Companies that are new trade in the NAFTA region should have a basic familiarity with the US-Mexico commercial border crossing process.

Since the signing of the NAFTA by in 1994 by the then leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada, annual trade between the US and Mexico, in particular, has increased by five hundred and six percent through 2012. Of the total imports that enter the United States from Mexico, forty percent of the value of those goods originates in US content. As such NAFTA supports manufacturing jobs on both side of the border, and enables to countries of the region to partner to be competitive vis-a-vis the globe’s other industrialized countries and economic blocs. Because total cross border trade is currently valued at one billion US dollars per day, it is important for companies that are beginning to internationalize their operations to be familar with the US-Mexico commercial border crossing process.

Southbound US-Mexico Commercial Border Crossing Process

When crossing trailers carrying goods into Mexico from the United States, it is important to be aware of the fact that these shipments are subject to two levels of inspection. Once cleared commerical vehicles are cleared to move beyond a twenty-one kilometer “border zone,” if the goods are destined for customers in the countries interior. Prior to hitting the border, however, there are certain activities that must be executed while the goods and the conveyance on which they are being carried is still in the United States.

These include:

  • The delivery of import documents to Mexicoexican Customs by the company, its Mexican customs broker, or the import-export staff of a shelter company in Mexico.
  • The payment of any applicable duties due to Mexican Customs by the responsible party or parties.
  • The verification that any duties paid to Customs authorities have been cleared by Mexican banks.

After making the southbound US-Mexico commercial border crossing, commercial trailers are reviewed at a point of primary point of inspection just across the international boundary on the Mexican side. It is important to remember that only commercial conveyances carrying cargo are subject to inspection. Trailers that are empty generally pass freely through primary inspection, although some are subject to review as a result of the Mexican government’s computerized process of randomly choosing some of these vehicles for examination.

All southbound freight involve in the southbound US-Mexico Commercial border crossing process is subject to the same primary inspection. In some instances, and under certain circumstances, a percentage of trucks going through primary inspection will be chosen to go through a second inspection. Rather than being reviewed on the second occasion by Mexican Customs employees, secondary inspections of goods entering Mexico from the US by land are carried out by private contractors.

Once goods are inspected, either once or twice, after crossing into Mexico from the United States, Mexican Customs reviews documents that verify that any applicable inspections have been conducted. The Mexican freight carrier then is allowed to proceed with its cargo to its final destination.

Northbound US-Mexico Commercial Border Crossing Process

Manufacturers in Mexico must be aware of the US-Mexico border crossing process that is applied to the movement of their finished goods into the commercial territory of the United States. As is the case on the Mexican side of the border, shipments in-bound to the US are subject to two levels of inspection. When moving product from the US to Mexico, there are also certain steps that must be completed while the commercial shipment is still on the Mexican side of the international boundary. These include:

  •  The verification of documents by the Mexican exporter, or its designate representatives, which may include customs experts at a Mexican shelter company.
  • The transmission of commercial and cargo data to US Customs through the Automated Broker Interface, or ABI, system.

Once on the US side of the border the US-Mexico commercial border process requires that US Customs officials make certain that all commercial vehicles entering the territory of the United States meet all rules and regulations that are applicable with respect to shipments’ driver, vehicle and contents. All trucks entering the US are subject to primary inspection, this includes inspection of contents for contraband, which can include K-9 checks to ensure that vehicles are not carrying illicit drugs. Some carriers pass through the process at a quicker pace as a part of several “early release programs.” For example, carriers that are participants in programs such as the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program are given preference of movement due to having achieved that status of a “trusted carrier.”

On occasion, preliminary finding of US Customs inspection call for the movement to another area of the US Customs compound for the conduct of a secondary, closer inspection. Depending on the contents of trailers, inspections on the US side of the border are conducted by US Customs, the Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture and/or other federal regulators. Some trailers that go through the US-Mexico commercial border crossing process are chosen to go through large X-ray machines that are capable of scanning the entire contents of what is being
transited by commercial carriers.

As is the case with procedure for imports into Mexico, after US Customs has inspected commercial conveyences, either one or two times, documents are reviewed to ensure that applicable inspections been conducted by the appropriate US authorities and agencies. In many instances, states’ DPS or local police officers review vehicles that have left the U.S. Customs compound for the purpose ensuring that they are roadworthy. Once deemed as such, drivers are free to make deliveries at their final destinations.