The 26S proteasome is a conserved 2.5 MDa protein degradation machine that localizes to different cellular compartments, including the nucleus. Little is known about the specific targeting mechanisms of proteasomes in eukaryotic cells. We used a cell-free nuclear reconstitution system to test for nuclear targeting and import of distinct proteasome species. Three types of stable, proteolytically active proteasomes particles were purified from Xenopus egg cytosol. Two of these, the 26S holoenzyme and the 20S core particle, were targeted to the nuclear periphery but did not reach the nucleoplasm. This targeting depends on the presence of mature nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) in the nuclear envelope. A third, novel form, designated here as 20S+, was actively imported through NPCs. The 20S+ proteasome particle resembles recently described structural intermediates from other systems. Nuclear import of this particle requires functional NPCs, but it is not directly regulated by the Ran GTPase cycle. The mere presence of the associated + factors is sufficient to reconstitute nuclear targeting and confer onto isolated 20S core particles the ability to be imported. Stable 20S+ particles found in unfertilized eggs may provide a means for quick mobilization of existing proteasome particles into newly formed nuclear compartments during early development.