Palmer Moving

International Moving – US Guidelines

International Moving - US Guidelines


To complete the process of clearing your vehicle through customs, you will need anydocumentcovering the vehicle, including the carrier’s original bill of lading, the bill of sale and foreign registration. In addition, you should consult your local automobile club or an international automobile federation about obtaining the international Registration Marker – a permit that must be displayed on all imported cars.

Safety and Emission Standards

An auto manufactured abroad may not be in compliance with U.S. safety or emission standards. Therefore, you will be required to produce the foreign manufacturer’s statements verifying that the vehicle conforms with U.S. safety and emission control standards. U.S. emission requirements apply to all 1968 and later model year gasoline-fueled vehicles, 1975 and later model year diesel-fueled vehicles, and motorcycles manufactured after December 31,1977. Since safety and emission requirements sometimes change over the years, it is recommended that you contact one of the resources below for the most up-to-date regulations applying to your vehicle.

For a copy of the free “Introduction Handbook for Complying with Regulations of Imported Vehicles” and for information on safety standards, contact:

U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, NSA-32
400 Seventh St. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590, U.S.A.
National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration Hotline: (800) 424-9393
To call from Canada: (202) 366-0123
Fax: (202) 366-1034

For the EPA’s fact sheet on emission control standards or for other inquiries regarding the importation of a vehicle, contact:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Investigations / Imports Section Manufacturers
Operations Division (EN-340F)
Washington, D.C. 20460, U.S.A.
EPA Hotline: (202) 233-9660
Fax: (202) 233-9596

Below are some other important tips for clearing a vehicle through customs:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture required that all imported cars are free from foreign soil. Consequently, you must have your car steam- sprayed or cleaned thoroughly before shipping.
Do not ship personal belongings in your vehicle.
Any modifications that must be made to a vehicle imported into the United States is based on the price paid or the invoice price. Contact your local customs office for the current duty rate. A returning U.S. resident (one returning from travel, work or study) may apply his or her $400.00 customs exemption (as well as the exemptions of accompanying family members) toward the value of the vehicle if it meets the following requirements:

  • ​The vehicle accompanies you on your return to the States.
  • ​ It is imported for personal use.
  • ​ The vehicle was purchased during your stay outside the United States.
  • ​ After this exemption has been applied, the next $1,000.00 of the vehicle’s value is dutiable at a flat rate of 10% and the remainder is dutiable at the regular rate.
You are entitled to import a foreign-made car if you are: 
  • A U.S. citizen employed abroad, or a government employee returning from temporary duty or on voluntary leave. These citizens may import a foreign-made car free of duty provided they claim non-resident status, enter the United States for only a short visit and export the vehicle when they leave the States.
  • A civilian or military employee of the U.S government returning to the United States at the end of an assignment of more than 140 days may include a conforming vehicle among their duty-free personal and household goods provided the auto was purchased abroad and was in the owner’s possession prior to his departure to the United States. Navy personnel serving a U.S. vessel may be entitled to the free entry exemption after an intended overseas deployment of at least 120 days.
  • A vehicle may be imported by a non-resident if the vehicle is for personal use and is imported in conjunction with the owner’s arrival. Vehicles conforming to these restrictions may remain in the United States indefinitely. If the conforming vehicle was imported under duty free exemptions, it is dutiable if sold within one year of importation. This duty must be paid before the sale is completed. Non-conforming vehicles may not be sold in the United States and must be exported within one year.
  • A car imported by a non-resident for purposes other than personal, such as racing, repair or as a sample for taking orders, is subject to specific customs regulations. Check with your local customs office for guidelines pertaining to unusual situations and exceptions.

Federal Tax

Some imported automobiles are subject to the ?Gas Guzzler Tax” stipulated in section 4064 of the Internal Revenue Code. Liability for the tax is the responsibility of the individual importing the vehicle and the tax rate is determined by the EPA’s fuel economy rating. (This rating may differ from the fuel economy rating cited by the manufacturer). Additionally, before registering and titling your vehicle, many states require proof that you have paid the “Gas Guzzlers Tax” in cases where it is applicable. For information on the “Gas Guzzlers Tax” contact:

Internal Revenue Service
Room 5314
1111 Constitution Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224, U.S.A.
Phone: (202) 622-3130
Fax: (202) 622-4524

You may also contact the ITS for information on determining fuel economy rates. Ask for section 4064 of the Code, Revenue Procedure 86-9,1986-1 Cumulative Bulletin 530, Revenue Procedure 87-10,1987-4 Internal Revenue Bulletin 29, and Revenue Ruling 86-20,1986-1 C.B. 319.

It should be evident from the foregoing information that importing a vehicle is difficult. An individual may not be able to import one if it is not in compliance with EPA and DOT requirements, unless a company approved by the entities is the importer of record. EPA and DOT should be contacted before you attempt to bring your vehicle into the United States.

Firearms and Ammunition

Generally speaking, firearms and ammunition purchased in the United States and taken out of the country by a resident may also be imported back into the country. However, it is the responsibility of the returning resident to provide a bill of sale or commercial documents indicating proof of possession or ownership. A customs form 4455 or 457, ?Certificate of Registration” may be used for this purpose.

Guns and ammunition purchased outside the United States, however, are subject to complicated clearing procedures and are very difficult to import. You will need to apply for a permit through the £Application and Permit for Importation of Firearms, Ammunition and Implements of War”, ATF form 6, from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Department of the Treasury, Washington, D.C. 20226, phone (202) 927-8320, Fax (202) 927-8601. It is recommended that anyone considering the shipment of foreign-purchased guns into the States consult with the local U.S. consulate prior to departure.

Due to risk of accidental explosion, North American policy stipulates that ammunition may not be shipped with your household goods.

Firearms manufactured before 1898 may be imported into the United States without difficulty. But make certain that the gun is a genuine antique; replica firearms require authorization by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) in order to clear customs.


Weapons with fixed blades are generally permitted into the States. However, souvenirs such as swords, camel whips, machetes and similar articles capable of being used as weapons may still be in violation of local and state laws. According to U.S. Customs: Knives designed for utilitarian use, such as household purposes, personal grooming, trade or professional employment, crafts or hobbies, hunting and fishing, and scouting activities are also permitted unrestricted entry, provided that the imported knife does not open automatically and is not a switch-blade.