The Requirements of Importing a Vehicle to the United States

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While it’s not as common of a practice, importing a vehicle to the United States is something that you may want to consider. The problem with doing so is that it can be a very complicated process, as there are numerous rules and regulations that have to be followed. All vehicles that are imported to the United States have to follow strict requirements in regards to emission standards, safety standards, and even with bumper standards.

Imported cars that auto dealers sell in the country are manufactured abroad specifically for the US market. Vehicles made abroad not specifically for the U.S. market should be examined quite closely to see if they adhere to the same standards that the United States requires. Here are the main things that you should know about the requirements:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States creates and regulates the vehicle emissions standards in terms of air pollution.

Under certain conditions, the following vehicles do not have to adhere to emissions requirements:

  • Racing cars
  • Non-chassis mounted engines
  • Vehicles built before 1968
  • Unregulated fuel vehicles

You can visit the EPA’s website here for more information:

The emissions requirements themselves are based on strict measurements of Carbon Monoxide, Hydrocarbons, Nitrous Oxides, Evaporative emissions, and Particulate Emissions.

A declaration form has to be included to the U.S. Customs, which is Form 3520-1, located here:

A-1 Auto Transport ships vehicles worldwide. Click here or call 1-800-518-8708 to get a free, no obligation to buy price quote to ship your car.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) / The Department of Transportation (DOT)

If a vehicle is less than 25 years old, it has to adhere to certain motor vehicle safety standards as dictated by the Department of Transportation, in addition to certain bumper standards.

You will need to fill out and file the DOT HS-7 form at the time of entry of the vehicle to make sure that it follows these regulations. You can find it at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here: //—obtaining-epa-form-3520-1-and-dot-form-hs-7.

A certification label has to be placed on the vehicle by its original manufacturer if it follows all of the safety standards. If it doesn’t, the person importing the vehicle has to reach an agreement with a DOT Registered Importer in order to ensure that the vehicle is modified to meet U.S. requirements. This contract has to be placed on the DOT HS-7 form and given to the U.S. Customs officials during its arrival.

S. Customs and Border Protection

All vehicles that are imported have to be approved by the U.S. Customers and Border Protection agency. The required documents are:

  • The original bill of lading
  • The bill of sale
  • The foreign registration
  • EPA Form 3520-1
  • DOT HS-7 Form

An ICI, known as an Independent Commercial Importer, is an option to chose, as they will make sure that your vehicle is modified to fit any of the EPA’s requirements.

Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s guide to importing vehicles at

A-1 Auto Transport will be able to help you out with this process! Contact us today.

Joe Webster

Written by Joe Webster

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