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Importing Motor Vehicles, Parts, and Accessories

Imported motor vehicles are subject to safety standards under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, revised under the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988; to bumper standards under the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act of 1972, which became effective in 1978; and to air pollution control standards under the Clean Air Act of 1968, as amended in 1977, and 1990.

Required Documentations
  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. Vehicles that meet all U.S. emission requirements will bear 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 must be imported through an independent commercial importer (ICI). EPA will not allow the vehicles' 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.

Required EPA documentation
  Unless otherwise exempt, importers of motor vehicles must submit one of the following EPA declaration forms to CBP at the time of entry, or when filing a weekly entry from an FTZ in accordance with 19 CFR 146.63(c)(1) at the time of entry summary:
  (i) For heavy-duty motor vehicle engines, whether they are installed in a vehicle or separately imported as loose engines, submit EPA Declaration Form 3520-21, “Importation of Engines, Vehicles, and Equipment Subject to Federal Air Pollution Regulations;”
  (ii) For all other motor vehicles, submit EPA Declaration Form 3520-1, “Importation of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Engines Subject to Federal Air Pollution Regulations.”

Labeled vehicles
  Vehicles which in their condition as imported are covered by an EPA certificate of conformity and which bear the manufacturer's label showing such conformity and other EPA-required information will be deemed in compliance with applicable emission requirements for the purpose of CBP admissibility and entry liquidation determinations.

Importation of vehicles by an Independent Commercial Importer (ICI)
  An ICI is generally an importer that does not have a contract with a foreign or domestic motor vehicle manufacturer for distributing products into the United States market (see 40 CFR 85.1502). ICIs act independently of motor vehicle manufacturers, but are required to bring motor vehicles into compliance with all applicable emissions requirements found in 40 CFR part 86 and any other applicable requirements of the Clean Air Act. Before the vehicle is deemed to be in compliance with applicable emission requirements and finally admitted into the United States, the ICI must keep the vehicle in storage for a 15-business day period. This period follows notice to EPA of completion of the compliance work to give EPA the opportunity to conduct confirmatory testing and inspect the vehicle and records. The 15-business day period is part of the 120-day period in which an ICI must bring the vehicle into compliance with applicable emission requirements. A motor vehicle may also be conditionally admitted by an ICI if it meets the requirements in 40 CFR 85.1505 or 85.1509. Individuals and businesses not entitled to enter nonconforming motor vehicles may arrange for their importation through an ICI certificate holder. In these circumstances, the ICI will not act as an agent or broker for CBP transaction purposes unless it is otherwise licensed or authorized to do so.

Exemptions for diplomats, foreign military personnel and nonresidents
  The following motor vehicles are exempt from applicable emission requirements:
   (1) A motor vehicle imported solely for the personal use of a nonresident importer or consignee and the use will be for a period not to exceed one year; and
  (2) A motor vehicle of a member of the armed forces of a foreign country on assignment in the United States, or of a member of the personnel of a foreign government on assignment in the United States or other individual who comes within the class of persons for whom free entry of motor vehicles has been authorized by the Department of State in accordance with general principles of international law.

Cleaning the Undercarriage
  To safeguard against 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.

Dutiable Entry
  Foreign-made vehicles imported into the U.S., whether new or used, either for personal use or for sale, are generally dutiable at the following rates: Auto 2.5%, Truck 25%, Motorcycles either free or 2.4%.

  As a returning U.S. resident, you may apply your $800 CBP exemption and those of accompanying family members toward the value of the vehicle if it:
 - Accompanies you on your return;
 - Is imported for personal use;
 - Was acquired during the journey from which you are returning.
  After the exemption has been applied, a flat duty rate of 3% is applied toward the next $1,000 of the vehicle's value. The remaining amount is dutiable at the regular duty rate.

Safety, Bumper, and Theft Prevention Standards
  Importers of motor vehicles must file form HS-7 at the time of vehicle is imported to declare whether the vehicle complies with DOT requirements. As a general rule, motor vehicles less than 25 years old must comply with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) in order to be imported permanently into the United States. Vehicles manufactured after September 1, 1978, must also meet the bumper standard, and vehicles beginning with model year 1987 must meet the theft-prevention standard.

  Vehicles manufactured to meet these standards will have a certification label affixed by the original manufacturer near the driver's side door. If you purchase a vehicle abroad that is certified to U.S. standards, you may expedite your importation by making sure the sales contract identifies this fact and by presenting the contract to CBP at the time of importation.

  A vehicle must be imported as a nonconforming vehicle unless it bears the manufacturer's label certifying that it meets U.S. standards. If it is a nonconforming vehicle, the importer must contract with a DOT-registered importer (RI) to modify the vehicle and certify that it conforms to all applicable FMVSS. The importer must also post a DOT bond for one and a half times the vehicle's dutiable value. This bond is in addition to the normal CBP entry bond. Copies of the DOT bond and the contract with the RI must be attached to the HS-7 form.

Federal Tax
  Certain imported automobiles may be subject to the gas-guzzler tax imposed by section 4064 of the Internal Revenue Code. An individual who imports an automobile for personal use, or a commercial importer, may be considered an importer for purposes of this tax and thus liable for payment of the tax.

Emission Standards
  Vehicles must be certified to U.S. federal emission standards by their manufacturers for sale in the U.S.

Importing Motor Vehicle Parts and Accessories
  Manufacturers of motor vehicle parts and accessories must follow the “Agent for Service of Process” requirements in order to import their products. An Agent for Service of Process is the registered person who receives lawsuits or other legal action on behalf of the company or other entity. An agent must be on record for the motor vehicle parts to be released from the port of entry.

  The following motor vehicle parts and accessories, but not limited to,
 -  Bumpers and parts
 -  Brakes and servo-brakes
 -  Gear boxes
 -  Driving-axles and Non-driving axles
 -  Road wheels and parts and accessories
 -  Suspension systems and parts
 -  Radiators and parts
 -  Mufflers and exhaust pipes
 -  Clutches and parts
 -  Steering wheels and parts
 -  Safety airbags with inflater system and parts
 -  Seat belt assemblies
 -  Tires
 -  Lighting equipment
 -  Motorcycle helmets
must comply with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). A DOT symbol inscribed on the item or its container usually indicates that the item meets these standards.

Working with CBPbrokers is the best way to expedite your motor vehicles , parts and accessories pass through CBP clearances.

The importer/exporter is solely responsible for his act of importation/exportation, and he is solely liable for the the duties, fees, and penalties upon his act of importation/exportation. The information provided on is to our best knowledge and experiences and it is not your definitive source for information. If you have any doubts or need additional clarifications, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other US government agencies are the definitive sources for your questions.