How To Import A Foreign Car Into The US

Importing a foreign vehicle into United States soil can be a difficult task for some to do, but it is not impossible, as long as you have the proper documents and follow the processes accordingly. In addition, your car must meet certain standards set by the US government, which include safety standards, bumper standards, and air pollution standards.

Safety standards must meet the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, while bumper standards must meet the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972. Air pollution control standards must meet the Clean Air Act of 1968 (amended in 1977 and 1990). It is important to note however, that vehicles manufactured overseas don’t necessarily meet all standards. If they do, then it’s highly likely that these cars are made for export into the US. Foreign cars that do not meet these standards must be fixed to meet them, exported, or destroyed.3

25-year old rule

Foreign cars that are less than 25 years of age are subject to regulations set by the Enviornmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT), while cars over 25 years old are exempt from these two requirements, but must complete paperwork from EPA and DOT in order to submit to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for clearance.


Before registering a foreign vehicle with the CBP, there are certain things than an importer needs.

Proof of ownership – there must be a valid proof of ownership that the vehicle is really yours.

Manufacturer letter or certificate – this should state that the vehicle conforms to the standards set by the EPA and DOT. This requirement is waived if the car has stickers on the engine and inside the driver’s door stating that the car was manufactured to American standards.

Forms – EPA Form 3520-1 and DOT Form HS-7 must be filled out completely.

Shipping – as car owner, you are responsible for making shipping arrangements in order to bring the car into US territory. You may have your shipper notify you of the date of arrival.

Undercarriage – the US Department of Agriculture specifically requires that foreign cars have to be free from any foreign soil, especially in the undercarriage. Prior to shipment, it is best to have your car cleaned thoroughly.

CBP entry


When the car is at the point of entry, CBP personnel will fill out and give you a copy of Form 7501, which will serve as your proof that the importation of the car was processed by the CBP. The authorized person will help you file the entry at the American border. This entry form is important, because without it, you will not be able to register your imported vehicle for use in the US.

Other tips

For security purposes, you must not use your vehicle as a means for bringing in additional belongings (like it was a shipping container). You do not know what may happen in and out of ports. Shipping companies may also decline to ship your vehicle if there are personal belongings. Everything must be declared with Customs. If do not do so, your car may be seized by the authorities.

By following these steps carefully and completely, you can import your foreign car into the US without any hitches. If you have any further questions or clarifications, visa attorneys or immigration lawyers can help with these kinds of issues.

Importing a foreign car into US soil can be expensive, but if you are the type of person who really loves a certain foreign-made vehicle, then you can be confident that bringing it over is not impossible, as long as you comply with all the requirements.