Motorcycles and Scooters
Trailers and Heavy Trucks
Import Eligibility Petitions
Motor Vehicle Exportation
Related Government Agencies
The Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (OVSC) has expanded the current Importation and Certification Division web site to include a section entitled “Frequently Asked Questions.” In this section we have attempted to address some common questions and concerns that the office deals with on a regular basis. If your question has not been addressed, please refer to Related Government Agencies for further assistance.
What Requirements Must be Met by a Manufacturer of Conforming Vehicles before its Vehicle can be Imported?
The manufacturer must:
- Submit a letter to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) designating an agent for service of process and a letter from the agent accepting the designation if the manufacturer is not located in the United States (49 CFR ).
- Submit to NHTSA information the agency will need to decipher the manufacturer’s vehicle identification number or “VIN” format not later than 60 days prior to offering the first vehicle for sale in the United States (49 CFR Part , “Vehicle Identification Number Requirements”).
- Submit a letter to NHTSA identifying the manufacturer’s name, address, and the products it manufactures that are subject to the Federal motor vehicle safety standards, not later than 30 days after manufacturing begins (49 CFR Part , “Manufacturer Identification”).
- Permanently affix to the vehicle, in a prescribed location, a certification label meeting the requirements of 49 CFR Part , “Certification.”
- For more information visit https://vpic.nhtsa.dot.gov.
What Certifications are required on motor vehicles?
A certification label meeting the requirements of 49 CFR Part that, among other things, identifies the vehicle’s manufacturer (i.e., the actual assembler of the vehicle), states the vehicle’s date of manufacture (month and year), and contains the following statement: “This vehicle conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) in effect on the date of manufacture shown above.”
For vehicles other than motorcycles or trailers, the label must be affixed to either the hinge pillar, door-latch post, or the door edge that meets the door-latch post, next to the driver’s seating position. For trailers, the label must be affixed to a location on the forward half of the left side of the vehicle, so that it can be easily read without moving any part of the vehicle. For motorcycles, the label must be affixed to a permanent member of the vehicle as close as is practicable to the intersection of the steering post with the handlebars, so that it is easily readable without moving any part of the vehicle except for the steering system.
How does NHTSA determine what is a motor vehicle?
The term “motor vehicle” is defined for the purpose of the statute and regulations that NHTSA administers as “a vehicle that is driven or drawn by mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways.” See 49 U.S.C. § (a)(6). To be imported free of restriction, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must be originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS and bear a label certifying such compliance that is permanently affixed by the vehicle’s original manufacturer.
When a vehicle has on-road capabilities, the agency looks at five factors to determine if the vehicle is a “motor vehicle” that must be so manufactured and certified to be lawfully imported into the U.S. These factors are:
- Whether the vehicle will be advertised for use on-road as well as off-road, or whether it will be advertised exclusively for off-road use;
- Whether the vehicle’s manufacturer or dealers will assist vehicle purchasers in obtaining certificates of origin or title documents to register the vehicle for on-road use;
- Whether the vehicle is or will be sold by dealers selling other vehicles classified as motor vehicles;
- Whether the vehicle has or will have affixed to it a warning label stating that the vehicle is not intended for use on the public roads; and
- Whether States or Foreign countries have permitted or are likely to permit the vehicle to be registered for on-road use.
Issues Outside NHTSAs Jurisdiction.
NHTSA issues the FMVSS, which establish minimum performance requirements for the safety systems and components on motor vehicles and for certain items of motor vehicle equipment. The agency regulates the manufacture and importation of motor vehicles to assure compliance with these standards.
Motor Vehicle Titling and Registration
NHTSA is not responsible for regulating the operation of motor vehicles on public roads in the U.S. or for titling or registering motor vehicles for such operation. That is instead the responsibility of the individual States. Some States may require a manufacturer's certificate of origin (MCO) or manufacturer's statement of origin (MSO) to register a new motor vehicle. These are not federally required documents. NHTSA, therefore, is not in a position to offer guidance to prospective vehicle manufacturers or vehicle purchasers on obtaining a needed MCO or MSO. Consumers with questions regarding these documents should direct those questions to their State’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Prospective manufacturers seeking guidance on obtaining MCO or MSO documents should contact the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) at or visit that organization's website at www.aamva.org.
Under NHTSA's regulations at 49 CFR Part , a motor vehicle manufacturer must assign to each motor vehicle manufactured for sale in the U.S. a digit VIN that uniquely identifies the vehicle. The VIN must be correctly formatted and include a check digit in the ninth position that is mathematically correct under a formula that is included in the regulations. Typographical errors in a VIN can only be corrected by the vehicle's manufacturer. Contact information for many vehicle manufacturers is available on NHTSA's website at https://vpic.nhtsa.dot.gov. Unless you have contacted the manufacturer and been informed that the manufacturer cannot assist you, please do not contact NHTSA if you have been advised by a State DMV or other authority that there is an error in the VIN assigned to your vehicle.
A vehicle that was not originally manufactured to conform to all applicable FMVSS cannot be lawfully imported into the U.S. unless it is first determined by NHTSA to be eligible for importation. The agency makes these decisions on the basis of petitions from RIs. RIs are business entities that are specifically licensed by NHTSA to import nonconforming vehicles and to perform the necessary modifications on those vehicles so that they conform to all applicable FMVSS. Unless you are an RI, you would not be able to petition the agency to determine your vehicle eligible for importation.
The petition can be based on the substantial similarity of the vehicle to a vehicle of the same make, model, and model year that was certified by its original manufacturer as conforming to all applicable FMVSS. If there is no substantially similar U.S.-certified vehicle, the petition must specify that the vehicle has safety features that comply with, or are capable of being altered to comply with, the FMVSS based on destructive test information or other evidence the agency deems adequate.
An additional requirement for the lawful importation of a nonconforming vehicle is that it be imported by an RI or by an individual who has contracted with an RI to bring the vehicle into conformity with all applicable FMVSS. Only an RI may perform the necessary vehicle modifications and certify compliance of the vehicle to all applicable FMVSS. A bond in an amount equivalent to percent of the declared value of the vehicle must be given at the time of importation to ensure that the necessary modifications are completed within days from the vehicle's date of entry or the vehicle is exported from, or abandoned to, the U.S.
A list of RIs can be found on NHTSA’s website at nhtsa.gov/importing-vehicle. You might want to contact one or more of the listed RIs to obtain their opinion on the feasibility of conforming the vehicle that you seek to import to the U.S., the costs involved in petitioning the agency to determine that vehicle to be eligible for importation, and the costs for conforming the vehicle to applicable FMVSS.
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The following information is provided in accordance with 5 U.S.C. a(e)(3) and applies to this form. The information required on this form is required by 49 U.S.C. Chapters , and This information is used by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to monitor the importation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment to ensure compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, Bumper Standards and Theft Prevention Standards. The records may be routinely used by the cited agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, and State Divisions of Motor Vehicles. In instances of alleged fraud, records may be used by law enforcement agencies. Failure to provide the required information will result in the refusal of entry of the vehicle(s) or equipment into the United States. Any person knowingly making a false declaration is subject to a fine of not more than $10, or imprisonment for not more than 5 years or both (18 U.S.C. ).
49 CFR § - Duties of a registered importer.
§ Duties of a registered importer.
Each Registered Importer must:
(a) With respect to each motor vehicle that it imports into the United States, assure that the Administrator has decided that the vehicle is eligible for importation pursuant to Part of this chapter prior to such importation. The Registered Importer must also bring such vehicle into conformity with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards prescribed under Part of this chapter and the bumper standard prescribed under Part of this chapter, if applicable, and furnish certification to the Administrator pursuant to paragraph (e) of this section, within calendar days after such entry. For each motor vehicle, the Registered Importer must furnish to the Secretary of Homeland Security at the time of importation a bond in an amount equal to percent of the dutiable value of the vehicle, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security, to ensure that such vehicle either will be brought into conformity with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards or will be exported (at no cost to the United States) by the importer or the Secretary of Homeland Security or abandoned to the United States. However, if the Registered Importer has procured a continuous entry bond, it must furnish the Administrator with such bond, and must furnish the Secretary of Homeland Security (acting on behalf of the Administrator) with a paper or electronic copy, in a format accepted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, of such bond at the time of importation of each motor vehicle.
(b) Establish, maintain, and retain, for 10 years from the date of entry, at the facility in the United States it has identified in its application pursuant to § (a)(5)(i), for each motor vehicle for which it furnishes a certificate of conformity, the following records, including correspondence and other documents, in hard copy format:
(1) The declaration required by § of this chapter.
(2) All vehicle or equipment purchase or sales orders or agreements, conformance agreements between the Registered Importer and persons who import motor vehicles for personal use, and correspondence between the Registered Importer and the owner or purchaser of the vehicle.
(3) The make, model, model year, odometer reading, and VIN of each vehicle that it imports and the last known name and address of the owner or purchaser of the vehicle.
(4) Records, including photographs and other documents, sufficient to identify the vehicle and to substantiate that it has been brought into conformity with all Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards that apply to the vehicle, that the certification label has been affixed, and that either the vehicle is not subject to any safety recalls or that all noncompliances and safety defects covered by such recalls were remedied before the submission to the Administrator under paragraph (d) of this section. All photographs submitted shall be unaltered.
(5) A copy of the certification submitted to the Administrator pursuant to paragraph (d) of this section.
(6) The number that the issuer has assigned to the service insurance policy that will accompany the vehicle and the full corporate or other business name of the issuer of the policy, and substantiation that the Registered Importer has notified the issuer of the policy that the policy has been provided with the vehicle.
(c) Take possession of the vehicle and perform all modifications necessary to conform the vehicle to all Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards that apply to the vehicle at a facility that it has identified to the Administrator pursuant to § (a)(5)(i), and permanently affix to the vehicle at that facility, upon completion of conformance modifications and remedy of all noncompliances and defects that are the subject of any pending safety recalls, a label that identifies the Registered Importer and states that the Registered Importer certifies that the vehicle complies with all Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards that apply to the vehicle, and contains all additional information required by § of this chapter.
(d) For each motor vehicle imported pursuant to part (f) of this chapter, certify to the Administrator:
(1) Within days of the importation that it has brought the motor vehicle into conformity with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards in effect at the time the vehicle was manufactured by the fabricating manufacturer. Such certification shall state verbatim either that “I know that the vehicle that I am certifying conforms with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards because I personally witnessed each modification performed on the vehicle to effect compliance,” or that “I know that the vehicle I am certifying conforms with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards because the person who performed the necessary modifications to the vehicle is an employee of [RI name] and has provided full documentation of the work that I have reviewed, and I am satisfied that the vehicle as modified complies.” The Registered Importer shall also certify that it has destroyed or exported any noncompliant motor vehicle equipment items that were removed from an imported vehicle in the course of performing conformance modifications. The Registered Importer shall also certify, as appropriate, that either:
(i) The vehicle is not required to comply with the parts marking requirements of the theft prevention standard (part of this chapter); or
(ii) The vehicle complies with those parts marking requirements as manufactured, or as modified prior to importation.
(2) If the Registered Importer certifies that the vehicle was originally manufactured to comply with a standard that does not apply to the vehicle or that it has modified the vehicle to conform to such standard, or if the certification is incomplete, the Administrator may refuse to accept the certification. The Administrator shall refuse to accept a certification for a vehicle that has not been determined to be eligible for importation under part of this chapter. If the Administrator does not accept a submission, (s)he shall return it to the Registered Importer. The costs associated with such a return will be charged to the Registered Importer. If the Administrator returns the submission as described above and the vehicle is eligible for importation, the day period specified in paragraph (d)(1) of this section continues to run, but the day period specified in paragraph (f) of this section does not begin to run until the Administrator has accepted the submission. If the vehicle is not eligible for importation, the importer must export it from, or abandon it to, the United States. If the Registered Importer certifies that it has modified the vehicle to bring it into compliance with a standard and has, in fact, not performed all required modifications, the Administrator will regard such certification as “knowingly false” within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. and 49 U.S.C. (c)(4)(B).
(3) The certification must be signed and submitted by a principal of the Registered Importer designated in its registration application pursuant to § (a)(5)(iv), with an original hand-written signature and not with a signature that is stamped or mechanically applied.
(4) The certification to the Administrator must specify the location of the facility where the vehicle was conformed, and the location where the Administrator may inspect the motor vehicle.
(5) The certification to the Administrator must state and contain substantiation either that the vehicle is not subject to any safety recalls as of the time of such certification, or, alternatively, that all noncompliances and defects that are the subject of those safety recalls have been remedied.
(6) When a Registered Importer certifies a make, model, and model year of a motor vehicle for the first time, its certification must include:
(i) The make, model, model year and date of manufacture, odometer reading, VIN that complies with § (b), (c), and (g) of this chapter, and Customs Entry Number,
(ii) A statement that it has brought the vehicle into conformity with all Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards that apply to the vehicle, and a description, with respect to each standard for which modifications were needed, of the modifications performed,
(iii) A copy of the bond given at the time of entry to ensure conformance with the safety and bumper standards,
(iv) The vehicle's vehicle eligibility number, as stated in appendix A to part of this chapter,
(v) A copy of the HS-7 Declaration form executed at the time of its importation if a Customs broker did not make an electronic entry for the vehicle with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection,
(vi) Unaltered front, side, and rear photographs of the vehicle,
(vii) Unaltered photographs of the original manufacturer's certification label and the certification label of the Registered Importer affixed to the vehicle (and, if the vehicle is a motorcycle, a photograph or photocopy of the Registered Importer certification label before it has been affixed),
(viii) Unaltered photographs and documentation sufficient to demonstrate conformity with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards to which the vehicle was not originally manufactured to conform,
(ix) The policy number of the service insurance policy furnished with the vehicle pursuant to paragraph (g) of this section, and the full corporate or other business name of the insurer that issued the policy, and
(x) A statement that the submission is the Registered Importer's initial certification submission for the make, model, and model year of the vehicle covered by the certification.
(7) Except as specified in this paragraph, a Registered Importer's second and subsequent certification submissions for a given make, model, and model year vehicle must contain the information required by paragraph (d)(6) of this section. If the Registered Importer conformed such a vehicle in the same manner as it stated in its initial certification submission, it may say so in a subsequent submission and it need not provide the description required by paragraph (d)(6)(ii) of this section.
(e) With respect to each motor vehicle that it imports, not take any of the following actions until the bond referred to in paragraph (a) of this section has been released, unless 30 days have elapsed from the date the Administrator receives the Registered Importer's certification of compliance of the motor vehicle in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section (the day period will be extended if the Administrator has made written demand to inspect the motor vehicle):
(1) Operate the motor vehicle on the public streets, roads, and highways for any purpose other than:
(i) Transportation to and from a franchised dealership of the vehicle's original manufacturer for remedying a noncompliance or safety-related defect; or
(ii) Mileage accumulation to stabilize the vehicle's catalyst and emissions control systems in preparation for pre-certification testing to obtain an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certificate of conformity, but only insofar as the vehicle has been imported by an Independent Commercial Importer (ICI) who holds a current certificate of conformity with the EPA, the ICI has imported the vehicle under an EPA Declaration form on which Code J is checked, and the EPA has granted the ICI written permission to operate the vehicle on public roads for that purpose.
(2) Sell the motor vehicle or offer it for sale;
(3) Store the motor vehicle on the premises of a motor vehicle dealer;
(4) Title the motor vehicle in a name other than its own, or license or register it for use on public streets, roads, or highways; or
(5) Release custody of the motor vehicle to a person for sale, or for license or registration for use on public streets, roads, and highways, or for titling in a name other than that of the Registered Importer who imported the vehicle.
(f) Furnish with each motor vehicle for which it furnishes certification or information to the Administrator in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section, not later than the time it sells the vehicle, or releases custody of a vehicle to an owner who has imported it for personal use, a service insurance policy written or underwritten by an independent insurance company, in the amount of $2, The Registered Importer shall provide the insurance company with a monthly list of the VINs of vehicles covered by the policies of the insurance company, and shall retain a copy of each such list in its files.
(g) Comply with the requirements of part of this chapter, Odometer Disclosure Requirements, when the Registered Importer is a transferor of a vehicle as defined by § of this chapter.
(h) With respect to any motor vehicle it has imported and for which it has furnished a performance bond, deliver such vehicle to the Secretary of Homeland Security for export, or abandon it to the United States, upon demand by the Administrator, if such vehicle has not been brought into conformity with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety and bumper standards within days from entry.
(1) With respect to any motor vehicle that it has imported or for which it has furnished a certificate of conformity or information to the Administrator as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, provide notification in accordance with part of this chapter and a remedy without charge to the vehicle owner, after any notification under part of this chapter that a vehicle to which such motor vehicle is substantially similar contains a defect related to motor vehicle safety or fails to conform with an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard. However, this obligation does not exist if the manufacturer of the vehicle or the Registered Importer of such vehicle demonstrates to the Administrator that the defect or noncompliance is not present in such vehicle, or that the defect or noncompliance was remedied before the submission of the certificate or the information to the Administrator, or that the original manufacturer of the vehicle will provide such notification and remedy.
(2) If a Registered Importer becomes aware (from whatever source) that the manufacturer of a vehicle it has imported will not provide a remedy without charge for a defect or noncompliance that has been determined to exist in that vehicle, within 30 days thereafter, the Registered Importer must inform NHTSA and submit a copy of the notification letter that it intends to send to owners of the vehicle(s) in question.
(3) Any notification to vehicle owners sent by a Registered Importer must contain the information specified in § of this chapter, and must include the statement that if the Registered Importer's repair facility is more than 50 miles from the owner's mailing address, remedial repairs may be performed at no charge at a specific facility designated by the Registered Importer that is within 50 miles of the owner's mailing address, or, if no such facility is designated, that repairs may be performed anywhere, with the cost of parts and labor to be reimbursed by the Registered Importer.
(4) Defect and noncompliance notifications by a Registered Importer must conform to the requirements of §§ and of this chapter, and are subject to §§ and of this chapter.
(5) Except as provided in this paragraph, instead of the six quarterly reports required by § (a) of this chapter, the Registered Importer must submit to the Administrator two reports containing the information specified in § (b)(1) through (4) of this chapter. The reports shall cover the periods ending nine and 18 months after the commencement of the owner notification campaign, and must be submitted within 30 days of the end of each period. However, the reporting requirements established by this paragraph shall not apply to any safety recall that a vehicle manufacturer conducts that includes vehicles for which the Registered Importer has submitted the information required by paragraph (d) of this section.
(6) The requirement that the remedy be provided without charge does not apply if the motor vehicle was bought by its first purchaser from the Registered Importer (or, if imported for personal use, conformed pursuant to a contract with the Registered Importer) more than 10 calendar years before the date the Registered Importer or the original manufacturer notifies the Administrator of the noncompliance or safety-related defect pursuant to part of this chapter.
(j) In order that the Administrator may determine whether the Registered Importer is meeting its statutory responsibilities, allow representatives of NHTSA during operating hours, upon demand, and upon presentation of credentials, to copy documents, or to inspect, monitor, or photograph any of the following:
(1) Any facility identified by the Registered Importer where any vehicle for which a Registered Importer has the responsibility of providing a certificate of conformity to the Administrator is being modified, repaired, tested, or stored, and any facility where any record or other document relating to the modification, repair, testing, or storage of these vehicles is kept;
(2) Any part or aspect of activities relating to the modification, repair, testing, or storage of vehicles by the Registered Importer; and
(3) Any motor vehicle for which the Registered Importer has provided a certification of conformity to the Administrator before the Administrator releases the conformance bond.
(k) Provide an annual statement, certifying that the information therein is true and correct, and pay an annual fee as required by § (f).
(l) Except as noted in this paragraph, notify the Administrator in writing of any change that occurs in the information which was submitted in its registration application, not later than the 30th calendar day after such change. If a Registered Importer intends to use a facility that was not identified in its registration application, not later than 30 days before it begins to use such facility, it must notify the Administrator of its intent to use such facility and provide a description of the intended use, a copy of the lease or deed evidencing the Registered Importer's ownership or tenancy of the facility, and a copy of the license or similar document issued by an appropriate state or municipal authority stating that the Registered Importer is licensed to do business at that facility as an importer and/or modifier and/or seller of motor vehicles (or a statement that it has made a bona fide inquiry and is not required by state or local law to have such a license or permission), and a sufficient number of unaltered photographs of that facility to fully depict the Registered Importer's intended use. If a Registered Importer intends to change its street address or telephone number or discontinue use of a facility that was identified in its registration application, it shall notify the Administrator not less than 10 days before such change or discontinuance of such use, and identify the facility, if any, that will be used instead.
(m) Assure that at least one full-time employee of the Registered Importer is present at at least one of the Registered Importer's facilities in the United States during normal business hours.
(n) Not co-utilize the same employee, or any repair or conformance facility, with any other Registered Importer. If a Registered Importer co-utilizes the same storage facility with another Registered Importer or another entity, the storage area of each Registered Importer must be clearly delineated, and the vehicles being stored by each Registered Importer may not be mingled with vehicles for which that Registered Importer is not responsible.
(o) Make timely, complete, and accurate responses to any requests by the Administrator for information, whether by general or special order or otherwise, to enable the Administrator to decide whether the Registered Importer has complied or is complying with 49 U.S.C. Chapters and , and the regulations issued thereunder.
(p) Pay all fees either by certified check, cashier's check, money order, credit card, or Electronic Funds Transfer System made payable to the Treasurer of the United States, in accordance with the invoice of fees incurred by the Registered Importer in the previous month that is provided by the Administrator. All such fees are due and payable not later than 15 days from the date of the invoice.
(q) Not later than November 1, , file with the Administrator all information required by § (a), as amended. If a Registered Importer has previously provided any item of information to the Administrator in its registration application, annual statement, or notification of change, it may incorporate that item by reference in the filing required under this subsection, provided that it clearly indicates the date, page, and entry of the previously-provided document.
[69 FR , Aug. 24, , as amended at 70 FR , Oct. 4, ; 76 FR , Aug. 25, ; 79 FR , Aug. 5, ; 80 FR , Sept. 2, ]
Importer nhtsa registered
Importing a Motor Vehicle
Imported motor vehicles are subject to safety standards under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of , revised under the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of ; to bumper standards under the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of , which became effective in ; and to air pollution control standards under the Clean Air Act of , as amended in , and
If vehicles manufactured abroad conform to U.S. safety, bumper, and emission standards, it is because these vehicles are exported for sale in the United States. Therefore, it is unlikely that a vehicle obtained abroad meets all relevant standards. Be skeptical of claims by a foreign dealer or other seller that a vehicle meets these standards or can readily be brought into compliance. Vehicles entering the United States that do not conform with U.S. safety standards must be brought into compliance, exported, or destroyed.
This pamphlet provides essential information for U.S. residents, military or civilian government employees, and foreign nationals who are importing a vehicle into the U.S. It includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requirements and those of other agencies whose regulations we enforce. Since Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements are subject to change, we recommend that you contact these agencies before buying a vehicle abroad.
Our pages “Know Before You Go” and “For International Visitors” contain general information for persons entering the U.S. You may obtain copies from your nearest CBP office or by writing to:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
It is also possible to obtain copies from American embassies and consulates abroad.
EPA has a detailed automotive fact manual describing emission requirements for imported vehicles. You may obtain a copy of this manual, called the Automotive Imports Facts Manual, or other information about importing motor vehicles by calling EPA's Imports Hotline at () . You may also communicate by fax at () , or write to:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA's page on Importing Vehicles and Engines contains additional information.
You may reach DOT's vehicle hotline at () or communicate by fax at () . Additionally, you can write to:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NSA)
The DOT website can provide further assistance.
Note: Importations from Afghanistan (Taliban), Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Serbia/Montenegro/Kosovo, or Yugoslavia that involve the governments of those countries, are generally prohibited pursuant to regulations issued by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control. Before attempting to make such an importation, information concerning the prohibitions and licensing policy should be obtained by contacting:
Director, Office of Foreign Assets Control
You can call either () or () , or fax () ; or visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control website.
The owner must make arrangements for shipping a vehicle. Have your shipper or carrier notify you of the vehicle's arrival date so that you can make arrangements to process it through CBP. Shipments are cleared at the first port of entry unless you arrange for a freight forwarder abroad to have the vehicle sent in bond to a CBP port more convenient to you.
Law prohibits CBP officers from acting as agents or making entries for an importer. However, you may employ a commercial CBP broker to handle your entry.
For CBP clearance you will need the shipper's or carrier's original bill of lading, the bill of sale, foreign registration, and any other documents covering the vehicle. You will also be required to complete EPA form and DOT form HS-7, declaring the emissions and safety provisions under which the vehicle is being imported. Vehicles that meet all U.S. emission requirements will bear manufacturer's label on the engine compartment in English, attesting to that fact. For vehicles that lack such a label, the CBP inspector at the port of entry may require proof of eligibility to import under the EPA exemptions or exclusions specified on form
Vehicles that do not meet all U.S. emission requirements, unless eligible for exemption or exclusion must be imported through an independent commercial importer (ICI). EPA will not allow the vehicles' release to the vehicle owner until ICI work is complete. The ICI will perform any EPA-required modifications and be responsible for assuring that all EPA requirements have been met. Some vehicles cannot be successfully imported or modified by an ICI, however, and in general, ICI fees are very high.
Cleaning the Undercarriage
To safeguard against importation of dangerous pests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the undercarriage of imported cars be free of foreign soil. Have your car steam-sprayed or cleaned thoroughly before shipment.
Your Car is Not a Shipping Container
For your own safety, security, and convenience, do not use your car as a container for personal belongings.
- Your possessions are susceptible to theft while the vehicle is on the loading and unloading docks and in transit.
- Many shippers and carriers will not accept your vehicle if it contains personal belongings.
- The entire contents of your car must be declared to CBP on entry. Failure to do so can result in a fine or seizure of the car and its contents.
- Your vehicle may be subject to seizure, and you may incur a personal penalty, if anyone uses it as a conveyance of illegal narcotics.
Foreign-made vehicles imported into the U.S., whether new or used, either for personal use or for sale, are generally dutiable at the following rates:
either free or %
Duty rates are based on price paid or payable.
As a returning U.S. resident, you may apply your $ CBP exemption and those of accompanying family members toward the value of the vehicle if it:
- Accompanies you on your return;
- Is imported for personal use;
- Was acquired during the journey from which you are returning.
For CBP purposes, a returning U.S. resident is one who is returning from travel, work, or study abroad.
After the exemption has been applied, a flat duty rate of 3% is applied toward the next $1, of the vehicle's value. The remaining amount is dutiable at the regular duty rate.
- U.S. citizens employed abroad or government employees returning on TDY or voluntary leave may import a foreign-made car free of duty provided they enter the U.S. for a short visit, claim nonresident status, and export the vehicle when they leave.
- Military and civilian employees of the U.S. government returning at the end of an assignment to extended duty outside the CBP territory of the U.S. may include a conforming vehicle among their duty-free personal and household effects. The auto must have been purchased abroad and be in its owner's possession prior to departure. Generally, extended duty is days or more. Navy personnel serving aboard a U.S. naval vessel or a supporting naval vessel from its departure from the U.S. to its return after an intended overseas deployment of days or more are entitled to the extended-duty exemption. Conforming vehicles imported under the duty-free exemption are dutiable if sold within one year of importation. Duty must be paid at the most convenient CBP office before the sale is completed. Conforming vehicles so imported may remain in the U.S. indefinitely once a formal entry is made for EPA purposes.
- Nonresidents may import a vehicle duty-free for personal use up to (1) one year if the vehicle is imported in conjunction with the owner's arrival. Vehicles imported under this provision that do not conform to U.S. safety and emission standards must be exported within one year and may not be sold in the U.S. There is no exemption or extension of the export requirements.
USMCA Eligibility and U.S. Goods Returned. To qualify for duty-free treatment under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), all vehicles – new and used – must meet the USMCA rules of origin for automotive goods, including regional value content (RVC), labor value content (LVC), steel purchasing, and aluminum purchasing requirements. The requirements are so stringent that vehicles produced prior to are not likely eligible for duty-free status under the USMCA. Vehicles produced on or after July 1, may meet the USMCA rules of origin. However, under the USMCA Implementation Act, there are three vehicle certifications related to the above requirements that must be provided by the producer of the covered vehicle. If these documents are not made available upon request, then applicable duties and fees will be collected on personal and commercial importations of new and used vehicles from Canada and Mexico. Certain vehicles may be eligible for duty-free treatment as U.S. Goods Returned. In accordance with Section (b) of the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of (Pub. L. , February 24, ), subheading of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States provides for the duty-free treatment of:
Products of the United States when returned after having been exported, or any other products when returned within three years after having been exported, without having been advanced in value or improved in condition by any process of manufacture or other means while abroad.
Under this provision, qualifying vehicles that are being returned may be eligible for duty-free treatment. This provision may be applied to either personal or commercial importations of used vehicles. The burden of substantiating eligibility lies with the importer and claims are subject to verification. See HQ H (March 18, ).”
Cars Imported for Other Purposes
Nonresidents may import an automobile or motorcycle and its usual equipment free of duty for a temporary stay to take part in races or other specific purposes. However, prior written approval from the EPA is required and such approval is granted only to those racing vehicles that EPA deems not capable of safe or practical use on streets and highways. If the contests are for other than money purposes, the vehicle may be admitted for 90 days without formal entry or bond if the CBP officer is satisfied as to the importer's identify and good faith. The vehicle becomes subject to forfeiture if it is not exported or if a bond is not given within 90 days of its importation. Prior written approval must be obtained from DOT. A vehicle may be temporarily imported for testing, demonstration, or racing purposes. A vehicle may be permanently imported for show or display. Written approval from DOT is required and should be obtained before the vehicle is exported from the foreign country to the U.S. Information on how to import a vehicle under show or display is available at DOT's NHTSA Vehicle Importation Regulations website. A vehicle permanently imported for show and display must comply with all U.S. emission requirements as well, and in general must be imported through an EPA-authorized ICI for modification and testing. EPA will not allow the vehicle to be released to its owner until ICI work is complete.
Safety, Bumper, and Theft Prevention Standards
Importers of motor vehicles must file form HS-7 at the time of vehicle is imported to declare whether the vehicle complies with DOT requirements. As a general rule, motor vehicles less than 25 years old must comply with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) in order to be imported permanently into the United States. Vehicles manufactured after September 1, , must also meet the bumper standard, and vehicles beginning with model year must meet the theft-prevention standard. For more information, please contact the DOT import hotline at () .
Vehicles manufactured to meet these standards will have a certification label affixed by the original manufacturer near the driver's side door. If you purchase a vehicle abroad that is certified to U.S. standards, you may expedite your importation by making sure the sales contract identifies this fact and by presenting the contract to CBP at the time of importation.
A vehicle must be imported as a nonconforming vehicle unless it bears the manufacturer's label certifying that it meets U.S. standards. If it is a nonconforming vehicle, the importer must contract with a DOT-registered importer (RI) to modify the vehicle and certify that it conforms to all applicable FMVSS. The importer must also post a DOT bond for one and a half times the vehicle's dutiable value. This bond is in addition to the normal CBP entry bond. Copies of the DOT bond and the contract with the RI must be attached to the HS-7 form.
Before a RI can modify your vehicle, however, it must first be determined whether the vehicle is capable of being modified to comply with the FMVSS. If a vehicle has not previously been determined to be eligible for importation, it must go through a petition process to determine whether it's capable of being modified for such compliance. If the vehicle under petition is not similar to one sold in the United States, the process of bringing it into compliance becomes very complex and costly. A List of Nonconforming Motor Vehicles that are Eligible for Importation (By or Through a Registered Importer may be obtained from a RI or from NHTSA's website.
The cost of modifying a nonconforming vehicle and the time required to bring it into conformance may affect your decision to purchase a vehicle abroad. NHTSA strongly recommends discussing these aspects with a RI before buying and shipping a vehicle purchased overseas.
Certain imported automobiles may be subject to the gas-guzzler tax imposed by section of the Internal Revenue Code. An individual who imports an automobile for personal use, or a commercial importer, may be considered an importer for purposes of this tax and thus liable for payment of the tax.
The amount of the tax is based on a combined urban/highway fuel-economy (miles per gallon) rating assigned by the EPA for gas-guzzler tax purpose. This EPA rating may be different from fuel-economy ratings indicated by the manufacturer.
If the EPA has not assigned a gas-guzzler fuel- economy rating for the model automobile you import, a rating must be independently determined. No tax is imposed on automobiles that have a combined fuel-economy rating of at least miles per gallon.
Information on determining fuel-economy rating and liability for the tax are contained in section of the Code, Revenue Procedure , Cumulative Bulletin , Revenue Procedure , Cumulative Bulletin , Revenue Procedure , Cumulative Bulletin , and Revenue Ruling , Cumulative Bulletin
The gas-guzzler tax is reported on Form , Quarterly federal Excise Tax Return, and form , Gas-Guzzler Tax. Additional information may be obtained from your local district office of the Internal Revenue Service.
The following passenger cars, light-duty trucks, heavy-duty engines and motorcycles are subject to federal emission standards:
- Gasoline-fueled cars and light-duty trucks originally manufactured after December 31,
- Diesel-fueled cars originally manufactured after December 31,
- Diesel-fueled light-duty trucks originally manufactured after December 31,
- Heavy-duty engines originally manufactured after December 31,
- Motorcycles with a displacement more than 49 cubic centimeters originally manufactured after December 31,
Vehicles must be certified to U.S. federal emission standards by their manufacturers for sale in the U.S. Vehicles that do not meet these requirements are considered nonconforming. A currently certified ICI, a list of which is available from the EPA, must import Nonconforming vehicles for you. The only EPA-authorized ICIs are located in the U.S. It is therefore recommended that you contact an ICI to discuss costs for modification and testing before you decide to import a nonconforming vehicle. The ICI will be responsible for assuring that your car complies with all U.S. emission requirements. (As of July 1, , EPA no longer has the one-time exemption for vehicles five or more model-years old.) Be aware that EPA will deny entry to certain makers, models, and model year if an ICI is not certified or is unwilling to accept responsibility for the vehicle(s) in question.
You may obtain additional information on emission control requirements or on ICIs from the U.S. EPA Vehicle Programs and Compliance Division/Imports at () , fax () ; or visit the website.
Individual state emission requirements may differ from those of the federal government. Proper registration of a vehicle in a state may depend upon satisfaction of its requirements, so you should contact the appropriate state authorities prior to importation. Be aware, however, that EPA will not accept compliance with a state's emission requirements as satisfying EPA's requirements.
A Word of Caution
Both the DOT and the EPA advise that although a nonconforming car may be conditionally admitted, the modification required to bring it into compliance may be so extensive and costly that it may be impractical and even impossible to achieve such compliance. It is highly recommended that these prohibitions and modifications be investigated before a vehicle's purchased for importation.
- Re-Importing A Previously Exported Vehicle
A vehicle taken from the United States for non-commercial, private use may be returned duty free by proving to CBP that it was previously owned and registered in the United States. This proof may be a state-issued registration card for the automobile or a bill of sale for the car from a U.S. dealer. Repairs or accessories acquired abroad for your vehicle must be declared on your return and may be subject to duty.
In some countries, it will be difficult or impossible to obtain unleaded fuel for your vehicle. If the vehicle is driven using leaded gasoline, it will be necessary for you to replace the catalyst and oxygen sensor upon its return to the U.S. To avoid the expense of replacing these parts you may obtain authorization from EPA to remove the catalyst and oxygen sensor before the vehicle is shipped overseas. The EPA telephone number for these authorizations is () . When the vehicle returns to the U.S., the original catalyst and oxygen sensor will need to be reinstalled. However, you may now reenter your U.S. version vehicle into the U.S. without bond, upon your assurance that you will have the reinstallation performed.
- Using Conveyances to Transporting Goods of a Commercial/Personal Nature
Goods of a commercial nature that are being transported in a privately owned conveyance will require the purchase of a user fee decal and the payment of duty may be required.
Goods being transported for personal use within a privately owned vehicle do not require the purchase of this decal. However, the payment of duty may be required.
Rental vehicles may be used to transport personal goods without the purchase of a decal if the driver has not been paid to operate the vehicle.
The following vehicles need not conform to emission or safety requirements but may NOT be sold in the U.S. and may require EPA and DOT declarations:
- Those imported by nonresidents for personal use not exceeding one year. The vehicle must be exported at the end of that year - there are no exceptions or extensions.
- Those belonging to members of foreign armed forces, foreign diplomatic personnel, or other individuals who come within the class of persons for whom free entry has been authorized by the Department of State in accordance with international law.
- Those temporarily imported for testing, demonstration, or competition, provided they are not licensed for use, or driven on public roads. These vehicles may be operated on public roads or highways provided the operations are an integral part of the test. Parties responsible for such vehicles must submit proper documents - forms EPA and DOT HS-7 - to CBP at the time entry is made. Also, applicable written approvals from these agencies must be obtained in advance and presented to CBP along with these forms. Remember, the cost to return vehicles that have been refused prior approval can be very high and must be borne by the vehicle owner(s).
Driver's Plates and Permits
Imported cars should bear the International Registration Marker. The International Driving Permit, issued in five languages, is a valuable asset. Consult an international automobile federation or your local automobile club about these documents.
- U.S. residents importing a new or used car should consult the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in their state of residence about temporary license plates and what documentation their DMV would require from CBP.
- Nationals of Central and South Americancountries that have ratified the Inter-American Convention of may drive their cars in the U.S. for touring purposes for one year or for the period of the validity of the documents, whichever is shorter, without U.S. license plates or U.S. driver's permits, provided the car carries the International Registration Marker and registration card, and the driver has the International Driving Permit.
- Motorists visiting the United States as tourists from countries that have ratified the Convention on International Road Traffic of may drive in the U.S. for one year with their own national license plates (registration tags) on their own national license plates (registration tags) on their cars and with their own personal drivers' licenses.
- Motorists from Canada and Mexico are permitted to tour in the U.S. without U.S. license plates or U.S. driver's permits, under agreements between the United States and these countries.
- Motorists from a country not a party to any of the above agreements must secure a driving permit in the U.S. after taking an examination.
- Foreign nationals employed in the U.S. may use their foreign license tags from the port of entry to their destination in the U.S.
Additional Information on the NHTSA Website
- Importing a Canadian-certified motor vehicle
For detailed information on how to import a Canadian-certified vehicle please visit our website at nhtsa.dot.gov/importing-vehicle.
- Importing a non-U.S. or Canadian –certified (Gray Market) Motor Vehicle
For detailed information on importing a non-U.S. or Canadian-certified motor vehicle, such as one that was originally manufactured for sale in Europe or in the Far East, please visit our website at nhtsa.dot.gov/importing-vehicle.
- How to Become a Registered Importer
For detailed information on how to become a Registered Importer please visit our website at nhtsa.dot.gov/importing-vehicle.
- List of FMVSS
For a booklet that lists the FMVSS, and provides a brief description of each standard, please visit our website at nhtsa.dot.gov/importing-vehicle.
- List of Registered Importers
For a listing of all Registered Importers in active status with NHTSA, please visit our website at nhtsa.dot.gov/importing-vehicle.
- HS-7 Declaration Form
To download a copy of the HS-7 Declaration form, please visit our website at nhtsa.dot.gov/importing-vehicle.
- Vehicles Eligible for Importation-Eligibility List
Vehicles on this list may ONLY be imported under bond and by an RI. For a list of vehicles that NHTSA has determined to be eligible for importation, please visit our website at nhtsa.dot.gov/importing-vehicle.
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