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HOME » Useful Resources » USA Import Regulation
  USA Import Regulation
Importing a Motor Vehicle
Under 49 U.S.C. § 30112(a), a person may not permanently import into the United States a motor vehicle manufactured after the date that an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) takes effect unless the vehicle complies with the standard and is so certified by its original manufacturer. This prohibition applies to both new and used motor vehicles, but does not apply to motor vehicles that are at least 25 years old.
Under one of the exceptions to this prohibition, found in 49 U.S.C. § 30141, a motor vehicle that was not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS can be lawfully imported into the United States, provided it is determined eligible for importation by NHTSA, and is imported by a registered importer, or by a person who has a contract with a registered importer to bring the vehicle into compliance with all applicable FMVSS following importation. Import eligibility decisions can be made either on the initiative of the Administrator or on the petition of a manufacturer or registered importer. One basis for determining a motor vehicle eligible for importation is that it 1) is substantially similar to a motor vehicle of the same model year that was manufactured for sale in the United States and certified by its manufacturer as complying with all applicable FMVSS and 2) is capable of being readily altered to comply with all applicable FMVSS. See 49 U.S.C. § 30141(a)(1)(A). Where there is no substantially similar U.S.-certified motor vehicle of the same model year, a vehicle can only be determined eligible for importation if its safety features comply with, or are capable of being altered to comply, with all applicable FMVSS based on destructive test information or other evidence NHTSA decides is adequate. See 49 U.S.C. § 30141(a)(1)(B).
Vehicles that have been determined eligible for importation are assigned a vehicle eligibility number. All eligibility numbers are for left-hand drive motor vehicles except where the initials “RHD,” signifying right-hand drive, appear in the model type column. While there is no specific restriction on importing a right-hand drive vehicle, these may not be imported under eligibility decisions based on the existence of substantially similar U.S.-certified left-hand drive vehicles. Our experience has shown that the safety performance of right-hand drive vehicles is not necessarily the same as that of apparently similar left-hand drive vehicles offered for sale in this country. However, we will consider the vehicles "substantially similar" if the manufacturer advises us that the right-hand drive vehicle would perform the same as the U.S.-certified left-hand drive vehicle in dynamic crash tests. Absent such a showing, the RI would have to demonstrate (through a petition) that the vehicle, when modified, would comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards, including those for which dynamic crash testing is prescribed.
Each vehicle on the following list is followed by a vehicle eligibility number. The importer of a vehicle admissible under any eligibility decision must write the appropriate eligibility number on the Form HS?7 accompanying entry to indicate that the vehicle is eligible for importation.
This list also includes the Department of Transportation (DOT) docket number(s) associated with each eligibility decision, so that any person wishing to obtain from the DOT Docket Management System (DMS) a copy of the petition or other associated documents can do so. The docket number for each entry is comprised of three parts: the agency designation, the publication year, and a sequence number that uniquely identifies each docket.
» If the sequence number is in the “Simple Search” column, a copy of the associated documents can be obtained online from the Department of Transportation’s Docket Management System. To do so, visit http://dms.dot.gov/search/searchFormSimple.cfm and enter on the appropriate screen the number appearing in the “Simple Search” column, not the entire Docket number. Online access is available for most notices published after November 9, 1997.
» If the sequence number is in the “Not Online” column, please visit the Technical Information Services (TIS) website at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/trd .
"VSA" eligibility numbers are assigned to all vehicles that are decided to be eligible for importation on the initiative of the Administrator.
"VSP" eligibility numbers are assigned to vehicles that are decided to be eligible under 49 U.S.C. § 30141(a)(1)(A), based on a petition from a manufacturer or registered importer which establishes that a substantially similar U.S.?certified vehicle exists.
"VCP" eligibility numbers are assigned to vehicles that are decided to be eligible under 49 U.S.C. § 30141(a)(1)(B), based on a petition from a manufacturer or registered importer which establishes that the vehicle has safety features that comply with, or are capable of being altered to comply with, all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards.
All hyphens used in the Model Year(s) column mean “through” (for example, “1981-1989” means “1981 through 1989”).
The initials “MC” used in the Manufacturer column mean “motorcycle.”
The initials “SWB” used in the Manufacturer column mean “Short Wheel Base.”
The initials “LWB” used in the Manufacturer column mean “Long Wheel Base.”
For vehicles with a European country of origin, the term “Model Year” ordinarily means calendar year in which the vehicle was produced.
All vehicles are left-hand-drive (LHD) vehicles unless noted as RHD. The initials “RHD” used in the Model Type column mean “Right-Hand-Drive.”
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VEHICLES CERTIFIED BY THEIR ORIGINAL MANUFACTURER AS COMPLYING
WITH ALL APPLICABLE CANADIAN MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS
Import Descriptions of Eligible Vehicles Docket Number    
Eligibility NHTSA-Year Simple Search Not Online
Number
VSA-80 (a) All passenger cars less than 25 years old that were manufactured before September 1, 1989; NHTSA-2002 12937 96-114
(b) All passenger cars manufactured on or after September 1, 1989, and before September 1, 1996, that, as originally manufactured, are equipped with an automatic restraint system that complies with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208;      
(c) All passenger cars manufactured on or after September 1, 1996, and before September 1, 2002, that, as originally manufactured, are equipped with an automatic restraint system that complies with FMVSS No. 208, and that comply with FMVSS No. 214;      
(d) All passenger cars manufactured on or after September 1, 2002, and before September 1, 2007, that, as originally manufactured, are equipped with an automatic restraint system that complies with FMVSS No. 208, and that comply with FMVSS Nos. 201, 214, 225, and 401.      
VSA-81 (a) All multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) or less that are less than 25 years old and that were manufactured before September 1, 1991; NHTSA-2002 12937 96-114
(b) All multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) or less that were manufactured on and after September 1, 1991, and before September 1, 1993 and that, as originally manufactured, comply with FMVSS Nos. 202 and 208.      
(c) All multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) or less that were manufactured on or after September 1, 1993, and before September 1, 1998, and that, as originally manufactured, comply with FMVSS Nos. 202, 208, and 216;      
(d) All multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) or less that were manufactured on or after September 1, 1998, and before September 1, 2002, and that, as originally manufactured, comply with FMVSS Nos. 202, 208, 214, and 216;      
(e) All multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) or less that were manufactured on or after September 1, 2002, and before September 1, 2007, and that, as originally manufactured, comply with FMVSS Nos. 201, 202, 208, 214, and 216, and, insofar as it is applicable, with FMVSS No. 225.      
VSA-82 All multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses with a GVWR greater than 4,536 kg (10,000 lb) that are less than 25 years old. NHTSA-2002 12937 96-114
VSA-83 All trailers and motorcycles less than 25 years old. NHTSA-2002 12937 96-114
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