Personal goods must be crossed through San Ysidro in a car or van. They cannot be mixed in with commercial goods (equipment, set dressing, wardrobe, etc.).
When it is time for you to leave México, almost everything you bring out of the country with you can be considered part of your household goods and will not be subject to duty. You are technically allowed a $400 exemption on Mexican goods, but declaring purchases as part of your household has not yet been a problem. Have your work permit with you (and a rent receipt if you have one) to show proof that you have been working and living in Baja.
All you are required to have as you exit México is an itemized list of what you are bringing with you and approximate values. Your written inventory does not have to be as detailed as a pro-forma shipping invoice. If you are driving back with a television, for example, you do not have to note the make, model, and serial number. “One (1) television” is sufficient. If you have many boxes, number the boxes and put a list on the outside of each itemizing its contents. Have additional copies you can hand the Customs officer if necessary. Don’t tape or secure the boxes so securely that they cannot be inspected.
Files and documentation can be crossed with your personal belongings, as long as they are in boxes marked: FILES/DOCUMENTS ONLY. A personal computer and printer is okay, but more than one of each and other office equipment should be crossed with the commercial goods through Otay Mesa. Boxes full of videotapes are also considered commercial, but a few tapes with your household belongings would be no problem.
Things to consider if you are binging:
Vehicles purchased in México can only be exported via independent, Commercial Importers and must conform to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) emission requirements and DOT (Department of Transportation) safety, bumper, and theft prevention standards.
Books, Records, Computer Programs and Cassettes
Printed copies of copyrighted articles which are unlawfully made without the authorization of the copyright owner are prohibited from importation into the U.S.
Cultural Property (Objects/Artifacts)
U.S. law prohibits the importation of pre-Columbian monumental and architectural sculpture and murals.
The importation, exportation, manufacture, sale and transportation of drug paraphernalia are prohibited. Persons convicted of these offenses are subject to fines and imprisonment.
Firearms and Ammunition
Firearms and ammunition not used as props and not brought into México with the proper permits from both the U.S. and Mexican governments, are subject to restrictions and import permits approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). No import permit is required when it is proven that the firearms or ammunition were previously taken out of the United States by the person who is returning with such firearms or ammunition, and that they were registered before departing the U.S.
Fruits and Vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables are either prohibited from entering the country or require an import permit. Every fruit or vegetable must be declared to the Customs officer and must be presented for inspection, no matter how free of pests it appears to be.
Meats, Livestock, Poultry
Meats, livestock, poultry, and their by-products (such as ham, frankfurters, sausage, pate) are either prohibited or restricted from entering the United States, depending on the animal disease condition in México.
Narcotics and dangerous drugs, including anabolic steroids, are prohibited entry and there are severe penalties if imported. A traveler requiring medicines containing habit-forming drugs or narcotics should:
1. Have all drugs and similar products properly identified.
2. Carry only such quantity’s that might normally be carried by an individual having some sort of health problem.
3. Have either a prescription or written statement from your personal physician that the medicine is being used under a doctor’s direction and are necessary for your physical well-being while traveling.
Plants, cuttings, seeds, unprocessed plant products and certain endangered species either requires an import permit or is prohibited from entering the U.S.
Wildlife and Fish
Wildlife and fish are subject to certain import and export restrictions, prohibitions, permits or certificates and quarantine requirements. This includes: wild birds, mammals including marine mammals, reptiles, crustaceans, fish, and mollusks and invertebrates; any part or product such as skins, feathers and eggs; products and articles manufactured from wildlife and fish. Endangered species of wildlife and products made from them are generally prohibited from being imported or exported.
All ivory and ivory products made from elephant or marine mammal ivory are also generally prohibited from being imported. Antiques containing wildlife parts may be imported if accompanied by documentation providing that they are at least 100 years old.