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Mar 27, 2022

How to Legally Import a S15, or R34 GT-R to the USA

2001 Nissan Silvia S15. US legal in 2026
2001 Nissan Silvia S15. US legal in 2026

Under 49 U.S.C. § 30112(a), a person may not permanently import into the United States a motor vehicle manufactured after the date that an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) takes effect unless the vehicle complies with the standard and is so certified by its original manufacturer. This prohibition applies to both new and used motor vehicles, but does not apply to motor vehicles that are at least 25 years old (based on the month and year of manufacture).

With all the recent news about Soho Imports, its time once again to revisit the rules and regulations about importing vehicles to the US. Importing isn't title. Importing isn't registration. The Federal Government doesn't care if you don't like, or don't agree with the rules.  There are paths and methods to legally import vehicles temporarily and permanently into the US. However most people, as seen by all these shady importers and title services in Florida, think they are immune to the rules and regulations. 

They think they have found a loophole, when in fact they are illegally importing black market cars.  Florida was the wild, wild west of car importing and titling, but I suspect it will be much more difficult to do this same thing again there anytime soon. However there are still guys out there all over the country, marching to their own beat.  If you want to buy a vehicle that isn't yet 25 years old and store it in Japan until it is legal, Toprank Importers can provide that service

HS7 rev 9 2-2020

The ways to properly declare a car with the NHTSA , EPA, and US Customs and Border Patrol/DHS. 


Permanent means the vehicle is a "consumption" entry or allowed in the US forever. The importer will also need to fill in a 3520-1 for EPA.   Temporary means some certain amount of time, which is normally a year, then must be exported or destroyed.  Most temporary imports have a bond of 150% of the value of the vehicle. 

Buy and store a vehicle in Japan until its 25 years old at Toprank Importers

These are HS7 or NHTSA requirements. 


Box 1. Permanent import over 25 years old

Box 2A. Permanent the vehicle conforms with standards.

Box 2B. Permanent the vehicle conforms to Canadian standards, needs a manufacturers letter. 

Box 3. Permanent the vehicle can be brought into compliance. The important part being can be. It doesn't mean the car can be imported without bringing it up to standards. An RI must import, the vehicle must be bonded. 

Box 4. Temporary the vehicle is imported for export.

Box 5. Temporary the vehicle is imported by a NON RESIDENT for up to a year, then will be exported. 

Box 6. Temporary the vehicle is imported by a diplomat for personal use. Will not be sold in the US, and when leaving the country will be exported. 

Box 7. Temporary the vehicle is imported for research, investigation, demonstrations or training, or competitive racing events. NHTSA permission letter is required. 

Box 8. Permanent the vehicle was not manufactured primarily for use on the roads, aka race car. 

Box 9. Temporary the vehicle is incomplete.

Box 10. Permanent the vehicle is eligible under Show or Display. NHTSA permission letter required. 

Box 11. Permanent The equipment is subject to 40 CFR 541 and marked as such

Box 12. Temporary the vehicle is owned by a member of the armed forces of a FOREIGN country on assignment in the US. The vehicle will not be sold, and will be exported at the conclusion of tour of duty. 

The 3520-1 or EPA requirements

US Conforming and "identical vehicles

Code B - US certified unmodified vehicle with a US emissions label

Code F - US certified, catalyst restoration - US certified, except needs some work to be brought back into full compliance

Code EE - identical in all material respects to a US certified version - either a Canadian certified vehicle, or a vehicle that was sold in another country, and has a letter from the manufactures US representative. 

Code FF - Canadian "identical" models imported for resale or lease


EPA Exempted Vehicles


Code M - miscellaneous exemption either Canadian that is emigrating to the US, inheritance, or EPA hardship letter. 

Code E- vehicles at least 21 years old are either exempted or excluded. 

Code L -racing vehicle 40CFR85.1511(e) with EPA approval letter

Code U - 2005 or older motorcycle, scooter, or moped with engine displacement less than 50 cc and rated speed greater than 5000 rpm.

Code W - non chassis mounted engine to be used in a car or truck, that is covered by an EPA certificate of conformity

Code Y - unregulated fuel. Earlier than 1991 other than gas or diesel. 1991-1996 other than gas, diesel, or methanol. 1997 and later operates on fuel other than gas, diesel, methanol or ethanol, or compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquid petroleum gas (LPG). This does not apply to 2004 or later vehicles.


Temporary Imports


Code G - imported for repair or alteration. Bond required. EPA approval letter required

Code I - imported for testing. May not be registered or licensed for road use. Bond required. EPA approval letter required

Code K - imported for display. May not be registered or licensed for road use. Bond required. EPA approval letter required

Code N - imported by FOREIGN service member or government official. 

Code O - imported by a NON RESIDENT for personal use for up to a year. EPA approval letter required



Independent commercial importer (ICI) imports


Code A - Imported by ICI for modifications under a valid EPA certificate of conformity

Code C- Imported by ICI for modifications and testing, must be at least 6 years old

Code J - Imported by ICI for pre-certification testing

Code Z -Imported by ICI for modifications to be identical to an OEM version


OEM imports


Code H - imported, owned, and controlled by an OEM in accordance with 40CFR85.1706

Code Q - imported, owned, and controlled by an OEM for storage pending EPA certificate of conformity

EPA form 3520-1. Updated February 2021. OMB 2060-0717 Approval expires June 30,2023

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