Thinking about importing a car from Mexico to Canada? There is some leg work involved. Here is what you need to know about the import process.
1. It starts with Canada’s Registrar of Imported Vehicles Program
Transport Canada has set up a national certification program called the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (the “RIV Program”). The purpose of the RIV Program is to ensure that vehicles imported to Canada meet Canadian vehicle safety standards. It applies to cars, trucks, busses, and motorcycles purchased in Mexico.
2. Check if your car is eligible for import to Canada
There are two ways a vehicle can be eligible for import from Mexico to Canada:
- Some types of vehicles can be imported only if they are registered in the RIV Program. Check Transport Canada’s Vehicle Import Compatibility List (VIC List) to find out if your vehicle requires registration.
- Other vehicles can be brought into Canada without registration under the RIV Program. Exemptions include vehicles that are more than 15 years old, non-regulated vehicles, and vehicles that are imported temporarily (see section #4 below for more on temporary vehicle imports).
If your car doesn’t qualify for importation under one those two options, it can’t be imported into Canada from Mexico.
3. Follow the pre- and post-border process
You are responsible for researching your vehicle’s eligibility for importation before arrival at the Canadian border. The RIV importer checklist is a great resource to ensure your car is eligible and that you have the proper paperwork (e.g., valid vehicle registration documentation from Mexico).
Before arriving at the border, contact your vehicle insurance provider and the Canadian provincial or territorial licensing authority to determine what (if any) requirements you must meet to import, licence, and insure your vehicle in that province or territory.
When you arrive at the border, you must declare the vehicle being imported using the Vehicle Import Form, also known as the Form-1. You can fill out the Vehicle Import E-form in advance, print it, then give it to the customs officers at the border. You will have to pay any applicable taxes, import fees, and RIV Program fees.
After arriving in Canada, your vehicle must be inspected at an official RIV-authorized inspection center within a set time period. The inspection must take place before your vehicle can be registered by the provincial or territorial licensing authority.
4. Temporary vehicle imports
Different rules apply to vehicles imported temporarily for personal use while in Canada. For example, your vehicle is exempt from registration in the RIV Program if you are bringing it to Canada while you are:
- A visitor for a term not exceeding 12 months;
- A temporary resident while studying at an educational institution; or
- A worker with a valid work permit for a term of employment not exceeding 36 months.
If you become a permanent resident, your vehicle can’t be considered a temporary entry and you have to follow Transport Canada’s import requirements.