Importing a Car from the U.S. to Canada

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Importing Your Car into Canada from the United States

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If you're moving from the United States to Canada, or if you're a Canadian citizen who's purchased a vehicle in the U.S. and you'd like to move it to Canada, there are some important guidelines to follow. According to the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), any automobile imported into the country must comply with Canadian import laws. Not only must it meet the CBSA's requirements--your vehicle must also comply with specifications of Transport Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Importing a vehicle acquired in the U.S.

Generally, the vehicle in question must be either newer than fifteen years old or a bus manufactured in the year 1971 or later. If your automobile fits either of those categories, you must find out if it qualifies for importation into Canada under Transport Canada's RIV program. The Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) program confirms that all vehicles imported into the country are inspected to meet Canada's safety standards.

If you plan to import a vehicle, you have to register it in the Canadian RIV program at the CBSA office when you arrive in the country. Once entered into the program, your vehicle is subject to customs duties and other taxes, including a goods and services tax (GST) and either the Quebec sales tax (QST) or the harmonized sales tax (HST) where applicable.

If your vehicle fails to meet any requirements specified in the RIV program, you have forty-five days to make the necessary modifications to your automobile and have it inspected. Of course, the owner of the vehicle is responsible for any costs required to modify the car so it can meet the requirements.

Also, you are not allowed to license your automobile in Canada until it passes the RIV inspection. Try to make sure your car qualifies for the RIV program before attempting to import it.

RIV program

The registration fee for the RIV program is $195, plus applicable taxes and duties (as mentioned above).

There are several reasons your vehicle may be exempt from the RIV program, which means you can import it without registering. This is only true if:
  • Your automobile is fifteen years old or older (according to date of manufacture).
  • Your automobile is a bus older manufactured prior to the year 1971.
  • Your automobile was originally manufactured to meet Canadian safety standards and is pre-certified. (This includes former Canadian residents bringing back the same cars they exported.)
  • Your automobile is only entering the country temporarily for a specific reason. This includes:
    • automobiles imported by visitors for less than a year - temporary residents (i.e. students, temporary employees) for less than three years
    • automobiles imported by diplomats, with authorization from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada for the duration of their stay
    • automobiles imported by visiting military forces personnel for duration of their assignment
    • automobiles imported by U.S. preclearance personnel (and dependents) for duration of their posting
    • automobiles imported for demonstration, exhibition, testing or other special purposes (requires written authorization from Transport Canada - Schedule VII)
    • automobiles travelling through Canada in-transit
    • automobiles designed for civil engineering or construction-related jobs.

Special notes about importing your vehicle

Some people may want to import a vehicle into Canada for resale or other commercial reasons. In this case, Transport Canada requires that you report to your nearest CBSA office designated for this purpose. You must submit the original certificate of title to United States Customs and Border Protection at least three days before you plan to export your vehicle from the U.S. At this time, the vehicle must also be present.

For vehicles being imported into Canada temporarily for one of the reasons listed in the previous section, you must know the following restrictions:
  • These automobiles cannot be sold or disposed of while in Canada.
  • These automobiles cannot remain in the country longer than the time constraints listed on your student visa, work permit or other immigration/customs document.
  • Once the time period listed on the document expires, the automobile no longer qualifies for entry into Canada and must be exported.
  • If the temporary status of the automobile owner changes while in Canada, the automobile must either be
    • exported
    • imported permanently (if the vehicle qualifies)

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on June 9, 2015 - Moving Expert
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