One of the ordeals we had to deal with concurrent with the acquisition of Nathalie’s visa was importing our car to the US from Canada. It was a minor headache compared to the visa problems, but it didn’t help having to deal with both at the same time. Luckily although both were big problems, they were the only problems encountered during the move.
Earlier last year, a few months before the move, I started doing research on what was necessary to import our car to the US that we had bought in Canada. As with most things that involve bureaucracy, it was unclear what was necessary. I searched through the websites on multiple occasions and determined that we would likely need to fill out paperwork and maybe pay some fees when crossing the border with the car. A letter from the manufacturer stating that the car met safety standards would be necessary. But it would be up to the border agent whether the paperwork and fees would be necessary. So I proceeded to contact Hyundai and they sent a letter stating that it meets Canadian safety standards.
In June when I moved the bulk of our stuff to the US, the car stayed in Canada with my wife and kids so they would have transportation. Since I would be living in the city, I would not need a car much and could take public transportation. In August when I brought the girls to Chicago, I also brought the remainder of our stuff along with the car. I was incredibly nervous as we approached the border. The best case scenario in my mind was that they would just wave us through without any paperwork. The worst case scenario was that they would reject our entry of the car into the states and I would be forced to drive all the way back to Montreal and find an alternate way back to Chicago with the girls. When we pulled up to the customs officer, I stated that I am bringing my daughters, some personal items, and I am importing the car to the US. He took a bit longer than usual, then waved us through. I was elated that we made it through without incident.
The next week after returning to the US, I took the car to the department of motor vehicles to transfer the title and get plates. Since they had never seen the Quebec title registration, they told me to get a letter from my wife stating that I could transfer the vehicle on her behalf and to fill out some forms. So I sent the forms back to my wife in Montreal by regular mail. Unfortunately that took over two weeks and she was forced to send back the signed forms by FedEx. So then I returned to the department of motor vehicles and after looking through the forms, they said that I needed to contact the port authority in order to get a letter stating that the car has officially been imported. The port authority then suggested that I go through a customs house. Now given that I had been having so much trouble with the acquisition of the visa, I felt it was no longer worth it to try doing these things myself, so I contacted one of the customs houses. They pointed out that I needed a letter from the Canadian manufacturer stating that the car meets US highway and EPA standards. I tried multiple times contacting both the Canadian and US manufacturers of Hyundai to see how to get this letter. It soon became apparent that the Canadian manufacturer would not issue a letter stating that their car meets US standards and the US manufacturer would not issue a letter stating that the Canadian car meets US standards.
So without the letter needed to import the car, we were left with no choice but to repatriate the car to Canada and sell it there. Then return to the US and buy a car to replace it. One lucky break was that my wife was still in Montreal and would have two weeks in order to sell the car. But the ordeal did not end there. The port authority required that I have a customs officer sign a paper to state that I had re-exported the car to Canada. I started to research how I could possibly do this. Most of the big border stations like at Detroit do not allow you to pull over to the border station on your side of the border. But since I had worked on some of the smaller stations near the Canadian border with New York and Vermont, I knew that those would allow this to be done. So that’s what I did. I pulled up to a station in New York state and asked them to sign a form stating that I was exporting the car. They thought is was ridiculous since I could cross the border, drive 20 miles over the the next station, and bring it right back in. Luckily it was during working hours so my contact at the port authority (the guy who required this) was still at work and talked to the agent in order to get what he wanted. It meant spending over an hour in a house converted into a border station, but I didn’t care if it cleared things up. But that, again, was still not the end of the ordeal.
Once the car was back in Canada, my wife began the process of selling it. We tried a dealer, but he offer half of what we eventually got. She got a good offer and had me sign the necessary paperwork for her to sell it on her own. But once they got to the department of motor vehicle, the agent found out that I had missed a signature. Fortunately the buyer did not walk away and could wait until my return to Canada the following weekend. So we return to the department of motor vehicles the following weekend, we had a minor panic since I forgot my Quebec drivers license at home, but in the end the title is transferred. But once again the ordeal is not over. We asked the buyer to come with us to the bank to be sure that the check clears and given our luck, our bank found that the cashier’s check was never signed by the bank. So we drove back to the buyers bank, they issued another cashier’s check, we return to our bank, and finally the ordeal was over. This was resolved around the same time as the visa issues so it made for a time of great relief.
Given this ordeal, I will never buy a Hyundai again. At one point I talked with someone at the EPA and they told me that Hyundai, Kia, and Chrysler are the only companies that do not issue letters of compliance between the US and Canada. He was surprised since every other manufacturer seems to have no problem issuing these. Since Honda was always a brand that I had admired and since we have a relative working at a dealership, we bought a similar model from the same year (6 years old). We don’t need a new car since our driving needs have greatly diminished since moving to the city. It was difficult to have this happen concurrently with the visa problems, but it made it all the more sweeter when they were resolved at almost the same time.