The Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance (OVSC) has expanded the current Importation and Certification Division web site to include a section entitled “Frequently Asked Questions.” In this section we have attempted to address some common questions and concerns that the office deals with on a regular basis. If your question has not been addressed, please refer to Related Government Agencies for further assistance.
A vehicle that was not originally manufactured to conform to all applicable FMVSS cannot be lawfully imported into the U.S. unless it is first determined by NHTSA to be eligible for importation. The agency makes these decisions on the basis of petitions from RIs. RIs are business entities that are specifically licensed by NHTSA to import nonconforming vehicles and to perform the necessary modifications on those vehicles so that they conform to all applicable FMVSS. Unless you are an RI, you would not be able to petition the agency to determine your vehicle eligible for importation.
The petition can be based on the substantial similarity of the vehicle to a vehicle of the same make, model, and model year that was certified by its original manufacturer as conforming to all applicable FMVSS. If there is no substantially similar U.S.-certified vehicle, the petition must specify that the vehicle has safety features that comply with, or are capable of being altered to comply with, the FMVSS based on destructive test information or other evidence the agency deems adequate.
An additional requirement for the lawful importation of a nonconforming vehicle is that it be imported by an RI or by an individual who has contracted with an RI to bring the vehicle into conformity with all applicable FMVSS. Only an RI may perform the necessary vehicle modifications and certify compliance of the vehicle to all applicable FMVSS. A bond in an amount equivalent to 150 percent of the declared value of the vehicle must be given at the time of importation to ensure that the necessary modifications are completed within 120 days from the vehicle's date of entry or the vehicle is exported from, or abandoned to, the U.S.
A list of RIs can be found on NHTSA’s website at nhtsa.gov/importing-vehicle. You might want to contact one or more of the listed RIs to obtain their opinion on the feasibility of conforming the vehicle that you seek to import to the U.S., the costs involved in petitioning the agency to determine that vehicle to be eligible for importation, and the costs for conforming the vehicle to applicable FMVSS.
If you have a question about a particular import eligibility petition, you should visit the agency’s website at nhtsa.gov/importing-vehicle. There you will find information on accessing a copy of the petition from the DOT Docket website, or requesting one from the agency's Technical Information Services Division if it is not available from the DOT online Regulations.gov.