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Exporting a Vehicle to Canada – Legislation and General Guidelines

Exporting a Vehicle to Canada – Legislation and General Guidelines
Exporting a Vehicle to Canada – Legislation and General Guidelines

The CBSA supports TC with the MVSA and MVSR administration by implementing and imposing terms under which used and new cars can be imported through CBSA entry points. The MVSA controls vehicle imports to minimize the risk of deaths, injury, and harm to the environment and to property.

In this regard, the CBSA helps other federal agencies as well: 

  • By implementing the restrictions on the import of used cars with respect to plant pesticides that can be transported with soil and associated matter, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) administers the Plant Security Act.
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) with regard to emission standards in which both new and used cars could be imported with the enforcement of the Canadian Act on Environmental Protection.

Processes Before the Import

The importer must ensure that all the details of importing are assessed in order to conform with all statutory requirements before declaring a car at the state's border. In order to decide which provincial conditions have to be fulfilled to import and also license a vehicle within the territory or province, he must also contact the license authority and the local insurance provider.

The importer must file a statement by submitting the TC Vehicle Import Form – Form 1, RIV E-Form 1, or TC Vehicle Imported only for parts – Form 3 or RIV e-Form 3. He is entitled to contact TC or RIV for assistance if necessary.

At the Frontier: CBSA border officers may check the declaration of an importer fulfills all legal requirements that may be relevant before the release of the car at the border.

After the Car’s Entry: When a car is released at the frontier, the importer must accept the requirements of their certificate of entry which can include complying with additional conditions set out in applicable laws.

TC Requirements 

Vehicles will be accepted for import if they qualify in one of the two following categories: 

1. Vehicles subject to a mandatory RIV registration: only refers to US cars purchased or sold at retail or to Mexican prescribed class vehicles (passengers' car, bus, MPV or truck only) originating in the U.S.;

2. Vehicles not subject to a mandatory RIV registration: all other car entries, including CMVSS vehicles, age exempt cars, unregulated and temporarily imported cars.

Cars that do not meet one of the previous conditions are deemed unacceptable for importing to Canada.

Any attempt of the owner or importer to alter the vehicle declaration at the moment of importation after the import has been processed at the border shall inevitably trigger a re-evaluation. In the newly defined circumstances, the vehicle will comply with all relevant TC vehicle specifications. 

In such situations, the importer has to contact the CBSA to decide the place to which the vehicle can be brought for inspection to be completed and for a new import type (RIV E-Form) to be obtained. The declaration made regarding vehicles imported for parts by vehicle type 3 or RIV e-Form 3 cannot be modified or reassessed at the time of crossing the border.

Exporting A Vehicle To Canada

Import Requirements for Cars that must be Logged in the RIV Program

The aim of the RIV Program is to secure Canadian road users by guaranteeing a similar standard of protection for vehicle imports from the USA and Mexico as for those developed to be sold in Canada. The procedure ensures, when the main assembly was completed in compliance with Federal Motor Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), qualifying cars were originally built and approved, cars are free from outstanding safety recalls, and importers made the necessary changes to the cars they’ll comply with CMVSS as necessary. 

Vehicles inspected by the official RIV inspection center must be tested by importers while in Canada to ensure conformity with the CMVSS in due course and before certification by any territorial or provincial licensing authority. The service is subsidized by the consumer fees paid to importers who bought the RIV software to import vehicles.

The importer needs to look at the compliance of a vehicle for the import before arriving at the border as not all cars imported or leased in the USA or Mexico qualify or could be changed to comply with the CMVSS. The Vehicle Import Compatibility (VIC) List is released to determine the admissibility of a vehicle in a RIV Program TC.

By signing a Vehicle Import Document – Form 1 or RIV-e-Form, importers who register their vehicles in the RIV Scheme agree that entry into Canada of their vehicles requires a satisfactory RIV inspection. No guarantee is made that a car will be imported indefinitely or will be compliant with the laws in question.

If a car does not carry out the RIV test, it cannot stay in Canada permanently. The RIV would inform the importer of the need to sell the vehicle. Popular types of rejection include a vehicle's inability to comply with CMVSS, the failure to give sufficient proof that a car has been remedied according to an excellent safety record, proof for non-conformant changes found during inspection, or for failure to display the vehicle in the required time period for compulsory RIV inspection.

Eligibility Criteria for RIV Program Registration

A car must satisfy all the following requirements to be eligible for RIV registration:

  1. Belong to the specified class of Mexico regulated vehicles;
  2. Be newer than 15 years old, or for busses, produced on or after 1st of January 1971;
  3. Bought or first sold in the United States or Mexico as applicable (unless otherwise authorized by TC);
  4. Are classified on the VIC List as admissible;
  5. The original producer shall be accredited to conform with all of US FMVSS as indicated by American labels of conformity applied to a qualified product. If the American conformity mark is absent, a message from the producer, not the supplier, should be followed by details on the American label of conformity, including:
    1. This car satisfies, on the date of manufacture shown above, the related Federal safety, theft prevention and bumper norms, or
    2. This car is in compliance with all US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations applicable as of the following date of manufacturing;
  6. Proof of FMVSS approved by the final stage manufacturer, as mentioned above, in the case of a qualifying vehicle produced in stage;
  7. Whether snowmobiles are accredited to conform with the Snowmobile Safety Certification Committee or with the CMVSS by the original manufacturer (demonstrated by a SoC marking added to it).
  8. If a RUM presents itself, the vehicle should have noted the original 17-digit alphanumeric VIN; and
  9. The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) certification cannot be changed in any manner.

Reporting Registration Conditions in the RIV Program

Those that are supposed to be enrolled with the RIV program importing cars for personal use can either enroll at a specified or at an undesignated commercial office.

Those importing automobiles for industrial use in Canada (Industrial imports) through RIV Program are expected to register at approved commercial offices, for commerce or for sale, manufacturing, institutional, educational, or other related usage in Canada. Businesses importing into Canada for in-house economic, industrial, and professional institutional use may declare their products a non-commercial import. However, they must also register entry at the authorized CBSA Office (included by Single Window Programs, Integrated Import Declaration (SO 911) vehicles entering Canada).

Whether the freight shipment is imported for purposes of trade or for industrial, business, technical, academic, or some other related usage on Canadian territory and it’s registered to a non-designated CBSA office, it shall be returned to the nearest designated CBSA office (unless it’s shipped by road, air, or maritime modes, and the importer can report to a non-designated CBSA office for registration).

Evidence of Ownership in RIV Registration

The original legal certificate (CoT) issued by the US State or the authorized Mexican Vehicle includes specific vehicle registration documents from Mexico. A legal Mexican vehicle registration permit is mandated. In the case of the latest FMVSS vehicle bought in the USA, a legitimate bill of sale is to be sent at the time of delivery for registration in the RCV scheme and it may be followed by a manufacturer's declaration or Certificate of Origin.

Reporting Registration for Cars that are leased, funded, and declared for import

Financed and leased vehicles are deemed as imported for TC purposes and must conform with the admissibility and import criteria of TC for the RIV program registration.

In the absence of an initial and authorized copy of the CoT, one copy of the CoT with the initial declaration / letter of the lending / leasing firm approving the exportation of the car from the USA and the permanent import into Canada must be submitted by the importer of a financed or leased vehicle. The VIN number has to appear in the statement letter in order to identify the car. Finally, Mexico could be subject to similar regulations.

FMVSS Specifications for Used or New Cars Purchased Outside of Canada

Vehicles, used or new, imported from territories other than Mexico or the United States and built, assembled, certified, and tested for compliance with US FMVSS specifications can also be subject to import into Canada if they have not been modified and their certification from the original producer is valid. TC treats such vehicles as being imported from the United States, and they must file under the RIV program if they have been considered admissible under the VIC registry.

Although automobiles can comply with import specifications under TC regulations, tariff item No. 9897.00.00 of the Customs Tariff can restrict imports. Vehicles not included in the text of Tariff 9897.00.00 or in compliance with the legislation pertaining to used motor vehicles are exceptions to this prohibition. Memorandum D9-1-11 should be consulted by anyone that is interested to importing used vehicles into Canada.

Vehicles Marked with Both CMVSS SoC and FMVSS Labels 

Any cars sold in the US or Mexico can have both the manufacturer's FMVSS label and the CMVSS SoC label on the car. By choosing the right entry in the Vehicle importation form – Form 1 or RIV e-form 1, the importer is responsible for declaring the car. For importation purposes, these vehicles shall be imported by RIV and the vehicle shall be inspected according to existing RIV program procedures unless the importing authorization number for TC CMVSS is issued by a CBC CMVSS, case in which the application shall not be processed by RIV.


Exporting A Vehicle To Canada


Salvage Cars (FMVSS Certified Cars Only)

Only vehicles licensed by FMVSS, originally sold or bought in the US, or in Mexico, which are under 15 years old, and busses produced after or on January 1, 1971 can be entered into RIV as condominium imported vehicles for the purpose of importing salvaged branded vehicles (instead of only in parts) for the purposes of their import. The RIV scheme is not qualified for importing marketed cars originating from territories other than Mexico and the United States that are under 15 years old or of the buses produced on or after the first of January 1971.

"Salvage" is the word used for a car destroyed by collision, fire, flooding, accident, or some other incident which needs repair and whose cost will be considered excessive by a government license authority or by a licensed insurance company. They can also apply for replacement whether the mark is not trash, scrap, unfixable, water damage, or flood (or equivalent irreparable branding), even if it might be deemed a complete loss of worth.

A salvage car that has been restored since before importation is accepted to the RIV program only if it is not labeled as a landfill, scrap, unfixable, water damage, or flood (or equivalent irreparable marking). The brand record is part of the VIN 's continued history. The state of a vehicle can move on the line "clear" - "salvage" - "rebuilt," but each condition stays on the permanent record of the vehicle.

Reporting a Salvage Car for Importation (valid for FMVSS Certified Cars Only)

Buyers of branded rescue cars may import in order to restore them or label the car "rescue repaired" (or the brand equivalent) in cases of reconstruction.

The importer can, by means of the Car Import Form – Form 1 or RIV E-Form 1, declare a branded vehicle rescued on the border provided that: 

  1. No signs of scrap, junk, non-fixable, water damage, flood or any irreparable damage is present in the vehicle branding status shown on the vehicle's CoT, and the car is listed as acceptable on the VIC list;
  2. The VIN should be noticeable as usually placed by the manufacturer through vehicle glazing (windshield). If the VIN becomes damaged in such a manner that the car is no longer in compliance with all U.S. specifications, it cannot be transported onto Canadian territory. If the VIN on the conformity mark is compromised but the second VIN is intact on the dashboard, the car might qualify;
  3. It’s only possible to accept an original rescue name or credential, or a licensed original duplicate. Officers in border enforcement should not preserve originals or authorized copies. A border services officer shall send copies of the paper to the RIV. When the vehicle passes, the VIN will then be distributed by the Interprovincial Records Exchange to territorial and provincial licensing authorities.

After the requirements listed above have been fulfilled, branded salvage vehicles may be imported by:

  1. Completion by the State Licensing Authority (SLAA) or a frontier services officer of the Vehicle Imports Form – Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1 and the application by the License Insurance Company. At the import time, the officer shall document the state of the car and the brand status observed.
  2. Ensuringthe car is reconstructed within 1 year of importation into Canada. Before being submitted to the RIV for final testing, the car must be completely operational and compliant to the CMVSS. The importer makes sure the car is CMVSS compliant and is submitted to a territorial or provincial licensing authority for RIV inspection before it can be submitted for clearance.

Certain provinces and regions have systems to rescue and restore vehicles that may hinder the right of importers to report the car even though importation formalities are met.

Vehicles damaged by flooding or water

Both authorizing regimes in Canada recognize water-damaged or flood cars originating from the U.S. and Mexico as non-repairable. Such vehicles can be brought into Canada only if they comply with the admission criteria under the Parts Only Vehicle Imported Scheme.

Cars Imported for Parts 

The RIV registration can be declared on a voluntary basis for import for 'parts only' by allowing the import into the Vehicle Import for Parts program under super diction of the RIV. FMVSSs (savvy, plain titled, or disabled vehicles) are usually eligible for registration into the RIV program as specified on VIC registry. 

Vehicles that are imported through this system are not registered with VIN and cannot be registered or licensed in a territory or province. The classification will never be reversed and the car can never be approved in Canada until declared to the Vehicle Manufactured for Parts Only scheme.

Salvage labeled vehicles of less than 15 years old and buses built on or after Jan. 1, 1971 from countries other than the USA and Mexico cannot be permitted to reach Canada.

Vehicle Declaration for Cars Imported for Parts

To be eligible for importing a qualifying vehicle under this scheme, the importer has to fill out a Parts Imported vehicle – form 3 or a RIV e-Form 3 and furnish it with original ownership documentation (CoT or Salvage Title) to a frontier control officer at the time of import, and then report the import with the RIV.

If the CBSA submits information through the SWI IID (SO911) release program, the CBSA shall not need, or process, the Vehicle Imported for Parts (Form 3) or RIV e-Form 3.

A car will at least carry a US conformance label or VIN specific document from the producer instead of an US logo and an identifiable VIN on the dash, which will have either been imported or originally manufactured in the U.S.

Import Requirements for Cars that can’t be entered in the RIV Program

The following conditions must be fulfilled for eligible New CMVSS model vehicles by cars from every region, including the U.S.: 

  1. A new and imported car should be obtained from the seller directly and not from a dealer / retailer. The procurement records must specifically indicate a production level purchase;
  2. The car must be new and designed in order for the CMVSS to display the Canadian bilingual SoC for this reason.

New CMVSS cars do not apply to be registered in the RIV Program, regardless of whether a vehicle was declared to be manufactured commercially or privately.

Authorized Importers for New Vehicles that comply with the CMVSS

The pre-clearance scheme allows Canadian commercial importers or brokers to make use of simplified frontier procedures while purchasing new Canadian specification vehicles from international producers that are fully compliant. These cars have not yet been sold, titled or approved at sale. 

The approved importer will be identified by company name which must fit the name of the record importer identified in the CBSA entry documents. In compliance with earlier CBSA and OGD trade import protocols, vehicle entries will be registered. 

Note: If a commercial importer (or broker) submits the information via a release service option SWI IID (SO911) to the CBSA, it is not necessary to have a Vehicle Importation Form – Form 1 or the RIV e Form 1 approved or processed.

Foreign Licensed Fabricators

When purchasing new Canadian specification vehicles from overseas suppliers, Canadian commercial importers or brokers may use standardized border procedures. Such vehicles must also be purchased in retail without having been titled, owned, or licensed.

In order to obtain a valid border clearance under a pre-clearance program, the entry documents of the CBSA should specifically represent all the necessary elements (car maker and car class). In order to gain border clearance, importers are asked to apply for a Vehicle Importation Form – Form 1 or RIV eForm 1. A form including a sheet with a list of multiple vehicles should be provided as an attached form rather than one form per car. The consolidation sheet will contain the VIN, model and make, the production date for each car being imported, and the vehicle type. The CBSA will stamp the consolidation sheet and enter the transaction number with a CBSA office date stamp.

International producers sell their new production vehicles through a network of distributors. In this case, the Certificate of Origin (COO), on behalf of the dealer, can be provided in order to satisfy international requirements. In such cases where a Canadian commercial importer wishes to report an entry, the back part of the COO will be endorsed by that commercial importer. 

If a sales document from the OEM (not the dealer) is registered, the items are subject to certain conditions for importation. If procurement by the vendor is stated in the sales records, the products must be treated as a retail purchase, as per the other established rules.


Exporting A Vehicle To Canada


TC's Case-by-Case Authorization – New CMVSS Car Importers

The CBC protocol enables importers to receive a VIN special pre-authorization number and letter from TC who ordered new Canadian specification vehicles directly from non-Canadian suppliers. The CBC authorization letter can only release vehicles specified by VIN. For receiving border clearance, CBC importers approved to file an Import Vehicle Form – Forms1 and RIV E-Form1.

Any international producers can sell their new production vehicles through a network of distributors. In this case, the Certificate of Origin (COO), on behalf of the dealer, can be given in order to satisfy international requirements. 

In those circumstances, the back portion of the CMVSS will be endorsed in the name of the importing entity on whom the Canadian importer wishes to declare a CMVSS CBC entry. If a purchase from the OEM (not the dealer) is indicated by the sales records, the products are subject to a CBC approval letter/number followed by the TC CBC. 

Where the selling paper is indicating the retailer's purchase, the items may not apply for CBC and must, in compliance with other specified protocols, be called retail, unless TC has found them appropriate and has sent a letter or number to the CBC under certain explicit conditions.

CBC Permission and Letter number 

Canadian specialty vehicles officially exported for trade or sale outside of Canada and then introduced for import by the new owner are not deemed to be returned Canadian vehicles for TC purposes and have to be exported by TC CBC.

Latest CMVSS Vehicles – CMVSS Distribution Service for International Producers

A new CMVSS vehicle will be ordered directly by Canadians traveling outside of Canada from an international producer and will be imported into Canada. These cars may be entered as new vehicles listed by CMVSS if these terms are fulfilled: 

  1. The initial manufacturer certifies them as abiding by the CMVSS in an official document or it is indicated by a bilingual SoC sticker applied to the vehicle;
  2. New ones have been purchased (i.e., the first owner is the importer).

Importers who announce a car entry from the delivery program of a foreign producer cannot enroll in the RIV program and have to request an importation form – Form 1 or RIV e-form 1 for border clearance purposes.

Current CMVSS Boat Trailers Offered as a "Boat / Trailer Kit" For a New Boat

Importers of new CMVSS boat trailers ordered from a new trailer and boat kit (or bundle) directly to the TC vendor have to import the trailer beyond RIV when the boat trailer is displayed on the Vehicle Importation Form (Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1) and the trailer carries the correct CM. If the manufacturer of boat trailers is not specified, TC CBC permission letters must be received by the importer.

CMVSS and FMVSS SoC Sticker Bearing Automobiles 

Any vehicles available for sale and directly ordered from US or Mexico suppliers can be marked with a CMVSS bilingual and an American vehicle compliance sticker. By choosing the required entry on the Import form (Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1), the importer has to declare the car. These vehicles must be transported outside the RIV Program for the purpose of frontier clearance, provided the importer receives a letter of TC CBC permission.

Initial Owner Returns of CMVSS vehicles 

Returning Canadian specialty vehicles is free from registration with the RIV Program if the car was approved by the manufacturer that the vehicle was in compliance with CMVSS. Also, the importer must show that the car was imported and registered before exporting it from Canada.

Canadian automobiles modified abroad

If a person temporarily exports a Canadian standard automobile for alteration or modification, the preservation of the original CMVSS qualification can entail consequences. The vehicle will be mandated to be licensed by the firm that made the changes in order to ensure that it still respects all CMVSS’ specifications based on their design, degree of the alteration, and the vehicles age. 

When improvements are deemed necessary to merit re-certification to CMVSS, the vehicle can no longer be treated as a CMVSS specification vehicle. It will instead be qualified, according to existing import directives, for re-entry into Canada. For instance, but not only:

  1. A motorhome converted van (often called a motorhome type B);
  2. A vehicle with an upright roof and/or an interior that was modified;
  3. A lift-equipped pick-up or commuter car;
  4. A motorcycle that was changed into a tricycle (trike);
  5. An expanded or extended vehicle;
  6. A car that is manufactured or compiled by more than one maker will need to meet additional specifications (for example professional trucks, vans, motorhomes, coaches, limousines, or otherwise).

If a border service officer investigates and identifies major improvements outside the reach of general repairs or servicing which cannot be decided by registration with the CMVSS, the car may be rejected or confiscated before further confirmation is received from TC to authorize its disbursement.

Non-regulated Automobiles

Vehicles which don’t belong to an MVSA prescribed vehicle class are non-regulated vehicles. There are no import specifications for these cars. 

Popular examples are cars built particularly for agriculture, for building and landscaping (forklifts, backhouses, road graders, over-sized mobile cranes etc.), closed competition (racing), and recreational applications. The most common examples are agricultural vehicles.

At the time of import, non-regulated cars must also conform to all other CBSA and OGD related specifications. While the entry in a Vehicle Import Form – Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1 is not necessary, there could be situations in which a form is required for registration by the territorial and provincial license authorities of Canada. The importer may by testing the "non-regulated car or working vehicle" entry on the Vehicle Import Form (Form 1) or the RIV e-F Form 1, apply a completed car import form, and show that it is not obliged to join the RIV Scheme.

The manufacturer's original design aim is to decide the vehicle's unregulated status, not to determine how the importer expects to run the vehicle across Canada (i.e., the vehicle class and properties, as defined during its main assembly).

Work Automobiles

The word "work vehicle" implies a vehicle meant specifically to carry out work in the building and maintenance of civil works that is not based on a truck or truck chassis. 

Trucks built specifically for off-road use are often known to be non-regulated import vehicles (e.g.: large articulated off-road dumps, over-sized mobile cranes, shunt trucks for the yard, etc.).

The vehicle does not count as a non-regulated working vehicle for import by using a regulated class of vehicles for work or company duties. The manufacturer's original design aim is to decide the vehicle's unregulated status, not to determine how the importer expects to run the vehicle across Canada (i.e., the vehicle class and properties, as defined during its main assembly).

Trailers as Work Automobiles

In some situations, when trailer’s length exceeds 102" in total breadth or built to conduct functions relevant to work, they may be considered unrestricted under the MVSA. If a trailer qualifies as a working truck, the entrance will be registered in compliance with the illegal border clearance protocol for the vehicle. 

The trailer cannot be considered an unregulated work vehicle by way of a trailer of regulated size to carry out business-related or work duties. The manufacturer's initial design purpose (i.e.: the vehicle type and features as planned during the main assembly) determines the vehicle's non-regulated status and does not specify if the importer plans to use the vehicle in Canada.


Exporting A Vehicle To Canada


Agricultural Automobiles (Farm Husbandry)

Farm automobiles, also known as farm husbandry, have been equipped solely for farming (e.g.: manure dispersers, hay wagons, rural tractors and pickup sets, etc.). 

Trucks and trailers used in farm work but intended for road use (e.g., silage trucks, stock trailers etc. are not considered agricultural vehicles and must apply for importation under prescribed frontier clearance procedures as a regular type vehicle. 

The initial design purpose of the manufacturer is what dictates a vehicle's unregulated state and not how the Importer plans to operate the vehicle in Canada, as defined by the class and features of the vehicle as designed during its main assembly.

Mobile Homes 

A mobile home is a car with an average width of more than 2.59 meters (102 cm) designed to be pulled behind a truck and to work or reside. The entry shall be registered by way of the frontier clearance process for non-regulated vehicles.

Side by Side UTVs (Utility Terrain Vehicles)

UTVs are not actually subject to the legislation of the MVSA as ATVs and restricted-use motorcycles because they are not fitted with steering controls and passengers sit side-by-side. They are usually referred to as side-by-side UTVs. However, they will be considered ATVs and RUMs in compliance with the MVSA of February 2021. 

When they’re expressly configured for off-road only, UTVs are not controlled at imports. When the car is not exclusively built for off-road purposes, since it has ample design features to be used on-road in a realistic way, the vehicle import will be interpreted as a restricted class on-road automobile.

Competition Automobiles

A competition car can be described by TC as a vehicle built specifically for use in closed courses. It bears, in all official languages, a manufacturer's mark specifying that the car has become a competition automobile and that it will only be used during competitions. Motorcycles, mini bikes, dirt bikes, motorhomes, automobiles, vans, etc. can be called competition vehicles and are not governed in accordance with the MVSA, where complying with competition vehicle requirements is necessary.

At the point of import, competitive vehicles do need to comply with all other applicable CBSA and OGD specifications. Although the registration may not officially be required on the Vehicle Import Form – Form 1 or the RIV e-Form 1, situations may arise where the importer provides the Provincial-Territorial Licensing Authority in Canada with a full Vehicle Import Form – Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1 to register it as a competitive vehicle. Importers can complete a Vehicle Import Form – Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1 by checking the "unregulated or function vehicle" entry box and indicating that the vehicle cannot avoid joining the Riv scheme.

The off-road environment is not seen as a closed racing environment, and as such, restricted motorcycles (mini-bike, dirt-bike, ATVs) will not be seen as applicable unless the firm has expressly developed the model as a competing vehicle. In addition, a regulated mainstream vehicle which has been altered for track and road use that’s not followed by a written declaration by a race sanctioning authority with respect to the car’s classification is not considered a competing automobile and must be qualified for the import in compliance with the original class of the vehicle to which it belongs (e.g., truck, car, etc.).

Age-exempt Automobiles

Both regulated classes and busses produced before January 1, 1971 are not regulated under the MVSA. This also applies if the date of manufacture is greater than or equal to 15 years from the date of import. 

At the time of importation, these vehicles must follow all other CBSA and OGD specifications. The application will be registered as a car that’s not required to access the RIV program by checking in the necessary entry box in a Vehicle Import Form - Form 1 or RIV E-Form 1. 

If a vehicle does not have registration marks that authorize an officer to verify the its aged exempt status for documentation supplied by the importer, it is not subject to the age exempt provision.

Modified Age-exempt Automobiles

The following types are deemed admissible for importing "age-exempt" cars that have been modified:

  1. Standard repair vehicles using replacement materials,
  2. Reconstructions of the original features of the older vehicle;
  3. Lift package vehicles, if at the time of importation, the car is more than 15 years old;
  4. Cars converted by means of an age-exempt donor body and frame into heat rods or street rods;
  5. Antique replica cars (including vehicles constructed in kits over 15 years old or for buses before 1 January 1971) for which an age is determined by using the final reproduction or starter kit completion date instead of replicating the model year.

Temporary Entrance

Vehicles entering Canada temporarily, that must be licensed at the period they enter the territory or province, may or may not need a Vehicle import Type – F1 or RIV e-Form 1. In such cases, the importer will apply a Vehicle Import Form – Form 1 or RIV e-Form1 completed by checking the "visitor or temporary resident" entry box. Then, he will express that the vehicle does not have to join the RIV Scheme.

Temporarily imported cars are allowed in Canada and can only stay there for a restricted amount of time as stated on a working license, a student visa, or other CBSA entry papers. The car is no more qualified for temporary entering and must be exported or dismantled after these time limits have been met. If the temporary status of the people changes after their visit to Canada, they must export the vehicle, and the vehicle class needs to be subject to the normal import procedure and specifications to decide if the car is admissible in Canada.

Car Temporary Entrance – Temporary Residents, Tourists, and Visitors

Vehicles may enter Canada if they are used exclusively by a person visiting the country for a term not exceeding 12 months, by temporary residents such as students who study in a learning institution, or by those who have valid work permits / job authorizations for the period of their education in Canada without needing to comply with the requirements of TC import. 

 A vehicle Import Form – Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1 can be requested by temporary residents and visa holders with vehicles licensed in Canada.

Car Temporary entrance – Modified Vehicles or Those in Transit

In-transit cars are automobiles that pass through Canada which are not intended for Canadian use or are subject to the import specifications of TC for purposes of transit to another region.

International vehicles operated by foreigners are transient vehicles that enter Canada for modifications or adjustments where maintenance under the warranty agreement may or may not have taken place. 

Importation by a Canadian citizen or a Canadian corporation of a foreign-owned car for repair or modification involves no automobile import form – Form 1, RIV e-Form 1, or TC declarations of non-compliant car imported for a specific reason. The car must carry proof of registration or possession of another government. If the Canadian driver operates with the business that restores, offers warranty, or changes to its international owner as a service, the driver must recognize the destination and name of the car delivering the services. Such vehicles can be kept for no longer than 12 months inside the country.

Temporary entrance — US diplomats and car rental operated by Canadians

Vehicles leased in the United States by Canadian residents of a US vehicle rental company can enter Canada for non-commercial use and may be deleted from Canada in a period of 30 days or any other mentioned period from the date of importation.

When a Canadian citizen moves vehicles to a car rental company in Canada with the permission of the business during a specified period starting on the day the cars were imported, the vehicles must be released by the vehicle renting business until the end of that term.

Vehicles transported by diplomats are not registered under the RIV scheme until approved in writing by Global Affairs Canada for the duration of their work in Canada.

Visiting Armed Forces Personnel and US Preclearance Personnel

The RIV software will not register vehicles imported into Canada by personnel of the visiting forces during their assignment. Vehicle import form - Form 1 or RIV E-Form 1 is requested from visitors who own the vehicle and need a license for the temporary exercise.

Cars entered by U.S. pre-clearance personnel and their dependents are not included in the RIV scheme for the duration of the US officer's posting in Canada. The Vehicle Imports Form – Form 1 or RIV e- Form 1 for processing under non-RIV clearance directives is given to US pre-clearance staff who have vehicles that need licenses in Canada during temporary stays.

Hardship Provision for Travelers

In particular conditions and only in the case of casual (non-commercial) importing, Canadians may, in a state of emergency or unexpected circumstances, temporarily import non-compliant vehicles (cars not CMVSS certified).

Temporary Import for Special Reasons - Declaration of Non-Compliant Vehicles

The Temporary Import of Vehicles for Special Intent Declaration provides for importation into Canada of non-compliant vehicles for a limited time for the intended purposes of:

  1. "Exhibition:" Activities where cars are exhibited by different suppliers and producers (e.g. auto show displays) and where vehicles are displayed on exhibit;
  2. 'Demonstration' for the display of models or styles of vehicles to potential buyers or for advertising certain types of vehicles (e.g., designs, pre-production patterns);
  3. "Evaluating or testing": Vehicles imported into the environment or conditions for carrying out compliance testing or measuring automotive integrity (e.g., cold-weather testing) by businesses.
  4. The ongoing production or modification prior to export of unfinished vehicles or new vehicles;
  5. To carry out operations for which a specially built vehicle is required. This applies to production, civil engineering, or other related tasks or operations in the film industry.
  6. Blinded cars for police agencies; and
  7. In case of a U.S. registered car, if the owner has a permanent address in Canada and holds a Canadian driver's license, a visit to Canada by its owner.

While imported cars aren’t mandated to follow CMVSS under the TC Declaration, they must comply to the authorized TC Declaration at the Canadian border, use the Import Form for Vehicles – Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1, and must continue to meet OGD and CBSA specifications applicable at the point when they were imported. 

An application to import a non-compliant automobile temporarily through a TC declaration must be made and accepted by TC before applying a vehicle at the Canadian border for the purposes specified above.

At the frontier, importers are required to apply a stamped, authorized Declaration of Non-Compliant Vehicle for special purposes and to document the entry as a result on the Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1 by pressing the "Vehicle Imported Temporarily for Special Purposes" or "Vehicle entered for special purposes – Schedule VII" exemption box depending on the type of exemption. 

Any handwritten marks on the TC declaration will contribute to a cancelation of the declaration. TC stresses that only the importers (the declarant) and the automobiles specified in its jurisdiction are protected by the license.

Inadmissible automobiles: Vehicles not eligible for entry according to any of the RIV and non-RIV boundary clearance requirements set out above are inadmissible vehicles.

Modified Automobiles (Including CMVSS Returning Vehicles)

The original factory-made certification required for importing to Canada no longer allows vehicles to be in controlled classes if they’re less than 15 years old or buses produced on and after January 1, 1971 that have been altered rather than providing a general reparation or regular maintenance. 

Importers must request evidence from an automotive modifier or final stage manufacturer to Transport Canada indicating that the modified vehicle complies with all relevant requirements to be deemed suitable. This can be achieved before the vehicle is displayed at the border in order for importers to receive CBC clearance. The admission to Canada of changed vehicles will be refused without this verification. For example:

  1. A modified motorcycle to a trike;
  2. A modified freight van into a caravan;
  3. The addition of a vehicle's suspension elevator kit;
  4. Modifying a disabled access vehicle;
  5. Truck lengthening;
  6. Re-installing another body-kit vehicle.

Automobiles equipped with altered suspension mechanisms (pneumatic and lifting systems, etc.)

Regulated class vehicles of less than 15 years of age and coaches produced on or post January 1, 1971 are inappropriate for importing into Canada as a result of the inability to retain certification by the initial Manufacturer to import while equipped with adapted suspensions such as elevator or lowering kits, pneumatic suspension systems, etc. This also applies for the return of briefly exporting Canadian owned cars.

Automobiles Manufactured for Foreign Markets

Licensed cars under 15 years of age and cars produced after or for international markets on or after January 1, 1971 (a market that is separate from the United States or Mexico) that do not meet the CMVSS criteria are not eligible for importation. No licenses are required for non-compliant vehicles in MVSA or the MVSR, except those imported or originally sold in the United States, to be updated for compliance with the CMVSS.

Grey Market Automobiles

Grey market cars are vehicles initially assembled on an international domestic market and then imported into the United States or Mexico in order to adhere to US safety and emission requirements. Grey market cars are labelled as "imported," "altered" or "amended" to conform with US requirements using a sticker affixed by the U.S. firm that altered the car. 

These vehicles will not be accredited with a sticker. Gray markets are inadmissible in Canada for the importation of cars below 15 years old (or busses produced on or after January 1, 1971).

Glider Kits Converted into New Trucks

In view of a lack of certification showing that certain vehicles conform with all relevant CMVSS or FMVSS, TC finds that trucks built from 'glider packs' may not be imported into Canada. Trucks built from glider kits 15 years ago, where an importer can request evidence supporting an age-related exemption argument (e.g., the registration document) can be qualified under age-exempt status.

If no model identifiers are available for validating the status of the age-exempt vehicle, then the vehicle is not eligible for import under the exception of the vehicle "non-ruled due to age".

Replica Automobiles

Replica cars will be regarded as regular imported vehicles. As they lack the requisite CMVSS approval, the importer is unable to apply proof of age (e.g. registry document) unless they were assembled 15 years earlier or later (or it’s a bus produced before 1 January 1971). 

The replica car's age is evaluated according to the final assembly date of the replacement rather than the model year it replicates. 

If there are no registration marks on the automobile to confirm its age-exempt status, the vehicle is not eligible for import by using the exemption and is therefore inadmissible.

Inadmissible replicated vehicles are: 

  1. Cars converted into hot rods, street rods with donor carriage and frame where there is no vehicle identifying labeling which can be used to prove the donor chassis' age-free state with the paperwork provided by the importer;
  2. Antique replica cars including vehicles assembled from kits where a car with the documentation of an importer may have no registration marks that can be used to confirm the vehicle's age-exempt status.

Kit Automobiles

Kit cars are regarded as imported vehicles, be them fully assembled or unassembled. Since CMVSS is absent from the required certifications, they are not admitted for import until a proof of age (e.g., registry document) can be submitted by the importer. The age of a car kit is calculated based on the final assembly date of the kit, not its model year.

Junk, Ruin, Flood, and Water Destroyed Cars that are Non-repairable 

Any class of cars registered as junk, ruin, non-repairable, or equivalent, in compliance with any vehicle registry or record of insurance suppliers, is inadmissible for import as a 'vehicle.' 

In addition, all regulatory jurisdictions in Canada declare flood and water-damaged cars to be junk/non-repairable, and only when the car is admissible under the Parts Imported Vehicle Scheme will it be permitted into Canada.

Transport of Individual Automobile Parts

With the exception of tires and machinery used for vehicles involving children and disabilities, the VSA does not monitor the shipping of individual parts. 

In inspecting the shipment of a component (or a similar part series) by a border services officer, he or she will determine whether the shipment(s) includes appropriate pieces to fulfill the VSSA vehicle specification or is an incomplete vehicle as specified by the MVSR definition. If it’s not clear whether there are enough components for the shipment to conform to the vehicle description or there is insufficient vehicle definition, the shipment will be refused entry or detained before further information has been received from TC to allow its release.

Starter Kits for Cars 

Starter kits are a portion or set arrangement used in amateur buildings and are not comprised of critical structures such as the brakes, power trains, and suspension systems. 

If a pre-approval request is sent by importers, TC will send them a CBC letter that will be presented at the time of importation if the package satisfies the specifications stated in the TC guidelines.

Glider kits can be imported into Canada as parts as they do not come under the expertise of TC's MVSA vehicle definition and/or MVSR definition of incomplete vehicle. 

Car Seats for Infants and Seats Booster: Canadians wishing to import children's car seats or booster seats should contact TC.

Customs Vehicle Import Disposal Limits 

A section called "Notice to Provincial/Territorial Licence Authority K-22" is included in the Vehicle Import Form – Form 1 or RIV E-Form 1. This part of the form will be used to assess whether CBSA has placed a disposal cap or not on a car. In this section, the existence of an office date stamp tells the provincial/territorial licensing authority that CBSA was responsible for the vehicle listed on a Vehicle Import Form – Form 1 and RIV E-Form 1.

Three possibilities are open to limit disposal:

  1. Such a transport cannot be sold or disposed of at any point in Canada without the CBSA's approval. This requirement is enforced in the following situations:
    1. International students who, for the remainder of the academic year, typically live in Canada;
    2. People temporarily working for up to 36 months in Canada;
    3. For the length of their posting in Canada, diplomats and US preclearance personnel;
    4. Travelers and provisional residents lawfully living in Canada whose cars remain in Canada past provincial time limits.
  2. No selling or disposal of the conveyance can take place in Canada on or before the date defined by the CBSA.
  3. No limitation on disposal relates to this conveyance. Vehicles can be sold or disposed of at any time in Canada without CBSA permission.

Restrictions must continuously be complied with by citizens importing vehicles subject to disposal restrictions. 

Whenever a Form 1 or RIV e-Form 1 for Vehicle Import is given, the CBSA ensures the form is completed with the importer and the Vehicle Details component, there is an opportunity to limit disposals, a transaction number is reported, and the date stamp appears under the box to the right of that part. 

CBSA Single Window Initiative (SWI) implementation

CBSA can also be sent with SWI IID (SO911) for electronic communications requests. 

The SWI IID (SO911) is used to process the following TC vehicle entries:

- Appendix G of the Canadian Standards on Maintenance of Engine Vehicles; 

- Annex F to the CMVSS;


- Norm for Federal Engine Vehicle Protection (FMVSS);


- Returning Canadian vehicles;

- Age Exemption;

- Non-regulated;

- Import of Automobiles for Parts.

The CBSA will not accept or issue a vehicle import form - Form 1, RIV e-Form 1, Vehicles Imported for Parts – Form, a RIV e-Form 3 for commercial importations of vehicles sent electronically to the CBSA using SWI IID (SO911), since the form is not required for release requests sent through SWI IID (SO911). 

BSOs no longer need to check the vehicle import conformity (VIC) list for vehicles bought in the United States for the import of commercial vehicles by SWI IID (SO911), nor ensure a list of suppliers and vehicle class in the Current Canadian Specification Vehicle Foreigners (NCVs) program (TC's) Appendix G Pre-clearance program.

For both Canadian and US specification vehicles, vehicles imported under the CBC phase of TC would not be required to display a CBC letter. Importers will also need to send their application to the SWI IID (SO911) process to seek permission and receive a CBC authorizations number for TC 4 to 6 weeks in advance. 

The following conformance requirements can be declared by importers and brokers via SWI: 

  1. Compliance letter (instead of Compliance Label) from the vendor;
  2. The CBSA's Assurance of Conformity Declaration can be issued by importers and brokers electronically via SWI.

Furthermore, photographs can only be sent electronically via SWI IID Document Image Functionality (SO927) if requested (e.g., Manufacturer Letter of conformity, Manufacturer's Certificate of Origin, Race Sanctioning Body Letter, or some other document).

Title documents must be sent electronically via SWI IID Document Picture Accessibility (SO927) for cars to be registered with the RIV scheme. Title documents are mandatory. BSOs may deny admission if the title document is not submitted. 

For vehicles that don’t have to join the RIV program, title documents are not mandatory. BSOs are required to validate if car, importer, and distributor records are in compliance with the supporting paperwork for the legal possession of new Canadian vehicles (e.g. licensing papers, sales bill, or new vehicle information). 

The required vehicle data will be electronically transmitted to the appropriate territories and provinces through the Interprovincial Records Exchange (IRE) for vehicles imported using a SWI IID (SO911).

For commercial vehicle importing SWI IID (SO911), the decision to approve vehicle admissibility in compliance with the transactional process flows of TC is electronically adopted (i.e. TC makes the suggested decision to release, refer or reject it). 

Unless processed by a customs broker, SWI IID (SO911) cannot have the following entry types: vehicles imported temporarily for special purposes or vehicles imported for personal imports. Notice that the Import Form – Form 1 or RIV E-Form 1 is compulsory for these import types unless they are processed by a Customs agent.

Climate Change Criteria for Canada (ECCC) 

On-road vehicles will be subject to the 1999 Canadian Environmental Protection Act and the On-road Vehicle and Engine Pollution Legislation administered by the ECCC. 

In compliance with the Canadian EPA (1999) governed by the ECCC, Off-road Vessels can be subject to the Marine Spark-Ignition Engine, Vessel, and Offroad Pollution Regulations. The importer should contact ECCC for assistance. 

Requirements of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency 

Import and inspection processes and charges are subject to the following in order to avoid the entry and release of injurious pests in Canada: 

  1. Cars, machinery, materials, containers, and transports used in agriculture;
  2. Cars, machines, machines, tools, transporters, and containers moving earth;
  3. Used freight and leisure vehicles;
  4. Old military appliances.

Regardless of origin, transported mobile vehicles and machinery must be free of dirt, sand, earth, waste from plant materials, manure, and other garbage. Many tropical plant and insect species capable of causing economic damage can be shipped within soil and related matter.

Duty, tax, and customs tax 

The fee, excise tax, and goods and services tax (GST) will be levied on vehicles eligible for entry into Canada. The CBSA will determine tariffs on vehicles made in regions other than Mexico and the United States. 

The importer must pay both GST and territorial harmonized sales taxes when the vehicle is registered if it’s extended into New Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario or British Columbia. Sales taxes can be extended to other jurisdictions by licensing their cars.

Green fee and climate tax 

The May $100 excise tax is valid for imported vehicles which have an air conditioning unit. Extra excise taxes would only be payable to importers if the car has an estimated vehicle fuel intake of 13+ liters per 100 kilometers, which has been in effect since 19 March 2007. 

This Green charge refers to vehicles, including cars, freight forwarding, sports utility vehicles, and not including pick-up trucks, vans fitted for 10 or more persons, and ambulances, are used mainly as passenger vehicles.


Exporting A Vehicle To Canada



The CBSA is allowed by section 101 of the Customs Act to detain inadmissible vehicles which do not meet the import specifications of TC.

Forms BSF241, Non-monetary General Receipt, detained non-commercial vehicles, presented by non-commercial agencies will be registered. Detained utility vehicles are reported on Form K26, Detention Report, as well as the accounting kit submitted for publication. 

These reports will prove that the car is seized and exported or left to the Crown for non-compliance under the MVSA or MVSR. For a detention notice, a copy of Form BSF241 or Form K26 will be transmitted to TC. For further clarifications about needed actions, importers wishing to challenge a CBSA decision must contact TC.


Confiscated, abandoned, or forfeited vehicles under the Customs Act that are not eligible under the MVSA can be sold under the terms of the Crown disposal law if they are sold "for export only” and the CBSA export monitoring system completes the certification of these vehicles. If not, they will be destroyed under CBSA control through crushing or cubing.


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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.

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Mylene Rutllant
It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.

Due to the nature of my work, I must relocate every couple of years to where my company needs me. Because of this, I’ve tested several moving and auto transport companies over the years.

And my choice in terms of auto transport has to be A1 Auto Transport. It’s in the name, but also in the quality with which they do their jobs. I’ve never had a problem with this company.

The only time my shipment was delayed was during winter when a snowstorm closed down all the major roads. And they still found an alternative and got my car delivered before roads got unstuck.

When I moved to West Virginia, they picked up my car the very day I called them. I like to think they take special care of me considering all the business I’ve sent them. I’ll continue to support A1 Auto Transport. It’s my number one pick in auto shipping to this day.

Luis Rodriguez
You have my full support and recommendation!

I considered selling my car when I moved to Washington. It was old and rusty, but I grew attached to it. So, I called a couple companies to transport it to my new home, but they both fell through.

The first one couldn’t decide on a schedule. He would constantly change the pickup date till I got frustrated and canceled. The second was insufferable, very rude on the phone, even worse in person.

They started picking a part my car asking me why I still have it. If that’s their opinion of my vehicle, how can I trust they’ll take care of it? If something happened midway, why wouldn’t they just blame it on the car instead of paying up?

So, I cancelled this company as well and turned to A1 Auto Transport. From the get go, they were very different from my past options. Their website was very professional and up to date, full of useful information. I requested a quote using their online form, and I got an email response within an hour. Surprisingly fast!

If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought they were lacking customers, but the email spoke for itself. In just one email, everything I needed to know was there, including a contact number I could use to get more information or confirm the transport.

I called and got things rolling. I was very pleased with the driver. He followed standard procedure and represented his company well. Can’t remember his name, but props to him!

The car arrived in Washington 6 days later in excellent condition. From what I understand, the transport was delayed a bit by a storm, but since the time window was 4-6 days from the beginning, I don’t really care. You have my full support and recommendation!

Testimonial by Cristine Benoit
Cristine Benoit
I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.

There are a lot of options for auto transport these days, which surprisingly makes it harder to find a good company. I received more than 10 offers to ship my car, but I couldn’t decide on any of them.

After doing some research, I got even more worried reading about all the scams and accidents that can happen. But, I have work to do and couldn’t afford to drive my newly purchased Mini Cooper all the way to Virginia.

Fortunately, I made the right choice with A1 Auto Transport. They are very good at their jobs. I spent more than an hour drilling Joe with various questions, and he never once lost his patience. He saw I was interested, so he bore with me until I was satisfied. The driver was also very courteous and my car was intact on arrival. I couldn’t have asked for more.

By the way, the price we first agreed on stayed the same. There were no delays or unexpected “surprises.” I can safely say this is a legit company that will get the job done.

David Osallo
We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10!

We give A1 Auto Transport a big 10 out of 10! We chose them to move our car from California to Vermont, since we needed professionals.

We were abroad during the transport, so the transport was a bit tricky. The driver had to pick it up from storage on short notice and get it to its destination within at most 10 days. I was happy to note it arrived sooner. We got it 3 days early, right when we got home to pick it up. It made getting around way easier. Awesome service!

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A-1 Auto Transport is a disclosed agent for the following shipping companies:

Trans Global Auto Logistics, Inc.
3401 E Randol Mill Rd
Arlington, TX 76011
NO. 018191NF
CFR Rinkens
15501 Texaco Avenue
Paramount, CA 90723
NO. 013055NF
ABC Worldwide LLC
2840 NW 2nd Ave #105
Boca Raton, FL 33431
NO. 025472F
CSI Logistics
435 Division Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07201
FMC 22206
Intl Cargo
45 Campus drive
Edison, NJ 08837
NO. 17858N
ShipYourCarNow LLC
1160 South Rogers Circle Suite 1
Boca Raton, FL 33487
NO. 025646
Merco Air & Ocean Cargo, Inc.
6 Fir Way
Cooper City, FL 33026
NO. 021869F
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