American Car Registration in the UK

How to Import a Car to the UK from the USA

American Car Registration in the UK


When you arrive in the UK, and after you leave customs, you are required to register your car ‘as soon as possible after it arrives in the country’. The application for registration should be made using a V55/5 form for used vehicles or V55/4 forms for new ones. The forms can be ordered online using the link below. they can’t be printed locally and need to be mailed to a UK address.

Of course, the car cannot be registered unless it has a NOVA number (Notification of Vehicle Arrival) from HMRC. This will generally be done by your shipping agent as you can see from the link below. Though do take a look as it will give you an idea of what needs to be done and the timelines for VAT payment and so on.

With the registration forms you’ll need to send some proof of identity and several other documents – make sure you get the V55 form in plenty of time so you know what you’ll need.

Documents you can use to confirm your name include:

  • Passport
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Decree Nisi or Absolute
  • Birth Certificate
  • Current UK Paper Driving Licence (not a paper counterpart)

Documents you can use to confirm your address include:

  • Recent utility bill (within the last 3 months) – eg gas, electricity, water, landline
  • Recent bank or building society statement (within the last 3 months)
  • Medical card
  • Council tax bill for current year

As well as documents to prove your identity, you must also send:

  • Payment for the vehicle tax
  • The new registration fee of £55, if you have to pay it
  • A current MOT certificate, if the vehicle is over 3 years old (over 4 years old in Northern Ireland)
  • A certificate of newness (or declaration of newness for imported vehicles), if the vehicle is new
  • Any documents you have relating to the vehicle, eg build plans if it’s a kit car
  • ​The US registration documents.
  • The US bill of sale to prove it is your car. Probably the Title would suffice, but if you bought it from a dealer then the sales documentation would probably be a good idea too. As mentioned earlier – some private importers have had permission from their US bank to bring a vehicle to the UK which is still being paid for. I suggest a letter from the bank confirming this would be useful at this stage.
  • A copy of the customs form that you will receive on entry
  • Proof of UK insurance (I think a cover note will do but get the real thing in advance just to be on the safe side). Either way, you will need to contact a UK insurer before you can collect the car. Apparently the RAC and the AA can arrange temporary insurance at the port if you haven’t.
  • The MOT certificate if over three years old (the car – not you!). This means that between the port and the VRO part of getting there as ‘soon as possible’ includes a small diversion to the MOT test centre for cars over three years old or to the garage for light conversions and the SVA centre for testing! In practice there seems to be a little flexibility here – after all the chances of the police stopping you for driving on foreign plates during your first few days here is pretty slim. Even if they did they would probably not be familiar with the import rules and anyway, as long as you have a plan to do the conversions and SVA quickly then you do need to get the car from one to the other so you have a legitimate excuse. I would recommend that you plan these jobs for as soon as practically possible after you arrive though!
  • Proof of passing the IVA test
  • NOVA reference

​Once approved, the DVLC will send you a “log book” to prove you own the car. It’s called a V5C. They will also send back any documents you sent them, worst case all within 6 weeks, but often much less.

​By the way, although it is cheap and easy to buy a personalised number plate in the US, it is more complicated and dull in the UK.

​It is expensive and explained on the DVLA Web site in the list below.

​I found the registration a fairly painless process, as I got help. There are companies set up to specifically help people register imported cars. Peter Anderson specialises in this, for both new and classic cars, and provides the service for a reasonable cost. His contact details are also below.

​By the way, on the front of my Explorer I managed to get Ford to supply me a UK style number plate mounting, so I could put a UK number plate on properly. For the rear number plate there is no room in the bumper indent for a UK style one but I discovered that the Mildenhall folks can get US sized number plates with the UK numbers on. I got one from them for just £8.50 and it looks great. On my most recent purchase I also found a local company that could make a USA sized plate so do look around and you’ll probably be OK.

Useful contacts

Imported Vehicle Registration Expert help is at hand!


Tel: +44-20 8591 5489


​ Registration service


Tel: +44-1908-887917


​HMRC’s NOVA (Notification of Vehicle Arrival) Process


DVLA Registration info


​DVLA Form ordering service