Legal Matters


Never a pleasant subject in any country, but expect a sales tax of 10%. This applies to restaurants, goods, services, tolls, gasoline, hotels, etc. This tax is called I.V.A. - Sales tax as Americans know it.

Real Estate Taxes are a very low amount of maybe $200 +/- annually, as an average. A 2 % transfer tax at the time of closing is a one-time tax when title is passed. This is collected by the "notario" (Notaries are a very high position and only 15 serve Tijuana and Rosarito residents) and paid to the Mexican Government.

Income Tax in Mexico is applicable to income earned in Mexico. It is a high rate, but deductions are allowed. If you work in Mexico, and are not a Mexican Citizen, you must do so under the FM-3 or FM-2 permit, with special working specifications, that outline the activities you are permitted to perform. Foreigners cannot take any jobs that a Mexican National can do, with a few special exceptions. This permit is renewed and reviewed annually and is difficult to obtain, though not impossible.

Banking in Mexico

You can open a dollar or peso account in any bank. You will need your passport and a minimum deposit which will vary from bank to bank.You will find ATM's at all major bank branches throughout Baja California. ATM's in Mexico can be used with most USA issued credit and debit cards that operate in the Cirrus or Plus system. Look for the logo on the back of your card. ATM's provide only Mexican pesos. Law enforcement authorities are always on the lookout for people that pray on unsuspecting visitors. When using an ATM machine make sure that no one is looking to surprise you and please contact the police if you feel it necessary.


A Notary as noted above is very, very different from a Notary in the U.S. A Notary must be an attorney and is appointed in Mexico City. A Notary reviews records, documents and every legal transaction such as real estate closings, wills, marriages, divorces, foreclosures, etc. This is a highly held position. There are only fifteen serving more than 2,000,000 people from Tijuana to Rosarito. The Notary collects taxes related to real estate transactions on behalf of the buyer and seller.

U.S. Consulate in Tijuana

The Consulate is there for U.S. Citizens who need assistance of most any kind. Their phone from Mexico is 01-664-681-7400 or from the U.S. 011-52-664-681-7400.

Legal Advice

It is important to obtain a Mexican attorney when you are preparing to purchase property or make a legal document such as a Mexican Will (which is as important in Mexico, as it is in the U.S., for your Mexico real estate to avoid probate), or when obtaining a Mexican Corporation. It is important that you select an attorney that is bilingual and comes with good references.

Police Authorities in Mexico

Municipal Police

These are the uniformed Police (City) and they provide surveillance, prevent crime and assist citizens. A couple of things to know, it is illegal to "Bribe a Police Officer" in Mexico. If you do get stopped and feel you've done nothing wrong, ask the officer to write a ticket and tell him you will go with him to the police station to pay it. If your infraction is minimum, they'll usually not want to take the time to do this. If they do write you a ticket and you do ont want to go to the police station to pay, you can ask the officer if he would "mind taking the money and paying it for you". They sometimes will do that. These are the blue and white cars.

State Judicial Police

This branch is part of the State Attorney General's office and are responsible for investigating crimes and carrying out arrest warrants. These Police don't wear uniforms and drive unmarked cars.

Federal Highway Police

These Police monitor traffic and proper vehicle documents. They investigate accidents on Federal Highways and supervise ports and areas. They are Federal uniformed police officers and drive the Black & White Cars.

Judicial Federal Police

This branch is part of the Attorney General's Office and investigate crimes contained in the Federal Penal Code. These officials are not uniformed and operate both on a National and Interstate Level.

Public Treasury Police

This police department is in charge of verifying the legal entrance of merchandise and vehicles coming into Mexico. These drive those new royal-blue Dodge Ram Pickup Trucks at the border. In case you don't stop when the red light gets you, these trucks will be right behind you!

The Military Stops

The first time you "roll up" to these guys, they could be intimidating, but actually , they're very nice young men and their main job is to control drug possession and fire arms. BOTH VERY ILLEGAL in Mexico and they don't mess around with you if you are found to have these in your car. Sometimes a Federal Branch in black shirts and pants also use the same check point to make spot checks.

General Legal Information

  • A person may be held in jail up to 72 hours without a charge being filed. The Mexican judicial system does not presume innocence until proven guilty. Bail exists, but is usually not granted to non-Mexican citizens.
  • No one under age 17 can legally enter Mexico unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. Using false Ids can lead to time spent in jail.
  • Many people have been arrested and have had to pay a hefty fines for urinating or spitting in public. Both are illegal.
  • Avoid making public disturbances. Loud cursing, throwing bottles, littering and nudism are not appreciated in Mexico and can lead to your arrest.
  • Stealing and failure to pay for services rendered is illegal and will result in arrest.
  • The legal drinking age in Mexico 18 and over. It is illegal for minors to drink or enter bars in Mexico.
  • There is no difference between possession of drugs and drug trafficking to Mexican law. The penalty for the offense may be five to fifteen years in prison.
  • The possession of an open alcohol container in public is illegal in Mexico and San Diego. You may face fine or time if jail.
  • Drunk driving is considered a major violation in Mexico. Avoid it by all means. It is a police and transit violation and you may be arrested. Designate a driver.
  • Follow all traffic signals and posted signs when driving or walking.
  • In Mexico, it is illegal to make a right turn on a red light.
  • Speed limits are posted in kilometers, not miles per hour. Drive slowly and observe posted signs.
  • Obtain a tourist permit if you plan to stay in Mexico for more than 72 hours or go further that 150 miles south of the border. Present a passport or photo id at the port of entry and request a card.
  • Pay any fines at the police station. DO NOT attempt to pay or pay an officer directly. Bribery is illegal and law enforcement officials are not authorized to take money to clear infractions.