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CA DMV may not want the letter, but you will never get the car into the USA without it. US Customs requires it. A 2001 E39 will have neither a US Federal or California emission sticker anywhere (my 2001 540 M-Sport does not). It will have a Canadian Transport sticker with VIN and a maple leaf on it, in the door jam, next to the tire pressure sticker. So the letter from BMWNA will be your only evidence of compliance with Federal and State emission requirements.
For whatever reasons, the 2006 Porsche I brought in from Canada to the US already has the sticker under the engine cover that spelled out US Fedreal and California Emission Certified. May be this car was originally a US Spec car that was imported to the US first and then later ended up in Canada.
 

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For whatever reasons, the 2006 Porsche I brought in from Canada to the US already has the sticker under the engine cover that spelled out US Fedreal and California Emission Certified. May be this car was originally a US Spec car that was imported to the US first and then later ended up in Canada.
Different manufacturers may have different labeling methods. I should edit my above post to say a "Canadian market E39, will not have a USA or Canada emissions tag". At least that I can find on mine, either door jam or engine compartment. I bought my car while still under warranty and was inspected by The BMW Store before my purchase through a Vancouver, BC broker. It was barely two years old and maybe 14k miles.
 
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