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Importing cars to the UK and re-registering them – (IVA) Individual Vehicle Approval

Importing cars to the UK and re-registering them – Overview

There are a number of rules for anyone who’s considering bringing new and used cars into the UK on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. The key points are that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) must be notified within 14 days of arrival, the vehicle should be registered and taxed, any relevant duties and VAT must be paid, and certain documentation must be obtained proving that each vehicle meets the correct safety regulations and environmental standards. It is also essential to obtain an insurance policy before driving an imported vehicle, whether publicly or on trade plates.

Importing carsTemporary imports have different rules, specifically for any car or van being used for a maximum of 6 months (either on an individual visit or multiple visits over any 12 month period). If you are coming over for a holiday or visit and the vehicle is already registered in your home country there is no need to obtain UK tax or registration documents. However, should you choose to stay in the UK after 6 months, you must then follow the long-term registration and importing guidelines or face prosecution. One exemption is the permissible free movement of vehicles between Great Britain and Northern Ireland; a permanent change of address must be registered with the DVLA, otherwise you’re free to drive in either region.

Informing HMRC about any imported vehicle with an engine above 49cc must be done within 14 days or you may be fined £5 per each late day. To import a vehicle from within the EU, applicants must go via the Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) service, which requires users to register for the Government’s online gateway system. Multiple vehicle registrations e.g. from motor trade organisations or mass-importers, can be done using a spreadsheet through NOVA. If the car is coming from outside the EU, you’ll need to complete customs forms at point of vehicle entry with exemptions being made for VAT-registered companies. Customs offices must be provided with a valid overseas registration certificate and any related documents, and you may also apply for VAT exemption at this time if you bring an exported vehicle back into the UK.

Once HMRC has been notified, they can tell you if you need to pay import duties and/or VAT. The amounts to pay – and when you must pay – differ depending on circumstances, such as personal use or imports for businesses. If you’ve paid VAT previously on any applicable vehicle in an EU country, and the vehicle has been used for over 6 months and has completed over 6,000 km on the roads, you won’t need to pay VAT again. HMRC will also confirm the successful processing of any NOVA applications, at which point the vehicle(s) can be registered with the DVLA.

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Before registering, it’s also essential to have the vehicle approved for safety and environmental regulations, proof of these must be shown when registering. There are some exemptions here such as vehicles older than 10 years, and meeting certain guidelines e.g. heavy goods vehicles over a certain weight, some buses and coaches, army vehicles, and tracked vehicles.

Registration of the vehicles can require additional steps. Left hand drive cars require a “Certificate of Mutual Recognition” while a European Certificate of Conformity must be obtained for EU-registered cars and vehicles. The DVLA will provide a new vehicle import pack or a used vehicle pack for completion, as appropriate, and vehicles must also be taxed at point of registration, which has an additional small fee. The application packs may ask for extra documents such as any previous tax or registration documents, manufacturer information etc. It can take around 6 weeks for the new V5C registration certificate to arrive, at which point number plates can be ordered.


(IVA) – Individual Vehicle Approval

Approved importThe vast majority of new and used cars will have undergone vehicle approval prior to an individual taking ownership. However, there are a number of exceptions to this, all governed under a series of rules denoted as Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA). Specifically, IVA must be sought for any vehicles that are built from kits, have been rebuilt or significantly altered from their original design, imported from outside the EU, or for classic car restorations.

Prior to the end of April 2009, all vehicles were approved using the existing Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) regulations. However an EU directive meant that tougher guidelines were put into place, and came into effect for the start of May 2009; an exception here was light goods vehicles, whose legislation didn’t change until the end of October 2011.

The new IVA guidelines are tougher than the previous SVA ones, in that there are more checks put in place before a vehicle is deemed approved and can be driven or issued with an insurance policy, even on trade plates. Vehicles must comply with more than a dozen EU directives, and a greater range of areas of each vehicle are now inspected than previously; checks include seat belts, impact test assessments, steering, suspension and more. There are a couple of different levels of exam, from basic visual checks to more rigorous inspections, and costs can be higher in certain cases than under old guidelines, particularly for kit car builders. Left hand drive cars and kit cars fall under the more basic exam type, while regular cars and vehicles will follow the normal IVA path. Each will be undertaken in a designated IVA facility, and the normal exam will also require documentation to be provided.

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If you are importing a previously-registered vehicle from the EU, there is a “Mutual Recognition” scheme which offers a quick route to approval. There is a similar scheme for motorcycles, known as Motorcycle Single Vehicle Approval (MSVA), which covers the imports of 2, 3 and small 4-wheeled vehicles. Motor trade importers of multiple cars, vans or motorcycles can apply through various European Community approval schemes to get the vehicles through en masse.


IVA – Built Vehicles

Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) is required for many different types of new and used cars, and there are specific guidelines for anyone who has significantly altered or rebuilt a vehicle and wishes to use it in the UK.

As with all other types of vehicle, any rebuilt or reconstructed car must pass the usual regulations in order to be deemed roadworthy, be approved, and be eligible for an insurance policy. All the standard regulations for registering a new vehicle apply in this case, and the DVLA requires quite a lot of documentation in order to grant registration, regardless of whether the vehicle is for individual or motor trade use.

Firstly, you need to complete a built up vehicle inspection report (form V627/1), along with the requisite approval documentation, as described below. The original vehicle registration certificate must be supplied, together with documents and receipts for all parts used in reconstructing the vehicle. The DVLA will also require photographs to show the vehicle in its completed state.

If you can prove that you have used either the original, unaltered vehicle chassis, or a new body shell meeting the exact specification of the original, or the equivalent new or unmodified original body frame for motorbikes, together with two additional original vehicle components including engine, wheels, suspension, transmission or motorcycle forks, it’s possible to retain the original vehicle registration number. If you don’t meet the criteria, the DVLA will issue a registration plate prefixed with a Q, and will require an approval test before allowing you to drive the vehicle, even on trade plates.

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The IVA approval test for a rebuilt vehicle is less rigorous than that for imported or kit cars, it’s a series of visual inspections that doesn’t require the same level of additional documentation that is needed for certain types of car, bike or van. The inspection can be carried out at either a private IVA centre or an approved test station – you can choose which you’d prefer when applying. The cost of a basic initial inspection varies between £199 and £450 depending on vehicle class, with reduced fees for re-inspection should a vehicle not pass first time.


(IVA) – Rebuilt Vehicles

Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) is required for many different types of new and used cars, and there are specific guidelines for anyone who has significantly altered or rebuilt a vehicle and wishes to use it in the UK.

Rebuilt carsAs with all other types of vehicle, any rebuilt or reconstructed car must pass the usual regulations in order to be deemed roadworthy, be approved, and be eligible for an insurance policy. All the standard regulations for registering a new vehicle apply in this case, and the DVLA requires quite a lot of documentation in order to grant registration, regardless of whether the vehicle is for individual or motor trade use.

Firstly, you need to complete a built up vehicle inspection report (form V627/1), along with the requisite approval documentation, as described below. The original vehicle registration certificate must be supplied, together with documents and receipts for all parts used in reconstructing the vehicle. The DVLA will also require photographs to show the vehicle in its completed state.

If you can prove that you have used either the original, unaltered vehicle chassis, or a new body shell meeting the exact specification of the original, or the equivalent new or unmodified original body frame for motorbikes, together with two additional original vehicle components including engine, wheels, suspension, transmission or motorcycle forks, it’s possible to retain the original vehicle registration number. If you don’t meet the criteria, the DVLA will issue a registration plate prefixed with a Q, and will require an approval test before allowing you to drive the vehicle, even on trade plates.

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The IVA approval test for a rebuilt vehicle is less rigorous than that for imported or kit cars, it’s a series of visual inspections that doesn’t require the same level of additional documentation that is needed for certain types of car, bike or van. The inspection can be carried out at either a private IVA centre or an approved test station – you can choose which you’d prefer when applying. The cost of a basic initial inspection varies between £199 and £450 depending on vehicle class, with reduced fees for re-inspection should a vehicle not pass first time.


IVA – Radically Altered Vehicles 

When a vehicle has been dramatically altered, the Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) guidelines are quite strict, and lots of documentation and evidence must be supplied in order to grant registration and approval for driving on the roads.

Radically Altered VehiclesRegardless of alteration, all new and used cars must comply with the correct regulations and safety standards in order to be granted road access. Radically altered vehicles are defined as those which have been changed from their original specification but which were previously manufactured, rather than created from a kit.

The first documentation required is form V627/1, which is an inspection report for this type of vehicle. You will almost certainly need to obtain IVA in order to be granted roadworthiness; the test is fairly rigorous and will require both visual and hands-on inspections to ensure it complies with the right standards. The DVLA will also require you to supply a vehicle registration certificate, photographs of the reconstructed car, and a complete set of receipts for any parts used in the reconstruction. You can’t drive the car, even on trade plates, until all of this has been received and approved.

In order to retain its original registration, the vehicle must be scored against an official list, which awards points for the retention of original or unmodified parts. For example, a reconstructed vehicle which still has its original chassis, or a new, unmodified body shell, gets 5 points. 2 points can be granted in each case where the following components are unaltered – front and rear suspension, steering assembly, both axles, and transmission, while 1 point is awarded for retention of the original engine.

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If the points total reaches 8, the DVLA will allow you to keep the original vehicle registration, however 7 points or less will mean that the vehicle can be awarded a Q registration upon completing an additional approval test. This also applies if there is evidence of multiple bodies being welded together, or the use of a second-hand or modified chassis.

In cases where an original vehicle was granted a Certificate of Destruction, the car can’t be resubmitted for registration either privately or in the motor trade, though it is possible to re-use certain parts in the reconstruction of other vehicles.


IVA – Classic Car Reconstructions

Classic car reconstructions must comply with a series of guidelines and legislation in order to be driven or granted an insurance policy. As with the reconstruction of any other type of vehicle, the DVLA form V627/1 (the built-up vehicle inspection report) must be completed, and must accompany several other pieces of documentation when submitted; official receipts for any parts used in the vehicle rebuild must be supplied, and the vehicle must also meet IVA approval guidelines.

Morris MinorIVA approval requires both a visual and hands-on inspection to ensure the car meets a number of criteria around safety, parts and roadworthiness. In the case of a classic or vintage car, all parts must be a minimum of 25 years old and meet an identical specification to the original car; the parts must be genuine, period parts sourced from multiple vehicles, and must adequately reflect the marque in question.

Additionally, a representative from the relevant vehicle owners’ club must carry out an inspection of the reconstructed car and supply written evidence that the vehicle has been inspected, comprises 25 years or older components, and must confirm the manufacture dates for all major parts used in the vehicle. Once satisfied, the DVLA can issue an age-appropriate registration number, whose date will be based on the age of the newest component used. Note that if any new or replica parts are used and identified, the vehicle can only be given a Q registration plate!

The vehicle must additionally satisfy all the usual IVA checks to ensure it is roadworthy and safe, even if it is for use on trade plates or within the motor trade, rather than private use. IVA guidelines are in place to make sure that all vehicles that are built, reconstructed or imported are safe for UK roads, and include legislation introduced by the EU.


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