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Importing a Car into the US

Cannot bear to leave your vehicle behind when moving to the USA? Buying a car might be the easier option, but if you are prepared to face red tape and shipping costs, you can certainly try importing a car into the US. InterNations tells you the basics you need to know to manage this endeavor.
Make sure your car meets all the import requirements before shipping it.

If you are planning on importing your car to the US, you will need to tackle a number of bureaucratic hurdles. Imported vehicles need not only to satisfy US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requirements, but also those of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And they also need to conform to the automobile safety standards of the US Department of Transportation (DOT). For this reason, buying a car in the United States is often the easier and cheaper choice.

Necessary Documents

If you are, however, set on importing a car into the US instead of buying one there, you will need the following documents in order to get your CBP clearance:

  • Shipper’s/Carrier’s original bill of landing
  • Bill of sale / Valid proof of ownership
  • Foreign registration documents
  • Completed EPA form 3520-1
  • Completed DOT form HS-7
  • CBP Form 7501 completed on entry (you will need a copy of this to register the vehicle in the US)
  • Certificate / Letter of the vehicle manufacturer confirming that the car conforms to US DOT and EPA standards


The latter is not necessary for importing a car into the US if

  • there are official stickers inside the driver’s door and on the engine block that proof that it’s been manufactured to US standards, or
  • the make, model, and year are listed as conforming by EPA and DOT standards and no modifications have been made.

Further Information and Import Duty

Please consult the websites of the relevant offices, or get in touch with your local US embassy / consulate to get the latest information on importing a car into the US:

Usually, you will be charged duty when importing a car into the US, even if it is for your personal use only. Many Canadian-made cars are, however, the exception to this rule and their import is duty-free. The same is the case for private cars temporarily imported by nonresidents, i.e. visitors, for a maximum duration of one year.

Once you’ve managed to get through the red tape and import your vehicle, you will need to register it in the US.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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