Importing a Car and Household Items To the USA as a Foreigner


Importing a Car and Household Items To the USA as a Foreigner

Real Estate Tips for North Texas and the World

Have you decided to relocate to the U.S. from another country abroad, but aren’t sure where to start? This is a common situation, as moving your household goods through customs can be an intimidating proposition. The good news is, with the right knowledge under your belt (and the help of a qualified international mover), you can position yourself for the smoothest transition possible. To help you get a better sense of what this process entails, here’s an overview of what you’ll need to know.

Taxes and Duties: Your Household Items

Exempt Items

Moving to the U.S. long-term doesn’t mean you’ll be hit with outrageous fees for the privilege – as you can currently import most of your household items without paying any taxes or duties. This is a tremendous benefit, as some other nations around the globe aren’t as lenient.

In order to be exempt from the regular import taxes and duties, there are a few regulations which you’ll need to fulfill. First, you must show that the goods you’re bringing in, were used by you in your previous residence abroad for a minimum of one year (1). Items that are brand new or you’ve purchased within the last year, are not eligible for tax and duty exemption.

Second, you can only receive the exemption if you have the appropriate visa. See here for more information on the type you will need. Finally, items you plan to use commercially typically won’t be exempt – though professional equipment you purchased and used in a foreign country is often eligible for exemption (2). To learn more, it is recommended that you contact U.S. customs before packing up your shipment.

Dutiable Items

Like nearly every other country on the planet, the U.S. will charge you import duties on specific items. These include alcohol and tobacco above the duty-free limit, which is currently set at 1 liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes and 100 cigars. These limits are subject to change, so it is highly recommended that you check first with customs before proceeding with your move.

Also, there are additional regulations governing these kinds of specific items, which may pertain to your situation. Examples include Cuban cigars being illegal to import and the requirement that you be over 21 years old to bring in liquor (3).

Forms and Documents: Your Household Items

Customs Forms

Moving your belongings across a border usually comes with a slew of paperwork for you to complete. U.S. customs is no exception, and you’ll need to present officials with Customs and Border Protection Form 6059B at your point of entry. Keep in mind this form is only used if you’re accompanying your goods in person, and it is filled out once you arrive.

However, you may not be planning to travel with your shipment of household goods. In this case, you’ll need to submit CBP Form 3299, which is titled the “Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles” (4). A full inventory must also be completed, and you’ll have to produce it upon request.

Also, be aware that customs will view this inventory as your packing list, and general descriptions regarding your shipment are insufficient. Instead, this inventory should be detailed and complete to avoid problems (5). Finally, you may also need CBP form 7501, which is the customs Entry Summary (6).

Other Documents Required

In addition to the customs forms mentioned above, you’ll need your passport and a copy of your visa or permanent residence card. You may also need your I-94 stamp or card, and a copy of either your

Air Waybill or Original Bill of Lading. Other required documents may include a completed food questionnaire and even an Importers Security Filing if applicable to your situation (7).

Taxes and Duties: Your Vehicle


If you import your personal vehicle within one year of moving to the U.S., you’ll be exempt from the typical duties that are imposed. That’s assuming you have the appropriate visa and meet the regulations required to bring in your other household goods duty-free.

For a vehicle that was brought in exempt from taxes and duties, it must meet U.S. safety and emission standards. Otherwise, it can only stay in the country for one year, after which time you must export it. Also, if your vehicle doesn’t pass U.S. safety and emission standards – you’re not permitted to sell it in the country. Finally, if it doesn’t comply with these standards, you may be required to ship it using an independent commercial importer (if you can’t obtain an exemption).

Non-Exempt Duty Rates

If for some reason you don’t meet the requirements for duty-free importation – then you should expect to pay the regular rate. Currently this stands at 2.5% for automobiles. This figure is significantly higher for trucks, set at 25% duty for importation of this vehicle class. Finally, if you’re planning to bring in your motorcycle, then the duty can range from nothing up to 2.4%.

Keep in mind, these duty rates apply to both brand new and used vehicles. It also doesn’t matter if you’re importing the vehicle to use for yourself or to resell (8).

Forms and Documents: Your Vehicle

Required Paperwork

Your vehicle won’t be allowed into the country without the correct documentation. Required paperwork includes the Bill of Sale for your vehicle, foreign registration and the original Bill of Lading or Air Waybill. Additional paperwork that pertains to your vehicle should also be presented to customs.

The specific customs forms that you’ll need include DOT form HS-7 and EPA form 3520-1. These certify that your vehicle meets the safety and emissions standards required by U.S. law.

If your vehicle doesn’t fulfill these requirements, it may be allowed in for the space of one year – after which time it will have to be exported.

Standard Compliance

Otherwise, if you’re planning to keep your vehicle in the country for longer than this timeframe – it will need to comply with the emission and safety regulations. If it does not, you can pay an independent commercial importer to modify it, but this process is typically cost-prohibitive (9).

Additional Requirements

These are not the only regulations that govern vehicle importation, and customs has additional requirements which you must follow. These include having your vehicle free of personal goods – meaning you can’t use your vehicle to transport your household items inside it. The undercarriage of your vehicle is also required to be spray or steam cleaned, in order to remove any dirt.

Also, if your vehicle is less than 40 years old (built after September 1st, 1978), it’s required to comply

with the bumper standard. Vehicles 31 years old and newer are required to comply with DOT’s theft-prevention regulations (10). Again, this list of additional standards may not be exhaustive, so you should always contact U.S. customs before proceeding with the importation of your shipment.

About the Author of this Guest Post

Jason Mueller owns a long distance and state to state moving service!

He helps families through the hard process of moving state to state and more.

Be sure to check out A-1 Auto Transport.





(2) Goods for commercial use are not exempt: -

Professional equipment bought and used outside the country is often exempt: -Found in Servile Relocations USA Customs pdf



(5) Ibid.


(7) Ibid.


(9) Ibid.

(10) Ibid.

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