Registering an imported vehicle

Registering an imported vehicle

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General issues relevant to imported vehicles

Vehicles registered in either Northern Ireland or Great Britain and moving between the two are no longer considered imported. These vehicles can keep their original registration plates. Alternatively, you can apply for registration plates for the destination of these vehicles. In either case, the existing registration certificate (V5C or V5CNI) should be used when you register.

A vehicle that is permanently imported for use in the UK must be registered and taxed as soon as possible after it arrives in the country. You shouldn't use or keep the vehicle on public roads until you've done this. It is against the law for a British resident to drive in the UK with a foreign registration plate.

How do I register a vehicle as 'new'?

A 'brand new' vehicle can be driven to the UK and registered as 'new' if:

  • The vehicle is registered within 2 weeks of collection, but this can be extended to one calendar month at peak periods (e.g. between 1 March and 1 September).
  • The vehicle is a current model or a model that has stopped being made within the last 2 years.
  • The vehicle only has reasonable delivery mileage, i.e. the mileage between the pickup point and home using a direct route.
  • The vehicle hasn't been permanently registered before.

You're advised to transport, rather than drive, the vehicles from the port to home or first destination and to keep them off the road until they've been properly licensed and registered.

Vehicle approval

For most new vehicles, you must have evidence of type approval from the supplier or vehicle manufacturer, usually in the form of a Certificate of Conformity. This confirms that the vehicle meets specified performance, environmental and safety standards. If your vehicle isn't provided with a Certificate of Conformity, you'll have to get a vehicle type approval. Type approval is really aimed at vehicle manufacturers.

Usually, a vehicle won't have a Certificate of Conformity if the vehicle wasn't intended for sale in the European Union (EU) or if it has been rebuilt. This means that the vehicle hasn't been subjected to European type approval. It will therefore have to pass an appropriate vehicle approval test before it can be registered.

There are different types of vehicle approval tests, depending on the type of vehicle.

  • Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) – used when importing a single vehicle or a small number of them
  • Single Vehicle Approval – used for importing a single special purpose goods vehicle of less than 3,500kg
  • Mutual recognition scheme – used when importing a vehicle that has been approved and registered in the EU

The vehicle can be driven to and from the pre-arranged test appointment. Thereafter, the vehicle must be kept off the road until it is registered. For further information, see the Gov.uk website.

Left-hand drive vehicle

Left-hand drive vehicles from within the European Community will need a certificate issued by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) under the Mutual Recognition scheme. This will show that the vehicle has been changed to make it suitable for UK roads.

How do I register a previously used vehicle?

The DVLA will need to be sure that an imported used vehicle that is less than 10 years old meets certain legal standards.

Cars, motorcycles and light goods vehicles first registered in another European member state will need to have a certificate issued by VCA under the Mutual Recognition scheme. Larger goods vehicles will need full UK Type Approval before they can be registered.

Cars, motorcycles and light goods vehicles first registered in a country outside of the European Union will need to pass the appropriate vehicle approval test.

What do I need to apply?

You'll need to get a British insurance certificate using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) before you can register and tax your vehicle. You can contact the British Insurance Brokers' Association to find the contact information of insurance brokers that provide this type of cover. Further information on insurance for imported vehicles is available at the Gov.uk website.

To apply for registration, you'll need to send the following to the DVLA in Swansea (photocopies are not acceptable):

  • Completed application form V55/4 (for new vehicles) or V55/5 (for used vehicles)
  • Registration fee of £55 (if applicable) and the required fee for the vehicle tax
  • Current UK certificate of insurance
  • Foreign registration document and any other papers you have relating to the vehicle
  • Evidence showing the date the vehicle was collected (normally the invoice from the supplier)
  • Evidence of type or vehicle approval
  • The appropriate HM Revenue and Customs form
  • A current UK MOT test certificate (if applicable)
  • If applicable, a 'Declaration that a vehicle is new' form V267
  • Documents confirming your name and address

In some cases, the DVLA might want to see the vehicle to check its identity. Also see 'Registering a vehicle for the first time'.