Permanent Vehicle Import Process (Applicable before 18th July 2023)
Nothing on this page should be taken as professional / legal / road safety advice. Consult with suitable professional experts and the authorities mentioned here where appropriate.
18/07/23: NEWS JUST IN: The Government is finally allowing Ukrainian visa holders to keep their cars without the need to register them onto UK number plates for 3 years. See https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bringing-a-ukrainian-vehicle-into-the-uk-tax-and-registration.
The up to date process for Ukrainians is described here: https://ukrainianrefugeehelp.co.uk/driving. On this page, we describe the process as it was, before 18th July 2023, in case anyone still needs to refer to it, or if you have a strange desire to subject yourself to the unnecessary costs, stress and bureaucracy of the permanent car import process.
These are the relevant Government departments referred to in this web page:
- HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) – responsible for collecting any customs charges when importing items, or providing exemptions to these
- Department for Transport or DfT for short – responsible for all matters transport related
- DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, part of the DfT) – responsible for issuing drivers’ licences and vehicle registration number plates, and keeping records of these
- DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, part of the DfT) – responsible for conducting driving tests and vehicle tests known as MOTs to appropriate safety and environmental standards in Great Britain. The equivalent department for Northern Ireland is DVA (Driver and Vehicle Agency) which also covers driver licences but not vehicle registrations (that is still under DVLA).
- VCA (Vehicle Certification Agency) – used by the DfT to provide robust testing and certification of vehicles to internationally recognised standards.
On this page
- Processes for importing a vehicle into the UK
- What to do with your Ukrainian vehicle if you want to permanently import it
- Help with the car import process for Ukrainian refugees
- Registering your vehicle in the UK – the details
- Paperwork costs involved in importing a vehicle
- Paying customs charges on a vehicle imported from Ukraine
- Returning back to Ukraine with your car
Processes for importing a vehicle into the UK
Standard permanent import process
The standard process that would normally apply to anyone wishing to bring a car permanently into the UK involves these steps:
- Step 1: Either getting an exemption from HMRC from paying customs charges, by requesting a ‘Transfer of Residence Relief’ (using the TOR1 form), OR paying the customs charges required
- Step 2: Assessing and modifying the vehicle as necessary to ensure it meets UK standards for imports according to VCA and DVSA
- Step 3: Then asking DVLA to register the car with UK number plates, which they can only do provided HMRC are satisfied regarding customs charges, and DVSA are satisfied the vehicle meets UK import standards
- Step 4: Taking out UK based insurance once the car is on UK plates, as the original home country car insurance will no longer be valid
- Step 5: If there is a subsequent re-import of the car back to the original country, import duties may need to be paid in that country, as the original country number plates have been relinquished; the car is now on UK number plates, and would be considered a foreign car. Any vehicle modifications made may need to be reversed.
Temporary import process for overseas students and workers
However, overseas students, and overseas workers coming to the UK for a fixed term contract, can bring their foreign cars with them for a temporary stay of several years; in this case they follow a different process:
- Step 1: Getting an exemption from HMRC from paying customs charges for the duration of their stay using the ‘Temporary Admissions’ process (via the C110 form)
- There is no need to undergo the same steps 2, 3, 4 and 5 as for permanent imports i.e. the car does not need to be modified, nor move to UK number plates
Import process for Ukrainians (before 18th July 2023)
Ukrainians were previously granted only 6 months duration of stay in the UK where they did not need to inform HMRC or DVLA that they had brought a vehicle with them (see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bringing-personal-items-to-the-uk-as-a-ukrainian-refugee). There are still legal requirements to be adequately insured to drive in the UK and to conform to UK road safety laws from the moment of arrival, i.e. the same laws as for any other driver on UK roads.
Ukrainian refugees were granted exemption from paying duties by HMRC (Step 1) for the full 3 years stay that their BRP gives them, the same as for overseas students and workers, although they needed to apply for this exemption within the first 6 months.
However, even though they cannot currently go on to become permanent residents of the UK under the Ukrainian visa schemes, before 18th July 2023, they were NOT granted exemption by the Department for Transport for the full 3 years from Steps 2 and 3. In other words, the Department for Transport still required the vehicle to be assessed and registered onto UK number plates at the end of the first 6 months and following this, it was necessary to take UK car insurance (Step 4) and you were also liable for any re-import duties the Ukrainian authorities would charge, and any reversals of modifications made to the vehicle (Step 5), when returning to Ukraine for good.
Thus, the result was a combination of somewhere between ‘temporary’ and ‘permanent’ import processes for Ukrainian refugees bringing their cars over.
There were significant time and costs involved in becoming compliant with Steps 2, 3, 4 and 5, which could have affected your decision around whether it was worth keeping your Ukrainian vehicle in the UK beyond 6 months. We advised on how you might find these out in advance on this web page, in order to inform your decision.
What to do with your Ukrainian vehicle if you want to permanently import it
If you want to register your car onto UK plates in any case, then we recommend understanding what’s involved in assessing and modifying the vehicle for compliance with UK import standards (Step 2) and also finding out likely insurance costs for when your vehicle is on UK plates (Step 4).
To summarise the permanent import standards:
- For a vehicle over 10 years old, only an MOT test is needed to meet the standards
- For an EU compliant vehicle under 10 years old, a process called the ‘GB Conversion IVA’ is needed
- For a non-EU compliant vehicle under 10 years old, such as an American import, a process called the ‘IVA’ or ‘Individual Vehicle Approval’ is needed
(As a vehicle which is older and thus more likely to be less safe than a newer car, actually needs less work done to it to make it compliant, it seems that the processes are designed to discourage what are known as ‘grey imports’, which is not really what Ukrainians are trying to do.)
Identify the major costs involved in becoming compliant, getting insurance and then returning your vehicle to Ukraine eventually:
- Get a quote from a specialist car import company such as ShipMyCar for the work required to make your particular car make, model and year of manufacture compliant with DVSA’s requirements. The main areas of attention will be the headlights, rear foglight and speedometer. ShipMyCar have kindly agreed to reduce their usual administration fees for Ukrainians, and they will also advise you on the best way to modify your car so that the changes can be more easily reversed on your return to Ukraine. They can help you with the paperwork for DVSA and DVLA also.
- Note that since January 2023, correctly fitted beam bender stickers are now deemed acceptable by DVSA for the IVA test. You need to mention that you are a Ukrainian visa holder to be allowed this.
- It’s important to get UK insurance quotes for your car model, and check if you can afford them, as once you are on UK plates, your Ukrainian car insurance is likely to be invalid.
- Don’t forget to add in some budget for possibly reversing any car modifications on your return. If you made changes such as fitting a dual gauge speedometer that displays both kph and mph, you might not need to reverse them.
Note that the answer around cost could vary significantly depending on your car age, make and model. For example:
- If your car model allows the headlights to be switched for driving on the left, or they point straight ahead, no modifications will be needed here
- If your car model’s speedometer can display speed in mph as well as kph, no modifications will be needed here
- If your car model’s rear fog light(s) are mounted centrally, on the right, or as a matching pair, no modifications will be needed here
- If your car model is recognised in UK insurance databases, the cost to insure may be more reasonable
Once you have the information around the costs involved, you will be in a better position to make a decision. Your decision could be:
- Continue with the permanent car import process – we describe what to do on this web page should you choose to do this. The process itself could take several months to complete
- Drive your car back to Ukraine / arrange for a car exporter to return it. If you had done this before the 18th July 2023, you may want to contact your MP telling them why you had to come to this decision, so that they are aware! You may also want to contact us or journalists.
- Look into scrapping the car and buying a UK car instead. If this was your decision before 18th July 2023, please contact your MP telling them why you had to come to this decision, so that they are aware! You may also want to contact us or journalists.
- Make the required modifications and register the car here but sell it in the UK when you return. Note that as your steering wheel is on the wrong side of the road to UK cars, it might not be as easy to find a buyer.
- If you are reading this before you come to the UK, consider leaving your car behind and buying a secondhand car in the UK instead.
Help with the permanent car import process for Ukrainian refugees
One car import specialist company, ShipMyCar, had kindly agreed to reduce their usual administration fees for handling the paperwork described above around bringing in a Ukrainian car and registering it.
You can get an online estimate for what is required to make your car compliant by entering the make and model on their website: Car Shipping and Instant Quote Specialists – Ship My Car UK. You can call them on 01908 887917 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for help and advice as well, as they’ve helped many Ukrainians navigate the process. Any modifications needed will be made with a view to requiring minimum rework when you return to Ukraine.
Other similar car import companies may also be able to help you with the process, or at least in getting an idea of the costs involved. These include MyCarImport and Specialised Shipping Services Ltd.
We also have some detailed guidance notes written by an experienced driving instructor (we’ve summarised the key points on this web page).
Registering your vehicle in the UK – the details
If you have obtained an idea of the major costs of going ahead with the currently defined processes, and still want to proceed, then these are the steps required:
- Step 1: Get an exemption from HMRC from paying customs charges for the full 3 years
- Step 2: Assess and modify your vehicle to ensure it conforms to UK import standards according to VCA and DVSA (do this in parallel with Step 1 for efficiency)
- Step 3: Ask DVLA to register your car with UK number plates, which they can only do provided HMRC are satisfied regarding customs charges, and DVSA are satisfied the vehicle meets UK import standards
- Step 4: Take out UK-based car insurance
Step 1: Apply to HMRC for an exemption from customs charges
Normally, you would have to pay customs charges (import duty and VAT) to HMRC when importing a vehicle (or various other goods). To claim exemption from paying customs charges, you have the option of:
- Using either the C110 form to claim exemption for a vehicle under the ‘Temporary Admissions’ process, or
- Using the TOR1 form to claim exemption by requesting a ‘Transfer of Residence Relief’. You can also use the TOR1 form if you are bringing in other goods that require exemption from customs charges.
If HMRC say you are not eligible for an exemption, you will need to pay an import duty of 10% and an import tax called VAT of 20% of the vehicle’s value, which you will need to do through a customs agent – make sure that HMRC know you are a Ukrainian visa holder in case such a decision is an error on their part.
HMRC advised us via email:“To claim ‘Transfer of Residence Relief’, you must have owned the vehicle for at least 6 months before bringing it into the UK.“
After applying successfully for the ‘Transfer of Residence Relief’, OR if required, after completing the paperwork to pay customs charges, a NOVA (Notification of Vehicle Arrival) number can then be issued. It’s our understanding that DVLA will check via the NOVA number issued that all customs charges have been paid or all exemptions have been approved before proceeding to issue UK registration number plates.
- Complete the application for Transfer of Residence Relief form (TOR1) on this website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/application-for-transfer-of-residence-relief-tor1. For help with completing this application, especially if you don’t think you have all the information that is being requested online, you can contact the Transfer of Residence team by calling 0300 322 7064 (select option 4, then wait to speak to an agent) or you can email them on email@example.com. It may help to indicate in the ‘Additional information’ section on the form that you arrived on a Ukraine Family visa or Homes for Ukraine visa. The application approval can take around 14 working days.
- When your Transfer of Residence Relief application is approved, you should then receive some form of communications from HMRC which should explain how to access the NOVA number that is to be issued. Contact the NOVA team on 0300 322 7071 (select option 1) in case of any issues with this. This process can take around 10 working days.
- From October 2022, you can also use the C110 process to apply for exemption, as described on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/import-and-export-temporary-admission-notice-of-arrival-of-a-non-eu-private-motor-vehicle-c110. It’s our understanding that this option does not result in a NOVA being issued.
Step 2: Assess and modify your vehicle to ensure conformance to UK import standards with DVSA or VCA (can be done in parallel with Step 1 for efficiency)
In this step, the main areas to resolve for a Ukrainian registered car would likely be around the speedometer gauge, the direction of the headlights and the positioning of the rear foglights, which would be designed for vehicles driving on the right hand side of the road. Hence, it may be necessary to make modifications to the vehicle to be compliant for use in the UK. It is then certified or tested for compliance after any required modifications are done. Your car may already be compliant, or may be modifiable through reprogramming its computer software, or it may need parts replacing, which would be more costly. A specialist garage would be able to advise you.
If you have a vehicle under 10 years old, you will need to get what is known as ‘vehicle approval‘. See these pages for details: https://www.gov.uk/importing-vehicles-into-the-uk/getting-vehicle-approval and the Department of Transport Guidance issued on 17th November 2022: https://ukrainianrefugeehelp.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/221117-Vehicle-Registration-Guidance.pdf. The process is different depending on whether the vehicle is EU compliant or not.
Basically, if the car is built to an EU specification, it will have a plate or sticker on the vehicle, which will have the manufacturer’s name, and the EU type approval number (starting ‘e’ e.g. e1*2007/46*2341), above the vehicle’s 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number or VIN. You should obtain a European Certificate of Conformity for your vehicle make and model from the vehicle manufacturer (look on the manufacturer’s website). The Certificate of Conformity will show whether the vehicle has been designed for driving in left-hand traffic and with an imperial (miles per hour) speedometer to indicate that it is suitable for use in the UK. If it has not, you may need make modifications through an approved garage. After that, you can apply for the ‘GB Conversion IVA’ certificate from the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) (see https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1051315/application-for-gb-conversion-iva-passenger-cars.pdf). The fee for this certificate is £100, which can be paid online or via a cheque.
Contact the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) if you’re unsure whether your vehicle qualifies for ‘GB Conversion IVA’, or have a question on the process: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 0300 330 5797. If you don’t have an EU CoC, but the car was manufactured in the EU for the Ukrainian market, and has a Ukrainian CoC, VCA informed us on 10/04/23 that this cannot be accepted unfortunately.
If the vehicle is under 10 years old but is not EU compliant, then VCA cannot help and you will need to apply for an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) (or the equivalent for a motorcycle) from DVSA. Contact email@example.com for more information. DVSA charge £199 for the IVA inspection which is an actual physical test conducted at specific test centres in the country. Getting your vehicle adapted by a garage first so it can pass the IVA inspection could be as simple as reprogramming your car, or may be a costly process involving replacing parts. Note that such garages and test sites may be harder to find, as it’s not very common.
For all vehicles, regardless of age, we advise you get an MOT test done as you will need this certificate later to register the car and pay road tax. Explain your circumstances to the garage so they can advise you correctly.
- Vehicle over 10 years old – only an MOT test is needed to meet UK import standards
- Vehicle under 10 years old, EU compliant – ‘GB Conversion IVA’ process also needed
- Vehicle under 10 years old, non-EU compliant – ‘IVA’ process also needed
Step 3: Register and tax your vehicle with DVLA
When you have all the vehicle test and conformance certificates needed, you can now apply by post only using V55/5 form (assuming this is a used car) to DVLA in order to register your vehicle and submit your road tax. For any questions, contact DVLA on 0300 790 6802 (select option 1 for the Vehicles department, then option 3, then option 5 to speak to someone). You can also email a dedicated team that can respond to questions regarding the process via the e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Application to Register a Ukrainian Vehicle” in the subject heading of your email. This process can take around 4 weeks.
The form to register a used car is called V55/5 and can be downloaded and printed from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-a-used-vehicle-for-the-first-time-v555. The payment required is £55 to register the vehicle, plus the first registration road tax which varies by vehicle type, age and CO2 emissions etc and which covers the first 12 months – see https://www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax-rate-tables. Be aware that payment must be submitted with the paper application, either as a cheque (which is quite rare for people to have these days) or a postal order, which can be purchased from a Post Office. Make cheques or postal orders payable to ‘DVLA Swansea’.
You will also need to submit the following paperwork with the form:
- foreign registration document, export certificate or any other papers relating to the vehicle (must be original). If you have not arrived with any of these papers, put in a covering note to say why. NOTE: in January 2023, we understand that Department for Transport now does NOT need this paperwork to be sent in, which effectively means you still have your Ukrainian number plates to use when you return to Ukraine and will not face re-import problems
- original evidence of vehicle type approval (evidence from Step 2 above)
- original current British MOT Certificate – note that this means you need to organise an MOT in the UK first
- for vehicles being registered to a Northern Ireland address, valid insurance certificate or cover note (downloaded or faxed copies are acceptable, however photocopies are not)
- photocopies of documentation confirming your name and address (see below for the list of documents that can be used)
If the vehicle is being registered to an individual (i.e. not to a company), the confirmation of name can be shown by taking a photocopy of your Ukrainian passport. (There are other possible documents listed, but this is the most likely document you will have.) The confirmation of address can be shown by taking a photocopy of one of the following:
- utility bill within the last 3 months e.g. gas, electricity water, landline telephone (valid within the last 3 months)
- bank/building society statement (valid within the last 3 months)
- medical card or GP registration confirmation letter
- council tax bill for current year
For help with filling in the sections of the V55/5, see the section ‘How to fill in the V55/5 form’ on the guidance document V355/5: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1012514/V355-5-guide-to-filling-application-for-first-vehicle-tax-and-registration-of-used-motor-vehicle.pdf
Post the completed form, payment and supporting documentation to: DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BE.
Paperwork costs involved in permanently importing a vehicle
Apart from the costs to modify and insure your car, which are likely to be the major costs, there are costs associated with the paperwork:
- £55 approx for the MOT
- For an EU-compliant vehicle, any charges to obtain the EU Certificate of Conformity for vehicles under 10 years old (could be around £150)
- £100 or £199 to get the ‘GB Conversion IVA’ or ‘IVA’ certification done for vehicles under 10 years
- £55 to register the vehicle
- Around £30 for the cost of the physical new number plates
- First year’s road tax for the vehicle (expect to pay around a couple of hundred pounds)
What happens to your car when you return to Ukraine?
If you’ve registered your vehicle under UK plates, and you surrendered your original registration paperwork to DVLA, then you may need to re-register it on your return to Ukraine. You may need to pay import duties. The process involves completing the relevant sections of the V5 registration form and returning them to the authorities. See our detailed guidance notes for more information, including contact details of the Ukrainian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, email: email@example.com. Note that we have not tried this process as yet.
Note: as of January 2023, DVLA are allowing Ukrainians to keep their original vehicle registration paperwork after all so that you can simply reattach your UA plates when you finally leave the UK. In this case, there should be no issues or costs associated with taking your vehicle back.