Breeze Customs Blog
mporting a vehicle is an exciting but sometimes confusing process. You must first identify whether your vehicle qualifies for importation and conforms to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). If it doesn’t, it would be a nonconforming vehicle and is subject to a different importation process. And the importation or sale of new nonconforming vehicles is strictly prohibited unless they are specifically certified or exempted from FMVSS.
So, if you’re planning to import a nonconforming vehicle into the United States, read on to learn what nonconforming vehicles are, the regulations that are in place to import them, and the requirements you need to fulfill before shipping your vehicle to America.
What is a nonconforming vehicle?
The NHTSA defines a nonconforming vehicle as “a vehicle that does not meet safety standards set by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) or that has been altered from its original design.” It also refers to a vehicle not built to the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The importation of nonconforming vehicles for on-road use is not encouraged since converting a nonconforming vehicle is usually expensive — sometimes even impossible or impractical. However, you may still import nonconforming vehicles under certain conditions.
Can I import a nonconforming vehicle into the U.S.?
Yes, nonconforming vehicles may be imported into the United States in one of two circumstances: by certification or by exemption.
Nonconforming vehicles can be imported if they are modified, tested, and certified by an Independent Commercial Importer (ICI).
The EPA and CBSA allow for the temporary importation of nonconforming vehicles – with EPA’s pre-approval – if they are imported for the following purposes:
- Repair or alteration
The vehicle must be imported under a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) bond if it qualifies for EPA exemption.
CBP and/or EPA can seize, export, or penalize nonconforming vehicles that arrive at a United States port of entry without the appropriate ICI arrangements or a valid EPA exemption.
What are the importation regulations for nonconforming vehicles?
A vehicle that was not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS and/or was not so certified by its original manufacturer can be legally imported into the United States on a permanent basis only if:
- NHTSA decides that the vehicle is eligible for importation based on the vehicle’s capability of being altered to conform to all applicable FMVSS; and
- The vehicle is imported by an importer specially registered with NHTSA (referred to as a registered importer or RI) or by a person who has a contract with an RI to modify the vehicle so that it complies with all applicable FMVSS.
What forms do I need to submit to import a nonconforming vehicle?
NHTSA requires two forms to be filed with CBP for the importation of a nonconforming vehicle:
1. HS-7 Declaration Form
This form must be filed for every motor vehicle offered for importation into the United States. The vehicle must be identified on the form by make, model, model year and VIN if the vehicle was not originally manufactured to conform to all applicable FMVSS but has been determined eligible for importation by NHTSA and is being imported by an RI or by a person who has a contract with an RI to modify the vehicle so that it conforms to all applicable FMVSS following importation, the name and registration number of the RI must also be entered on the form, along with the vehicle eligibility number assigned to the vehicle by NHTSA.
2. HS-474 Bond Form
A DOT conformance bond, on form HS-474, must be furnished for every nonconforming motor vehicle offered for importation by an RI or by a person who has a contract with an RI under Box 3 on the HS-7 Declaration form. The bond, in an amount equivalent to 150 percent of the entered value of the vehicle, must be underwritten by a surety that is approved by the Department of the Treasury. The bond ensures that the vehicle is brought into conformity with all applicable FMVSS and Bumper Standards within 120 days from its date of entry or is delivered to CBP for export from, or abandonment to, the United States.
Who regulates the importation of nonconforming vehicles into the U.S.?
The importation of non-U.S. versions or nonconforming vehicles is regulated by:
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- The Department of Transportation (DOT)
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
It is worth noting that cars older than 25 years are exempt from EPA and DOT requirements under the 25-year rule.
What federal laws apply to importing nonconforming vehicles?
NHTSA has issued regulations implementing the vehicle importation laws published in Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), as follows:
49 CFR Part 591: Importation of Vehicles and Equipment Subject to Federal Safety, Bumper, and Theft Prevention Standards
These regulations establish procedures governing the importation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment subject to Federal motor vehicle safety, bumper, and theft prevention standards
49 CFR Part 592: Registered Importers of Vehicles Not Originally Manufactured to Conform to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards
These regulations establish procedures for the registration of persons wishing to become RIs and the maintenance of an existing RI registration. They also set forth the duties of an RI.
49 CFR Part 593: Determinations that a Vehicle Not originally Manufactured to Conform to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards is Eligible for Importation
These regulations establish procedures by which NHTSA determines that a vehicle not originally manufactured to conform to the FMVSS is eligible for importation and can be imported into the United States because it can be modified to comply with those standards.
49 CFR Part 594: Schedule of Fees Authorized by 49 U.S.C. 30141
These regulations establish fees that are intended to ensure that NHTSA is reimbursed for costs incurred in administering the importer registration program, in making determinations whether a nonconforming vehicle is eligible for importation into the United States, and in providing the bond furnished to ensure that an imported vehicle not originally manufactured to conform to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards is brought into compliance with those standards, or will be exported from, or abandoned to, the United States.
Is the vehicle you wish to import nonconforming with U.S. safety standards? Book a meeting with one of our Breeze Customs Concierges to discuss your importation options.