Temporary Vehicle Import to the United States

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 Min read
February 16, 2022

Did you know that you can temporarily import a vehicle into the US?

If you want to ship your car, motorcycle, or RV to America, you can drive with your own plates, using your own license, for up to a year - no need to register or title your vehicle in any US state.

You do have to deal with the US government, but as far as these things go, the temporary import process is straightforward.

Three offices are involved: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US Department of Transportation (USDOT).

CBP is responsible for goods and people coming into the country, and its rule on temporary vehicle import is simple:

Motorists visiting the United States as tourists from countries that have ratified the Convention on International Road Traffic of 1949 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.

Its rule on duties is just as simple:

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.

CBP’s documentation requirements are, well… simple

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 3520-1 and DOT form HS-7, declaring the emissions and safety provisions under which the vehicle is being imported.

For all the details relevant to CBP, check out their website on vehicle import here.

You may have noticed that the CBP requires a form from the EPA and a form from the USDOT.  Let’s turn our attention to those.

The EPA wants to keep overly polluting cars off our roads, and the USDOT wants to keep unsafe cars off our roads.

But if you’re only here for a year, they don’t care!

The EPA form for vehicle import is EPA 3520-1.  Code O allows for an exemption from emissions requirements for a vehicle “imported by a nonresident for personal use by an individual for a period up to a year.”

The relevant form for the USDOT, HS-7 contains Box 5, which allows for a temporary import if the following conditions are true:

a. I am a nonresident of the United States and the vehicle is registered in a country other than the United States;

b. I am temporarily importing the vehicle for personal use for a period not to exceed 1 year, and will not sell it during that time; and

c. I will export it not later than the end of 1 year after entry, and the declaration contains my passport number and country of issue.

So if you want to ship your vehicle to the States for a road trip lasting up to a year, it’s a straightforward affair.

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