Temporarily importing your foreign vehicle into the USA

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Guide to temporarily importing and driving your foreign vehicle in the USA

*Please note this guide relates to foreign vehicles shipped into the USA

Summary of process:

  • Obtain EPA Exemption letter /approval prior to Shipping
  • Make an Importer Security Filing (ISF) prior to shipping (your agent will do this)
  • Complete all documentation and forms (your agent will provide these)

*Important note EPA and ISF are required prior to shipping your vehicle. If you are shipping into the country, without them you may face large fines and / or may face difficulties entering the US

*Although EPA is only required for the USA, we recommend that you leave the NAFTA (Canada, Mexico & USA) area within 12 months as the EPA does not consider your vehicle exported from USA territory until it has left the trade zone.

*If crossing a land border into the USA, although you may

The rules:

US Border Protection & Customs – Importing a Motor Vehicle | U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Non-residents 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.

For CBP clearance you will need the shippers 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. Vehicles that meet all U.S. emission requirements will bear the manufacturer’s label on the engine compartment in English, attesting to that fact. For vehicles that lack such a label, the CBP inspector at the port of entry may require proof of eligibility to import under the EPA exemptions or exclusions specified on form 3520-1.

Vehicles that do not meet all U.S. emission requirements, unless eligible for exemption or exclusion must be imported through an independent commercial importer (ICI). EPA will not allow the vehicle’s release to the vehicle owner until ICI work is complete. The ICI will perform any EPA-required modifications and be responsible for assuring that all EPA requirements have been met. Some vehicles cannot be successfully imported or modified by an ICI, however, and in general, ICI fees are very high.

Cleaning the Undercarriage
To safeguard against the importation of dangerous pests, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that the undercarriage of imported cars be free of foreign soil. Have your car steam-sprayed or cleaned thoroughly before shipment.


Temporary Vehicle Imports for Non-residents
Motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment for personal use may be imported for up to one year. The vehicle must be imported in connection with your arrival and it must be owned by you or on order before you depart from abroad. Only individual nonresidents may import a vehicle through a nonresident exemption. There is no Customs bond required, however, EPA requires that written approval must be obtained prior to importation.


  • Importer must apply for and should keep a copy of the EPA approval letter for future proof of EPA exclusion.
  • Importer must file with U. S. Customs, upon entry, an EPA Form 3520-1 declaring code “O;” and attach the EPA letter of exemption.


  • Importer must be a nonresident;
  • Vehicle may not be sold or otherwise transferred to another party in the U.S.;
  • Vehicle must be used primarily for personal use by the importer while in the U.S.;
  • Use of this exemption is prohibited if the vehicle is to be used primarily to conduct business, or for principal use by persons other than the importer (or spouse of the importer); and
  • Vehicle must be exported after one year, or upon the nonresident departing the U.S., whichever comes first.

Here are the full EPA guidelines to importing a motor vehicle in the USA Importing Vehicles and Engines into the United States | US EPA

To import your vehicle in the USA you must temporarily import it, this process does not require a Carnet de Passage

Obtain Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval from the EPA, this process can take up to 3-6weeks to complete and is required before sailing; Required supporting documentation.

Read official instructions  for applying  for EPA exemption here

a. Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval request – Signed letter (example here)

  • Your full name, current foreign address, phone number, Fax number, and email address (if applicable)
  • Your U.S. address, phone number, Fax number, and email address (if applicable)
  • Vehicle year, make, model and Vehicle Identification Number
  • A statement explaining the reason for your visit to the United States. (work/school/vacation).
  • The date of the importation
  • Location of the vehicle and the Nonresident at the time of the request.
  • The duration of the importation.
  • Proof of ownership (Registration or title documents from the country of origin).
  • Copy of passport

b. Supporting documents

  • Copy of Vehicle Registration certificate
  • Copy of passport

The above can be emailed to: [email protected]

Importer Security Filing (ISF)
*Important prior to shipping an Importer Security Filing (ISF) must be made, normally your agent in the US would do this on your behalf, you may face large fines and difficulties when entering the USA without this being carried out!

Check with your agent whether they will do this on your behalf or whether you need to make the filing.

Documentation for Customs / your clearing agent

  • Power of attorney for customs purposes (the agent should provide paperwork)
  • Copy of the Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval from the EPA (as above)
  • EPA complete declaration forms 3520-1 (EPA) (form here)
  • DOT HS-7 – A Declaration re Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Tick box (5) stating that the vehicle does NOT comply with USA standards and that you will export it within 12 months. (form here)
  • CBP Form 3299 Declaration for free entry of unaccompanied articles Tick box Code ‘O’ stating imported by a non-resident for personal use for a period of one year. (form here)
  • Bill of Landing
  • Supplemental declaration for unaccompanied personal & household effects
  • To whom it may concern statement for customs (form here)
  • Copy of flight itinerary showing that you will arrive in the USA around the same time as the vehicle
  • Copy of passport

Insurance can be obtained quite easily from a number of insurance companies:

Motor Insurance – For foreign Vehicles USA & Canada


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