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Canada - Importing a Vehicle

In many cases it is advised not to import a vehicle into Canada, as it is usually far cheaper simply to buy a car when you get there, particularly as the cars that are sold in Canada are usually built to deal with the harsh elements. There is a requirement that all cars that are imported into the country meet with the relevant safety regulations and import laws. All cars and other vehicles need to comply with the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act and this is applied to both new and used cars.

Those who are simply making the trip into Canada in a foreign-registered car will not normally need to worry about import regulations. In order to qualify in this category your stay in Canada needs to be less than 12 months, but if you are on a student visa for a longer period you will also qualify. The car will need to be used only by you and you are not able to sell it during your stay. In order to see if you will qualify in this category you can contact the Vehicle Importation unit at Transport Canada.

If you are importing a car or other motor vehicle from the US then you need to be aware that not all types of car can be imported. You will need to contact the Transport Canada department in order to confirm that the vehicle can be accepted. There may be some exceptions to the list, if the vehicle is over a certain age, for example, or if the vehicle is being used for diplomatic purposes. Cars that are not normally accepted but qualify for one of these exemptions cannot be sold in Canada and must be out of the country by the date specified.

Cars from the US will need to be inspected by a test centre which has accreditation from the Registrar of Imported Vehicles. A list of approved centres can be obtained from the RIV website. In order to have this particular inspection you will need to give the vehicle import form which was given when the car came into the country, pay the relevant fee and confirm that the manufacturer has no outstanding recalls on that particular make and model. If the car passes the inspection it can go on to be registered with the provincial government.

If you are importing a car from another country then it must be a vehicle that complied with the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards on the date of manufacture. Cars that do not meet with these standards cannot be imported into Canada and cannot be altered to meet the specifications. Older cars may qualify for an exemption although you will need to check if your car qualifies with the Transport Canada department. Documentation to show that the car meets with the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Act will be required and there should be no alterations to the vehicle.

When you import a vehicle into the country you will need to present a certain amount of documentation at the border. The requirements will include proof of ownership and registration and details of your visa. You will need to have a vehicle import form which will be completed by the officers at the border. The officers will check that the vehicle is permitted to be imported. You will also need to pay the relevant fee or make arrangements to do so. This may include paying by credit card, making an online payment, going in person to the office in Toronto or sending a cheque in the mail. Fees are reviewed regularly and the latest details can be obtained from the RIV office.

You may need to pay import duty. This will depend upon the type of car, the value of the vehicle and the length of time that you are planning on staying in the country. Information on import duty can be obtained from the Transport Canada department. You may also be liable for goods and sales tax.

When the car has been imported you will have 45 days in which to carry out the inspections before registering the vehicle in Canada. The registration procedure is fairly straightforward. You simply provide details of the current registration, proof of ID, proof of address and pay the relevant fee. This will vary from province to province and the procedure may take a few weeks, depending upon the area you are in.

Useful Resources

Transport Canada - Vehicle Importation
Tel: 1 613 998 8616 / 1 800 333 0371 (toll-free)

Canada Border Services Agency - Admissibility Branch
Tel: 1 800 461 9999 / 1 204 983 3500 (from abroad)

Read more about this country

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