Regulated by several different government agencies, importing a vehicle tends to be a multistage process. Transport Canada defines a “vehicle” as any means of transport that is capable of being driven or drawn on roads, by any means other than muscular power exclusively, but that does not run exclusively on rails. This includes not only motor vehicles, but also recreational, camping, boat, horse and stock trailers, as well as wood chippers, generators or any other equipment mounted on rims and tires.
Whether you are importing a commercial and recreational vehicle from the United States into Canada, the steps below will help you avoid having the vehicle refused entry, delays at the border, and possible penalties with Canada Border Services Agency. We have broken the complex process of importing a vehicle into Canada into eight major steps:
1. Ensure vehicle admissibility into Canada
Your vehicle must meet the requirements of the Canada Border Services Agency, Transport Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency before it can be imported. If your vehicle is not admissible, importing the vehicle into Canada could be a costly disappointment.
- Will the vehicle be admissible under Transport Canada or the Registrar of Imported Vehicles?
Before you import a vehicle, you should also contact the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV). The RIV is an agency contracted by Transport Canada to administer a national program to ensure that imported vehicles are brought into compliance with Canada’s safety standards. We recommend you verify with the RIV whether the vehicle is admissible into Canada. Inquire about the RIV program, vehicle admissibility, RIV exemptions, recall clearance information, vehicle modification requirements and vehicle branding history.
Tips on Admissibility:
- U.S. titled vehicles are permitted provided they are titled in the USA or; if new a Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin or Certificate of Origin. (U.S. export worksheet required)
- Offshore vehicles are not permitted unless they are more than 15 years of age from the date of manufacture. (No U.S. export worksheet required)
2. Meet clearance documentation requirements
Ensure you have the required documents for both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency. The following documents must accompany the vehicle and be presented to U.S. Customs at the time of export:
- Original Title, Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin or Certificate of Origin (front and back). Should your vehicle not be required to have one of the these documents, then you must provide a Certificate of No Title
- Bill of Sale
- Recall clearance letter (U.S. only)
- NAFTA, if applicable (commercial U.S. imports only)
- Copies of the Export Certificate and Invoices (in English or French), if export location is other than the U.S.
3. Submit required documents to CBP 72 hours prior to export
For vehicles being imported into Canada from the U.S., the required documentation must be submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at least 72 hours prior to export.
Tip: Confirm the U.S. port being used, and ensure that the desired port allows for vehicle export processing.
You will need to provide:
- U.S. Customs vehicle export worksheet
- Copy of Bill of Sale
- Copy of Vehicle Title (front and back), Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO) or certified copy of the same from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you are bringing in a salvage vehicle, you must supply a copy of the Salvage Title. If the Title is not in your name, then the seller must sign as the seller and the buyer must appear as the buyer on the Title. Partial submissions are not allowed.
- Vehicles not requiring a Title – If you are exporting equipment that does not require a Title, you must complete the “No Title Required” Addendum.
Assuming your documentation above is accurate and complete, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official will begin the export checks which are completed within 72 hours of receipt (usually Monday to Friday, excluding holidays. However, please contact the customs office where you plan to cross, directly, to verify their hours of operation).
Note: At the time of exit from the U.S, the owner/agent of the vehicle must supply the vehicle and original documents to U.S. Customs at the port of export in person.
4. Meet Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Requirements
The following are subject to import requirements, and inspection procedures and fees in order to prevent the entry and establishment of injurious plant pests in Canada:
- used agricultural vehicles, equipment, implements, containers, and carriers;
- used earth moving vehicles, equipment,implements, tools, carriers and containers;
- used passenger and recreational vehicles; and
- used military equipment.
Regardless of its origin, imported used vehicles, farm equipment and related earth moving vehicles and equipment must be free from soil, sand, earth, plant residue, manure and related debris. Many exotic plant pest organisms capable of causing economic loss to Canadian agricultural production can be transported in soil and related matter.
5. Submit required documents to Canada Border Services Agency at the first point of entry into Canada
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) office at the point of entry will process the import of your vehicle into Canada.
- The Importer can declare the goods in person at the first point of entry upon arrival or;
- The Importer can arrange for an agent to act on their behalf
The required documentation includes:
- Bill of Sale
- Transport Canada Vehicle Import Form 1
- Form B3 (for commercial) or Form B15 (for personal) – to account for any applicable duties or tax such as a possible 6.1% duty if the car is manufactured outside the USA, GST payable at the time of import, HST or PST portion payable at time of registration, Excise Tax on air conditioning of $100.00 CAD, and the possible green levy anywhere between $1,000.00 to $4,000.00 CAD depending on the vehicle.
6. Pay RIV registration fee
Once your vehicle has been imported into Canada, contact the RIV and pay a registration fee of $195 + tax.
Current fees for registering a U.S. imported vehicle in the RIV program
Vehicles entering the RIV program with a Vehicle Import Form – Form 1:
- $195.00 + GST and QST for vehicles entering through a border crossing in Quebec
- $195.00 + GST/HST for vehicles entering through a border crossing in any other province
Tip: Do not forget to include a copy of the recall letter if required
Vehicles are exempt from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) registration if they are imported under one of the following conditions:
- Commercial Importation – Importer is listed on the list of recognized vehicle importers with Transport Canada
- Non-Commercial Importation – New Canadian vehicle bearing a valid Canadian compliance label. The manufacturer of the vehicle must be listed with Transport Canada
- Canadian certified vehicle being returned to Canada by original owner
- Vehicles older than 15 years
- Vehicle entered for exhibition, demonstration, testing, evaluation, or special purposes (Sch VII required)
- Visitor, tourist, or a person holding a valid work permit or student visa
- Work vehicle (A work vehicle is defined as one used primarily for civil engineering construction and maintenance, that is not built on a truck or truck-type chassis. This does not include a tractor or any vehicle designed to be drawn behind another vehicle).
Transport Canada will issue the Importer a Form 2 after all the fees have been paid.
7. Pass Inspection and Registration
The original Form 1 and Form 2, along with the vehicle, must now be taken to an approved inspection facility within 45 days of import. Once inspected, your Form 2 will be stamped and the vehicle will be ready for registration.
Take your stamped Form 2, original Bills of Sale, original Title, and B3 or B15 from Canada Customs to your local licensing/registration office, pay your HST/PST, and drive away!
8. Keep Records on File
Last but not the least, do not forget to keep a record on file. All records of importation must be kept on file with the importer for six years.
As you can see, importing a vehicle is a complex process. This article contains general guidelines and information pertaining to the CBSA administration of the Transport Canada import requirements. If you were ever to consider the services of a customs broker, we recommend doing so when importing a vehicle. A customs broker can help ensure that your vehicle meets the import requirements, avoid any costly delays and penalties at the border and assist with the transportation of your vehicle.
For more information or should you require assistance in importing a vehicle, contact Pacific Customs Brokers. Our import specialists can make this process simple and handle your next vehicle import for you.
Do you have questions on importing a vehicle into Canada? Leave them for us in the comments section below.