Sunday, June 24, 2012

Getting the car back to the United States from Canada

a.k.a., realizing that no one importing/exporting cars from the U.S. to Canada and v/v knows what the hell they are doing.

You may have remembered me writing some helpful posts about bringing my car to Canada and what documents that entails, and also finishing off the whole long process.  I paid my overpriced insurance and my overpriced registration, but that was ok, and I just dealt with it.

And then it was time to bring the car back to the United States.  And literally, the guards at the border in Detroit thought I stole my own car because I was an American citizen moving back to the United States, and I had Ontario plates.

Jean-Luc, you're so applicable.
Really.  I got hit with "failure to import a vehicle," after I showed them my title, which is still Pennsylvania-based (remember how they stamped "REGISTERED IN ONTARIO" to my title and then gave it back to me because I was only taking it temporarily to Canada?).  They did not like that at all, even after I explained the situation.  Sir, I have a Ph.D.  Sir, this car is 12 years old.  Sir, my family and I have owned this car since it was first driven off the lot in 1999.

"Well where is it originally from?"

"Georgia."

Oh my goodness, it's like people don't understand that some people have moved states at least once in their lifetime.

After demanding to see the title, the registration, my passport, and my Pennsylvania plate (which was on the moving truck and not with me), they asked how much cash I was carrying on me and directed me to go inside their little hut.  I wasn't allowed to take anything.  I was to leave my keys on the dashboard and take only my wallet inside.  Windows were to be completely rolled down.  As I went inside, I saw 2 guards converging on my car.  I thought that was it.  I was going to come back to all my stuff stolen.

Inside the importation office, I explained the situation to the guard who eventually laughed it off, told me I had done nothing wrong, but to get a Michigan title, plates, and insurance, which I was of course going to do anyway, as that's what you do when you move states.  I got out of there really fast before they changed their minds.  

The thing is, I still don't even know what it was the border guy wanted me to do, especially since I had a bunch of wordly goods with me in the car and was obviously moving.  How can you have a license plate already for the country in which you're not yet a resident?

Fast forward to the Michigan Secretary of State office, where you get everything changed over.  This place is... an interesting place to people-watch.


I brought everything.  Michigan no-fault insurance.  My passport.  Both work visas.  My lease.  2 bills. My title.  My registration.  Everything was ok, until she looked at that problematic title.

"You need an import form for this car."

Even though it was never exported from the United States?  "Yes.  It's registered in Ontario."

But it's titled in Pennsylvania.  You're telling me I have to drive to Detroit, hop the border, then hop the border BACK again, pick up the import form, and pay $10 in bridge fees?  "Well.... we MIGHT be able to look at your border crossing record.  Take a number."

The lady who helped me next blinked not a single eye at the Ontario registration, but ran through the transfer of license, registration, title and plates efficiently with no questions.  So now I'm 100% Michigan, and the only remnants I have of Ontario are the plates, which are now hanging up on my wall along with the GA and PA ones.

A common thing I've done every time I've had to do something with international nonsense and the car: If they give you what you want, get out of there before they realize they've messed up, if they have.  Just goes to show you how little faith I have in people who do vehicle imports/exports between the U.S. and Canada.


98 comments:

  1. How were you able to register a car in Ontario without importing it to Canada? Did you go through the RIV? Ontario safety and emmissions inspection?

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    1. I did go through the RIV, and they said that since I was a temporary resident, I didn't have to import it, but I COULD register it. I did do Ontario safety and emissions inspections, and I did have to get daytime running lights installed on the car. If you see the posts I linked to above, you can read about the whole ordeal.

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    2. Hi there. I'm in the same situation as you. When you registered your car in Service Ontario, did they let you keep your PA title?

      I'm in a situation where they TOOK my GA Title and now wont give it back. Trying to figure this out but I have no clue what to do.

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    3. Hello, I'm in a same situation. I brought my American car in Ontario and they took my GA title, gave me Ontario title. Now I'll be moving back to the USA. Not sure how to prove that my car was purchased in the USA and was in Ontario only for some time.

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  2. Hmm, I see that you actually did import it to Canada. If you imported to Canada, you were technically supposed to have "exported" from the United States first. Typically, this involves faxing the title to the US port of exit at least 72 hours prior to bringing the vehicle across. Still, even if you didn't do this (and if you didn't you violated U.S. Customs law)--the act of importing it to Canada could effectively be construed as having "exported" it from the U.S.

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    1. I did NOT import it into Canada. No AC taxes, no taxes paid PERIOD (if you do import it from the U.S., you rack up hefty fees), no Canadian title (the title was Pennsylvanian the entire time, and the car is now titled in Michigan). Therefore, it remained an American car and was never exported, because it was never imported. No customs law was violated. I'd be happy to help you with whatever your situation, but implying I broke laws is off-base, considering that this is what I was told to do, and it worked out fine, once I learned to navigate the system.

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    2. There really is no such thing as "Canadian title". "Title" is an American concept and in Canada ownership is proven many by a combination of possession of the car, the purchase/sale agreement, and the registration record.

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    3. I am dealing with this situation now/today... my daughter and I are dual USA/Canuck citizens. She graduated from Univ in Michigan and started Graduate school in London Ontario Canada in June. She has use of one of three 'family' cars that I own which are insured and registered/plated in Michigan.
      The initial advice she received was that she would be deemed a Temporary Resident in Canada since she returns to Michigan almost every other weekend. But in late September the friendly Canadian border guards suddenly "flagged her" after she used the same car to cross back/forth three times over three weekends. They have now stated she is NOT a temporary resident ( since she has dual citizenship and technically 'works' for the university as a part-time instructor as well as full-time grad student. She was informed that she had to import "her car" ( which she does not actually own) or it would be seized if she crossed into Canada with it again. Talking to Canada customs they told her and I that she could import the car into Canada by complying with the RIV process Registrar of Imported Vehicles and paying the GST on purchase price etc. But the Canada customs guy also added: "Canada will import your vehicle into Canada, but if you ever want to bring it back to the USA after your done grad school, you will need to export it from the USA/Michigan first". So while it is legal to import a USA sourced vehicle into Canada (they do not check title) you will encounter the problem you faced when you return to the USA to live with that same car. Up until sometime in 2014 you did not need to export from the USA first. The export from USA requirement is ONLY needed if you plan to return the car ( import it) back into the USa in the future.
      So now I'm in the process of transferring the Michigan title/ownership of one of my cars to her name alone. then she will export it from Michigan ( obtain AES/ITN# from a broker for a fee) and visit the USA customs office ( to obtain export paperwork) before she approaches the Canadian border to import the car into Canada. I know this from years of experience: I lived in Windsor Ontario Canada for 14+ years while working/commuting daily to a job in Michigan. Now I live in Michigan and regularly visit "my home country" Canada to visit many friends and family who still live in Windsor. This blog explains the steps needed on the US side to export vehicle properly under new 2014 law.

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  3. I am actually in a similar situation and I am just trying to figure out how you navigated it. It is all so confusing. The left hand doesn't know what the right had is doing and they leave you with no way to comply with the law.

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    1. Your last sentence is so true. When they told me at Pearson that I owed not a single red cent, because I was a temporary resident and would not be keeping the car in Ontario permanently, I almost jumped for joy. However, they DID caution that if I ever tried to get permanent residency, I would need to officially import the car.

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    2. Hmm, that's interesting. There is a law in Michigan that actually requires you to register your car there if it will be in the state for more than 90 days even if you are not a Michigan resident, but they will not register a foreign car w/o customs paperwork (i.e. importing the car). There seems to be a contradiction there. How can a Canadian who is in the state temporarily register their car, if they are not permanently importing it???? The Secretary of State office is clueless......

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    3. I wish I could help you with that. Did you actually go to a Secretary of State in person? I find you can get much better answers in person.

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    4. Canada Customs is a federal agency, it is not their responsibility to understand the rules in each province - A US customs officer would not know the registration rules in each state. They can only advise to what is legally required to have the vehicles in the country, what is required to drive them is set by the province or state.

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  4. So I know this is an older post, but for others looking for information, when coming from the US to Ontario on a temporary work permit, you do in fact export your vehicle from the US an import it into Canada. You do all of this without paying taxes because you are exempt from the registrar of imported vehicles program. Our original Virginia title is stamped with an export date from the US an we have two seperate forms showing we imported the vehicle into Canada temporarily and are exempt from RIV. When registering the vehicle in Ontario, I fist had issues with taxes, but that was due to a lack of knowledge in my particular service Ontario office. After calling Canadian border services and service ontario's helpline. I was able to register the car without paying taxes. The key import form is called simply: Vehicle Import Form 1. (Please forgive the lack of d's on my ands and any other typos. My phone hates me.). One more thing, in Ontario and Quebec, registration papers and titles are on the same document. So by having an Ontario registration, you have an Ontario title. Also according to the extensive directions I was given, the service Ontario office should have taken my Virginia title and destroyed it. But like it has been said, no one really knows what they are doing.

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    1. Are not required to surrender your US title and should not you will need it to return to the US. This is not a difficult process, and use the link below.
      http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/vehicle/rgoutcan.shtml

      A new requirement is a B15 personal goods import receipt. (it says B4) but US citizens are only eligable for a B15. Both the B15 and Canada customs Form 1 can be aquired at Dixie road or Front Street locations.

      Ask questions of the mechanic to be sure he understands you are not importing the vehicle and the RIV program doesn't apply. Move on to another place if they don't understand.

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    2. Good post! This is exactly what I encountered (though they told me multiple times that I WASN'T actually importing it.... I'm starting to think that "import" doesn't mean very much). Yes, you are exempt from RIV, and I did have to fill out Form 1. I wish I could mark your reply as super-useful somehow.

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  5. It's very hard to have a car in Canada. For me, I do prefer to get on a bike. My friend, who used to live in Ontario told me that place is not good for a car to be functional because of the narrow streets and the bikes all over the place. This is why she never transported her car in the first place.

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    1. I agree that I didn't use my car very much in Canada, because I took the subway everywhere. But when I needed to go to the U.S., or go up north, or just get something heavy from the store, it really proved to be a godsend. I'd even drive other people around for the same purpose.

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  6. Thanks for this blog. (Some of us, Rickie Scherer, cannot transport children, dogs and daily materials on a BIKE). My question is, would you have considered putting your PA plates back on the vehicle before bringing it back into the US to expedite the border crossing? Showing your USA registration, title, etc as well? Just curious if that would have been simpler...

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    1. ....I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I didn't even think of that! I think it might be seen as a bit sketchy, though, because my registration and insurance were both Ontario, even though the title still said Pennsylvania. It was going to look sketchy no matter what I did, unfortunately. But good thought!

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  7. I am just going through this now. I am originally from new Zealand. I was in California on a 12 month work visa. I bought my car in CA had it for over 12months in the state of CA registered. I was heading to Vancouver BC on a 12 month work visa (returning to California at the end of it as a resident). I temporarily imported my car into BC. (Could not have imported it even if i wanted to as i was not a permanent resident in Canada)

    Had to get the inspection etc to get ICBC insurance in doing so they took my title and registered my car in BC but its still listed as a temporary import I double checked. When crossing the boarder back into the states they asked me about my car I said it was a temp import. They looked at the form 1 etc asked me why I had surrendered the title I explained that icbc makes you or you can't get insurance. I asked what forms I needed to fill out for coming back in they told me none. That just go into the DMV in CA and re register it as it was never exported. Though I may have to get my CA title off ICBC.

    Spent the last 3 hours at the DMV trying to explain it. Kept being asked where my export form was I told them what had happened. They could not understand that my car was NEVER imported to Canada. Could not understand why I had surrendered my title again I explained. They made photo copies of my forms and will send it to Sacramento to process. They said I may still have to take it to a customs office to import it which is ridiculous as it was never exported.

    I now have a temp permit and have to wait and see what the sacramento office has to say. Lol so frustrating. Really need to sort their stuff out on both sides.

    Pretty frustrating all round

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    1. It sounds like the only side needing sorting out is the US, not Canada. The US is the only one hung up on the concept of a paper title (very antiquate--I'm a lawyer).

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    2. I prefer a paper title when trying to buy a car as it is very difficult in BC to know whether someone has a lien on their car, boat etc... In the US, if they have the paper title, they own it.

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    3. Hi! I'm in a similar situation to you, bringing my US-bought car back from BC after temporarily importing it there (my spouse was on a student permit). We are going to try to re-register the car in New York, and I was curious what happened in your situation? I know it's a different state, but I haven't been able to find anyone else talking about bringing a car back to the US after a temporary import to BC, so I'm just interested to know if Sacramento registered your vehicle without you having to import it through CBP. Thanks!

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  8. I'm a bit confused why you had to get Ontario insurance? I'm on a 3 year visa in a Grad program, with a NY car, and I drive around Ontario /cross the US/CAN border every other weekend. I've had it told to me by several people that I am not a landed resident, and you can still use NY plates with NY insurance while you are temporarily here.

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    1. I had to get ON insurance because my insurer (Geico) wouldn't insure me while I was in Canada. They just don't do it (we tried). My address in PA was no longer valid, so technically, saying I was still a PA resident would have been insurance fraud. I bet if you actually call your insurer, you'll see that they probably wouldn't be too happy about what you're doing, though if you've got a NY address you can get things sent to, that might be more of a gray area.

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    2. Same here. My insurer would not allow the car to be "garaged" in Canada and still have US insurance.

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  9. Hello I am so grateful for this Post. I am a British Citizen who lived in Ohio in the untied states for 12 months and purchased a ford edge whilst I was there. My husband then got moved to Montreal so we decided as a temporary resident of Canada we would bring it over the boarder on this basis, meaning we didn't have to deal with the RIV program or pay any taxes. I now find myself in the position that after 36 months the vehicle needs to go back over the border to the states. My issue is we will not be moving back to the states, they took our Ohio title off us at the Quebec office so I have no US title for the car. I feel we are in no mans land without the original title and I do not know what to do with the car once I bring it back to the US. We do have friends in the US though I wondered if we could sell it to them and they could then register it in the new state? Any help would be much appreciated as I am concerned how we can deal with the car once the 36 months are up.

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    1. The car has to go back to the U.S. after 36 months. Otherwise, you can go through the RIV process and pay the aircond/gas mileage tax (if applicable) to import it into Canada. Are you planning on staying in Canada? If you are, it's no big deal to fully import it I believe. It's got its Quebec plates, and to do that, you had to go through and show that you owed no fees on it as a temporary <36 months "import" (at least, you have to do this in Ontario). Getting it back across the border, if you are not staying there, is going to be a stickier situation....

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  10. Can you not go to a customs office and get an extension of the date, and then import the car to Canada?

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  11. I bought a car in Florida and imported it to Canada and went through RIV and paid the tax on air-conditioning and the car. Now I want to take the car back to Florida and leave it there. What do I have to do at the Border. I still have Ontario plates and the Florida plates. Help!

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    1. Hi Robert, wow, you really did the full monty with regard to importing it. I really can't say what will happen at the border, and I imagine you'll just have to go in and talk to them. Before you go, plan to be there for some time, and take all documentation (Canadian/Ontarian and American/Floridian) you can find. This makes the whole process a lot easier. Do you still have your Florida title? That will help greatly.

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  13. Thanks for your useful post. I had a very similar experience. When I moved from New Jersey to Ontario in 2012, I just registered the car in Canada without importing it. The Canadian motor vehicle agency took my NJ title and gave me one of those flimsy paper Ontario registration/ownership documents.

    A few months ago, it was time to move back to the States. Having read this post, I was a bit concerned so I called the CBP people at the border crossing I was planning to use in Michigan, and explained the situation. They said that I was technically in violation for not exporting the car, and couldn't really tell me what would happen at the border when I reported the situation. They said that I would need to complete an import form, and to bring documentation that the car met US EPA and DOT standards, which was easy because it had the right stickers on the door jamb and engine block. Fortunately, at the border, the CBP officer was friendly and helpful. She said that I should have exported the car when it left the US and that she could impose a fine, but that she would let it go this time. She then completed the import form, which I used to register the car and receive a new title in California. At the California DMV, the staff was not very familiar with import forms so it all took a good long while, but in the end it all worked out (just received my new title and registration in the mail a few weeks ago).

    My conclusion is that the Canadian and American systems are simply not aligned with each other. From the Canadian/Ontario point of view, it is fine to bring a car into the country temporarily from the US without having it exported from the US. However, they will take your US title away, which makes it impossible to export the car from the US at a later time. (Note that this means that if you later import the car permanently into Canada, then you are definitely in trouble from the US point of view because the car has not been exported from the US and cannot be exported anymore because you already lost your US title).

    From the US point of view, according to the CBP people I have talked with, there is no such thing as temporarily exporting a car: I was told pretty clearly that if the car leaves the country, then it should be exported and documents should be faxed to the border ahead of time, etc. However, if you export the car from the US, then I'm pretty sure that you cannot import it *temporarily* into Canada.

    So something doesn't quite add up here... My main conclusion from this experience is that moving cars between countries is asking for trouble, and is best to be avoided :-)

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  14. Glad to know someone is as clueless as I am, even after going through the process. I'm so glad Ontario gave me back my Pennsylvania title. You've hit it square on the head that these systems aren't aligned with each other. It all depends on the clerk who handles your case, and that's very unnerving....

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  16. My wife and I moved to Canada a year and a half ago for a temporary stay. We are heading back to Arizona soon , but we find we are in a jam. We took both cars to Canada . One was exported and taxes paid in Canada as we knew we would not keep it . The other was not exported, but was reported to Canada as a vehicle that we were keeping , and bringing back shortly. Now I am a dual citizen and my wife is American. She did get a residence here so she could work, but I can work in either . Now to get go with it, the Canadian side stamped it, said all is good, go and get it license after we did the safety etc . Then at service Ontario, they took the title, and gave us its version. I have the plate only as proof that it was in US. Now that we are getting ready to move back in a few months, what or how are we going to get the car back in US without being screwed and having to pay a hefty fine. We told them at Canada that it was a temporary , but they said they have to do that and that they send back to AZ. Now What happens ? How are we going to be able to bring our Jeep back ?

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    1. Honestly, do whatever you can. Any documents you have will help. Explain the situation calmly (the authorities are people too).

      The VIN should prove it is a U.S.-originated car, if anything.

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    2. As we get closer to our move back, we still have not called any boarder to see what to do. I am afraid if we call them , they will have our names and fine us no matter what , or possible jail threat ? I don't want to use our names to them when we call. We may just have to sell Jeep in Canada. Go to Buffalo, and buy another one, bring it to Ontario to load up and haul boat back with NEW York plates. ?

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  17. To: anonymous (Nov 21)

    Your situation sounds very similar to the one I had to deal with and to that of others
    who participated in this discussion.

    First off, I don't think your citizenship/residency status is relevant here. The issue
    is the status of the vehicle, and whether it was exported from the US previously.
    The process of temporarily importing a car into Canada is fine from the Canadian
    point of view, but problematic when the car needs to go back to the US. As you
    are experiencing, the fact that the Canadian authorities take away the US title
    makes it unclear how to bring back the car.

    To resolve the matter, I suggest that you call the US Customs and Border Patrol CBP)
    at the border crossing that you are planning to use and explain the situation. See
    http://www.cbp.gov/contact/ports for phone numbers. Needless to say, be honest
    and polite when you discuss your situation with them. They will probably tell you
    that you should have exported your car when moving to Canada, that fines could
    be imposed for failing to do so, etc. There are no guarantees but if your experience
    is anything like that of others on this forum, they may let you go with a warning if you
    are upfront and apologetic about the situation.

    Based on my experience, I suspect that what you will need to do is to import the
    car into the US even though it was not exported. To import your car, you will need to
    prove that your car complies with US ETA and DOT regulations. If you purchased
    the car in the US, it will have stickers on the engine block and door jamb that indicate
    compliance with US regulations, which CBP officers know to look for. You will not need
    your old US title to do the import, but you will need your Ontario ownership document.
    If all goes well, the CPB officer at the border will help you prepare an import form and
    give you a few signed copies to take with you. When you go to the motor vehicles
    agency in your state of residence, you give them one of these copies to register
    the car and obtain a new title. If you have any documentation about your car being
    previously registered/purchased in the US (like your old plates), I would bring that
    when you cross the border so that you can back up your story.

    I would highly recommend crossing at a time when it is not too busy, and I would
    avoid the busiest border crossings (e.g. go to Port Huron, MI as opposed to the
    one in downtown Detroit).

    Best of luck with the situation and keep us posted.

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  18. Thank you for your insight. I will have my wife call this week and see what they say. Who knows, maybe they will be nice ? Or if they threaten a fine or even seize vehicle than we may have to sell before we come back. I know Lewiston is a crazy border as well and office is open 8-4 only from Monday to Friday. Will keep you posted as to response ! Brent

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  19. Hi, I was living in USA, then i moved to Canada and i brought my California car into Quebec in Dec. 2010 and never changed the registration, just kept the California documents of the car, now I am a resident of Canada and want to import my car and have everything done legally, but do not know if i have to drive my car back to USA or I can do all the import documentation directly here in Quebec....am I going to be penalized for not importing it since the year i brought it into Quebec?...is there an agency or broker that can help me go step by step for the importation of the car?...I really would appreciate any information regarding this matter...

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    1. You shouldn't be penalized as your status changed after your drove the car in as a visitor. You can claim it as a personal effect and import it accordingly. Shouldn't have to go to the border, just a customs office in Montreal or wherever you are.

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    2. The car is required to be in the US for at least 72 hours prior to exporting it or you could be hit with a hefty fine. I spent two years in Ontario as a visitor before becoming a PR and I had my car with me the whole time. I had to drive it down to Watertown and leave it in the Wal-Mart parking lot for 3 days before I could legally export/import it. You won't be penalized for having had the car in Canada already. If you claimed the car on your B4 forms when you landed as a PR, you will be exempt from paying taxes as a settler. I hope you did that.

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  20. To: anonymous (Nov 27):

    Happy Thanksgiving! I suspect that you will need to drive across the border to take care of the exportation from the US. I would call the CBP office at the border crossing that is most convenient to you, and ask them what you will need to do to export the car to Canada. This will probably include faxing a copy of your title to them a few days ahead of time. I don't know how things work in Quebec, so I suggest also giving the Canadian customs authorities a call to find out what you need to do to import the car. I suspect that there is probably no need to go into too much detail about the registration history of the vehicle; I would just ask what is involved in exporting a vehicles from the US and importing it into Canada/Quebec. As far as I know, there is no need for an agency/broker---it should just be a matter of filling out some forms and paying importation fees to the Canadians.

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  22. Interesting that so many have had similar problems.
    In our case, my wife and I grew up in Canada and moved down to the US (temporarily), bringing our Canadian car with us. A few years later, we were in an accident and our car was totaled.
    We bought a replacement car from a local dealership (in the US), and then moved back to Canada (permanently) a few years later.
    We looked up every scrap of info we could about the move back (or at least tried to), but nowhere did we see any mention of having to do anything specific about exporting the car. I'm not saying that the info didn't exist. We just didn't find it.
    We didn't have to do anything of the sort on our move to the US. We only had to make sure that the vehicle fully belonged to us (that we didn't owe anything more on it), then just went to the local DMV when we arrived, paid the fees, registered our car with the state, got the title and license plates, etc, and that was it.
    When we moved back to Canada, we arrived at the Port Huron port of entry, fairly late at night, passed over the bridge, went in to talk to the CBSA agent, who asked us for our documents... then said that we were supposed to get the title stamped for export... that we had to send it to US Customs at least 48 hours before we were arriving, and likely have the car inspected when we arrived.
    We confessed that we had no clue we were supposed to do that, so he just said something along the lines of "We don't really care here, but just don't take the car back into the US, or you'll get a fine if they happen to run the VIN" and then he let us go.
    We then went through all the necessary steps with RIV (inspections, etc), got the sticker for the inside of the car, the new registration, the new license plates and that was it.
    So, from all appearances, the car is fully imported and registered in Canada, but it apparently hasn't been officially exported from the United States.
    We don't have any plans to move back to the US, so it's not much of a problem, in that respect.
    However, we do worry that if we try to trade in the vehicle to get a new(er) car at some point, it's going to be very difficult because it wasn't properly exported (the main worry being that the dealership will attempt to export it back to the US, will get dinged with a fee by Customs and then pass that fee on to us).
    Also, there doesn't seem to be a way to resolve this. We don't have the original title anymore (Ministry of Transportation took it when we got our registration), so we can't present that to US Customs if they asked for it. Undoubtedly there's a paper trail with MoT, so that we could maybe get them to write a letter.
    It's all rather frustrating, though.
    Anyone go through something similar to this?

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    1. You've got quite a quandary! Honestly, if you're trading it in in Canada, and you've gone through the RIV process and gotten the plates and registration, I don't think it'll give you any hassle. Two years ago, I traded the car I'm talking about in the post for a new one here in the U.S., and I wasn't sure if it'd be legal or not, but no one said a single word. They more wanted to sell me that new car!

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  23. i am Canadian citizen that lived in the U.S. for twenty years on a green card i moved back to Canada 3 yrs. ago because of the financial collapse with my Florida tagged and chattled truck and planned only stay temp. but things changed and i am still here with U.S. tags ,i still have a house down there and have current Fla. tags
    I can no longer afford the truck and need to divest myself of it what do I do?

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    1. You've got to either drive it back to the U.S. and sell it there, or pay the import tax to bring it into Canada and sell it in Canada, to the best of my knowledge, though I'm no legal expert.

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    2. You need to surrender your green card! You admit having a "permanent resident card" yet you abandoned your "permanent residence" to live in Canada? SHAME! ahahahahahahahahaha

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  24. Hi, we recently moved to Ottawa from the states and federally imported our car. We didn't know all of the requirements for Ottawa's drive clean program and won't be able to get it registered here because of a check engine light issue. It was told to us that we would have to replace the diagnostic system to pass the test ($3,000). Our car isn't worth that much so we were thinking of taking it back to the states to sell, any ideas how to re-enter it to the states? Do we need to federally export it again? Thanks.

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    1. Pull the bulb. Pull the dash and rip the LED or lightbulb out.

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    2. Oh, that's awful! I had a similar situation. My car failed the safety inspection and required $1165 worth of repairs to get registered! The dang car is only worth $4000. Thank goodness for my credit cards. I have no idea what is required for you to take the car back to the US. I hope you figured it out.

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  25. Everyone seems to have an opinion here and that is nice. I "know the business quite well" regarding imports and exports. If the author of this blog presented this case to me I would have considered the following: 1-The vehicle was originally sold in the United States so upon its return, it probably would not be subject to any DOT or EPA requirements. 2-At the exact moment the vehicle left the United States with the intent of being registered in Ontario, the vehicle had the "purpose of being entered into the commerce of a foreign country". Section 192 of Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines the previous quote as "Export" and that the you were required to follow procedure prior to exportation. Therefore it was officially exported from the United States and you did not follow clearly specific procedure, as stated by law. Whoever holds title to the vehicle is unrelated. There is clear intent of exportation when the owner decided to register the vehicle for regular use outside of the United States. Heavy consideration would have been given if he/she instead got a "Special Permit" (10-day) instead with a good story to tell (expired US domestic registration while you were out, etc.). If your excuse was that you only did it because you were attending school, temporary work, etc. that does not explain why you registered the vehicle with the Ontario government instead of the Pennsylvania government (or the US domestic locale). The mere fact that Ontario issued you a registration is not the concern of the U.S. Federal Law. Personally, I only enforce blatant and flagrant violations of Federal law. You have done so (or at least did so). Therefore, if you were in my presence, I would have seized your vehicle and issued a penalty ($5000 mitigated to $500) and then returned the vehicle to you. Next time, get your advice in writing. The US Government has so many laws that the US Government has no idea how many Federal laws exist. It is quite ridiculous that this procedure is so confusing at both sides of the desk. I have been doing this for a long long time and like I stated previously, I really only pay attention to detail to mainline laws. Now, if you were a non-resident Latino with a criminal history, we would have given you 40 acres, mule, and an F-150. Thank you Obama!

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    1. Hi, question for you. I've been looking for a Sequoia on Craigslist found one that may check out to be perfect for my family. But it is listed just over the Washington border in Canada. Talking with the seller the truck was originally purchased in US. Is it worth it to pursue trying to buy this vehicle I cannot go to Canada without passport. At first owner said he could bring it to Belingham for test drive and us to take ti machanic. But then Owner said he would have to take it to border to for test dive and I'd have to return it to make it legal. If I wanted to buy we could then move on to exportING it. Is this just to crazy or costly to persue? Just have no idea or the steps to take. Would want to make sure we went through all the proper channels of both countries. I'm put would be greatly appreciated

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  26. I am totally confused about this whole importing and exporting of cars from the US to Canada and visa versa. My husband and I did follow the correct procedures (as painful as they were) when we moved from the US to Canada. Both our vehicles were purchased in the US and we have the titles for them. So now what I need to know is when we move back to the States do we need to do anything other than provide the titles for them. I can't seem to get a straight answer from the folks in Blaine Washington. We are tentatively moving back to the States and when we do we don't want anymore surprises like we had when we moved to Canada and exported the cars. Thoughts? Advice?

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    1. Just supply whatever you have, be it titles, registration, proof of insurance, whatever, and BE NICE. You can have your grumbles before or after the border, but your attitude makes all the difference!

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  27. Hi folks. Given the amount of experience and expertise on this blog, I am in a little bit of a quandary that can use some advice. Unlike looniechemist, I did my schooling in Canada and did my post-doc in the US (that was a while ago). After my post-doc, I went to work for a biotech firm in Wisconsin on a TN visa (and I’ve been on the TN visa, with many renewals, for the past 6 years). I live in Wisconsin, but the car that I originally drove across the border still had Ontario plates on it. I am insured for driving through Met-Life here but they never really mentioned much about the Ontario plates.
    Here is my problem. After 15 years, I am in the market for a new car. The dealer in Wisconsin appraised my vehicle and agreed to a fair price for the 15 year old car, but he wanted the title to the vehicle. And that is where I had the trouble. In Canada, as someone suggested, the concept of a title is non-existent. They use the vehicle registration (which I have) as proof that you have not stolen this car to drive around. But to official “trade-in” the vehicle, the dealer needed a Wisconsin title. I have gone to the DMV a few times and they can’t help me. Since the vehicle is so old, the original dealer that I purchase it from can’t do too much for me either. What should I do to be able to get this vehicle registered in Wisconsin so that I can trade it in?
    One note of comment, the notion of residency is utterly and completely confusing. As I am on a TN visa (which is essentially a guest work visa), I am not a permanent resident of the US (which is probably why they didn’t bulk at me when I drove through the border with my vehicle). I can really use some advice on this as both the Wisconsin DMV and the old dealership were not very helpful in getting me a straight answer. Thanks in advance!

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    1. Perhaps it is possible to officially import the car into the US? If you do that and complete an import form, you can obtain a new US title at the DMV. However, this process may take a while and it will probably require a trip across the border.

      If you just want to get rid of the car, perhaps you can find a charity or junkyard that is willing to accept the car as a donation without requiring the title?

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    2. Some junkyards will indeed accept vehicles without titles, but only under two conditions:
      1. You will have to sign an agreement of legal responsibility that makes you liable in the event that someone possessing a valid title shows up and wants their car back.
      2. You will probably have to pay them to accept the car (usually something on the order of $200). In the US, an old car without a title is worth negative money.

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  28. While driving back did you have to take complete insurance ? I have my car in parking insurance ( as they were asking me 510 PM ( due to my claim a few years ago ) so i pay just 10PM for parking. Or can i take insurance from Uhaul ?

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  29. I'm in the same boat as some of you...I moved from Texas to Canada a few years ago, and brought my vehicles with me. I went through the whole export/import process; I registered my vehicles with the RIV Canada, and they were plated in Ontario. I was able to keep my original Texas titles. Now I'm moving back to the U.S. with the vehicles. What do I have to do? Just show them the original titles and it should be good? My main problem is with showing proof the vehicles comply with EPA standards. I read somewhere that I might need a letter of compliance from the manufacturer, but the vehicles are of U.S. origin - shouldn't the title and the vehicle emissions control sticker on the engine be enough? I just want to minimize my problems at the border.

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    1. Interested in what you did here and what you had to show - same situation

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  30. I'm wondering if someone has any advice for me. My car was originally exported from the US to Canada by the previous owner. It's older and I didn't pay much for it. It broke down in Seattle. It will cost about as much as it's worth to fix it. So how the heck do I get rid of the darn thing without it costing me money. I tried to sell it for parts but people are wanting a title and import papers. Clearly I can't import it to the US because I can't get it back to the border as it isn't drivable. Any suggestions?

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  32. Hi ,
    Need an advice. I had come to Ontario from Texas US a year back on temp work permit and had brough my car along.and as per the rules got Ontario license plate. During registration the service ontario person had kept my original Texas title.
    Now my company is transferring me back so when i talked with my friends i realized for many of my colleague in similar situation they had held their original US Title whereas in my case the service ontario officer had taken it :-(
    Now i am in a fix as to what to do ? When i visited the service ontario office , they simply said it is too late and they dont keep the papers there. they simply cannot help me and rudely asked to make way for other people in the line who need genuine service.
    Can somebody advice if they were in such a situation and what to do now. It would look like i have to import my car and spend thousands just because a stupid officer did not know her work and simply kept my original giving me a copy only.

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    1. Did you ever export your car from US? If not, Were you able to take your car back to USA?

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    3. What process did you have to go through to get the car back to US?

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  33. Hi, I have an interesting situation.. my wife and i are recieveing a 2003 Cadillac Seville from my wife's grandfather as a gift. Grandpa lives in Ontario and we live in Maryland. I was going to go pick up the car and signed title and take care of the importing paper work at the border on my way home. The problem is that once its signed over I technically cannot use the ontario plates on it because I am a US citizen and driving to the US. Would I be able to have Grandpa mail the signed title to me and take it along with the import papers to the local CBP office and then register it in MD to get plates and then go pick it up.. ??? or do they need to see the car when its being imported?? (I will have a letter from GM saying that it conforms to the EPA and FMVSS guidelines.) any other suggestions are welcome.

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  34. YES.YES.YES.
    Best blog ever. Found you on Google while researching our own temporary import to Canada. Like you, I'm convinced no one actually knows what they're talking about.
    Thanks for documenting your experiences, enjoy Michigan!

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  36. I have a little different situation then most of you. I was wondering if I could get your opinions. I am a Canadian citizen and I went to medical school in the Caribbean. I did my clinical rotations in Chicago, IL and I brought my Ontario plated car with me. Unfortunately it broke down and I bought a new Illinois plated car while I was there, which was paid in full. When my clinical rotations ended I drove my Illinois plated car back home to Ontario. The CBP didn't give me any problems and let me enter Ontario with my Illinois plate. From December 2012 the car has been stored in my parents garage in Ontario while the car is still registered in Illinois. I left some of my belongings at a relatives house in Illinois and used his address for my car registration.

    Fast forward to today and I just got married to my wife who is a US citizen and we are in the process of applying for greencard for myself. I want to bring my car back to the USA. What is the best way to do so? Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Since the car was never officially exported from the United States, I don't see this as being a problem. The border patrol might think it is a little odd, though.

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  37. Great blog - thank you!

    I have two old cars and am in the same situation as many here - brought them over with us from the US, and now they're registered in Ontario without having been officially exported from the US. Sounds like if we want to bring them back to the US if we move back, we'll need to ask nicely at US Customs to re-import them based on our our old plates, US state registrations, and our Ontario registration. US titles were taken by Ontario when we registered.

    Here's a twist: one of the cars might not be worth bringing back due to expensive repairs coming up. But we can't leave it in Canada, either. Is there a way to bring it over the border and take it to a dealer for a quick sale before actually moving back to the US? Or must the car's move back coincide with ours? Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. An update:

      I was able to get a replacement title from my old US state. So...what would happen if I drive it back to the US with my Ontario plates (just here for a quick shopping trip, officer, nope, I'm sure not importing anything, definitely not a car or anything, no sirree! - since I didn't know I had to export it when I left), take it to a used car lot and sell it for cheap, then hop on a bus back to Canada?

      On the way out of Canada, I'd have to stop on the Canadian side to get paperwork showing it was leaving Canada as required. But the US wouldn't know about that, right?

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  38. We moved here to Alberta from Washington State in 2012. My husband was waiting on permanent residency so he didnt come here until June 2014. When he drove through the border to get his landed immigrant papers and make the final move, he came with our vehicle that was purchased in the US. We didnt know anything about export/import at that time. The border agent told him he had to export it, but since he was already at the border they let him through and gave him 15 days to go back to the US and do all the proper things to export/import it to Canada. Well my husband had to start working so the 15 days past and now it has been over a year. The vehicle has just sat in our garage but we havent had the money to make another trip to the US to do all the stuff to make it legal here. Not to mention someone broke into it and messed with the engine so we have to get it repaired. Anyways we want to sell it and are planning on taking it to the US in a few weeks to just sell it and be done with it. I have NO idea what will happen at the border...do you think they will stop us and give us a fine? Can we call the border agents? Thanks in advance for any advice!

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  39. Thanks for this blog. Best blog ever.Everyone seems to have an opinion here and that is nice.Interesting that so many have had similar problems.Thanks for your useful post.

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  42. Ok...heres a good one..please anyone help..i bought jeep cherokee here in canada where i live..But..the people who sold to me never exported from the US or even registered it here in canada..i didnt know when bought jeep would be a headache..had to wait almost 1 yr for recall part..this week dealer has the part...now thought i could go to canadian border and start form 1 to get it on the road finally...but now because original owner didnt export it first..what am i to do..if i call us border they will probably take title away..but its not my fault. Help..would i be able just to go canadian border and still start the form1 process or not

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    1. If you are going to keep it in Canada, you must export it to Canada. The burden was on you to make sure it was a legal vehicle before you bought it. You will have to pay to import it to Canada and do the Form 1 process. You will run the risk of it being confiscated, but you cannot register or drive it legally in Canada until it is imported.

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  45. We brought our car to Alberta from Texas for a temporary work assignment. We just drove it across and did nothing at the US border for the vehicle. Per the export policy page on CBP, http://www.cbp.gov/trade/basic-import-export/export-docs/motor-vehicle, ""Export" refers to the transportation of merchandise out of the U.S. for the purpose of being entered into the commerce of a foreign country."
    Since we weren't going to be selling the car we didn't export it. When we got to Calgary I did a temporary import, inspection, and registered it in Alberta. They did not take a copy of my Texas Title. I still have it. We head back to the US next month so we'll see how it goes at the border and the Texas registration office.

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  46. I am hoping someone can offer some help with our situation.
    3 years ago, my wife drove from the US to Canada and came into the country as a visitor. She didn't export/import her vehicle. Since that time she applied and has received permanent residency.
    However in that time, her registration, safety, plates and insurance have all expired on her American vehicle and it has been parked and not in use the last 2 years here in Canada.
    Now we would like to switch the title over, register and insure it and start using her vehicle again.
    How can we do this when we can't drive the vehicle at all? Can everything be done via paperwork or does the vehicle need to go back to the US?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If she has permanent residency, she probably has a Canadian driver's license by now, right? And her American one has probably expired as well?

      If you want to switch the title over to a province in Canada, and the car is less than 15 years old, you will have to actually import it in order to register, plate, and insure it in Canada. This involves getting Form 1 at a port of entry (border crossing, airport) and assessing the car. Now it looks like you can get Form E online so you don't have to manually fill out Form 1. Ah, technology!

      There are a number of taxes to pay when importing a vehicle into Canada, and those are to deter you from buying a car in the U.S. for cheaper, then just taking it across. Emissions and AC are some of the higher-amount taxes they can hit you with.

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    2. Thank you for the reply.
      Yes, she does have a Canadian drivers license.
      Will the vehicle need to physically go to a port of entry to export/import?
      That's the difficult part as it doesn't have anything currently that would allow it on the road.

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    3. That's something I don't know, and with Form E being downloadable, it might not need to. You will have to take the vehicle to get inspected, and this can be done many places, even Canadian Tire. It's very unlikely you would get pulled over in such a small distance, but if so, you can explain the situation to the RCMP (especially if you have Form E in the car).

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  48. I'm caught in a similar situation as you. I bought an american made Chevy in Michigan, then went to study in Montreal for a few years. I did a temporary registration in Quebec, they inspected the car for DRL (already had them), however they kept my original title and issued me a Quebec registration which they said acts as both title and registration. I didn't think much of it, as in the past I knew when moving from state to state in the US, a DMV will typically keep your old title & license and issue you a new one....
    Fast forward a couple years, I've moved back to WA, actually drove through with the same car, CBP asked me if I had exported/imported the car to Canada or if I had reclaimed any taxes paid on the vehicle, which I hadn't, so they said it was fine and sent me on my way...
    Washington state DOL/DMV insists my car MUST be imported since I have a Canadian registration/title, even though the car is US made, US bought, has an American VIN.... I went back to a US CBP POE close to where I live, they told me the same thing as the border agent told me, I don't need to import my vehicle, explained to them the situation with WA DOL, asked if I could speak with a CBP supervisor, they confirmed I don't need to import the vehicle, from their standpoint it's an american vehicle and I just went to Canada for a really long vacation.... Go back to WA DOL, they don't want to register my car, they insist I must have import papers.
    Getting really exasperated, if my Quebec plate renewal wasn't so bloody expensive, I think it would just be easier to keep renewing the plates until I get rid of the car...

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  49. I am in a different situation. I bought a new car for my dad in Virginia and drove it across the border a week later. Paid the duty at the border. There after at the Canadian MTO I registered/transferred the title in my Dads name. Fast forward 3 years, my dad has a back issue where he cant drive. So I want to bring this almost brand new card back to the US. Not sure if I will be hassled at the border.

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