Expat Forum For People Moving Overseas And Living Abroad banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 8 of 8 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
50 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Thank God, my wife and I have arrived safely and soundly here in Mexico City. We took the Colombia Solidarity Bridge and it was a lovely, quiet, and uneventful ride from 35 to the Bridge. But then all heck broke lose when we entered Mexican Customs. I want to warn folks who are planning on shipping anything to Mexico or who are arriving with a Menaje de Casa. We spent 6 hours in Customs, and at times it looked like they were not going to let us into Mexico.

Mexican Customs is NOT a government agency; it is a privately owned and operated business. So, you can imagine the potential for abuse and bribery. There is no clear hierarchy amongst the men who come to inspect the vehicle and its contents. Various men give various prices, and you have to negotiate with them. At one point, they wanted the three of us to each pay $300 to cross the border into Mexico.

Now we were traveling in a private vehicle with many of our expensive things, so we did not just go to the green/red light, we stopped to declare our possessions. Maybe we should not have declared our possessions, but we were told that, even if we got a greet light, if a policeman stopped us at any point on the way to our destination, we could be returned to the border to have Customs inspect our vehicle. We did not want to risk that.

Worse still, were the Customs Agents at the UPS office at the airport. We shipped many things by UPS in a total of 17 boxes. There is absolutely no clear definition between the UPS personnel and Customs agents. It is sheer and total confusion designed to harass the customer. The UPS personnel would never directly answer our question, "Who are you working for? Us as a UPS official or as a Customs official?"

You see, at both the border and the airport aduana, you have to "hire" a custom's agent. You cannot process anything through customs without hiring a custom's agent. Now if you are shipping your household things with a moving van, I am sure you will not encounter any of the problems we did. But if you are shipping things to Mexico by UPS or any other parcel carrier, expect the worst.

They basically held our things hostage for 10 days, and made us pay storage for each of the days they stretched out with all of their red-tape.

A close friend who is a journalist says that journalists in Mexico do not write about three things: drug lords, kidnappers, and (you guessed it) Customs Agents. Because journalists who do so, disappear.

Another friend from Austria tried to order some musical instruments from Austria. He experienced the same delays and demands for extravagant amounts of money from the Customs agents in the airport. He actually went to the Austrian Embassy and the Austrian Ambassador came to the Customs department in the airport to facilitate things, and even the Ambassador could not help! This is how bad it is.

We just contacted our UPS shipper in the city in the US where we shipped from, and our shipper says that the Mexican UPS has filed no paperwork at all saying that we received our shipment, nor paid for it. Yet, we paid $800 to ship the boxes from the U.S, and then another $1200 to the UPS/Customs in Mexico City, and we were given a bill and we have our receipt. Nevertheless, UPS here in Mexico, says to expect another bill in the next few days. It seems that they don't want to report the money they received from us, the $1200, onto the official UPS computer system.

This has left a real bad taste in my mouth, and is not a welcome entry into Mexico. Our friend who helped us ship our possessions via UPS is trying to recover some of our money at the U.S. end, but he fears that if he "rattles too many cages," we could be in danger.

So, at least, we finally have all our possessions in our new condo, and we're in the process of unpacking. But I am very worried I will never see my (I think) "bribe" money again, and I fear more red-tape and hassles when my wife begins the process to make me a Mexican citizen.

Wishing you all well,
Votexijah
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,712 Posts
It is hard to imagine shipping that much by UPS without knowing that you would face both customs duties and additional UPS charges at the receiving end. I have received books from abroad, delivered to my door in Mexico by UPS, without either.
Your post also seems to contain some rather surprising and possibly incorrect information, which you might want to double check. For example; I'm quite sure that 'Aduana' is an arm of the Mexican government. You do not have to hire a customs agent unless you exceed the value of goods that you are allowed to bring into Mexico. Perhaps your error was in not obtaining a 'menaje de casa' and using your one time household goods exemption from import duties. That would have solved the entire problem. Sorry you had a bad experience, but it seems that you may have contributed to the series of events by a lack of pre-planning.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
50 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Clarification

Hi RVGRINGO!

We did have a menaje de casa. I paid $95 for it from the Mexican Embassy in Kansas City. They assured us that we would encounter no further taxes, but that we would have to hire a Customs Agent at the border. But when we got to the border, an assortment of different "officers" surrounded us, and at various times demanding different sums from us, that variously changed, from $300 to $900. In fact, one of the most "dangerous" and unpleasant of these guys tried to talk my wife out of keeping the menaje, and he insisted she surrender it to him, and just pay him $200 in cash on the spot assuring her we would be given the "green light". My wife refused to surrender the menaje, thank God. Eventually, we kept the menaje, paid them $195, and went through the green light.

To clarify about the aduana, I checked with my wife, and she said that it was the Mexican Embassy in Kansas City that told her that it is the "Customs Agents" who are not part of the government. You are correct that the Aduana is a government arm. Nonetheless, the problem arises with the fact that one must hire a Customs Agent, and these people are like outlaws from the Wild West. One cannot get to the Aduana without going through the Customs Agent. In the Mexico City airport, there is a whole entire lane with a variety of Customs Agents that one can hire. We decided to stay with UPS as that was our shipper. But it is so strange, that the UPS operates as "Custom Agents". It seems they are compromised.

We worked at first with a lady from UPS. But this lady ALSO simultaneously works for a Custom Agent company called Branis. See? She wears two hats! So, when my wife got assertive with her and asked her directly, "What's going on with the customs?" She answered, "I don't know, I work for the UPS." And then when she asked her, "Aren't you as UPS working for us?" She answered, "No, I'm am working as a Custom's Agent." It was that kind of craziness that we encountered. She would put on one hat when it was convenient for her, and the other hat when it was convenient for her. It NEVER felt like she was on our side. And like I said, I don't want to give out too much information, because of the horror stories I've heard about criticizing the Customs Agents; but we shipped our boxes through a friend who owns a business and ships only through UPS. He regularly ships abroad; he was with us when all this was going on, and he said he's never seen anything as bad as this. And like I said, we paid our bill in full to UPS, and still on the computer screen in the US UPS absolutely nothing is showing up that we received or paid for our goods.

I hope this clarifies things a bit. I'm still quite emotional about these unexpected charges and you are absolutely right about the aduana; the Custom's Agents are a bunch of private firms, and one cannot have contact with the aduana (at the Mexico City airport or at the border) without hiring one of these shady Custom Agent companies.

All the best,
Vortexijah




It is hard to imagine shipping that much by UPS without knowing that you would face both customs duties and additional UPS charges at the receiving end. I have received books from abroad, delivered to my door in Mexico by UPS, without either.
Your post also seems to contain some rather surprising and possibly incorrect information, which you might want to double check. For example; I'm quite sure that 'Aduana' is an arm of the Mexican government. You do not have to hire a customs agent unless you exceed the value of goods that you are allowed to bring into Mexico. Perhaps your error was in not obtaining a 'menaje de casa' and using your one time household goods exemption from import duties. That would have solved the entire problem. Sorry you had a bad experience, but it seems that you may have contributed to the series of events by a lack of pre-planning.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,712 Posts
Wow! That's the first such incident that I've heard of. Here in Chapala, there are thousands of expats and those who have had shipments by moving companies, with a menaje de casa, have not had any problems of that sort, nor did they have to be present. The moving companies handle it all, including the broker. I think that you are entitled to only one duty free shipment in a specified time frame for your household goods. Had you already used that? Perhaps that is the problem; making your UPS shipments a separate matter and subject to the $3000 USD limit, etc.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
20 Posts
It sounds to me like the "customs agents" are like the tour operators when you get off a tour ship. Each tries to have as official looking as possible presentation and pitch... when basically they are nothing more than street vendors.

Like many things, I don't believe it is required to hire a customs agent. You were told that, and you believed it. And perhaps for many, it is worth the money to hire one IF they save you time and money. For instance, I do hire someone to process my FM-3 paperwork, because I don't have the patience to deal with it. It just seems like you didn't plan on this and ended up in the snake pit. Sorry....

Because I don't have all the answers, and even if I thought I did, I wouldn't trust that everything didn't change the next hour. I am in Baja, so I don't face all of your problems... but I do cross the border with goods more frequently perhaps. Even when I am shipping to friends deeper into Mexico, I probe a little before I plunge completely forward into a situation I can't find a good way around. However, I never carry a large amount of goods across the border with me at one time, nor do I ever have large amounts shipped to me in single shipments.

I spread the deliveries out over a longer period of time and different shipments. That way even if one carton attracts their attention, it is a smaller problem to solve. If I am moving household goods, I don't even dust it off. The older it looks the better. New items I take out of the wrappers completely.

My recommendation to you is to lodge a strong protest with UPS in the USA. You contracted with them and if they want a decent reputation in Mexico, it is up to them to make sure there is only one person with one hat.

Good luck in the future. There are many who have had absolutely no problems, and it is unfortunate that you seemed to hit every "red light" possible. I don't think it is a typical situation... :confused2:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
581 Posts
Thank God, my wife and I have arrived safely and soundly here in Mexico City. We took the Colombia Solidarity Bridge and it was a lovely, quiet, and uneventful ride from 35 to the Bridge. But then all heck broke lose when we entered Mexican Customs. I want to warn folks who are planning on shipping anything to Mexico or who are arriving with a Menaje de Casa. We spent 6 hours in Customs, and at times it looked like they were not going to let us into Mexico.

Mexican Customs is NOT a government agency; it is a privately owned and operated business


This is not accurate. Mexican Customs is part of the "Servicio de Administracion Tributaria", which is part of the Mexican Federal government.



. So, you can imagine the potential for abuse and bribery.
The current Mexican government realized this, reason for which they fired all Border Customs Officials recently and hired new people. But you are getting confused about who was harassing you (more about that below).

There is no clear hierarchy amongst the men who come to inspect the vehicle and its contents. Various men give various prices, and you have to negotiate with them. At one point, they wanted the three of us to each pay $300 to cross the border into Mexico.
There is no hierarchy because they are competing against each other. The "agente aduanal" is a person recognized by the authorities to deal with your stuff, ensuring that all the legalities are covered. Their role and procedure is described step by step in the respective website (in Spanish).

As many things in Mexico, when somebody notices that they can take advantage from you, they unfortunately may. Clearly the "agentes" noticed that you didn't know the formalities of the situation and tried to take advantage of it.


Now we were traveling in a private vehicle with many of our expensive things, so we did not just go to the green/red light, we stopped to declare our possessions. Maybe we should not have declared our possessions, but we were told that, even if we got a greet light, if a policeman stopped us at any point on the way to our destination, we could be returned to the border to have Customs inspect our vehicle. We did not want to risk that.
Who told you that? Once you pass costumes and you have all the necessary paperwork they can't send you back. If you find a corrupt policeman they may try to pull such a stunt, but if you are informed they can't do anything about it.

As corrupt as the Mexican police is, they normally don't take advantage of people that stick to their guns so to speak. They can make your life a misery, but rarely will robe you (in the sense of using violence or threats).

I lived in Mexico most of my life and I only paid a bribe only once, while driving with a foreigner that did something stupid while in a hurry :)

Worse still, were the Customs Agents at the UPS office at the airport. We shipped many things by UPS in a total of 17 boxes. There is absolutely no clear definition between the UPS personnel and Customs agents. It is sheer and total confusion designed to harass the customer. The UPS personnel would never directly answer our question, "Who are you working for? Us as a UPS official or as a Customs official?"
You were and seem to still be confused about the different roles of the different people you have to deal with.

There is simply no possibility that the same person was acting as both an UPS representative and a customs official. You may be confusing "agente aduanal" (representing the private company authorized to deal with customs) with "oficial aduanal" (which are the representatives of the government).

If somebody was pretending to be both most likely he was breaking the law. This should be reported to both UPS and Aduanas (Costums).

You see, at both the border and the airport aduana, you have to "hire" a custom's agent. You cannot process anything through customs without hiring a custom's agent.
This is correct, but you say it like if it is a big surprise. The requirement to deal with "agentes aduanales" is explicitly spelled out in the respective website (in Spanish to be fair, but I am certain there should be English version of these procedures): Trámites - Trámites - SAT México


Now if you are shipping your household things with a moving van, I am sure you will not encounter any of the problems we did. But if you are shipping things to Mexico by UPS or any other parcel carrier, expect the worst.
The amount of stuff going both ways between both countries is mind boggling, mostly without a hitch. Sorry to hear you had problems, but you are generalizing from one isolated case. I am not saying that the process is not sluggish, but from that to imply that nothing works is a bit of a stretch.

They basically held our things hostage for 10 days, and made us pay storage for each of the days they stretched out with all of their red-tape.
Who? If it was Customs and there is no reason for it then you can complain. But perhaps your confusion about who does what didn't help to smooth the situation. To be frank using UPS for this was not the wisest way of doing things, there are moving companies that specialize of transporting everything point to point, I would never use UPS to move to a new country (I have moved several times between very dissimilar countries, and my wife moved in and out of Mexico without any issues).

A close friend who is a journalist says that journalists in Mexico do not write about three things: drug lords, kidnappers, and (you guessed it) Customs Agents. Because journalists who do so, disappear.
Again, that is an exaggeration, your friend is playing hero. Many people in national newspapers write about all those people, and yes, there are journalists that pay the ultimate price for their bravery when denouncing drug dealers. But kidnappers and customs agents? Sorry, don't buy it.

Another friend from Austria tried to order some musical instruments from Austria. He experienced the same delays and demands for extravagant amounts of money from the Customs agents in the airport. He actually went to the Austrian Embassy and the Austrian Ambassador came to the Customs department in the airport to facilitate things, and even the Ambassador could not help! This is how bad it is.
Customs agents can demand whatever they want for their services. It is up to you to shop around. I am certain that a private company would have not been impressed by an ambassador, they are trying to do business, they are not government officials.

We just contacted our UPS shipper in the city in the US where we shipped from, and our shipper says that the Mexican UPS has filed no paperwork at all saying that we received our shipment, nor paid for it. Yet, we paid $800 to ship the boxes from the U.S, and then another $1200 to the UPS/Customs in Mexico City, and we were given a bill and we have our receipt. Nevertheless, UPS here in Mexico, says to expect another bill in the next few days. It seems that they don't want to report the money they received from us, the $1200, onto the official UPS computer system.
You have to pursue this with UPS. If that does not work then you have to denounce it to the Consumer Protection Attorney in Mexico (PROFECO) and the respective US authorities.

Very often when you mention to private companies in Mexico that you will involve PROFECO they reconsider their ways. PROFECO is one of the Mexican agencies with real teeth, so it is worth talking to them to see if they can help.

This has left a real bad taste in my mouth, and is not a welcome entry into Mexico. Our friend who helped us ship our possessions via UPS is trying to recover some of our money at the U.S. end, but he fears that if he "rattles too many cages," we could be in danger.
Danger? WHY! I am sorry, but I think you have to come down a bit. I am sure UPS is not going to send their Ninjas to beat you up. You are sorting out a commercial transaction that has gone bad. The situation in Mexico is not so bad that US head quartered companies have private militias in Mexico :)

So, at least, we finally have all our possessions in our new condo, and we're in the process of unpacking. But I am very worried I will never see my (I think) "bribe" money again, and I fear more red-tape and hassles when my wife begins the process to make me a Mexican citizen.
It can't possibly be bribe money. The entities you seem to be dealing with are UPS and an "Agencia Aduanal", both private entities. In both case you have ways to address the problem, from following their respective complain procedures to involve PROFECO or any other government agency to ensure you are not being abused.

If you don't want to be abused you need to inform yourself. Applying for Mexican Citizenship is relatively simple, you can do all the applying yourself, but if you contract somebody to do it for you, please shop around and get recommendations if possible.

Wishing you all well,
Votexijah
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
581 Posts
It sounds to me like the "customs agents" are like the tour operators when you get off a tour ship. Each tries to have as official looking as possible presentation and pitch... when basically they are nothing more than street vendors.

Like many things, I don't believe it is required to hire a customs agent. You were told that, and you believed it. And perhaps for many, it is worth the money to hire one IF they save you time and money. For instance, I do hire someone to process my FM-3 paperwork, because I don't have the patience to deal with it. It just seems like you didn't plan on this and ended up in the snake pit. Sorry....

Because I don't have all the answers, and even if I thought I did, I wouldn't trust that everything didn't change the next hour. I am in Baja, so I don't face all of your problems... but I do cross the border with goods more frequently perhaps. Even when I am shipping to friends deeper into Mexico, I probe a little before I plunge completely forward into a situation I can't find a good way around. However, I never carry a large amount of goods across the border with me at one time, nor do I ever have large amounts shipped to me in single shipments.

I spread the deliveries out over a longer period of time and different shipments. That way even if one carton attracts their attention, it is a smaller problem to solve. If I am moving household goods, I don't even dust it off. The older it looks the better. New items I take out of the wrappers completely.

My recommendation to you is to lodge a strong protest with UPS in the USA. You contracted with them and if they want a decent reputation in Mexico, it is up to them to make sure there is only one person with one hat.

Good luck in the future. There are many who have had absolutely no problems, and it is unfortunate that you seemed to hit every "red light" possible. I don't think it is a typical situation... :confused2:

You do need an Agente Aduanal. Is is explicitly stated in the procedure to move a "menaje de casa".

You may not see this if you use a reputable professional international mover , they will deal with all the paperwork and fees for you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,712 Posts
If this weren't so disturbing to Vortexijah, it might make a good chapter in a 'How not to enter Mexico' book. Anyone planning to enter Mexico for a visit, or to live, should do their homework. This forum might be a good place to start, but attention should also be given to the official sources. I suspect that the situation may have arisen because that wasn't done, and then escalated when tempers may have flared and emotions got aroused.
Here is the site which will give the details on bringing goods to Mexico:

Servicio de Administración Tributaria, México

Much of it can be accessed in English.
 
1 - 8 of 8 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top