If it won't certify under CA smog laws, there's no sense paying to register it. That would be step one. Yes, the rules are a bit confusing.
Does This Apply to Someone Moving to California?
If you are moving to California from another state, you may register a new federally certified vehicle in California if it was first registered by you in your home state, or for military personnel, in your last state of military service. When applying for vehicle registration in California, you must provide evidence of your vehicle’s previous registration and that you were a resident of the other state when you acquired the vehicle.
Vehicles Purchased From Out of the Country
California has special requirements for vehicles imported from other countries (including Canada and Mexico). It may be very costly and in some cases impossible to modify these vehicles to meet California emission requirements and/or federal motor vehicle safety standards. For example, vehicles manufactured to be sold in Europe (gray market vehicles) less than two years old are not legal for registration or use in California.
For More Information Regarding...
California residency and vehicle importation laws and requirements, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Technical Compliance Section at (916) 657-6795, or go to Buying an Out of State Vehicle.
The California Smog check program, contact the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) at (800) 952-5210.
California smog laws, gray market vehicles, and 49-state vehicles, contact the California Air Resources Board (ARB) at (800) 242-4450, by email at email@example.com, or visit ARB online.