The USA allows individuals to temporarily import a car for a period of up to one year, at which point it must leave the country. There is a lot of form filling to do, I set aside most of a day working out what needed to go where, finding details and completing everything. The shipping company I used on the US side do offer a form filling service for $150 which may be worth doing if someone is tight on time or nervous about getting it right but the way I viewed it was I’d be getting asked for half the information on the forms anyway so I may as well do them.
Most of the forms go to the shipping company and are used by them for getting the car out of one country and into the next through the shipping ports and customs checks. Samples of some of the filled in forms can be viewed here.
This is what’s needed, and has to be submitted and approved before the car can be shipped:
Vehicle Import Authorisation
Simple form that will be supplied by the shipping company with their letterhead branding and address on it. It will want to know the make, model and year of the vehicle, if it runs, the value, your name, address, passport number, email address, where the car is going to in the US, who will be receiving it on your behalf (could be you, or it could be someone else if you are not going to be there), their address, whether the car has marine insurance, if it is shipping in a container or roll on roll off (RORO).
Power of Attorney (POA)
The shipping company will have their own form for this so all you have to do is fill in your name, your US address you will be staying at (or the first or one of the addresses), your phone number and it also asks for your Social Security/IRS number which if you’re not a US citizen like me you won’t have so I put my UK National Insurance and passport numbers here. Sign and return to the shipping company. It is a basic form that tells anyone who asks that you are allowing the shipping company to act on your behalf while importing the car and make decisions as they need to.
Customs POA and billing waiver
Longer version of the above specifically for port side when the car arrives in the US. Just needs a name, date and signature.
Copy of insurance or an insurance waiver
I elected to self insure given it was around £3,000 each way. £6,000 will cover a lot of repair work to paint which is the most likely casualty, however it won’t cover the loss of an £80,000 car if it gets dropped in the sea. Another simple form from the shipping company to sign and date that relieves them of blame should something go wrong.
Treasury Department and US Customs Supplemental Declaration for Unaccompanied Personal and Household Effects
A one page and quite straight forward form asking for answers as to who you are, where you live, what your US address will be, who you work for, what you do for them and how long you have been there, passport numbers, the name and address of the shipping company, the shipping itinerary (where the ship is leaving from and arriving at).
Department of Homeland Security Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles
Two page form covering much of the above in more detail, some tick boxes which are fairly obvious, a few things you may or may not know relating to things like the actual vessel (I left this for the shipping company as the actual sailing date and ship had not been decided at the time of filling it in), and a list of items being imported and their value – in this instance a Porsche 993 motor vehicle.
When using roll on roll off shipping (RORO) you cannot ship personal effects inside the car, however this does not include things that go with the car like the jack, tool kit and items within reason you’d associate with it. Don’t list these things. If you are shipping using a container you can put whatever you want in there but you must list everything.
US Department of Transportation and Highway Traffic Safety Administration Declaration
Covers the make, model, year and VIN details of the car, who it is registered to, what the port of entry is, who the importer is (same as the vehicle owner) and then lots of tick box options. The main ones relate to the age of the car as vehicles over 25 years old have less strict import regulations, cars younger than this need to comply with Federal standards on things like emissions, safety, theft prevention and so on however with a temporary import this is bypassed by point 5 (a, b and c) where you declare the vehicle does not conform to all Federal standards but is eligible for import based on the owner not being a US resident and the vehicle being registered in a country other than the US, that the vehicle is for personal use only and will not exceed the one year time limit for a temporary import, and that you will not sell it during that time.
US Environmental Protection Agency Declaration
This is all about Federal air pollution regulations. Many of us outside the US are led to believe the Americans are the enemy of climate change depending on what current initiatives they are signing or not signing up for but the reality is some of the States have far stricter pollution laws than the media of those countries throwing stones, California perhaps being the most vigilant. Because of this there are often questions about the legitimacy of bringing in a car and using it in the US and the need for compliance with differing State laws. By importing on a temporary basis, providing Federal permission is given, you sit outside these rules. The information to be filled on this form is the same as some of the other forms above and relates to the vehicle identity and who owns it. There are then a list of check boxes that need ticking that fit into these categories:
US conforming/identical vehicles
In most cases will only apply to a US or Canadian car
EPA exempted vehicles (Code E)
There is one check box within this section that applied to my car, the vehicle being over 21 years old. Cars of this age that have had a replacement engine do not qualify unless the replacement engine meets the newer EPA certification, however my ’new’ engine is actually the original engine rebuilt, and although it is modified to 3.8 litres it does so using the exact same pistons as Porsche used on their X51 option code available at the time of manufacture. If it was a Volkswagen Beetle with a Porsche or Subaru engine fitted to it it may or may not be exempt depending on the age of the engine and what can be proven
Things like race cars that are not intended for road use, or mopeds manufactured before 2005 (which I guess is pretty much the same thing!)
Temporary imports (Code O)
This is the section that applies to most when bringing in a car for a road trip, and the box within this section applying to non US residents importing for personal use for a period of up to one year. You also need to submit this together with an EPA letter of approval (the next item on the list).
US Environmental Protection Agency Approval
This comes in two parts. Part one is writing a letter to the EPA. You are writing to a government department looking to tick off very specific things so keep it clear, brief and each point clearly marked. They are not interested in the ‘blah’, just the blunt facts.
Part two is receiving the EPA approval letter. This is probably the most important document of the lot as without it you can’t make any of it happen, it dovetails into the EPA declaration above and aside from being a vital part of getting the car out of customs will be something you may well (most probably will) need to show should you be stopped by the US police. And driving a car with British plates you are highly likely to be stopped at some point. This document should make those stops easier for everyone.
Alongside all of the above documentation, you are going to need copies of your drivers licence, vehicle registration, passport, and insurance.
US car insurance for a foreign car
The hardest challenge you will face, and according to a recent conversation with Ben Combes (Pub 2 Pub Ben) who is probably the most knowledgeable and experienced Briton on the planet when it comes to driving his own cars around the world, US insurance is becoming harder to obtain from what he is hearing from others asking for advice. If you’ve not seen Ben’s 27,000 mile story from the northernmost to the southernmost bars on the planet, in a TVR, you can read it on his blog here.
Forget getting your UK broker to cover you. They won’t.
The chances of happening across a US broker at random who has dealt with insuring a British registered car, to a non-US resident with a UK driving licence are slim. It is hardly a common request. Progressive’s website in the US sort of gets close to looking like it can offer cover as it starts off using the car’s VIN as the identifier for the vehicle but there are a lot of assumptions being made given the system is not expecting you to be bringing in a car from outside the US. It is one of those things where you just know if there was an issue there will be a strong argument for the cover being void as they were not aware of the risk. It really needs to be done through a broker who understands what is going on and who is speaking in person to the insurer. To be fair, all the details were a bit woolly with things like the car value being absent from the online quote so it wasn’t a way forward.
Paramount Insurance Services, LLC in Sweetwater Tennessee, and in particular Jeni Seiler the Managing Partner there kindly took the challenge on and after lots of to-and-fro with Progressive managed to agree some very specific requirements including salvage rights and a $98,000 pay out on the car should the worst happen (roughly £75,000) and in line with the most recent documented valuation on the vehicle agreed by the UK insurers. Importantly, Paramount have made Progressive fully aware of the whole situation so they can calculate the risk and cover accordingly. I’m glad I started the ball rolling on this early in the planning as it was some weeks to finalise.
Cover for the three months the the car is in the US starting 17 May though to the departure of the car before the 16 of July worked out at $1242 with some of that amount to be returned when the policy is terminated once the car is shipped back and unused days calculated.
Once the policy is finalised you get an ID card with the Insurance details on to keep in the car. Hopefully the most this will need to be used for is for talking any curious Highway Patrols through this unusual situation.