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EPA Exemption Letter - Temporarily importing your foreign vehicle in the USA

Discussion in 'Shipping' started by My Overland Adventure, Jul 7, 2014.

  1. My Overland Adventure

    My Overland Adventure Around the World in a Land Cruiser

    Guide to temporarily importing and driving your foreign vehicle in the USA

    *Please note this guide relates to foreign vehicles shipped into the USA

    Summary of process:
    • Obtain EPA Exemption letter /approval prior to Shipping
    • Make an Importer Security Filing (ISF) prior to shipping
    • Complete all documentation and forms
    *Important note EPA and ISF are required prior to shipping your vehicle. If you are shipping into the country, without them you may face large fines and / or may face difficulties entering the US

    *Although EPA is only required for the USA, we recommend that you leave the NAFTA (Canada, Mexico & USA) area within 12 months as the EPA does not consider your vehicle exported from USA territory until it has left the trade zone.

    *If crossing a land border into the USA, although you may

    The rules:

    US Border Protection & Customs - Importing a Motor Vehicle | U.S. Customs and Border Protection

    Non-residents may import a vehicle duty-free for personal use up to (1) one year if the vehicle is imported in conjunction with the owner's arrival. Vehicles imported under this provision that do not conform to U.S. safety and emission standards must be exported within one year and may not be sold in the U.S. There is no exemption or extension of the export requirements.

    For CBP clearance you will need the shippers 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 the 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, unless eligible for exemption or exclusion 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.

    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.


    Temporary Vehicle Imports for Non-residents
    Motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment for personal use may be imported for up to one year. The vehicle must be imported in connection with your arrival and it must be owned by you or on order before you depart from abroad. Only individual nonresidents may import a vehicle through a nonresident exemption. There is no Customs bond required, however EPA requires that written approval must be obtained prior to importation.

    Importer must file with U. S. Customs, upon entry, an EPA Form 3520-1 declaring code "O;" and attach the EPA letter of exemption.
    Importer should keep a copy of the EPA approval letter for future proof of EPA exclusion.

    • Importer must be a nonresident;
    • Vehicle may not be sold or otherwise transferred to another party in the U.S.;
    • Vehicle must be used primarily for personal use by the importer while in the U.S.;
    • Use of this exemption is prohibited if the vehicle is to be used primarily to conduct business, or for principle use by persons other than the importer (or spouse of the importer); and
    • Vehicle must be exported after one year, or upon the nonresident departing the U.S., whichever comes first.
    Here are the full EPA guidelines to importing a motor vehicle in the USA Importing Vehicles and Engines into the United States | US EPA

    To import your vehicle in the USA you must temporarily import it, this process does not require a Carnet de Passage

    Obtain Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval from the EPA, this process can take up to 14 business days to complete and is required before sailing; Required supporting documentation.

    a. Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval request - Signed letter (example here)
    • Your full name, current foreign address, phone number, Fax number, and email address (if applicable)
    • Your U.S. address, phone number, Fax number, and email address (if applicable)
    • Vehicle year, make, model and Vehicle Identification Number
    • A statement explaining the reason for your visit to the United States. (work/school/vacation).
    • The date of the importation
    • Location of the vehicle and the Nonresident at the time of request.
    • The duration of the importation.
    • Proof of ownership (Registration or title documents from country of origin).
    • Copy of passport

    b. Supporting documents
    • Copy of Vehicle Registration certificate
    • Copy of passport
    The above can be emailed to: Imports@epa.gov

    Importer Security Filing (ISF)
    *Important prior to shipping an Importer Security Filing (ISF) must be made, normally your agent in the US would do this on your behalf, you may face large fines difficulties when entering the USA without this being carried out!

    Check with your agent whether they will do this on your behalf or whether you need to make the filing.

    Documentation for Customs / your clearing agent
    • Power of attorney for customs purposes (the agent should provide paperwork)
    • Copy of the Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval from the EPA (as above)
    • EPA complete declaration forms 3520-1 (EPA) (form here)
    • DOT HS-7 – A Declaration re Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Tick box (5) stating that the vehicle does NOT comply with USA standards and that you will export it within 12 months. (form here)
    • CBP Form 3299 Declaration for free entry of unaccompanied articles Tick box Code ‘O’ stating imported by a non resident for personal use for a period of one year. (form here)
    • Bill of Landing
    • Supplemental declaration for unaccompanied personal & household effects (form here)
    • To whom it may concern statement for customs (example here)
    • Copy of flight itinerary showing that you will arrive in the USA around the same time as the vehicle
    • Copy of passport

    Insurance can be obtained quite easily from a number of insurance companies:
    • Progressive
    • State Farm
    • AIG
    • Freeway

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 2, 2017
  2. Amy

    Amy New Member

    Thanks for such detailed information! Regarding insurance, do you know if you can purchase through these companies in advance (online) or is there the option of purchasing at the border? We plan to ship our car to Seattle. Do you know if they cover Canada too?
  3. OverlandSphere

    OverlandSphere Administrator Staff Member

    You can purchase it in advance but you need a USA address, try calling progressive directly. Most US insurance does cover Canada as well, but double check with the insurance company you use.

    We purchased our insurance over the phone with Progressive and had to upload a copy of the vehicles registration etc.
  4. Amy

    Amy New Member

    That's great.
    Thank you
  5. Jot

    Jot New Member


    Do you know if you can export the vehicle before the 1 year is up via land to Canada. I have a 2 year working holiday visa in Canada but want to spend a month or two before in the USA visiting family and having a road trip before entering canada. Also you make it sound like you can buy insurance direct from progressive? I thought you had to go through an insurance agent in the state of your address?

    Thanks for any info

  6. OverlandSphere

    OverlandSphere Administrator Staff Member

    Yes you can drive to Canada once you have finished touring the USA, the rules Tourists in Canada is 12 months, although when we drove through they did not check any vehicles details.

    Since you have a working holiday visa, you should be able to have the vehcile temporarily in the country for up to 36 months, more info on the Canadian rules here: D19-12-1 - Importation of Vehicles

    From: Overlanding Association


    Re Insurance, we purchased our direct from Progressive, the main call centre. However they do not appear to apply the same process to everyone, best to give them a call.

    Or for other recommendations for insurance, feel free to ask in our FB Overlanding Group
  7. dd3

    dd3 New Member

    Is it possible for US citizen residing overseas full-time to temporarily import a foreign registered vehicle which is not registered under one's own name with a notarized power of attorney doc?
  8. Robert Hutsell

    Robert Hutsell New Member

    Thanks for this important info.
  9. gypsygirl1988

    gypsygirl1988 New Member

    ha! got a story about this...
    three days before I left canada, I decided, that I want to have a car. found on old crappy 500$ pontiac that I bought off a teenager, who bought it 2month before for 2000$, but she needed the money. anyway... windows cracked, tyres flat, ducttape everywhere, I set off to cross the border to idaho. I have had no idea about the rules, so I ended up 2hrs with a grumpy, young bloke asking me thousands of questions. my plan was to drive to florida and sell the car. so he didn't wanted to let me in. I was not allowed to sell it in the us except I would import it, which was way more expensive than the car itself. he was such an asshole, I played the poor-girl-card and his workmate felt sorry for me. I needed to say, that I'll drive the car back to canada and they finally let me in. the young bloke was really pissed, telling me with evileyes he would find me, if I would try to sell the car. he got me, I was scared as shit. 3month later, I arrived in miami. refreshing my spanish, I found a wrecker, latino, who gave me 300$ for it. so I guess the pontiac is still driving around somewhere in mexico, with more ducttape. anyway, I went to the airport, scared as shit... and no one asked me about the car. that was it, I got out of the country without any problems. so I guess the rules are easier on a little countryside-bordercrossing ;)
  10. ChiletoCanada

    ChiletoCanada New Member

    Hi there,
    I'm planing to buy a VW kombi in Chile and drive it all the way back to Colombia where I would then like to ship to the US (IE Florida or Texas) to finally drive it back and import it into Canada.
    I have hard time finding reliable information about vehicle insurance in the US. It looks like since very recently companies can't insure any more foreign vehicle in the US (basically my kombi will have chilean plates + title in my name at the time it ships to the US).
    My question is: can you ship a car and drive it through the US without a specific US insurance or will you be fined or even get stuck with your car on the docks?
    I contacted several insurance companies and none of them could help me insure the vehicle...
    I wish I could drive across the US without a specific insurance but I'm really not sure about that :(

    Here is the link to an email from an insurer stating they could not insure foreigners anymore: Email from Rudi Reiterer (LIONS GROUP) | PanamericanaInfo.com

    Does someone has any updates about that or has successfully achieved to ship and drive a foreign camper in the US recently?

    Thanks for your help!
  11. Rouletout

    Rouletout New Member

    I thought I posted it a while ago as a comment but can't find it. We shipped from Japan to Long Beach on Temporary Import. NONE of the above documents was required, NONE! Nobody asked for an ISF, and EPA letter or any of the other forms. Just fill in the tempoirary import forms at customs, get your stamps and 20 minutes later you walk out.
  12. snowfall

    snowfall New Member

    Hello everyone,

    We shipped from UK to Baltimore in February 2017, had to go through all the EPA process described above. we were able to cross to Canada and back to the US, they did not check our truck papers, but they did look up the LP, so I assume they have this info on their computers. We did meet many travellers who shipped to Canada (Halifax) with no EPA letter, and when they crossed into the US they were not asked for EPA letter at any stage. My conclusion is that they only insist on it when the car is brought by sea. It is much less problematic to ship into Canada.

    Regarding Insurance, we also did with Proggressive, PM me if anybody needs more info.

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