Consumer Title Resource | Since 2009!

Import Vehicle Titles

How do you get a title document for a vehicle to import the vehicle into the U.S.? In many cases, we come across vehicles that are intended to be titled in the United States but that have a prior history in another country.

Import vs. Visiting Process
The import process is different from the visiting process. What that means is if you have a vehicle in Canada, let’s say, and you drive into the U.S. and you go across the border, that’s not importing the vehicle. That vehicle is just visiting the U.S., and when you go through the border crossing into the United States, they check to make sure the vehicle is legal and has a title and a registration from Canada, but they don’t import the vehicle. That means that the car can’t stay in the U.S. as a U.S. car; at some point, it will go back.

Steps for Importing a Vehicle
If you want to bring that car in to be titled and domiciled in the U.S., it has to go through the import process, and there are at least three government agencies involved: Department of Transportation (DOT), the EPA for emissions, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) also verifies certain items about the car. The car has to qualify to be imported, meaning that it has to be the right brand, has to be manufactured for use in the U.S., all the safety features (things like bumper height) that matches up, things like emissions. There are trade agreements with the country that manufactured the car. All those three government agencies have to verify that.

Requirements and Qualifications
If the car is already in the U.S. and has been visiting for a period of time, it may have to go back to the border or outside the U.S. to go through that import process. Just because it’s in the U.S. does not mean that it has been imported, and not every car qualifies. If it was manufactured in a country that doesn’t have a trade agreement, if it’s a brand that’s not allowed to be in the country, or even if it’s a brand that is sold in the U.S. but that particular car wasn’t manufactured for United States titling, it’s not going to fly.

Simplified Process for Previously Titled Vehicles
The first thing to find out is whether that car was ever titled in the U.S. before. If it is, then that import process was already done. Even if it went offshore for some period of time, it’s going to be a lot simpler process to get a title in the U.S.

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