Carnet de Passage? Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Carnet de Passage? What is that? This is often the question that we get from a wide variety of people… from people who want to know more about getting their cars overseas to the very shipping companies and customs agents who are supposed to process them for you. For those of you who don’t know what they are, which is probably the majority, here is the quick and dirty.

A Carnet de Passage (fully recognized as a Carnet de Passage en Douane and literally translated into "notebook for passing through customs") is an internationally recognized document that covers the temporary admission of a foreign registered vehicle into a country. It is essentially a guarantee to foreign countries that you will not be permanently importing your vehicle and therefore are exempt from any import/export taxes or fees that may be applied otherwise. You can pass through a country without a Carnet, but it definitely makes your life a lot easier, especially if you plan of passing through a lot of them.

The concept of a Carnet is simple enough, but actually getting your hands on one is quite difficult. Here are 10 fun facts about them:

1) The only agency authorized to issue a vehicle Carnet for the United States is the Canadian Automobile Association.

2) You need to put up a financial guarantee to ensure that you bring the vehicles back. (This may be refundable if you do bring them back)

3) The financial guarantee comes in the form of an irrevocable Letter of Credit. If you have 2 late model vehicles, you have to front nearly $80,000 US cash for the LOC.

4) Most US banks don’t even know what a LOC is and when you do find one that does, they charge you $700 to write a letter informing the CAA that you have $80,000 of your money in their bank.

5) You are required to provide a plethora of information for the Carnets including engine block serial numbers… however on the Carnets that you paid an additional $400 a piece for, the value for that field is "not listed."

6) You need to explain the Carnet process to financial institutions and shipping companies at least 65 times… before you even leave the US.

7) YOU become the expert on how to execute the Carnet… even the CAA does not seem to know how they work or at leasts does not deem it necessary to tell you when you ask.

8) The Carnets do not come with instructions for how to properly execute them… you might be lucky enough to travel to an English speaking country first where a customs official will show you how it is done.

9) The Carnets are only good for one year… after that you have to pay an additional $400 a piece to renew them and in our case this has to be done overseas on the move… luckily affiliate offices exist. 

10) Even if you do physically bring the vehicles back, you still might possibly forfeit all or part of the $80,000 you put up if the one customs officials you forgot to bribe in Turkmenistan forgot to put the right stamp in the right place.

Although they are helpfull, it is still a little nerve wracking knowing that you are literally driving around the world with two peices of paper that are essentially worth $80,000. Guess I better not spill any Laksa curry sauce on them.