Japanese import car registration: MOT & IVA test 23

Applying for a Japanese import car registration number in the UK

Picture of the front cover of a Japanese import car registration document from the DVLABefore applying for a Japanese import car registration number, the DVLA (UK registration authority) require you to submit the car for some sort of test.  Despite being in better condition than many of the cars on the road in the UK, Japanese import cars are no exception.

There are 2 tests: MOT and IVA.  Well actually there are more than this, but these are the two key tests we need to consider.


Picture of MOT test certificates - Jap imports are not always MOT failuresThis stands for Ministry of Transport, referring to the government department that first introduced the test in 1960.  There is nothing different about the MOT test for an imported car:  it is the same test as required for every vehicle over 3 years old that is used on the road.  General condition, brakes, tyres, suspension, lights, safety equipment and exhaust emissions are tested.  The test costs (up to) £55 and is all that cars over 10 years old need before being registered.  Be wary of super cheap MOTs – the garage in question may be planning on making some money back from you in doing essential work for your vehicle to pass the test.

Note that the 10 years old stipulation isn’t done in whole years or even months, so the car only needs to be 10 years and 1 day old to meet this requirement.

The one thing on which almost all Japanese import cars will fail the MOT is the lack of a rear fog light.  This will need to be fitted before the test (there only needs to be one) and I’m going to write some instructions on how to do this in a future post and will add the link here when I’ve done so.

You may read that the speedometer must be converted from km to miles for the test.  This isn’t true – I’ve written more on speedometer and odometer conversion here.


This stands for individual vehicle approval and is a test required in addition to the MOT for imported vehicles under 10 years old at the time of registration.

Think of it as a super MOT or MOT plus.

The test costs £199.

I’m not going to go into detail on the whole test.  Please don’t think of me as lazy – the official DVSA inspection manual is 300 pages long!

In my view, a car imported from Japan is most likely to fail the test on the following areas:

  • Exterior projections.  This will mostly apply to modified cars.  Common examples would be: rear wings wider than the body of the car and wheels wider than their arches.
  • Fog light.  I mentioned above that almost all cars imported from Japan will need a rear red fog light fitting to pass the MOT.  Obviously the same is true for the IVA.  More care needs to be taken with fog light placement and aim.
  • Headlights.  Some headlights won’t have the necessary markings or washers to meet EU regulations.
  • Speedometer.  Needs to read in miles per hour and will be checked for accuracy.  Japanese imports generally have speed and distance measured in km only.
  • General construction.  As with exterior projections, I think it will be the modified Japanese import that will risk falling foul of this section.  Poor quality modifications involving cables/hoses that aren’t secured properly and safely, will require attention before the test.
  • Emissions.  Again this will likely only apply to tuned/modified vehicles.  The car exhaust is tested for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and air:fuel ratio.  Most cars will be fine but some heavily modified cars might need a few tweaks to pass.


Picture of an example DVLA V948 japanese import car registration number authorisation certificateNow you have a better idea of why I’m always going on about importing cars over 10 years old.  The registration process is cheaper and simpler.

But please don’t let this put you off wanting a younger car – the IVA test isn’t something to be feared, it’s just a slightly higher and more expensive hoop to jump through.  Remember it is designed to cover all possibilities on a huge range of vehicles:  I’m thinking of botched self-built / kit cars here in particular.


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23 thoughts on “Japanese import car registration: MOT & IVA test

  • Nick

    Hi, just bought a japanese import and was told the v5 is not yet available and will be mailed to me by dvla. Does this makes sense. Stumbled on this page while trying to figure this out. After mot, and getting plates, would the car has also been registered and have v5 already? So I was not able to tax the car immediately under my name. Also they only gave me one set of keys, any documents that could verify the car came from japan with only one set of keys? The car reg is shown to be taxed for 6 months and mot history also available online at dvla. All very recent. Thanks.

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Nick,

      Thank you for your questions. If I’ve understood things correctly you’ve bought a car from a UK dealer, who imported the car from Japan.

      If the car has number plates, it has been registered with the DVLA and a V5 will have been issued to whoever applied to register it when this happened. When you are being told the V5 is not yet available, it sounds like this means the new V5 with your name on is not yet available? If the dealer who sold the car has made you the new registered keeper it is indeed the case that the new V5 will be posted to you by the DVLA. This usually takes a couple of weeks but I think they advise to allow longer before contacting them.

      If the registration number is showing as taxed, it is possible that the dealer has taxed the car for 6 months in your name. Is this shown on the purchase invoice or is there any indication on the invoice that this has been included in the price?

      It would be very difficult to prove how many sets of keys the car came with from Japan. It is entirely possible that it came with only one key. Of the cars I’ve imported, it has been about a 50:50 split so far, of cars coming with one key and with 2 or more keys.

      I hope this helps and that everything is in order with your new car.


  • Richard Lee


    I have a 2002 BMW 330ci I am looking to import to UK from NZ will I need to do the iva test?


  • Sam

    I have a 1993 Nissan Silvia which is due it’s first MOT since my ownership. My enquiry is, as it is a Japanese Import only model, and is before 1994, does this still need to have a catalytic converter in order to pass MOT emissions?

    Many people who I know and also own Japanese imports say that before ’94 doesn’t need a cat to pass emissions and that my car, being stock power still, should be fine with passing.


    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Sam

      I recommend having a look at the MOT testing manual before going along to the test. Here it is. Have a look at section 7.3.

      My understanding is that your car will be required to take the basic emissions test. If it doesn’t pass this, they won’t be able to find exact specifications against which to test it, so it will be required to be under the fairly relaxed limits of <= 3.5 % CO (carbon monoxide) and <= 1200 ppm HC (parts per million hydrocarbons). Do you have a print out of the emissions test results from the last MOT (it must have had one when it was imported and registered)? This will give you an idea of how close it was then. It is difficult to know for certain whether it will need a catalytic converter to pass but I doubt it, these are fairly relaxed limits. I'd be interested to hear how you get on with your MOT. Cheers Andrew

  • Tasnem

    I currently have a Honda Civic 2006 which I imported from Japan. However, I currently sent its documents to register, which asked us to include emissions so we did but now the dvla is asking us for a prof which proves the emissions of the car. Please can you tell me what can I give to prove its emissions?

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Tasnem

      Which month was your car first registered in Japan? If the car is over 10 years old then you don’t need to concern yourself too much with the emissions, other than getting through a standard MOT test. You don’t need to complete every box on the registration application form! If it is under 10 years old, have you taken it for the IVA test yet?


  • mark stanier

    im the service manager at a company called campers scotland. we mainly import nissan elgrand and toyota alphard ,i was hopeing you could give me some advise , the later elgrands are fitted with hid head lights ,unfortunatly they are not self leveling and have no washers,so can not get through an iva test , do you know of a way around this ? thanks

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Mark

      I haven’t submitted an Elgrand for an IVA test yet. However from what I’ve read and heard, I would try to fit some standard halogen bulbs for the test and put the HIDs back afterwards. I don’t know how much modification this would require to the bulb or wiring, but obviously you’d need to make sure the ballasts were safe.


  • Dean dusk

    Andrew do you know much about the new car tax rules and how they will affect cars from Japan.It looks like there will be huge car tax implications for some of the higher cc cars making then unviable to import?
    Thanks Dean

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Dean

      Thanks for your enquiry. I spoke with the DVLA recently about the new tax rules from 1st April 2017. I was advised that they only apply to brand new cars registered after 1/4/2017. As such they would not apply to used imported vehicles, which would continue to be taxed at the old rates.

      Hope this helps!

  • Steven

    Hi Andrew,

    I am planning to immigrate to uk and ship my car (Toyota Previa 2.4 2010 automatic) from Hong Kong. I need help to do all the things from the car landed to the car can be used on the road, do you provide any services could help?

    Thank you very much.

    • Andrew Post author


      I can recommend a customs agent if that would help? Sorry I don’t offer an IVA preparation service, which will be the main thing you need to get your car registered in the UK.

      Best wishes for the move

  • Surinder Garcha

    Hello I have imported a vehicle 2012 vellfire 7 seater from Japan and it’s arriving in second week of August I was wondering if you can help me by telling me who will do the speedo meter change conversion into miles and iva test at the same time. I’m based in southall Middlesex.
    Also how do they convert the meter? I’ve heard of several ways to do this and I wanted it done properly.

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Surinder

      Apologies I don’t know of anyone in the South East who does this type of conversion work. I’m based in the Midlands so haven’t really needed to work with any companies in your area. I will update this response if I subsequently hear of someone reliable who could do the work for you.

      I’d have thought most places would use an electronic CANBUS converter for this vehicle.


  • Jon-paul

    Hi I’m looking at buying a 1986 mini from Japan what will I need to do when it lands at this end thankyou

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Jon-Paul

      Aside from paying a good chunk of tax, you’ll need to get an MOT (which may require fitting a rear fog light) and then apply to the DVLA to register the car.


  • Mohammad

    Hi, I recently bought a toyota estima hybrid import from a private dealer, with no uk paperwork. Unfortunately when I received the log book, it doesn’t have anything relevant to the vehicle on it apart from make and engine size. I’m more concerned regarding the CO2 emissions. I rang DVLA and they said to get the emissions put on letterheaded paper from any garage and they would amend it. Do you you know of anyone who does emissions testing. Many Thanks

    • Andrew Post author

      Hi Mohammad

      I don’t know of anyone who does emissions testing. Why do you want the CO2 figure? Is it for a lower vehicle tax rate?