VW R32: Importing a vehicle into Canada from the U.S.

I've posted previously that I imported my 2004 VW Golf R32 to Canada from the U.S. when I relocated to the Land of Tim Hortons; here I want to provide some of the details on an initially daunting but ultimately straight-forward process. It goes without saying (though I'm still saying it) that I'm describing my own experience with importing my R32 -- and my memory is already hazy -- and anyone planning on importing a vehicle in to Canada from the U.S. is advised to visit the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) and the U.S. Border Protection Agency (BPA) websites for the latest information.

Read more beneath the fold....

First things first: visit the RIV website for the link to the latest list of admissible vehicles, hosted by Transport Canada. The list will tell you what if any modifications to a stock vehicle are required for importation, and whether it can be imported at all. This list does get updated. For the first few years a 2004 R32 wasn't admissible, but now it is.

It's not necessary to make any modifications prior to importation but once you import the vehicle you have roughly 30-45 days to pass all inspections; hence depending on what's needed you might consider having everything done prior to importing the vehicle into Canada. Caveat: a stock R, despite what RIV computers say, does not require any modifications.

Assuming the vehicle is admissible, then find out which land crossing near you handles exporting/importing vehicles. Not all crossings do. You need to know this ahead of time because the U.S. BPA requires that when exporting a vehicle from the U.S. you need to fax them at least 72h prior (weekends and holidays don't count) a copy of the title. You can also ask for a fax confirmation receipt, which I didn't need but others have found handy. I went via the Queenston-Lewiston border crossing in Ontario.

Before crossing you will also need a Recall Clearance letter from the vehicle manufacturer dated not more than 30 days prior to the importation date. I ended up having to request two letters because my schedule was delayed. VW of America takes 5-7 business days to mail the letter. Also make sure you have the original title. If there are any liens then you will need letters from each lien holder stating that you can export the vehicle. Have the bill of sale and any related receipts ready in case they ask for them at the border.

So... now you have all the documentation you need. In addition, it might be nice to have an idea of what the resale value of the vehicle (eg. from KBB or similar) is in case the particular model is not in the CBSA computer system. My R was not.

Head to the appropriate border. You have to first stop on the U.S. side at the BPA office to which earlier you faxed a copy of your title. All the U.S. officer does is verify that the VIN on the vehicle matches the VIN on the title. No line-ups, it took less than 5 minutes.

Enter Canada.

Stop at the CBSA customs office. Bring in all your documentation. I had to pay tax and duties on the value of my R above $10,000. They accept credit cards. You will fill out a Form 1 and make sure you don't lose it (keep it in the car until you get Canadian tags). You need a Canadian mailing address to complete Form 1. Everything here took me 15-20 minutes.

Whew. Now you're in Canada, free and clear of the border. Mail, courier, fax, or hand deliver the Recall Clearance letter to the RIV office. I went to their office in person to move things along. Once RIV confirms payment of the processing fee (I paid online) and receives the Recall Clearance letter they will issue you an inspection form (Form 2) and a letter stating what if any modifications are required. Inspections and any modifications must be completed within 45 days. You can pick up the Form 2 when you drop off the Recall Clearance letter in person, or they will e-mail, fax, or mail it to the Canadian address you provided on Form 1.

According to the RIV letter my R needed a child safety restraint system installed -- my R already had them. Anywhoo, you need both safety and emission inspections. Safety is where they also check to see whether you've made any required modifications. You need to have done so to pass. I went to Canadian Tire for both inspections with Form 2 in hand. Safety is free, emissions cost me around $100 (?), maybe more. Once you've passed both tests the inspectors are supposed to fax the completed Form 2 to RIV themselves. Make sure you retain your copy.

When RIV receives the completed Form 2 they will mail you a sticker you need to place on the driver's door or door jam.

Once I received my RIV sticker I could now go and get Ontario tags. To get Ontario tags I first needed to get an Ontario drivers license. This took me one beeping hour standing in line, more money, driving records for the past 10 years and my Maryland driving license, which they confiscated.

Next I went to a CAA (Canada Automotive Association) office with my Ontario driving license, title, completed Form 2, proof of Canadian auto insurance, virtual cash in the form of credit, and after 30 minutes in line I walked out with a pair of Ontario plates. My R was now a Canadian citizen.


I think I've written all the important points up there. Nevertheless, just as the R was first inadmissible and then not, it's certainly worthwhile to obtain the latest information from official sources.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. thank you.
    very informative.

    Good to know i need to fork out 10K more on import tax.

    Hope its possible to know the amount before hand....

  3. How much tax did you have to pay? you wrote that you had to pay tax for the car being over $10k but do you remember how much that was?

    Im planning on importing an R32 also, but wanted to know for sure if its possible. many thanks

  4. To clarify, I paid tax on the value of the car above $10,000.

    For example: if the resale value is $15,000 then you would only need to pay tax on $5,000. So if the tax was 5%, then you pay $250 at the border.

    I also advise anyone to double-check whether they qualify for the "$10,000 resale value exemption." With my situation (personal vehicle; was living in the U.S. but now moving to Canada) I qualified, but I seem to recall that not every situation does.

    As for finding out the resale value, you can check a site like Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds both online.

  5. Another note about estimating beforehand how much tax you'll have to pay: I seem to recall that the tax rate is provincial, or provincial plus federal, so it might vary depending on which provincial border crossing you're using.

    Current tax rates are available at the CBSA/RIV websites (links in this post's first paragraph).

    Finally, if you sell the vehicle within one year of importation then additional taxes/duties will be charged.

  6. Having imported a new Mk5, you will be hit for IMPORT DUTY of 6.1% in addition to GST of 5% as aside from the Beetle and Jetta, all other VW/Audi vehicles are made in Germany or Austria and as such are not NAFTA-exempt.


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