to the appropriate customs broker to claim NAFTA benefits.  Note: You must provide the name and address of the Mexico customs broker and American forwarding agent for the shipment.

(3) Packing List
Completed by the exporter.  It should detail the specific commodities, item by item, of each package or case in the shipment. Must be submitted to American Forwarding Agent. Both English and Spanish are accepted.  Note that Mexican customs does not accept numbers or product codes.  Detailed technical product info must be provided, such as a catalogue or design sheets or other pertinent documentation.

Tariff classifications are not finalized until merchandise is physically inspected by Mexican customs broker.  

(4) Shipper’s Export Declaration
The exporter or a US Forwarding Agent completes this form. English is required.

Costly Mistakes

Note that before any shipment is allowed to cross into Mexico, all duties and taxes must have been paid in full to the Mexican customs broker.  Any delays at the border due to customs-related matters (such as incomplete documentation) may be subject to equipment detention or storage charges.

A Lot to Learn

Every country has its own regulations and shipping requirements so it’s important to be aware of this information before shipping internationally to any destination.  There’s a lot of information to consider when shipping to Mexico.  It all may seem complicated at first, but can be very painless with right logistics partner.  Don’t take any chances and deal only with the best Freight Forwarder in the industry.


For assistance with Customs Documentation for Cross-border Shipping to Mexico, call us today at 1-877-522-7447 or e-mail contactus@latinamericancargo.com

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