Department of Transportation (DOT)
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for helping maintain and develop the nation's transportation systems and infrastructure.
Importation of a passenger car, truck, trailer, motorcycle, bus, or multi-purpose passenger vehicle (MPV) that was not originally manufactured to comply with U.S. or Canadian safety standards. Importers of motor vehicles must file an HS-7 Declaration form (available at ports of entry or at http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import) at the time a vehicle is imported to identify the basis for the vehicle's entry into the United Sates.
As a general rule, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) to be imported on a permanent basis. Vehicles (other than motorcycles) manufactured to comply with the FMVSS will have a certification label affixed by the original manufacturer in the area of the driver-side door.
You should note that the 25 year period runs from the date of the vehicle's manufacture. The date of manufacture should be identified on a label permanently affixed to the vehicle by its original manufacturer, to establish the age of the vehicle.
Vehicles parts - The date of manufacture is not identified on a label permanently affixed to the vehicle by its original manufacturer, to establish the age of the vehicle.
The Clean Air Act prohibits importation into the United States of any motor vehicle, motor vehicle engine, nonroad engine and equipment that does not conform to United States EPA emission standards and requirements. A vehicle is exempted if it has been 21 years or more since its original production year and it is in its original unmodified condition. Vehicles in any condition may be excluded if they were manufactured prior to the year in which EPA's regulations for the class of vehicle took effect. Vehicles at least 21 years old with replacement engines are not eligible for this exemption unless they contain equivalent or newer EPA certified engines and emission control systems. Upon entry, the importer must file an EPA Form 3520-1 with Customs and declare code "E" on the form.
If you purchase a vehicle that was brought into the U.S. and sold without being properly entered through CBP, that vehicle is subject to seizure.
CBP requires that an entry be filed for the vehicle, at the port of entry. A CBP Officer will process and provide you with the CBPForm 7501 which serves as evidence of the import processing by CBP. Filing an entry is initiated by declaring the vehicle and/or its parts to a CBP officer when you enter the U.S. If your paperwork is in order, the officer will help you file the entry at the border. If you are not prepared, the officer may advise you to file the entry at a CBP port near your residence - however, in many cases the closest port could be 1-3 hours from your home, so it is in your best interest to be prepared to file the entry when you initially bring the vehicle into the U.S.
Without a copy of the CBP entry form, you will not be able to register the vehicle in the U.S.
Prior to filing your entry with CBP:
- Ensure you have valid proof of ownership, which is an original certificate of title, or a certified copy of the original. Vehicle parts will require a purchase.
- Manufacturer's letter/certificate, stating that the vehicle conforms to EPA and DOT standards. Vehicle parts must also be conformed to U.S. Standards depending on the part being imported. (For example: Engine must meet EPA and a Fender must meet DOT standards)
- Completed EPA form 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7. Vehicle parts will depend on the part being imported into the U.S.
Note: If the vehicle has stickers on the engine (EPA) and inside the drivers-side door (DOT) stating that the vehicle was manufactured to U.S. standards, you will not need a letter from the manufacturer. Some vehicles are listed by make, model, and year on the DOT and EPA web sites as conforming. If your vehicle is one of those, that would also negate the need for a letter from the manufacturer.
If the vehicle has not been in your household for at least one year, you will be required to pay duty, which is assessed based on the purchase price or blue book value.
NEVER purchase a used vehicle in the U.S. if the owner cannot show that it is currently registered in the U.S. and demonstrate that it conforms to DOT and EPA standards.
If purchasing a vehicle from a dealer, they should handle registration for you, if they don't, the purchase should be contingent on your successful registration of the vehicle. (We get many calls from people who unwittingly purchased a vehicle that had been brought into the U.S. and then illegally sold- Buyer beware.)