Wetpixel member divrndeep has reported on the forum that Mexican customs officials at Cabo San Lucas (SJD) and La Paz (LAP) airports are enforcing a policy of charging an importation fee on underwater camera housings. She reports that the fee is based on 16% of the housing’s worth and that customs officials will use Google to ascertain a housing’s value. There seems to be an interpretation of Mexican customs regulations that do not include housings as camera accessories. At the time of writing, there are no reports of this being implemented at other points of entry.
Depending on the value of your housing, if you plan to travel to Baja, it may be worth considering obtaining a carnet to avoid the issue.
From Nautilus Liveaboards
Customs and Cameras
What should I do if the customs agents are trying to tax me for my housing?
As an international passenger, you are entitled to bring without paying taxes, two cameras or video recording devices, and their accessories. An underwater housing unit is a camera accessory which fits your camera and allows control and usage of the device while diving. As the housing can only be functional when used with your camera, it should be considered a part of your “two cameras with their accessories” luggage allowance.
Unfortunately, we have received recent reports of isolated incidents where guests have been charged taxes for bringing their camera housings into Mexico. This is a transgression of your rights as an international passenger and a violation of both Mexican and international law. The company is investigating this, and in the meantime, we would like to provide you with this information to help improve your experience at Mexican customs:
- Do not worry about your camera housing if you have not been approached by a customs agent or officer about it.
- Bring documentation for the camera and housing. (examples: manuals, receipts, technical information, etc.)
- You are entitled to ask for information and for a transcription of your rights as an international passenger.
- If you encounter a customs officer who does not consider your camera housing an accessory, remain calm and try to explain to the customs officer that your camera housing is merely an accessory, and therefore tax free under Mexican Customs Law. Provide your devices’ documentations and manuals.
- Ask the custom agent or officer to please provide written explanation of the classification method used to classify your housing as something different than your camera’s accessory.
- If you are not successful, you may ask to please speak to a supervisor.
- If you feel your rights are being violated, you are entitled to file a complaint against the officer on site, just ask to be referred to someone within the Public Function Office (Secretaría de la Funcion Pública). We strongly recommend you remain calm and speak to Mexican authorities with respect.
- If your attempts have been unsuccessful and you are asked to pay taxes, ask the officer in charge to please print a detailed account of the taxes you will be paying and the classification method they used to classify the goods that are being taxed.
- Pay under protest - when paying, ask the cashier and customs officer to acknowledge in writing that you have paid under protest.
- Contact guest services, we will do our best to assist you and try to resolve the inconvenience.
We hope the provided information helps you in your upcoming trip.
Please feel free to contact us for additional information. Safe travels.
Please follow this link to print our Spanish document to present to the Customs Officials - for use ONLY in the event of issues pertaining to your camera housing at Mexico Customs. Please note that the letter is specific to camera housings and will not be relevant to any other items brought through customs.