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Let's assume you've found the perfect vehicle except that it's in the US, what do you need to do to bring it across into Canada?

With the Bill of Sale and ownership in hand, the following paperwork is required to complete the import process:

Recall Clearance Letter:

In order to successfully import a US vehicle into Canada, you must show that the vehicle is free of all major factory recalls. The recall clearance letter (specific information is posted elsewhere on this site) is MANDATORY. Minor recalls not affecting safety or emission-related issues are typically not a problem but it’s best to ensure your vehicle is free of all outstanding recalls. Once you take formal possession of your vehicle, you should contact the manufacturer immediately and request the letter. A fax or email copy is acceptable. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous manufacturers have decided to charge you for this paperwork.

Contrary to common misconceptions, this letter is NOT required by US Customs. If you are processing your vehicle'and registering for the RIV program at the Canada Customs location, you must provide the Recall Letter to the inspector. For those visiting the RIV office personally, no recall letter needs to be presented to Canada Customs. RIV accepts faxed copies (there are no local RIV offices outside Ontario) It must be presented or sent to RIV since FORM2 will not be issued without one.

Certificate of Origin
The Certificate of Origin is the official transferance paperwork used by manufacturers and dealers prior to any sale. It’s also called an MSO. This form typically shows the originating dealer, possible dealer trades and ultimately the first owner of the vehicle. Whenever the changes took place, the mileage is documented and the paperwork is notarized by a company representative. If the vehicle was originally licensed in the US, the MSO will have been surrendered to the owner's state licensing jurisdiction and an actual "ownership or title" would be provided in it's place.

This certificate is required by US Customs and must be presented at time of export. Upon successful exportation, US Customs stamps the CoO with a “Exported from (city, state) and the date using an embossed imprint.

The US Customs agent will ask to see this form, compare it to what is on file (faxed or delivered a minimum of 72 hours prior to the export) and may choose to confirm the VIN on the vehicle. The vehicle MUST be presented at the time of export. Failure to legally export a vehicle from the US is subject to possible fines or other enforcement.

After the vehicle is successfully imported into Canada, the MSO is surrendered to the provincial licensing jurisdiction and is replaced with the provincial ownership papers.

Once RIV receives your payment and completed FORM1 (which was faxed by the Customs agent at the border or brought into their office) and the Recall Letter, RIV will issue you FORM2 which outlines what is required to bring the vehicle into compliance. This can take up to 10 days to arrive via regular mail although RIV has been known to email Form 2 within minutes of you phoning them (talk to them nicely). You can also email or fax the paperwork to RIV to expedite the process. There is NO CHARGE for this form. You take this form to Canadian Tire or other certified Federal Inspection facility. There is NO CHARGE for the federal inspection.

If modifications are required, you have up to 45 days to complete the compliance. You are not obligated to have the work done at the inspection facility. If you cannot have your vehicle comply within the time given, you must notify RIV for an extension. If the vehicle cannot be made to comply,
it must be returned to the US or destroyed. Once your vehicle is in compliance, the inspector will complete and sign your form. They will submit a copy to RIV for final processing. You will take the completed FORM2 to your local licensing office.

Provincial Paperwork:

Depending on your jurisdiction, you can/will be asked to provide the Recall letter, FORM1 and FORM2, the CoO, the official sales receipts and the Canada Customs receipt to your local licensing body.

Some jurisdictions will determine if a safety and emission test is warranted. In Ontario no safety or emission test is required for NEW vehicles. Your receipt MUST indicate that it is a NEW vehicle sale. In BC you will need a Provincial Inspection - which can be done at the same time as the Federal Inspection - and entailing a very short test drive. A stamped form showing your car has passed will be provided for you to give to the agent at ICBC registration.

The licensing body can/will keep FORM1 and FORM2, the CoO, the official sales receipt and the Canada Customs receipt. Be sure to make photocopies for your records.

They will provide you with a new appropriate local governmental ownership papers.

If local or provincial taxes are applicable, they will be based on the amount declared on the Canada Customs receipt on the day the vehicle was imported. In BC, PST is based on the Canadian dollar equivalent of the US dollar amount that you paid for the car, calculated at the Bank of Canada rate that was first imposed by Canada Customs. This rate can vary from day to day.

FORM1 is the initial paperwork that is completed by Canada Customs for the Registrar of Imported vehicles. RIV is contracted by Transport Canada to provide the tracking and processing of imported vehicles. There is NO CHARGE to complete this paperwork.

You can/will be asked to provide proof of payment, receipts for payments and the stamped CoO to the inspector. In some states (like NY) you are provided with an official sales receipt from the NY Department of Motor vehicles. This should be presented to Canada Customs.

The inspector will document specific information such as the year, make, model and VIN.

The conversion calculation (from American to Canadian dollars) takes place at the time of import and will be used for GST and/or subsequent tax payment calculations (except for PST in BC - see below). The official Bank of Canada hourly exchange rate may be posted in the Customs office. Be sure your dealer indicates the price actually paid (after rebate and/or any incentives provided).

Once the inspector completes FORM1, Canada Customs will determine:
What GST payment is applicable;
What (if any) duty is applicable. Duty is only applicable on non-NAFTA vehicles. Specific information is posted elsewhere on this site;
Apply the $100 Air Conditioning charge if the vehicle is so equipped;
Apply the gas guzzler tax (posted in the taxes payable area on this);
Pay the RIV fee;
Note: If you live in the GTA you may choose to pay the fee in person at the RIV office in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Once the federal taxes are paid, you can finalize the formalized importation process.

RIV processing will not take place until the $205 registration fee is received.

Payment of the registration fee and applicable federal taxes DOES NOT IMPLY the vehicle is ready for licensing

You are required to pay all federal taxes before your vehicle can clear Canada Custom. Canada Customs accepts all forms of payment (Interac, Credit Cards, Cash and cheque). (it's been reported that cash is not accepted at BC crossings: you must pay the RIV fee by credit or debit card).

Upon payment you will be issued a formal Canada Custom receipt outlining the declared US price, the converted rate and the tax paid. SAVE IT. YOU WILL NEED THIS DOCUMENT for step 2.