Under agreements between the United States and Canada, Canadians are permitted to tour in the USA without USA license plates or USA driver’s permits. For Canadians working in the USA on a TN Visa or an L-1 Visa, you may have a vehicle that you would like to bring with you. Here’s how to comply with the importation requirements with US Customs & Border Protection (CBP).
Can I import my vehicle?
Importing vehicles from Canada is permitted by any person looking to use the vehicle for personal use. It must comply with the Federal Department of Transportation safety standards and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards. If it doesn’t meet those already, then a DOT Registered Importer needs to import the vehicle instead.
The One-Year Importation Requirement. Nonresidents may import a vehicle duty-free for personal use for up to (1) one year if the vehicle is imported in conjunction with the owner’s arrival (your admission on either TN Visa or L-1 Visa status). Vehicles imported under this provision that do not conform to USA safety and emission standards must be exported within one year and may not be sold in the USA. There is no exemption or extension of the export requirements.
After one (1) year, your car can be seized and either deported or destroyed. To avoid your car being confiscated or destroyed, it is important to finalize the importation process of your vehicle within the 365-day limit after your arrival in the USA from Canada.
How do I import my car from Canada?
Keep in mind that in most cases you have a 1-year time period in which to import your vehicle. If you plan on importing your vehicle in conjunction with your entry or within the 1-year time limit, have your documentation in order before you cross the border. You’ll have to fill out the required CBP Form 7501, as well as some additional US customs paperwork declaring your possessions, including your vehicle. Customs officials will inspect your car and verify your paperwork. You should plan extra time for this process. (Learn more about CBP Form 7501.)
Be prepared to pay any required fees. When importing a car from Canada, you will be required to pay the associated duty fees. The total cost will vary depending on the model of vehicle you are importing. (Find the duty rate for your car.)
What do I need to do after I import my car from Canada?
If you plan on importing your car to the USA on a TN Visa or L-1 Visa, you should do the following after your arrival:
- Insure your vehicle in the USA.
- Take your paperwork to the State DOT to register your vehicle. Prepare to pay the state taxes and applicable fees. You may also need to get an emissions test before registration.
In a few weeks, the US tags and plates for the vehicle should arrive.
This process is overwhelming! What else could I do?
If you do not want to deal with the hassle of the importation process, you can opt to do the following:
- Sell your vehicle and purchase a vehicle that’s already been imported into the United States.
- Work with a vehicle import specialist. These businesses specialize in this process and for a fee can take care of the process of importing your vehicle for you. You can find several through a quick Google search.
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We Can Help!
Don’t know where to start? The immigration lawyers at Richards and Jurusik Immigration Law have hundreds of 5-star client reviews and more than 20 years of experience helping TN Visa and L-1 Visa holders with all aspects of their visa process. We always start with a free case assessment, and offer flat-fee services and several levels of TN Visa legal services to fit your needs.
NOTE: Richards and Jurusik do NOT handle the importation of vehicles, nor can we advise on the importation process. We recommend contacting CBP directly with any questions and for assistance in legally importing your vehicle. (Learn how to contact CBP.)