How To Import Your Car From Canada to USA

import your car canada to usa

One of the questions I get over and over again on my blog is how to import your car from Canada to USA. There’s not a lot of information online and it’s not super clear on what it is you need to do.

So I thought I would share our experience in case it can be helpful for anyone else trying to do the same thing. I do advise checking the rules of your state for exact info as I am not a professional. Once we imported our car, it was a permanent import.

Here’s what we did…

Road Trip

1) Get A Compliance Letter

Does your car meet US safety standards? This is the very first question you need to ask. We drive a 2007 Honda FIT and were advised to call Honda customer service to get a letter stating that our car meets US safety standards.

Our car did meet the criteria and we were sent a US compliance letter within one week to our address in the US.

What do you do if your vehicle does not comply with US standards? From my understanding, you will have a hard time importing it. They may even ask you to make modifications through a registered importer that will run you a couple thousand dollars.

In this case, you might be better off selling your car in Canada and leasing when you get to the USA. Which is why I suggest getting the compliance letter as far in advance as possible before your move so you can decide what you want to do with your car.


2) Smog Test

Does your state require you to get a smog test? If so, make sure you do this ahead of time before you import your car officially. In California, we did have to do this. So double-check as the rules are different in each state.



3) Import at the Border 

If you’re immigrating at a ground crossing, you can choose to import your car at the border with your corresponding letter. Make sure you have the title, registration and all paperwork related to your car ready to go.

You can also go to the border early and import your car before your big move so it’s taken care of ahead of time.



4) Go to a Port

If you choose not to import your car at the border, I believe you have up until a year to import your car. We chose this option and had to go to our closest port for the import process.

From Los Angeles, we had to go to Long Beach to fill out some paperwork. Call US customs if you’re not sure where to go. 



5) Pay the Taxes + Duties

You will pay a percentage on the value of your car based on the Kelly Blue Book Price. I think our tax + duties were around $500, less then 10% on our 2007 Honda FIT.


6) Insuring Your Car

We also had no problem getting insurance with our Canadian plates. Our insurance was based on our VIN #, not our plates in California. We also used our Canadian insurance for the first few months when we arrived here.

So I would advise you to call your Canadian company to see what kind of coverage they will provide you in the US. Then, be very clear with your US insurance person that you have Canadian plates – and see if there is an issue with that in your state.

Lisa Ng Travel

If you’re looking for more information or experience from other expats that have tried to import their car from Canada to the USA, you can check out the comments in this thread on tips for moving from Canada to the USA. Good luck!


What was your experience in importing your car from Canada to the USA?


  • Vishnu G

    Very useful information. DMV website is not clear on if you are bringing your car from other country. Thanks for posting such detail information

  • BrendonBrown

    Immigrants importing a car do not have to pay duties.

    • Omid Fazeli

      Hello Brendon, I had a same question, I am still paying lease of my car and I am moving to the states by green card. what happen to insurance? can I stop Canadian insurance and switch to the states insurance? Thanks

      • BrendonBrown

        I don’t believe you can “import” a leased car per se, since it is the owner who has to conduct the import. My Canadian insurance is still covering my car 4 months in. Talk with your provider and get their consent to cover you in writing and you should be fine.

    • Don Black

      Brendon, you seem quite knowledgeable in this area so I would like to ask. I already have my car in the US as I was on vacation but decided to propose to mygf and we got married. I have just applied for permanent residence status and am curious, would you know if I need to bring my car back into Canada to be imported or because it’s already here can I just provide proper documentation with compliance letter to get it imported ?

      • I think you just have to go to the closest ‘port’ to where you live and you can do it there. Just call first!

        • Don Black

          I will try that.. Thanks!!! 🙂

      • BrendonBrown

        Just seeing this. You need to declare the car as an import but you don’t have to go to Canada – it should be free of tax (duty) if this import happens with a new permanent resident visa.
        You can go to any customs office with your compliance paperwork – most likely you will find one at an international border, at a seaport or at an airport. They may or may not want to process your vehicle, but it is something they are supposed to do. Search Maps for “U.S. Customs and Border Protection” and give the closest one a call.

  • Patricia Jean Thomas

    Doesanyone know if there are complications with importing a car that has yet to be paid off through a loan? Does it have to be fully owned or can you continue to pay your loan after importing?

    • BrendonBrown

      No problems importing while repaying a loan. I just did it two days ago.

      • Patricia Jean Thomas


      • Maggie M

        Hi Brendon, do you require any documentation from the Auto Loan company? . thanks

        • BrendonBrown

          No, you do not.

        • BrendonBrown

          None whatsoever.

      • jwrober

        Have you registered the car with a State DMV ? I wonder if that is where problems might arise.

      • Mehdi

        Thanks Lisa for all the valuable info! Brendon, i will take my car also with me to US in few weeks, I’m still paying the loan, called the bank and they informed me i can’t import my car in the US if it’s not fully paid! any advice please?

        • BrendonBrown

          Is your car leased or bought with a loan? If you own the car, the bank cannot prevent your import process, and you do not need the bank’s permission for this.

          • Mehdi

            Thanks Brendon, the car is bought with a loan, when i called the bank to inform them of my plans to move to us and take my car with me they said i cannot do that unless i pay whats left on the loan, otherwise i have no proof that i own the car and cant start the import process… may be they are just trying to push me to pay th erest of loan before leaving?

          • BrendonBrown

            They are not being forthright with you. When you buy your car it is YOUR car. You may have borrowed money for it, but it is yours, so you can do what you will with that ownership. The bank would have a hard time if you defaulted on that loan while in another country, so that is why they are being misleading.

          • Mehdi

            Makes sense, thanks for the clarification! I will go forward with the import process, I will update in few weeks with the result.

          • Briggs

            Be very careful. I did the move and my vehicle was purchased with a loan via BMO and I was not allowed to import the vehicle without the loan being paid off. You may not run into any problems at the border, but when you go to register it, they can deny you. I called my loan provider and the initial clerk I spoke to told me it was ok, but then I got transferred to the auto loan department and was told, no I could not import it. It is technically the bank’s vehicle. I took out a personal loan to pay off the car which solved that problem.

          • Mehdi

            Thanks Briggs, I will go and try, maybe its different from state to state(moving to Ohio btw). But definitely good to know and personal loan will be a good solution if I face the same problem.

          • Asad

            Hi Mehdi, were you able to import the car to OH. do you mind sharing your experience? I moved to OH last week but havent imported the car.

          • Mehdi

            Hey Asad, I still didn’t move, Will be there in around 2 weeks from now, I will definitely let you know once I have an update.

          • asad

            Hi Mehdi, any update on the car import?

          • Mehdi

            Hey Asad, sorry for the delay, I just moved few days ago.

            Well, good news so far, I am here with a TN visa(work permit for Canadians) the agent at the border told me that I can import my car, but also I can keep the canadian plates as I’m on a temporary work visa.

            So I decided to keep my canadians plates(and pay nothing)! And I will book a local car insurance next weeks.

            So far no problems with the loan neither the plates.

            Please let me know if you have any other questions.

          • asad

            so you don’t have to register the car in OH? That might be a requirement for insurance. Which forms specifically did you take it to the border?

          • Mehdi

            Yes correct! I don’t have to register the car, and for the insurance it can be done based on the VIN.
            I had only my visa and my insurance plus plates registration. nothing else. The whole process took less than 25 minutes at the border

          • asad

            ok interesting. So you didn’t fill any DOT or EPA form. What did they give you as a proof that car is imported? was this at Port Erie?

          • Mehdi

            I didn’t fill any of those, and they gave me no proof. As I said, I’m on a work visa so they said I don’t have to import my car if I don’t want to.. as I can go back to canada at anytime during my 3 years visa(that’s how they see things I believe) I entered at Buffalo border.

          • Steve

            Hey Mehdi, thanks for posting your experience. I’m also getting a TN visa but start my job in July – I’m wondering if you showed up to the buffalo boarder (where I’ll also be crossing) days or weeks earlier to get your visa sorted out or if you did it the day you moved.. thanks!

          • Mehdi

            Steve, Actually the company i’m working for did all the steps and get me the visa approval before crossing the border, so I just have to go to buffalo border and show them my papers.

          • Sylvie Dagenais Genest

            I am moving to the US soon as my husband has taken a position there with his company. He has an L1 visa. I will get a spouse visa. So I don’t have to import my car and can keep my Ontario plates on it? Can you tell me where I can get more information on this?

          • Mehdi

            I will suggest you call the US border and ask, but just to be ready in case you need to import it, try contacting your car dealer in the states and ask them to email you a Certificate of Conformity, which attest that your car meets the US standards.

          • Lisa Ng

            Pretty sure you have to register your car within a year. We are on the L1 and L2 spousal visa and we had a year to import it. Rules are different in every state though, so best to call your local DMV.

          • I believe every state is different and have different time limits on how quickly you would need to import your car before facing a possible penalty. I think in California, you only have 20 days.

            My husband is here on an L1 Visa and I’m here on an L2 spousal visa and we had to do the import within a year and changed our plates quickly after we moved.

  • Justin L

    Hi Lisa, I love your post as I am moving from Toronto to Los Angeles and figuring out how to transport my car to California. I was wondering if you used a shipping company and can recommend one? Also I’d like to know if you have any more info about the long beach port? My email is , thanks!

    • I drove my stuff down. But you can look into getting a pod and having it shipped down. From Toronto to LA you are looking at $3500 and the pod is not very big. I don’t have too much more info about the Long Beach port – I recommend just calling them first.

      • DAwu

        Hi Lisa, I’m planning to import my car from Canada to L.A. too. Just asking do you have any problem getting the CA license plate? Is it easy?

        • I didn’t have a problem getting a CA license plate, but from what I remember I think you need to import it first before you get CA plates.

  • nirmesh patel

    I am moving to California from Canada on TN visa. Planning to drive my car to SFO in 3 weeks time. My car is fairly new ( i.e 2014) and would like to keep it. Anyone know if I will be exempted from import duties/taxex if I enter usa on TN visa ??

    • I’m not sure if you would be exempt – call the port of entry office in Buffalo and see what they think. We had to pay it and we entered on an L1/L2 visa.

      • Briggs

        Depends on the make. I entered on a TN visa as well. If it’s made in North America, it’s part of the NAFTA agreement and there’s no duty. It depends on the VIN#. I think if it starts with a number, there’s no duty or taxes. I have a Toyota and didn’t have to pay anything.

    • I looked back at the post and we did pay a percentage on the value of our car based on the Kelly Blue Book Price. I think our tax + duties were around $500, less then 10% on our 2007 Honda FIT. But of course, that was on the L1/L2 visa – so you might be ok. If they do charge you, it would probably be something similar to this.

  • Sunny66

    Hey there everyone! I have just moved to CA from Toronto as well and my car has been my personal nightmare.

    I drive a 2013 Veloster and it CANNOT be imported because it does not have TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system). My compliance letter clearly states it does not meet US requirements. This became a law in the US for all cars built after 2009 and therefore since it is not a mandatory item in Canada, my car fails. 🙁

    If your car is a model year before 2009, you should be fine, if after 2009 you will want to make sure you have TPMS on it.
    Therefore, technically it is not imported yet and it has Ontario plates. I cannot get new CA plates until I can prove it has officially been imported.

    Note, I agree with Lisa, it would have been better if I sold it in Canada and leased/bought in US, however, no one would lease to me or give me a car loan without US credit. It is a bit of a catch 22.

    I have 1 year to get it modified (must be by original manufacturer) or I have to abandon it here in the US or return it to Canada to be sold. The plan is find a Hyundai dealership here who will modify it (they have the parts, Canada didn’t) or I will be going home next summer for a vacation and selling my car there.
    So my delay of making a decision of a year is giving me time to build up US credit so I can buy or lease a car with a loan before I have to return my car to Canada (if I cannot get it modified down here).
    Just some food for thought and some insights into legislation for newer cars.

    • Cesar

      Hi . Do you know if it is possible to get the TPMS in US? . I have a Hyundai Sonata 2015, Im moving to Florida in a month and my car doesn’t have that either so I dont know if I could get that fixed in US.

      • Sunny66

        Well, logically I would think so. However, I have not had any success yet. I do believe they require it to be installed by OEM (ie: Hyundai) but I was so stressed on everything else, I put this on the back burner. The Hyundai dealerships down here were not able to get me an answer before I brought my car down, but now that it is here, I need to take it in and ask for them to install it. I am just not sure what it will take. 🙁
        Sorry I cannot be more helpful. My saga is still not at its end.

        • Pablo83

          Hey Sunny66, I’m pretty much in the same shoes now: I’m moving to California and I need to figure out what to do with my car. I think you are royally screwed with your car as you cannot drive it California with canadian plates! One year in US in general but states have different rules and in California you have 20 days to put on local plates if you are resident or working in the state. If you google for “out of state car in California” you’ll see an info page where anybody in california can report out-of-state car and where it was seen.

          In my case I’m stuck with a different problem: I have a lease (1000$/month) and I cannot put California plates on a car leased in Canada. At the same time I cannot transfer this lease because less than 12-months remains on the lease.

      • Jitendra Ambaselkar

        I have same situation my 2009 Honda civic hybrid does not have TPMS. So I m planning to install TPMS on my own and get compliance letter from Honda to Import.

      • Jitendra Ambaselkar

        Hi cesar what u did to TPMS?

        • Cesar

          Hi Jitendra. I could not install the TPMS on my Canadian car because it need to be done by the manufacturers of the vehicle ( Hyundai) . When I took the car to the Hyundai dealer in the US to get that done, they said they needed to change the whole dashboard and it was going to be around $5 000 American Dollars plus the importing fees. So I took it back to Canada ,I sold it there and I bought an American car after that. My advise to you is to sell your car in Canada if you are living in the US for more that one year!!!. Good luck

    • Hey Sunny, sorry to hear about all the hassle you’ve been going through. I read on another forum that if you have a bank account with TD and open a US bank account with them here (virtually), you should be able use your Canadian credit and get a car loan through them. Hope that helps!

  • NotUrEnemy

    Hey, does anyone know if there are any restrictions on selling or trading your car down the road after you’ve gone through the proper importing. I’m looking to get a new truck and the car i imported a few years ago has lots of life and i’d like to get some value for it before i get a new truck. thanks

    • I think it’s definitely possible. Call a dealership for your truck in the USA and see if they would accept it for resale or if it being from Canada and having KMs instead of miles is a big deal for them.

  • epgomez

    My car was driven from Toronto to LA. I called Long Beach port and they were not nice. They told me I have to drive back to buffalo and clear the car there which is ridiculous.

    • BrendonBrown

      Ridiculous, because imports is their job.

    • I think they are misinformed – we did ours at Long Beach.

      • epgomez

        You’re lucky. I might give them a call again. They asked me why I didn’t clear at customs in buffalo New York in the first place. I called customs in buffalo and they were nice. They told me I can call Long Beach and it’s their job to clear my car. So funny.

        • Ugh. Sometimes you just get a totally grumpy person and it sucks. Paul showed up in Long Beach and they processed him in 15 minutes. We didn’t clear it in Buffalo either because we had up to a year to do so. Hope it all works out for you soon!

  • Abigail Jade

    Hi did you get a compliance letter from US Honda? Or the compliance letter from Honda Canada sufficient? Thanks

    • From Canada Honda – they were the only people who give us a letter and it worked great!

      • Jeff Suds

        I just called Canada Honda to do the same thing and they told me I would have to do it through USA Honda…

        • Let me know if USA Honda was able to give you a letter. I’m pretty sure we had to get ours from Honda Canada.

  • Omid Fazeli

    Thank you for sharing the info! Does it matter the car is leased ? I am moving from Vancouver Canada to LA CA. I have a 2014 BMW and I prefer to import it instead of lease take over. Thank you.

    • BrendonBrown

      I don’t think you can legally import a leased car as it is not technically your car.

  • Jeff Suds

    Hi Lisa. I am also moving to California from Canada! You mentioned you stayed with your Canadian Insurance provider for a few months initially (I’m assuming there were some increased premiums associated with that – I might have to do the same). In switching to US car insurance, what was required and in what order? Did you have to have a US license and registration before acquiring US insurance?

    Thanks for your help. Your blog post is super informative!


    • I’m not sure, but I don’t think we paid more on our Canadian premiums when our car was first with us in the states.

      I believe when we switched to US car insurance we were told that they would insure the VIN – it did not matter that we did not have us registration or license. HOWEVER, when my other friend came down to Cali – her US insurance provider would not insure here without US registration and license. So double-check with your new provider. I think certain companies are different, also I’m not sure if we had a mis-informed rep.

      Also to note – double-check how much liability covers you for. Geico will give you a super low monthly rate but only give you $50K in liability if someone sues you etc. Which isn’t a lot of money. Look into getting personal umbrella insurance for liability – it can cover you for up to $2 million and hopefully you’ll never need it.

      • Jeff Suds

        Thanks a ton Lisa. Your blog and your responses have been super helpful! Do you have any posts related to your trip down to the California? I’m thinking of following a large portion of Route 66 and would love any of your suggestions!

      • Jeff Suds

        Also – if you don’t mind me asking – which US auto insurance company did you end up going with?

  • cvlegacy

    Hi Lisa,

    I just imported my vehicle today in the US on a TN visa and was told I’m only allowed to import it for a year and then it has to be exported after that year even if my visa is for 3 years and there are no exceptions or extensions. Have you looked into this and know if there’s something I can do about it?

    Thanks 🙂

    • I’ve actually never heard of that before! Did they tell you why it had to be exported? Did it not meet compliance in the US?

      • cvlegacy

        It meets compliance.The customs lady told me I could only have it here for one year and it had to be exported at the end of that year. I’m completely at a loss. I need my vehicle to travel to and from work. I emailed CBP to shed some light on this news. I don’t understand the reasoning behind taking someones means of transportation away considering they need it to work on the Visa they are here for haha I’ll let you know what they say back to me though 🙂

        • I honestly have never heard of that! Can you call a different customs or import department or even a different port to get another opinion? I feel like this lady may have given your wrong info – especially since she didn’t exactly give you a reason for why it needs to be exported.

          • jwrober

            You (or she) may have used code ‘0’ on the EPA import form which allows temporary workers to import to the US for a period of up to 1 year. There are other codes that might be more applicable to your situation and that allow it to remain.

          • Yingh He

            Hi Lisa,
            I just wondering how to clear the custom. Just bring the documents(registration, compliance letter, KBB value report, EPA form 3520, DOT form HS-7) and went to a port? Anything else?

          • cvlegacy

            Yeah. I looked into it more. It’s very vague on the website and says non-residents can only import up to a year. but I found the guidelines and regulations and it states that as long as its a US identical vehicle. which it is. It was made in the US. Anyone can import it indefinitely. They weren’t very pleasant to me when I went to formally import my vehicle and they used code “0” instead of EE. No clue still how to get this changed as anyone i’ve tried contacting I haven’t gotten responses from and the number to call cuts you off and wont let you speak to a person haha but legally I have a right to have it here. It was a US made vehicle. I could even sell it here if I wanted. There’s no expiration date on my import documents or place where it states when I would have to export it so I’m not sure how that would be enforced but I’d like to find out sooner rather than later so I can get that changed haha

          • cvlegacy

            Little update on my Truck import adventures. I got my 3 year Visa extension approved and went back to customs and had two different people. They were very polite and when I told them about my experience he knew exactly who the people were who gave me trouble last time and said they had filled out my paperwork all wrong. They put me as a non resident and he claimed that as soon as I started working here and met the significant presence test I was a resident. He corrected everything and told me I never have to worry about it again. My truck was imported indefinitely now as it is a US manufactured vehicle that met all standards and I had a letter from the manufacturer that said so. 🙂

  • Yingh He

    Hi Lisa,
    I drove my vehicle to US several months ago, but didn’t clear the custom at that time. I am just wondering how to clear the custom. Just bring the documents(registration, compliance letter, KBB value report, EPA form 3520, DOT form HS-7) and went to a port? Anything else?

    • Yes bring all of that and see what they say. If you are missing anything, they will send you back. The lineup at Long Beach was pretty short – it is NOTHING like the special place that is the DMV 😉

      • Yingh He

        Thanks, Lisa. I live in Houston. I will find a nearest port and have a try.

  • Abigail Carson

    Great process of this insights from you. I like your post.

  • Nina

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for all the info.

    I’m moving to the US for a few years, but may move back to Canada after.

    Does anyone know if we you can take a car back to Canada after importing it to the US? Do you have to pay a fee again to “import” it back to Canada?


    • I’m not sure about this one – best to call the Canadian import side to see if they can help you.

  • ladyhawk

    I have read that Toyota is one of the manufacturers that do NOT give compliance letters. What do I do now? I have a 2009 Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck.

    • Call Toyota customer service to confirm – then you’ll know for sure. It’s strange that they wouldn’t!

  • Chris Fantini

    Hey all, just thought I’d share my experience so far. I just moved to Orlando on an L1A work permit. I own a 2015 Subaru Impreza which surprisingly does not conform with FMVSS (TPMS). I tried to import it temporarily at the Emerson Border Crossing. I had everything I could possibly need: The Declaration form from the CBP website, proof of title and registration. The Emerson guard did not know his stuff and insisted that I could not import the car because of the FMVSS non compliance, even though I showed him the specific clause in the declaration that allowed it. Since I was crossing the border, I did not want to argue too strongly and potentially have other problems. I have an email into CBP currently because I don’t want to drive an hour + to Port Canaveral without knowing if they will import it there.

    I really wish I could keep my car but looks as if I’ll be driving back to Winnipeg in a year to sell it. I am in the same boat as another here… I would have just sold it in Canada but don’t have the US credit yet to get a good car here.

  • Emilee

    Did you have to make an appt at long beach or just went over? do you also remember where to go, like the address, number etc. I have tried searching and have come up with nothing.

    • I think we just went over. I don’t remember too much about the address, but I believe it was the Long Beach Port Authority?!?

      • Emilee

        Ive been all over google and can find nothing ive even emailed them and they told me to google. Ive also called and they told me I had to go to the boarder. Im in a hustle rn cause I dont know what to do or where to go.

        • BrendonBrown

          Look for a Customs and Border Protection office: Address: 301 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90802
          Phone: (562) 366-5454

  • Ryan Laverdiere

    i own my car outright and want to bring it over to the states, are there and standards or safety requirements that will have to be changed over to American standards and requirements such as kilometre speedometer to miles. Thank you for any replies

    • Call your car maker first and ask for a compliance letter, they should give you one if your car complies. If not, it will likely be very expensive to make modifications, that you will be probably be better selling it off. I own a Honda Fit and we didn’t have to change over from KMs to miles as our dashboard shows both.

  • Jofel Nistal

    Hi Lisa! As a temporary resident in Canada with a study permit expiring soon, is it possible for me to import my car from Canada to the US on a B1 visa?

    • This I am not sure about – definitely call and find out!

      • Jofel Nistal

        Thank you for the reply. I ended up selling my car though. Haha!

  • Sylvie Dagenais Genest

    If I can keep my Ontario plates on my car, why would I bother to import it? In the states on a work visa for an undetermined amount of time.

    • You legally have to import it after one year – I do believe. Check with your state, as each one has different laws. Also make sure your insurance company will cover you while in the USA.

  • Ham Ara

    Hi, I imported a BMW to Canada a few years a go now i want to take it there and sell it,
    Is it take the same steps or would be easier?

  • Marcelo Wu

    We read this blog before moving from Alberta to Maryland. Unfortunately, once we arrived, we had the same experience as Sunny66 below but with our Honda Civic 2009. Honda Canada gave us our Recall Clearance letter beforehand but Honda USA refused to give us a Compliance letter. The reason is that all Canadian Civics between 2008-2014 do not have TPMS, which is mandatory in the US. We wish Honda Canada told us before we had to move. Be warned! We ended up draining our savings to buy a used American Honda CR-V and giving up our Civic to family back in Canada.

    • This is awful – thanks for sharing. Hopefully others will be able to avoid this in the future and sell their car before moving.

  • Eden Tremayne

    Thanks so much for all of your info! We are also importing to California and I’m having a hard time finding a company in Vancouver to perform the smog test. Were you coming from BC or a different province? Any information would be extremely useful, thank you!!

    • We did the smog test in LA after we arrived – good luck!

    • BrendonBrown

      You won’t need a smog test for import.
      You can get it in California before registering.

      • Eden Tremayne

        Thank you!

  • Baljeet Sehmi

    Would you know how I can find cars in Canada that were originally from the US with a view of shipping them back to the US

  • Francois

    We are moving to Colorado and the relocation company dealing with my move is helpless on my car situation. So I have 2 vehicules and both are free of liens (I have the title). However, one vehicule only has the speedometer in Km/h (no miles) and the other one has the speedometer in miles but doesn’t have the tire air pressure monitoring system. I can’t get a clear answer if these 2 vehicules can be imported in the US. Given that the first car is a BMW X3 and the other one an Audi A5…I have a hard time believe I couldn’t “import” the cars.
    Thanks to anyone who can help me with my situation.

    • I would call BMW and Audi Canada ASAP and find out if they can give you a letter stating this car meets US standards qualifications. If not, I would look into selling, as a few other posters in the comments had a lot of headaches with this + the mandatory TPMS and ended up not importing in the end.

      I believe if your car does not have TPMS you cannot import this car. Unless you want to pay for the modification. Someone mentioned above that cars made in Canada after 2009 do not have this feature.

  • Shabnam Janani

    So is there any differences between TN visa, student visa or just a visitor in terms of paying tax and duties for your car when you are shipping it to USA from Canada?
    I appreciate if someone clarify this for me.
    where can i find this information?

    • I don’t think there is a difference on paying and importing based on the visa that you’re on. You should call just in case – but if you are planning to keep it in the country for more than a year, I think you have to import it.

  • Leah

    I’m wondering if anyone might have some insight into my situation. I came to the US in November as a K-1 and am currently adjusting status to permanent resident. I did not bring my car (financed in Canada) with me at the time I moved. It’s a 2014 Mazda 3. Months previous I had requested a compliance letter but it came with the failure stating no TPMS.

    HOWEVER, the sticker on the door with the VIN states the vehicle is complaint with FMVSS (not the Canadian version – that’s on a separate sticker with a maple leaf, not on the VIN one) and I have an EPA emissions sticker under the hood. So by all means it looks compliant without a letter. Does anyone know if you require the letter if you have appropriate stickers?

    Secondly, Scotiabank told me I was unable to take the car across the border until my car loan was paid off. So it’s been sitting in my driveway at my parents house in Canada until I can figure out how to get it here. But! I have the title (apparently some provinces have to give you the title when it’s financed and some don’t) with me. Does anyone know if the customs agents check for a lien on the vehicle, and if so, do they care? Or do they just look at the title? And the same goes for registration in PA – if I have the title, do they check for a lien? I know they checked my husband’s when we left SC for PA but he didn’t possess the title, his bank did.

    If anyone can shed some light, it would be very appreciated!

    • I’m pretty sure we needed a letter in order to import our car. The import office didn’t strike me as the type that was ‘flexible’ on this kind of stuff even if you have a sticker that says compliant. If it were me, I would probably try to sell it just based on the headaches of it not being TPMS compliant (see poster way above in these comments, who had major issues with TPMS) and Scotiabank giving you trouble.

  • bejocy

    Thanks so much for sharing this information.

  • Kerry Ann Morton

    5 years ago I imported my USA car into Quebec and am now moving back to USA. What procedure must I do now? I have the same car.

  • ChadAllard

    Currently pulling teeth with FCA (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, etc) about getting a compliance letter. Nobody seems to know what to do there, and the fax number they have on file doesn’t appear to work from Canada! I learned the hard way that you need to beg them to give you the 1800 fax number. This is after speaking with 4 different individuals there.

    Story goes – Day 1, I called and they gave me a fax number to send my visa, insurance evidence, and mileage. Day 2 I called back because the fax number didn’t work and they told me it would be 5 days before I heard back from them. Day 7 I called back as I had not heard anything and they told me that the info was still in the mail but that the only info it contained was the same fax number that they had given me before that didn’t work!!. I got a new fax number and it went through. Day 9 I called back to make sure they received it. They had. They told me it would be another 5 days before I heard back. It’s now been another 5 days and they still have not contacted me. THIS IS WHY you need to do this with plenty of time on hand. I’m a week away from moving and may just have to drive it up to the “closest port” at the end of the day.

    Anyone have tips for Chrysler they can share? Horror stories? The funny thing is that I actually called the port of entry that I’ll be driving through and as soon as I said it was a Chrysler he groaned and told me that they had been having nothing but trouble for a year! Hopefully with that knowledge, they’ll be forgiving?

  • Russell Vaughan


    I have relocated to California from Edmonton. I’ve already done the
    import at the Long Beach Port Authority office without issue. But from what
    I’ve read about the emissions, the DMV website seems to state that if
    your vehicle wasn’t manufactured for California emissions, that it can
    not be registered. After the smog check on your car, did you have any
    issues with getting it registered with DMV, even though it does not
    comply with California emissions?



    • We did the smog check in LA and registered for it no problem – unless the rules have changed in the past 4 years?

      • Russell Vaughan

        Thanks Lisa. I’ll give it a try and let you and the others on this blog know what my results are.

  • Melissa Webb

    I’m immigrating to Montana from Alberta and I drive a minivan that is 21 years old. Does anyone have any information or expertise to help me out on the importation side of things for my old girl

  • Linda

    Has anyone imported a car that needed TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system)? My son tried importing a 2012 Honda Vera Cruz and got told that he could not do so and needed to return it to Canada by Nov. and sell it there.

    • Yes, please see some of the comments above – earlier in the thread. You are looking at $5000 to get TPMS installed. Most people ended up selling the car in Canada.

  • Jaque Jean

    Hey this is a great place to gather information 😀
    i wonder about one thing tough. I am travelling on a tourist visa from canada to the us and bought a canadian car which i want to sell in the us. i got a compliance letter and the needed documents for an import. my question is about the legal status of myself in this car in the us. if i import the car as i read from above i can still drive around with the canadian licences plates. do i need to get any insurance from the us side or any other us related document? or am i just fine and i have imported the car being able to sell and everything else good to go?

    • BrendonBrown

      There’s a lot going on here Jaque. Import, registration and insurance are all different things. You can always import a car into the USA – you can only import it for free if you plan on becoming a permanent resident – otherwise you will be stuck with import fees.
      You need to register your car in the State you are permanently residing in within the time window allotted by the DMV or you will be fined.
      Canadian insurance may cover tourist travel to the USA – insurance is more flexible – call them.

  • Stephanie Maheu

    I am moving to the USA in March and will want to take my car with me. I am the owner of the car however I have yet to pay off my loan at the bank. Will I still be able to take my car to the USA and change my plates to US plates?

    • BrendonBrown

      That’s what I did, without issue. You are the owner of your car and you have a loan with the bank. In the sight of Border Patrol they are two separate things.

      • Stephanie Maheu

        Great thank you for your reply !

  • TG

    This information is helpful, especially knowing that I will need to visit the Long Beach office. Did you need to make an appointment? If yes, which division did you call?

    We are living in LA on an L1/L2 visa and we’ve been able to register our car with the DMV (a 2013 Honda Fit). I’ve spoken to the DMV a few times and they said that we can keep our car in California without it becoming a permanent import for as long as our visas are valid (until 2020), but that we need a renewal letter every year from CBP stating that the car can stay here. Has anyone else encountered a similar situation?

  • Alison Oshiro Sakamoto

    Thank you Lisa, this is great info that you are sharing! Much appreciated.