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Background: I bought a new car in the US in 2019. I moved from the US to Canada in 2020 and completed the export and import procedures needed to register the car in Canada. So currently, the car is registered in Quebec, and I have Quebec plates.

I am moving back to the US this summer to start another job in California, and I want to import my car to the US. From what I have gathered from internet searches, I will need the following documentation:

Questions.

  1. Are these all of the documents I will need to import the car?
  2. Do I need the temporary U.S. transit permit or license plate if I am driving directly to my destination (after necessary stops for rest)? If so, where do I get the temporary U.S. transit permit or license plate? I am driving the car from Montreal to California, and will first stop in Indiana. If I do need the temporary license plate, should I get it from Indiana? Edit. No I will not need this.
  3. Is there anything at the border that I will need to do other than present the above documents and pay the import duty? For example, are there any inspections that will need to take place at the border or prior to me brining the car back to the states?

Edit. After the two answers below, it looks like I will not need a temporary U.S. transit permit or license plate and that there will be no import duty.

I am still interested to know if there are any inspections that need to happen before I travel to the border or at the border.

Thank you in advance for your help!

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  • Is your Quebec registration unexpired, is the car still insured and do you have a Quebec driver's license? The end result of importing the car is you'll get a form from the CBP that the California DMV will want when you go to reregister the car, nothing more. It is legal for a Quebec driver to drive a Quebec car in the US whether you have that form or not, so I'm not seeing the point of getting temporary plates.
    – Dennis
    May 13 at 15:45
  • @Dennis Thank you for the comment! Yes the Quebec registration is unexpired and the car is insured. I do not have a Quebec driver's license since that appointments are hard to arrange due to COVID. In any case, it seems like I will not need to get the temporary plates, which is a relief because this was the only thing in the checklist I was unsure of how to obtain.
    – Jackson Morrow
    May 13 at 15:48
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Goods that were made in the United States (U.S.) and returning back to the U.S., are usually eligible for duty-free treatment. The provision 9801.00.10 in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) allows U.S. made products to return to the U.S. without duty requirements.

CBP source

This might even apply if your car wasn't actually manufactured in the US but purchased there (which your original bill of sale proves). I suggest you contact CBP via the link on the page above.

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  • Thanks for the comment! I will look into this and contact CBP. This does not really answer the question but it is very helpful. May 13 at 19:58
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There's no tax or duty on bringing back a car that was exported from America. See this

Re-Importing A Previously Exported Vehicle A vehicle taken from the United States for non-commercial, private use may be returned duty free by proving to CBP that it was previously owned and registered in the United States. This proof may be a state-issued registration card for the automobile or a bill of sale for the car from a U.S. dealer. Repairs or accessories acquired abroad for your vehicle must be declared on your return and may be subject to duty. In some countries, it will be difficult or impossible to obtain unleaded fuel for your vehicle. If the vehicle is driven using leaded gasoline, it will be necessary for you to replace the catalyst and oxygen sensor upon its return to the U.S. To avoid the expense of replacing these parts you may obtain authorization from EPA to remove the catalyst and oxygen sensor before the vehicle is shipped overseas. The EPA telephone number for these authorizations is (202) 564-2418. When the vehicle returns to the U.S., the original catalyst and oxygen sensor will need to be reinstalled. However, you may now reenter your U.S. version vehicle into the U.S. without bond, upon your assurance that you will have the reinstallation performed.

You can use Quebec plates to drive to California and while in California before you register the vehicle locally.

As for registering a vehicle, each State has different requirements. You should check California's requirements. You might need a smog test for your vehicle which shouldn't be a problem for a new (2019) car.

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As I shipped a US car from Canada to the US, rather than driving it, I only know this second hand from the shipper. That said, you can expect some sort of inspection of the car at the border but for the most part this will solely be aimed at verifying the assertions you are making on the forms and with your paperwork. In particular:

  • They should check to make sure the car's VIN matches the paperwork, so you should probably check that before you go. Also, you might have difficulty if the VIN isn't consistently the same on every paper you offer so that might be worth checking. It is, of course, vanishingly unlikely that any of these will disagree but if you've managed to win the mistake lottery it is better to find out before you are at the border
  • If you are checking box 2A on the HS-7 form they may confirm that by looking for the "DOT label". It should be on the driver's door B pillar and should say something akin to "This vehicle conforms to all applicable U.S. federal motor vehicle safety standards in effect on the date of manufacture shown above".
  • Similarly, if you are checking "Code B" on the 3520 form there should be an "EPA label" somewhere in the engine compartment that indicates the car conforms to the U.S. emission standards in effect when it was manufactured (I don't remember exactly what this looks like and my current car is electric so I can't check).

Since you bought the car new in the US it is certain to have the labels but you might want to look for them so that you know where they are.

While your U.S. bill-of-sale for the car is evidence, as an old US title or registration document would be, that no duty is owed on the car that left the US I think it is technically the case that parts or aftermarket accessories acquired in Canada after that might be dutiable. This is not to say I think they'll ask anything at all about that (I really, really think they won't), just that they technically could. While there should hence be no duty payable I don't know if the CBP charges for the inspection and paperwork or not, since in my case any charge would have been buried in a bigger bill. Take some money just in case.

I believe this is all CBP will care about based on the fact that these were all the things my shipper cared about and the shipper was paranoid about making sure it was 100% certain that he could get the car across the border.

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