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Learn how to import cars from the United States into Canada
Glossary
This section is intended to help UCanImport Subscribers "decode the jargon" they will come across during the importation process.

If there is a word or phrase that is not listed and should be added for fellow importers, contact us at or by using the online inquiry form.

Glossary of Importing Terms & Phrases
Term/Phrase Definition
ABA Code Obtained from the receiving or seller's financial institution, this nine-digit sequence is used to identify domestic financial institutions in order to complete domestic electronic fund transfers.
Aftermarket Warranty In situations where the manufacturer does not honour the factory warranty on a vehicle imported to Canada or where the existing warranty is about to expire, you can obtain aftermarket coverage for your vehicle. Also referred to as third party warranties, they can be customized to suit your driving needs and allow you the freedom of buying a vehicle in the U.S. knowing this asset can be fully covered.
Bill of Sale Also known as a Purchase Order, this document confirms your vehicle purchase and the transfer of ownership of the vehicle from the seller to the purchaser.
Canadian Border
Service Agency
The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) is the office of the Canada's border services. This is the office at the border which will process your vehicle importation and issue the Form 1 and the Casual Goods Accounting Document. For more information, review Section 7: Requirements at the Canadian Border in the UCanImport importation guide.
Canadian Certification
Label
Also known as the Canadian Statement of Compliance (SOC) label, it is issued by RIV and mailed to you with instructions on where to affix it on your vehicle. You should receive this label within a month of passing your federal and provincial inspections.
Canadian Trip Permit This permit is required to operate your imported vehicle after you have arrived at your residence in Canada. It enables you to complete your modification and inspection appointments. A Canadian Trip Permit can be valid for 1 or more days depending on your province of residence; the permit can be also be issued free of charge with certain types of Temporary Insurance Binders. In Ontario there are time limits to applying for a Canadian Trip Permit, so please contact your auto insurer for more information.
Casual Goods
Accounting Document
This form shows all the payments that you will make through the CBSA office on the date of import. Payment may include duty and the green levy, and will definitly include the GST. You must safeguard this document throughout your modification and inspection processes and submit it to your auto insurer when you are ready to register your vehicle. The Provincial Sales Tax (PST), if applicable, will be calculated using the values on this document.
Compliance Work A series of modifications required to satisfy Canadian Safety Standards. Includes daytime running lights, child seat anchor, child restraint kit and the like. For some manufacturers, this compliance work must be performed at one of the manufacturer's representative dealerships in Canada, and a Letter of Compliance will be issued when the vehicle is confirmed to meet Canadian Safety Standards. For more information, see Section 8: Completing the Importation Process in the UCanImport importation guide.
Date of Import This is the date shown on Form 1, and it confirms the date your vehicle crossed the border into Canada.
Escrow Services Escrow services refer to the involvement of a 3rd-party that holds funds in an escrow account until the buyer and seller confirm that they are finalizing a vehicle deal. The funds are transferred by the purchaser in advance to the escrow service and held in an escrow account for the seller. The funds are then released to the seller when the buyer has seen the vehicle and has agreed to complete the purchase. The seller is informed that the funds are held for them pending confirmation of a firm deal. This system is particularly useful when the seller is a private party and the buyer and seller have no background information on each other. There is a fee charged by escrow services (UCanImport recommends www.escrow.com), but it offers "peace of mind".
Federal Inspection This is a federally regulated vehicle safety inspection. It can be completed at any designated inspection centre shown on Form 2 (Federal Inspection Form) and the fee for the inspection is covered by the RIV importation fee. The inspection verifies that all required modifications (through a garage, dealership or third-party mechanic) or compliance work (through the manufacturer's representative dealership) have been completed, and that your vehicle meets Canadian Safety Standards. You must pass this inspection before your vehicle can be registered in Canada. When you pass this inspection, the inspection centre will complete your Form 2 and submit it to RIV (with a copy to you).
Field Name Each letter or digit in the 17-character VIN is called a Field. Each Field corresponds to an item that relates to the origin and manufacturing of the vehicle in question. Each corresponding Field has a name, such as Country of Origin, Date of Manufacture etc. Together, this sequence of characters identifies your vehicle and all aspects related to its origin.
Foreign Exchange
Merchant
Foreign exchange refers to the buying and selling of money from one currency to another and a Foreign Exchange Merchant, also called a Foreign Exchange Service Provider (FESP) or forex broker, helps you in this activity. These organizations generally offer you rates more favourable rates than your local bank and can lock in rates, which mitigates any unfavourable volatility when making big ticket purchases. For more information, visit the Foreign Exchange Merchants section of this web site.
Foreign Exchange Receipt A receipt from a financial institution (bank, foreign exchange merchant etc.) that shows the applied exchange rate for the currency conversion from Canadian dollars to US dollars.
Form 1 This is the first form that you will receive from the CBSA office on the date of import. The number in the top right hand corner (red characters, typically beginning with a J) is used for all communications with RIV and is known as your Case Number. Form 1 is required for federal and provincial inspections at designated inspection centres prior to registering your vehicle.
Form 2
(Vehicle Inspection Form)
Form 2 is sent to you by RIV upon receipt of the Recall Clearance Letter, Form 1, and fee payment. Form 2 details the modification work required to make your imported vehicle Canadian Safety Standards compliant and it is required to complete the federal inspection. For vehicle imports where a Recall Clearance Letter is not issued until the manufacturer's representative dealership has completed all modifications, you will have to submit a Letter of Compliance to RIV to receive Form 2. This process is covered in detail in Section 3: Prior to Purchasing Your Vehicle and Section 8: Completing the Importation Process in the UCanImport importation guide.
General Inquiry Number The General Inquiry Number (GIN) is assigned to your file by RIV when you complete the pre-crossing submission of your documents, such as Recall Clearance Letter. Contact RIV after faxing or e-mailing documents and obtain this number. Use it for your communication with RIV until your importation is completed.
GST Goods and Services Tax. Currently calculated at 5% of the Bill of Sale or Vehicle Purchase Order, and payable by credit card, debit card or certified cheque at the CBSA office on the date of import.
Import Duty A 6.1% tariff collected by CBSA on vehicles manufactured outside of North America (USA, Canada and Mexico). If applicable, the vehicle price is grossed up by the 6.1% tariff before GST is calculated.
Letter of Admissibility A document issued by the Canadian office of the auto manufacturer that informs CBSA and RIV that the vehicle you have selected is allowed into Canada. The Letter of Admissibility is specific to a VIN and can only be requested from the auto manufacturer when you have the VIN of your target vehicle. The Letter of Admissibility is required for all BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Land Rover, and Volvo imports at this time, and is usually sent by mail. All vehicles that require a Letter of Admissibility will also require a Letter of Compliance from the manufacturers' authorized representative, and will be subject to additional administration fees as detailed in Section 3: Prior to Purchasing Your Vehicle in the UCanImport importation guide.
Letter of Compliance A letter that you receive from the Canadian office of the auto manufacturer after completion of required compliance work at one of its representative dealerships. To receive Form 2, the Letter of Compliance has to be received by RIV following successful completion of all modifications. All vehicles that require a Letter of Admissibility will also require a Letter of Compliance from the manufacturer's authorized representative, and will be subject to additional administration fees. This part of the importation process is covered in Section 3: Prior to Purchasing Your Vehicle in the UCanImport importation guide.
Lien A lien is a claim on a vehicle by another party, usually a finance company. Where there is a lien on a vehicle you plan to import, the lien must be fully paid and a Lien Release obtained in addition to a Title Certificate. When a lien has been paid, the new owner has full ownership of the vehicle, when the Title Certificate is also obtained and signed off to the new owner. Some states will only have electronic titles when there is a lien on the vehicle, and the issuance of a hardcopy Title Certificate may take several weeks through the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Lien Release A document that is issued by the state confirming that the lien on a motor vehicle has been removed. This document, along with a Title Certificate, show that the purchaser is now the owner of the asset.
Manufacturer Recall A voluntary service action initiated by the auto manufacturer to correct a vehicle defect. Affected vehicles vary based on model year, build dates, manufacturing plant, and vehicle options. All recall work must be completed in the U.S., and a Recall Clearance Letter received by RIV together with a work order, before the vehicle is imported into Canada. For vehicle imports where a Recall Clearance Letter is not issued until the manufacturer's representative dealership in Canada has completed all modifications, you will have to submit a Letter of Compliance to RIV confirming that there are no recalls outstanding on your import. For more information, refer to Section 8: Completing the Importation Process in the UCanImport importation guide.
Manufacturer's Warranty Also known as a factory warranty, this is a guarantee by the auto manufacturer to complete any necessary repairs, at no charge to the owner, for defective materials or improper manufacture. Usual terms are 4 or 5 years or 80,000 to 100,000 kilometres. Some manufactures will void the warranty on imported vehicles. For a listing of warranty policies by manufacturer, click here.

Many vehicle importers consider purchasing a third-party warranty as an equal or better substitute to the factory warranty where the factory warranty is void or has expired.

Manufacturer's Statement
of Origin
The Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO) is a certificate issued by the manufacturer of the vehicle you have purchased from the U.S. It is an accepted alternative to a Title Certificate in the event you are purchasing a brand new vehicle. It must be submitted to the CBP office where you intend to cross - in place of the Title Certificate - a minimum of 72 hours in advance of your planned crossing. See Section 5: 72 hours prior to collecting your new vehicle in the U.S. in the UCanImport importation guide.
NAFTA North American Free Trade Agreement; "tons of paperwork" that supposedly allow free trade between the USA, Canada and Mexico. As witnessed by some of the price protectionism tactics currently underway, the benefits of NAFTA are being questioned all the time, especially when some auto manufacturers are instructing their dealerships not to sell new vehicles to Canadians. Best interpreted by lawyers and politicians as evidenced by the number of court cases in process in Canada.
Port of Entry A site where one may lawfully enter a country, usually a border crossing, airport or shipping port. For a listing of border crossings that process vehicle imports into Canada click here. All vehicles must be officially exported out of the United States before they can be imported into Canada.
Provincial Inspection In addition to a federal safety inspection, your vehicle will have to undergo a provincial safety inspection conducted by a designated inspector in your province. This inspection is necessary before you complete your vehicle registration in Canada. For a database of designated inspection centres in your province, please visit the UCanImport blog and type the name of your province in the white search field on the top left-hand corner of the page. These links are being updated constantly and your feedback for your province's unique requirements are always welcome.
Private Vehicle
Inspection Report
This form is received after successful completion of the provincial vehicle safety inspection. The inspection center in your province will place a sticker on the top of the page of the Private Vehicle Inspection Report when you pass the test. This form must be kept with the vehicle at all times, even after registration. For a database of designated inspection centres in your province, please visit the UCanImport blog and type the name of your province in the white search field on the top left-hand corner of the page. These links are being updated constantly and your feedback for your province's unique requirements are always welcome.
PST The Provincial Sales Tax is calculated on the purchase price of your imported vehicle when you prepare to register it in your province of residence, if applicable. In BC the PST will increase via a Luxury Surtax for the importation of luxury vehicles.
Purchase Order Also known as a Bill of Sale, this document confirms your vehicle purchase and the transfer of ownership of the vehicle from the seller to the purchaser.
Recall Clearance Letter Recall clearance information is mandatory for importing a vehicle from the United States. A vehicle that has an outstanding recall may not be imported into Canada until the recall work has been completed and a work order is submitted to RIV. To obtain a Recall Clearance Letter or acceptable substitute you will need to follow the instructions in Section 3: Prior to purchasing your vehicle in the UCanImport importation guide. For vehicles that require a Letter of Admissibility (Currently BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo), a Recall Clearance Letter will be included within the Letter of Compliance issued by the manufacturers' authorized representative after you have completed your importation, and will be subject to additional administration fees as detailed in the UCanImport guide.
RIV The Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) has been retained by Transport Canada to oversee the requirements of importing vehicles from the United States. RIV is a national program of vehicle inspection, certification and registration, and its representatives are there to help you complete your importation process. The UCanImport guide expands on the requirements of the RIV program and identifies it as one component of the many other aspects that govern the success of your importation process.
U.S. State Sales Tax The State Tax is levied on the retail price of merchandise including vehicle purchases if sold to residents of the State with the intention of registering the vehicle within the State. Most States will exempt an out-of-state vehicle purchaser from paying this tax if the vehicle will either be transported out-of-state or driven out-of-state. Some states offer the option of an exemption by signing an Out-of-State Delivery Affidavit, where certain qualifications are met.
Statement of
Compliance Label
The Statement of Compliance (SOC) sticker is found along the driver's door jam or on the firewall of the vehicle. It shows where the vehicle was manufactured, date of manufacture and bears a symbol that signifies that it meets North American standards.
Temporary Insurance
Binder
A Temporary Insurance Binder is issued to vehicle importers and provides liability and/or full coverage insurance for temporary vehicle use. Temporary insurance is required to cover your vehicle when driving or transporting it from the U.S. Some provinces, such as Alberta, will issue full insurance coverage with proof of vehicle purchase prior to completion of the importation. Most provinces will issue 10-day binders (or longer) to offer you protection for the period it will take to bring the vehicle into Canada, complete the modifications on your vehicle, and complete your federal and provincial inspections.
Third-party Warranty In situations where the manufacturer does not honour the factory warranty on a vehicle imported to Canada or where the existing warranty is about to expire, you can otain third-party coverage for your vehicle. These warranties can be customized to suit your driving needs and allow you the freedom of buying any vehicle in the U.S. and knowing that this asset can be covered.
Title Certificate A Title Certificate shows that you have a legal right to possess the vehicle. Some States will provide only electronic titles to vehicle owners, especially in cases where the vehicle has a lien against it. You will not be allowed to complete your vehicle export out of the United States until you submit a copy of the Title Certificate (back and front) to the U.S. border office. UCanImport recommends that you also be certain that a hardcopy Title Certificate will be available from the seller before you complete your vehicle purchase.
U.S. State
Trip Permit
A U.S. State Trip Permit allows for temporary operation of currently unregistered vehicles. Usually a one-time permit that is vehicle, route and load specific, and shows both origin and destination. Can have validity of up to 30 days, but immediately loses validity upon reaching your destination in Canada. This permit can be issued by dealerships or State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs). Visit the Trip Permits section of this web site for more detailed information organized by state.
Vehicle Damage
Report
A report resulting from an inspection of the car's interior and exterior condition; helps the new owner identify in-transit damage. Similar to damage reports you must sign when renting a vehicle.
Vehicle Export
Worksheet
A formal cover page required by US Customs Border Protection (CBP) to verify VIN, make, manufacturer, seller and current owner prior to export. Must be completed and sent along with the Title (MSO), Bill of Sale (Purchase Order) and Lien Release to CBP office 72 hours prior to crossing the border. To download this worksheet, visit the Border Crossings section of this web site and select the border crossing nearest you.
Vehicle Inspection Form Refer to Form 2 above.
Vehicle Identification
Number
Also known as a Serial Number, The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is a sequence of 17-characters is assigned by the manufacturer and unique to every vehicle. The VIN is found on the dashboard identification plate, on the doorpost, and on the engine firewall.

Help us keep this information up to date! If you find any discrepancies, omissions or broken links, please let us know at or by using the online inquiry form. We will make the update(s) immediately for the benefit of all fellow vehicle importers.



Importation Management Services

Are you interested in taking advantage of the great vehicle selection and pricing in the United States, but would prefer to have an expert by your side throughout the importation process? UCanImport offers its professional importation management services to ensure your importation goes smoothly. Click here for more details.