IMMEX Program 101: A Beginner's Guide to Manufacturing in Mexico

IMMEX Programs
  • May 16, 2023

If you are considering expanding your manufacturing operations to Mexico, then you may have heard about the Mexico IMMEX program. The IMMEX program, also known as the Maquiladora program, is a government-sponsored program designed to promote foreign investment and manufacturing in Mexico. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to the IMMEX Program in Mexico, including an overview of the program's benefits and requirements, the process for obtaining IMMEX certification, and the rules and regulations that govern the program. We will also explore the history and evolution of the Maquiladora industry in Mexico and the impact of the program on the Mexican economy.

What is IMMEX?

The IMMEX program is a Mexican government initiative that provides tax and customs benefits to foreign companies that manufacture or assemble goods in Mexico for export. The program was created in 2006 to promote foreign investment and boost the country's economy. It replaced the Maquiladora program, which was created in the 1960s and offered similar benefits to companies that imported raw materials, assembled or manufactured products, and then exported them.

Under the Mexico IMMEX program, eligible companies can import raw materials, components, and machinery into Mexico tax-free for use in the manufacturing process. They can also benefit from a Value-Added Tax (VAT) exemption on imported goods and equipment, as well as a reduced corporate tax rate.

What are Maquiladoras?

Maquiladoras are manufacturing plants that operate under the IMMEX program in Mexico. They are usually owned by foreign companies and employ Mexican workers to assemble, manufacture or process goods for export. The term "Maquiladora" comes from the Spanish word "maquila," which refers to the payment for work done.

Maquiladoras initially focused on labor-intensive assembly operations, such as the manufacturing of electronic components, textiles, and toys. However, the industry has evolved over the years to include more complex operations, such as automotive and aerospace manufacturing.

Benefits of the IMMEX Program

The Mexico IMMEX program offers several benefits to foreign companies manufacturing in Mexico. One of the primary advantages is the ability to import raw materials and equipment into Mexico duty-free. This results in significant cost savings for businesses, enhancing their overall competitiveness.

Additionally, the IMMEX program provides a VAT exemption on imported goods and equipment. This exemption helps to reduce the overall cost of manufacturing and increases profit margins for participating companies. By eliminating the burden of VAT on imports, businesses can allocate their resources more effectively and invest in other areas of their operations.

Another benefit of the IMMEX program is the opportunity for companies to benefit from a reduced corporate tax rate. By participating in the program, businesses can access a lower tax rate, leading to substantial tax savings. This allows companies to allocate their financial resources more efficiently, reinvest in their operations, and further expand their presence in the Mexican market.

It is important to note that, apart from the tax and financial benefits, the program also provides a wide range of additional advantages. For foreign companies with no prior experience in Mexico, operating under a shelter program is one of the most advantageous ways to start up manufacturing operations swiftly and with minimal risk. By opting for a shelter program, companies ensure full compliance with all laws and regulations, thereby eliminating liability. Additionally, the shelter company takes care of all administrative issues, allowing foreign companies to focus on their core competencies and what they do best. This arrangement also aids in finding and retaining the right talent for operations, as the shelter company leverages its local expertise and connections.

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Who can participate in the IMMEX program? 

The IMMEX program welcomes the participation of both companies and entities that are keen on engaging in nearshore or offshore manufacturing in Mexico while also seeking to export their goods and services. It is an inclusive program that is open to all interested parties, regardless of their industry or sector. Whether you are a well-established company or a new entity looking to expand your manufacturing operations in Mexico, the IMMEX program provides an opportunity for your participation.

Obtaining IMMEX Certification

To participate in the IMMEX program, companies must obtain certification from the Mexican government. The certification process involves several steps, including the submission of an application, a review of the company's financial statements, and an inspection of the manufacturing facility.

Once certified, companies must comply with the program's rules and regulations, which include requirements related to record-keeping, reporting, and auditing.

Rules and Regulations

The IMMEX program in Mexico has several rules and regulations that participating companies must follow. These include requirements related to the use of imported materials and equipment, reporting of exports and imports, and compliance with labor laws and environmental regulations.

Companies must also maintain accurate records of their manufacturing operations and comply with periodic audits and inspections by Mexican authorities.

Impact of the IMMEX Program

The IMMEX program has had a significant impact on the Mexican economy. Since its inception, the program has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment and created thousands of jobs for Mexican workers.

The program has also helped to transform the Mexican economy by promoting the development of high-tech manufacturing operations and reducing the country's reliance on low-skilled, labor-intensive manufacturing.

How does a Customs Agency work with IMMEX Companies?

A customs agency (also called a customs broker) functions by overseeing and regulating the importation and distribution of products within and beyond a country's borders. Working with a knowledgeable and experienced customs broker is crucial for companies involved in IMMEX operations, as the program involves intricate regulations and compliance requirements. Additionally, regulations may evolve, so staying informed about changes is essential for successful IMMEX management.

The customs agent is responsible for facilitating the entry of imported goods into the national territory for domestic consumption and their exportation to other countries. This involves ensuring compliance with customs laws, regulations, and procedures, including the collection of appropriate tariffs and fees. Additionally, a customs agency may enforce trade policies, such as imposing restrictions or prohibitions on certain goods, as well as monitoring and controlling the movement of goods across borders to prevent illegal activities, such as smuggling or counterfeiting. By efficiently managing these processes, a customs agency plays a crucial role in facilitating international trade and ensuring the integrity and security of a nation's borders.

One of the core responsibilities of a customs broker is handling all the necessary documentation, including customs declarations, permits, and licenses. They possess an in-depth understanding of the requirements and procedures involved in completing these documents accurately and efficiently.

Moreover, customs brokers play a crucial role in guaranteeing that all necessary taxes and duties are paid. They have extensive knowledge of the various tariff codes, valuation methods, and duty rates applicable to different types of goods. By accurately assessing these fees, customs brokers help importers/exporters avoid any potential penalties or delays in their shipments.

Another important aspect of a customs broker's job is to keep up-to-date with changes in customs regulations and procedures. This ensures that their clients are always aware of any new requirements or updates that may impact their import/export operations. By staying informed and knowledgeable, customs brokers provide invaluable guidance to their clients, helping them avoid potential pitfalls or complications.

Who can enroll in the IMMEX Program?

The IMMEX Program is open to legal entities seeking to participate in the manufacturing industry in Mexico. This includes industrial-type companies operating manufacturing factories. Additionally, companies that form a part of a supply chain and have the responsibility of returning the final product exclusively to a foreign company are eligible to join the IMMEX program. Service companies that provide services such as cleaning, operation, maintenance, etc., to other companies can also enroll in the IMMEX Program. Furthermore, certified outsourcing companies that do not possess their own production facilities but engage in manufacturing operations through third parties registered in their program can also participate. It is important to note that other types of companies can also be attached to the IMMEX Program based on specific requirements and criteria.

What is the process to apply for the IMMEX program?

If you are considering obtaining an IMMEX or already operate under the program, it is crucial to ensure compliance and success. We recommend working with a Mexican attorney who specializes in IMMEX, as they can provide invaluable guidance on navigating the complexities of the program. It is essential to fully understand the implications and obligations involved in the application process, ensuring that every detail is meticulously addressed for a successful outcome.

For companies already utilizing the IMMEX Program, dedicating the necessary effort and resources to establish a robust compliance plan is key. Having personnel who are well-versed in the applicable legislation and conducting routine audits to confirm adherence to regulations are vital steps towards ensuring ongoing success. At Visigistics, we offer expertise in cross-border logistics solutions tailored to your specific business needs. Our team is committed to working with you every step of the way to streamline your logistics operations and ensure compliance with IMMEX requirements.

Choose Visigistics for Your IMMEX Program Logistics Needs in Mexico

At Visigistics, we have extensive experience and expertise in providing cross-border logistics solutions for businesses that want to expand into Mexico and take advantage of the benefits of the IMMEX Program. Our team of experts can help you navigate the complex requirements of the program, including obtaining IMMEX certification, complying with regulations, and managing your supply chain and logistics operations.

Whether you are new to the IMMEX Program or have been operating in Mexico for years, we can provide you with customized logistics solutions that meet your specific business requirements. We prioritize customer service and communication and work with you every step of the way to ensure a smooth and efficient logistics process.

Don't let the challenges of cross-border logistics and the IMMEX Program hinder your business growth. Contact us at Visigistics to learn more about how we can help you succeed in Mexico.

If you would like to learn more about Manufacturing in Mexico, be sure to read our blog post on How to Find Manufacturers in Mexico or download our eBook, The Power of Nearshoring in Mexico.


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Frequently Asked Questions:

What industries beyond textiles and electronics do maquiladoras in Mexico focus on, and how has Mexico's manufacturing landscape evolved in the 21st century?

In addition to textiles and electronics, maquiladoras in Mexico have diversified their focus to include a wide array of industries during the 21st century. Mexico's manufacturing landscape has seen significant evolution with the country emerging as a major player in various sectors. Prominently, Mexico has become a significant hub for auto manufacturing, hosting 89 of the top 100 auto part makers globally. Apart from the automotive industry, other key sectors that maquiladoras in Mexico focus on include aerospace, alternative energies, medical devices, metal mechanics, and general consumer products. This evolution has transformed Mexico into a multifaceted manufacturing destination that caters to diverse industrial needs beyond its traditional strengths in textiles and electronics.

How do maquiladoras in Mexico provide efficiency and quality in manufacturing, leveraging Mexico's experience in the industry?

Outsourcing to Mexico offers several benefits, including lower shipping costs, convenient factory visits, and regulatory advantages. Companies based in the United States and Canada can take advantage of the maquiladora system and IMMEX, which provide added regulations and tax benefits. Additionally, the shorter distance to Mexico makes shipping more cost-effective and allows for easier visits to factories.

How did the maquiladora program begin and evolve over the years, particularly since the introduction of NAFTA?

The maquiladora program had its origins in 1965 as an initiative by the Mexican government to address unemployment challenges along the border regions. The program aimed to attract foreign companies by offering them tax- and duty-free benefits, special customs terms, and access to skilled yet affordable labor. Initially focused on the manufacturing sector, maquiladoras grew steadily and, by 1985, had become a significant source of foreign exchange for Mexico.

The real expansion of the maquiladora industry occurred in 1994 with the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA facilitated trade between Canada, the United States, and Mexico by eliminating most tariffs and trade barriers among the three countries. This agreement also removed previous restrictions, allowing maquiladoras to operate more freely and efficiently across borders.

Since the implementation of NAFTA, Mexico's manufacturing industry has flourished, comprising approximately half of the country's total exports. This growth has led to the establishment of over 3,000 export assembly and manufacturing plants, creating more than a million jobs. To effectively leverage the benefits of the maquiladora program and reduce operational costs, many companies opt to operate under a shelter company model when transitioning their manufacturing operations to Mexico.

What are the potential advantages and disadvantages for companies with an IMMEX program in terms of import duties, taxes, and compliance?

Having an IMMEX program that complies with the law can provide significant advantages to companies, such as attractive benefits and savings on import duties, value added tax, and the potential for exemptions from complying with International Standardizations. These advantages can serve as a competitive edge for companies operating under an IMMEX program. 

On the other hand, companies that lack knowledge or understanding of the regulations governing the IMMEX program may face financial challenges. Non-compliance with regulations can lead to negative impacts on the company's finances and expose them to potential penalties and sanctions. Therefore, it is crucial for companies participating in the IMMEX program to have a thorough understanding of the regulations to mitigate risks and maximize the benefits available to them.

What is the significance of having an automated inventory control system for IMMEX operations?

The significance of having an automated inventory control system for IMMEX operations lies in its pivotal role in ensuring compliance with Mexican Customs Law and Annex 24 of the General Foreign Trade Rules. This system enables IMMEX entities to effectively manage the materials and products involved in their operations, guaranteeing accurate tracking of goods imported temporarily as required by regulations. Additionally, an automated inventory control system helps IMMEX companies demonstrate the proper return and control of temporarily imported goods, thus facilitating adherence to customs provisions and authorities' information requirements. Such a system is essential for streamlining operations, maintaining transparency, and upholding the integrity of IMMEX activities within the regulatory framework.

Why has the process of applying for the IMMEX program become complex and burdensome in recent years?

The process of applying for the IMMEX program has become increasingly complex and burdensome in recent years due to delays and extended processing times by the federal government. Companies have experienced challenges in obtaining authorization promptly, as the government has shown reluctance in approving IMMEX applications within the stipulated timeframe. This has resulted in applicants having to resubmit their requests multiple times before finally receiving approval, leading to a prolonged and cumbersome application process.

What are the different types of IMMEX modalities available for companies to select from?

There are five types of IMMEX modalities that companies can choose from: Controller, industrial, services, shelter, or third party. The selection of a specific modality depends on the activities planned to be conducted in Mexico. For instance, the industrial modality may be chosen if the company aims to import raw materials and manufacture finished products for export or return. On the other hand, the services modality is suitable for companies offering services such as warehousing, testing, repairing, software design, or any other services outlined in the regulations.

What are the requirements for companies to qualify for Customs benefits under the IMMEX program?

To qualify for Customs benefits under the IMMEX program, companies must first apply for authorization to operate under the program. They are required to comply with specific regulations and criteria outlined by the program. By meeting these requirements, companies become eligible for Customs benefits, such as reduced import duty rates and exemptions from value-added tax on imported goods.

Under the IMMEX program, authorized companies are permitted to import necessary items in bond to support their production processes. These items can include but are not limited to production machinery and equipment, raw materials, safety and health supplies, packaging materials, administrative equipment, tools, and spare parts.

Furthermore, companies participating in the IMMEX program must abide by the regulations of the Maquila Program, which allows imported assets to remain in Mexico for as long as the program is in effect. Compliance with the program's guidelines and requirements is essential for companies to qualify for and maintain Customs benefits under the IMMEX program.

What does IMMEX stand for and what is its purpose according to the Mexican federal government?

IMMEX is an abbreviation that translates to Industria Manufacturera, Maquiladora y de Servicios de Exportacion in Spanish, meaning the Manufacturing, Maquiladora, and Export Services Industry. It represents a program launched by the Mexican federal government designed to encourage foreign investment, boost exports, generate employment opportunities, foster technological advancements, and promote overall economic development.

How does compliance with Annex 31 related to the Value Added Tax impact an IMMEX's financial benefits and liabilities?

Compliance with Annex 31 related to the Value Added Tax (VAT) can significantly impact an IMMEX's financial benefits and liabilities. An IMMEX that adheres to VAT regulations can access attractive benefits and savings by potentially being exempt from certain taxes and import duties. However, failure to comply with Annex 31 and the associated VAT regulations can have severe financial implications for an IMMEX. Mistakes such as filing errors, typos, or unintentional misdeclarations may result in violations of the law, leading to high penalties, sanctions, and even the potential cancellation of the IMMEX license. Consequently, those responsible for the errors may face personal liability and be subject to criminal charges. Therefore, strict compliance with Annex 31 and VAT regulations is crucial for an IMMEX to secure financial benefits and avoid costly liabilities.


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