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Disclaimer :) - this was I had to do. I am almost sure this is the worst case scenario and for other people might be easier if they have all the prerequisites mentioned here... Anyway, I hope that this note will at least be used as guidelines in case someone really wants to go though it.
I am not telling you how to ship your stuff/car. It is up to you. All this is after you receive a call from the shipping company that your car has already arrived in Belgium.
Paperwork and procedure necessary for import of a (non-EU) car in Belgium from USA
1. Get the car form the shipping company - you need to have a car insurance in EU or they won't let you drive it. They will send a document to Brussels that it is yours and you should not pay tax on it.
2. Then you receive from your town car registration office (Douane) a paper which you have to sign and bring it back to them. They will send it to Brussels so that they can take a decision about the import tax exemption. (better to do this in person)
3. Brussels will reply (hopefully no problem) with “Invoer als verhuisgoed van een autovoertuig/Imports as good of a car moving vehicle” and then with this letter you go back to the town car registration office (Douane) to get from them Vignette 705 (the pink paper).
3a. In the Douane of your town you will fill in the form “Gegevens in hoofdletters in te vullen door de aanvrager”. Make sure you know your Belgian SSN and have the papers from the customs office which made the import of the car. (better to do this in person, although they say you shouldn't)
4. Go to a car inspection center authorized to perform Certificate of Conformity for imported cars and ask them to look at the car to tell you what needs to be changed and what papers they need. Otherwise later you may have problems if you don't do it and go straight for conformity test and you get a rejection from the car inspection office.
5. With Vignette 705 and the rest of the papers go back to the car inspection center. They will do their paperwork about the conformity test – they will send all the necessary papers and hopefully Brussels will reply that it is ok finally to undergo a conformity check.
6. After a successful conformity test the car inspection center will send more papers to Brussels and hopefully they will send back a positive reply – a letter inviting you to pay (around 170 euro) the 'homologation' (conformity) test fee.
7. After the payment is processed, the car inspection center will call you to come over and they will fill out Vignette 705 and you can/should also schedule a state inspection on the same day too.
8. After you get the above done, go and insure/register the car. It will be useful if you can provide a letter from your former insurance company stating that you don't (hopefully) have any liability accidents, i.e., you have not caused any. It may be wise to leave the registration business to the insurance company. They will do insurance and state registration together. Otherwise it may be a big mess. Insurance can be done first, then registration, then state inspection but it is better the way suggested here.
9. If you are still sane after all this, go and drown yourself in Belgian beer.
4-A: Particular steps in (4) for my Nissan Versa 2010
Important: most probably the autocenter will not contact you back to let you know if something is wrong or if everything is ok with the paperwork. Ask them how long it takes usually for the documents to be approved. You could wait a week longer and then go and ask them again what is the situation.
a) Get a Carfax report - (~$30-40).
b) Replace the front yellow 'mist' bulbs with white ones (EU requirement).
c) EU requires that the car has a red fog light on the rear of the car. American cars don't have that. This is a separate light which you can turn on and off independently if there is a heavy fog/rain. It can be done in two ways: 1) go to a garage and ask them to install one somewhere (on the rear bumper, below it, etc...); 2) Since Versa and Tiida are the same car (different name) I purchased a tail left-side light (the glass only) for Tiida (~70euro). The left tail Tiida light has a red bulb cover on the place of the white backup light (Versa). In EU it is common to see cars with only one white backup light on the right tail side and one red light on the drivers/left side where the backup light should be. I wired the bulb separately with a switch to be able to use it as a EU red tail fog light.
d) Adjust the headlights – I had to lower them a bit. It is very easy and usually done via a screw or something like that. Make sure you know how to do it and have the tools, because you will not know if your lights are ok until they check it with the machine. If the lights are off, they will usually let you adjust them right there on the spot.
e) Proof that you live in Belgium – housing contract will do.
f) Proof that you have lived in USA – housing contract will do.
g) Document from Nissan in USA with technical data for the car. This is the most difficult to get. It takes a lot of time. It needs to be hand signed by the person preparing it (e.g., consumer affairs representative) and it has to have a representative address and contact number. Better do this while still living in USA.
Tip: Also get a liability history letter from the former insurance company in case you have not caused any accidents – this will decrease the insurance you have to pay when you sign up for one in EU.
Bonus mission: If the above procedure gets prolonged too much and/or you hit the tax season, you may receive a letter asking you to pay a one time vehicle initial registration fee plus the annual vehicle tax. Now, since the car has not been yet registered, they assume that it is biggest and baddest car ever and they will ask for the highest tax possible. They don't know the engine size, CO2 emissions, etc... and that is why they assume the highest price. They have only received information from the customs office that a new vehicle is on the road. When you recover from the nearly heart attack feeling (the money they ask for is quite a lot ~2000 euros), simply call them back (if you speak the language would be a benefit). Or you could write back a letter – in Dutch or French only, depending on where the tax office is located. Basically, you have to explain them the situation and why the car has not been registered yet. You will then be allowed (hopefully) to write an appeal asking them to postpone the tax payment based on these and these reasons. Hopefully, you will receive another letter stating that your request has been approved. Once the registration is complete, write them back that you would like to pay your taxes for the period from import to this moment. Finally, you receive a letter with the proper tax amount. Patience is a must since each letter they send you back would usually take few-several weeks.
I wish someone had posted this about three years ago. I have a car sitting and rotting in my driveway here in BE due to the A. complexity, and B. the ridiculous expense of having it registered, made drivable, insured and such.
Good on ya for making it happen.
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