After a ~4 month wait, I decided to submit an online inquiry on MyUSCIS to understand why there has been no progress or status update on my green card since port of entry. I paid all my immigration fees prior to my POE. I received a generic response stating that my inquiry has been forwarded to the office handling my case and that they would be in touch with me. After waiting another 4 weeks without hearing from the office, I sent another inquiry though MyUSCIS and received a similar response. I contacted the ombudsman via a electronic form and received a response within days explaining that they investigated and my green card was now in production. About a week later, I logged onto MyUSCIS it stated that the case was now closed and my card has been mailed and I received my green card ~6 months from my POE. I wasn't in a rush to receive my green card, but I do wonder whether reaching out to the ombudsman earlier would have facilitated the process faster.
Importing My Vehicle
I had done a lot of research on importing my vehicle prior my POE. I had obtained a certificate of conformity from Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. back in December 2019 stating that my car was my vehicle was certified by the manufacturer to conform to all applicable Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS), US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), California Air Resources Board (CARB) Emission Regulations, and US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Emission Regulations. I also obtained a letter from Audi Finance stating that my vehicle was paid in full.
I had done a lot of research to try to find the most cost efficient way to transport my vehicle from Toronto to San Diego, including a straight drive from Toronto to San Diego, importing it from Toronto to Vancouver (originally planned to attend a friend's wedding), then drive down and enjoy the West Coast or ship it directly from Toronto to San Diego. I relied heavily on internet reviews, recognizing the biases typically associated with reviews. Initially, I planned the Toronto to Vancouver route, however, with COVID, plans changed. My wife and I tried sharing one car, but with both of us commuting to work, we decided to bite the bullet and ship my car done in late August. By this time, many of the shipping companies did not directly transport vehicles on their own, but relied on third-party companies. Fortunately, I did found a company that offered a competitive price (cheaper to Hansen's Forwarding) with enclosed transportation. Overall, I was very satisfied with their service. My communications with them was through email and they asked me to fill out a bunch of applications forms, asked for a copy of my certificate of conformity, bill of sale, evidence of authorized stay (they didn't initially recognize a photocopy of my temporary i-551 in my passport, but this was eventually clarified), and a picture of my odometer. The provided me a pick-up date at the address of my choice, came on time, and told me to expect my car in San Diego in 10-14 days. I didn't hear from them until the transport driver called me the day prior to arrival and indicated an estimated time of arrival. My car actually arrived earlier than expected and I found their service to be excellent. A couple of quirks that would have made the experience even better: One, they only accept wire transfer. Two, there is no method to track progression - I had no idea my car was coming earlier had it not been a call I received the day prior to delivery date, which was fortunate that I had the week off. In total, I spent approximately 3500 USD (shipping, custom brokerage, duty).
Registering My Car in California
DMV California makes ServiceOntario look like Amazon Prime. To be honest, I had a relatively easy experience getting my driver's license back in July, but I think that was the exception not the rule.
First off, I found the information on the website re: importing new vehicles to be a little vague. It gives the general requirements, but I wasn't too sure whether I needed a smog test and whether the smog test needed to be at a Star Station. On the website, under importing a vehicle, it states "you may also need: a smog certificate", but under smog inspections, it states "your vehicle does not need a smog inspection if your vehicle is gasoline-powered and less than four model years old", which is true in my case.
However, I decided to go ahead with a Star Station Smog Test prior to visiting the DMV because I did not want to line up at the DMV just to find out I needed a smog test. Unfortunately, the smog test failed because the OBDII monitor, specifically the EGR/VVT system, was not ready. I had some maintenance work on my car done 1 month earlier and the vehicle was transported and not driven for a while, so the technician at the Star Station told me to drive for ~100 miles and come back for a free re-test, as this may ready my monitors. I decided to try my luck at the DMV with a pre-filled out vehicle registration application anyway because I had the week off and went to a "less busy" one. I lined up for a couple of hours and even the DMV agent managing the line wasn't too sure whether I needed a smog test so he went to ask a senior personnel and it turns out you do need a smog test in California even when your vehicle is less than 4 model years old. I stayed in line to hand in my application, pay my registrations fees, received a temporary 30-day permit and was told to return to have my vehicle inspected by an agent and complete the process within a month.
A side note: I initially tried using one of the private "business partners" of the DMV to see if I can register my car without going to the DMV. I called in advance, was told it was fine, but after spending 1 hour there, a manger told me they don't process imported vehicles from outside the US. I am not sure whether this applies to other companies.
Passing the Smog test was quite a project. I decided to buy my own OBDII monitor (30ish dollars on amazon). After driving 100 miles, the EGR was still not ready so I proceeded to perform the "drive cycle" at midnight for four consecutive nights to see if I can ready my OBDII monitors. Unfortunately, no luck so I brought my car into the local Audi dealer where they investigated the OBDII monitor. They noted everything was working fine, then proceeded to reset the monitors and voila! It took them less than an hour to accomplish four nights of work. I brought my car back to the Star Station and I passed my smog test.
I brought my car back to the DMV for the inspection. The line was long, but the inspection was relatively straight forward. Interestingly, my vehicle has some labels but not all. However, the agent accepted my certificate of conformity from Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. and it was approved. I had to line up again to see another agent, but by this point, I decided the risk of being turned away before closing time was too high so I came on another day.
On the final day, I came an hour before opening and was 50th in line. Fortunately, the DMV triaged customers based on their needs and because I was only there to drop off some forms, I was in and out 30 minutes after the DMV opened that day.
All in all, this ordeal shortened my life expectancy by a few years from the risk of melanoma lining up in the sun, sleep deprivation, and unnecessary stress. To me it was worth it because I have a very special and clearly unhealthy bond to my car, but it took a lot of money, time and effort for a car that had no issues with conformity.