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Driving US Plated Car in Canada; Will Cause Issues Later?

Discussion in 'Settlement Issues' started by Maizymiller, Oct 17, 2011.

  1. Dear Folks,

    A Canadian citizen attempted to drive a US-plated car from Canada to US (with permission of the US citizen-owner of the vehicle) and was stopped by Canadian and US immigration officials, citing that a Canadian citizen is not permitted to drive a US-plated vehicle in Canada. They were not permitted to enter the US, and they were told that a notation would be made in their passport "file" that they attempted to drive a US-plated car from Canada to US. What issues could that cause in the future when/if this person wants to enter the US (properly and legally), driving a Canada-plated vehicle or travel by air?

    Thanks for a response.
  2. Of which country is this person a resident? I can find no law that prohibits a Canadian resident from "driving" a U.S. plated vehicle in Canada. The Customs Act prohibits a Canadian resident from "using" a non-resident's car in Canada if duties have not been paid, but it appears it would be the owner of the vehicle who is in violation of the Customs Act, not the driver. All U-Haul trucks have U.S. plates, even the ones in Canada. The issue is not where the plates are from, but whether or not duties have been paid.

    US CBP is able to take into consideration a wide range of factors in determining your admissibility to the U.S. They may think that driving a U.S. plated car into the U.S. is some kind of indication that you are not being honest about your intentions or that you are illegally living in the U.S. Still, I doubt it is illegal per se for a Canadian resident to drive a U.S. plated vehicle into the U.S. I have done it a few times actually w/o a problem, much different circumstances however.

    What happened to the car?
  3. Dear Links18, Person driving the car was Canadian, and car (with US plate) was owned by a friend who was a U.S. citizen. The Canadian was driving the car to the US as a favor to their US friend. Canadian was stopped at the border and not permitted to enter with the car (even with a letter in hand from the owner, stating they were permitted to use it). The Canadian is concerned now that future attempts to enter US for vacation or pleasure will be restricted because of this original incident. Any thoughts? Thanks.
  4. An American friend of mine is in Canada on a visitor record for one year waiting out a protracted spousal PR process with her husband. They have one US plated vehicle-hers. Last year the Canadian husband drove her down to Buffalo to catch a flight. When he tried to cross back into Canada with her vehicle, permission to drive, proof of both her current status and her PR app in process the border guards retained him for several hours. They threatened to impound the car, impose a heavy fine, and basically rip him a new a**hole before finally allowing him to enter Canada with the vehicle.

    Any thoughts, link18? How could customs expect duties to be paid for the vehicle under these circumstances? Do you suppose they were just being heavy-handed or were they lenient to let him go without imposing any real penalties?
  5. There is a lot of confusion about these issues and CBSA is probably just as confused as we are. The controlling factor appears to be "residency" not "permanent resident status" or "citizenship." However, residency is a bit of a fuzzy concept and there do not appear to very clear criteria for determining residency in all situations. CBSA may have one criteria, CIC another, U.S. CBP something else and individual provinces and states are another story altogether. You could be considered a resident of more than one place at the same time.

    In the OP's situation, given that the driver of the car had no immigration status in the U.S., I would think that U.S. CBP were within their mandate to refuse entry; although it seems a little draconian given the documentation the OP says the driver of the vehicle had in their possession, indicating they were only delivering the car to a U.S. resident who actually owns it. If the person is concerned about what will happen on future attempts to enter the U.S., there is a procedure the person could follow to "correct" any records CBP may have retained about the incident. That person would need to contact US CBP. I imagine the process is quite onerous however.

    Perhaps the person might just want to try to enter the U.S. and see what happens? It probably all depends on the inclination of the particular officer on duty that day. I would say in that situation that it was not a violation of the Canadian Customs Act for the person to drive the U.S. vehicle in Canada if they were only driving it out of Canada to return it to the U.S., as they were not deriving a beneficial use from the vehicle. However, others may have a different opinion on this.

    In the situation Allison references, it is not clear how that person could legally import and register the car in Canada. Still, it would be a violation of the Customs act for any Canadian resident to derive a beneficial use of the vehicle in Canada unless duties are paid. The offending person would be the person who temporarily imported the vehicle, i.e. the wife. I wouldn't want to argue with a CBSA officer about what constitutes "beneficial use" however. It would probably be a good idea for your friends to rent a car in Canada, if they intend to drive to the U.S. again. Or, I suppose the wife could sell it to the husband, who could import it, register and insure it in Canada. They should expect their insurance bills to rise significantly however. Your friends could have issues with their U.S. insurance company if they are involved in an accident in Canada, if they know that the person is residing there. Does the wife maintain a U.S. residence?
  6. Thanks for reply, Links18. Super informative. Yes, the wife maintains a residence in the US. She has one child (a high school student) here with her in Canada and an older dependent living at home and waiting out the process in the US.

    My understanding was that the couple could use the vehicle (and the husband drive it) in Canada as long as the owner (wife) was in the vehicle. The vehicle is covered by her US insurance policy while in Canada and apparently they are aware of her extended "visit" here. I have already warned her of the significant difference in insurance rates between the GTA and the southern US (she's from Kansas and I'm from South Carolina). Hubby is Canadian and has also owned a vehicle so I think they are well-prepared for the sticker shock.

    I will attempt to explain the rule using the words "derives beneficial use," and I will encourage the use of a Canadian plated rental (good idea!) if they were to attempt the same type trip in the future. I have also offered to drive her to the airport if she ever wants to go in the near future. So at least she has options to avoid a replay of the same scenario until she finally gets her PR status and can import it.

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