Bahamas - Formalities
Entry into the Bahamas must be made at one of the official Ports of Entry, and the yellow Q flag should be flown within three miles of the port. Notify Customs of your arrival and no one should go ashore until pratique has been granted. Clearance must be done on arrival (within 24 hours) and Customs and Immigration will come to your vessel. Everyone on board must have a passport and fill out an immigration card.
This is the link to the Clearance Forms.
Regular hours for Bahamas Customs and Immigration Officers are 09:00-16:00 weekdays. Officers are on call during holidays and weekends. There is no overtime charge.
The Bahamas can be transited without clearing in until arrival at a Port of Entry at a convenient time, but during transit do not enter a port or go ashore.
Entry fees must be paid by all visiting yachts (see Fees section below for details) and are inclusive of a cruising permit, fishing permit and departure tax for up to four persons (captain plus 3 crew). Each additional person (over the age of 6) will be charged departure tax. The fees charged cover two entries with a 90 day period. Fees are high if only intending to stay a few days.
The Cruising Permit is issued for 12 months. The current fees are now valid for multiple entries during any 90-day period, which means that a vessel may leave the Bahamas and re-enter within the first 90 days of a Cruising Permit's validity, without payment of any additional fee. For further details see the Customs section below. Note: There is some doubt over the length of time the Cruising Permit is valid. The form states 6 months, the Customs officer says 12 months. (we have been advised that this is because the printed form has not been updated.) It is advisable to ensure your copy is amended.
The Fishing Permit is valid for 3 months. Extensions to this cost an additional $150 for 12 months.
There are no overtime or other charges. One should obtain an official receipt for all fees paid.
On some of the outer islands, the Customs officer may handle all formalities, but in Nassau and other larger ports both the Customs and Immigration officials must be seen. Officials should come to the yacht, but in smaller islands the captain will have to go ashore to find them. Crew must remain on board until clearance is completed. If clearing in at a marina, the marina personnel will call Customs and Immigration after arrival.
Duplicate copies of Maritime Declaration of Health, Inward Report for Pleasure Vessels and crew lists will have to be filled in. A temporary cruising permit for the yacht valid for one year will be granted. This document must remain on board at all times. See Documents for cruising permit extensions.
Every crew member must complete an immigration card, so they may have to accompany the skipper to sign the individual forms.
The Bahamas Customs Clearance form is available online in PDF form. See link in the Customs section below. The Immigration Arrival Card is not available on-line, but both forms can be obtained from The Bahamas Tourist Office, 1200 S. Pine Island Road, Plantation, FL. Phone: 954-236-9292. They will mail the forms to you if you request it.
Penalties are severe (fines, imprisonment, confiscation of the boat) for not clearing Customs and Immigration.
Movement of vessels is strictly controlled in Nassau, Freeport and George Town, where all yachts are required to clear with the appropriate Harbour Control (VHF Channel 16) when entering and leaving these harbours.
Before leaving the Bahamas, surrender your copy of the immigration card to the last Bahamian port of call. Departure formalities are simple and boats may leave without formally clearing out, although the cruising permit should be handed in to a Customs officer on departure. If this is not possible, the permit should be returned by mail. However, as some countries, notably the Dominican Republic, require an exit document (Zarpe), this should be obtained on departure from the Bahamas.
In Nassau there is a charge $75 for an exit zarpe. However, if sailing to the Bahamas, the authorities there are happy to accept your Bahamas Cruising permit instead of a zarpe.
See www.bahamas.com/boating-enter-exit for more details.
Last updated November 2015.
Passports are now required for all visitors, including those from the USA and Canada.
Citizens of the U.S.A., Canada, British Commonwealth countries (excluding those of India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ghana), the EU, most South American and Caribbean countries do not require a visa for stays of 3 months. See Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an accurate list.
Citizens of the U.K. and the USA can stay for up to 8 months before requiring a visa.
Single entry visas are valid for 3 months and multi-entry ones for a year.
If arriving by air, a return or onward ticket, as well as sufficient funds for your stay, must be produced. In the event of arriving by air and planning to leave by boat and having arrived without such a ticket, a copy of the cruising permit (with the crew member named on the manifest) must be produced.
A stay of up to six months, which may be extended to eight months, may be granted. Different Immigration officers, in different ports, give varying of amounts of time allowed, when you clear in. A careful note should taken of the time allowed, and be sure to apply for any necessary extension a few days before it expires. This can be done by going to a local immigration officer.
Before the permitted time has expired, including any extensions, one must leave the country either by boat or by air. A copy of the cruising permit, or of any extensions, should be taken abroad to avoid having to show a return ticket to the airline and/or Immigration when re-entering the Bahamas to rejoin a yacht. However, having a refundable return ticket can save much hassle. The original cruising permit must remain aboard the yacht. When leaving by air, a $15 departure tax is collected.
Last updated August 2015.
Customs Clearance Forms
The Cruising Permit is issued on arrival and is valid for 12 months. The current fees now permit multiple entries during any 90-day period, which means that a vessel may leave the Bahamas and re-enter as many times as they like within the first 90 days of a Cruising Permit's validity, without payment of any additional fee.
Yachts may remain in The Bahamas for a maximum of three years, but yearly extensions after the first year must be obtained from Bahamas Customs in Nassau. Each extension costs $500 payable by bank draft in favour of "The Public Treasury". Procedures for the extension should be started before the expiry of the current permit. Letters of request should be addressed to: Comptroller of Customs, P O Box N.155, Nassau. The number of the existing permit should be quoted and a copy enclosed for reference. More information available by calling (800)327-7678.
The cruising permit gives permission to visit all other islands in the Bahamas archipelago. The permit must be presented to officials if requested at any port visited or if boarded by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. The permit must be retained on board at all times until the cruise is finished, then handed back at the port of exit. If for any reason one is unable to clear outbound, which is not required, the permit should be mailed back from the next destination. Immigration papers should also be returned on exit.
See Fees for information on costs.
Importation Of Spare Parts
As of May 2009, cruising visitors with a valid Bahamas Temporary Cruising Permit are allowed to import boat repair/replacement parts DUTY FREE.
Sale Of Boat Or Equipment On A Cruising Permit
It is illegal to sell or attempt to sell any equipment from your vessel without first declaring such items to Customs and paying import duty and stamp duty, including selling to another foreign vessel on a temporary cruising permit.
If you have a firearm on board (shotguns and handguns only) you must declare it with Bahamian Customs. You must provide the serial number, name of the manufacturer, plus an exact count of ammunition.
While you are allowed to have a firearm on your boat, you cannot remove it. Weapons must be under lock and key at all times.
In cases of emergencies, which require your departure by air, you must notify Bahamian Police or Customs. They will accompany you to retrieve the firearm and present you with a receipt. Upon your return to the island, Bahamian Police or Customs will escort you to your vessel and return your firearm. Any infraction of this law will be dealt with severely.
Bicycles And Motorcycles
Bicycles and motorcycles should be listed on the cruising permit when clearing into The Bahamas. If you wish to use them ashore, they should be licensed at the first port of call.
Other Prohibited Items
Knives and other deadly weapons, plants and plant products, meat and meat products (except for your own consumption), pornographic material.
Last updated April 2015.
The health service in the Bahamas is basic, but most of the bigger places do have a small hospital (clinic). The largest hospital is in Nassau where they carry out small operations.
Smaller islands usually just have a clinic with a nurse practitioner.
All amateur radio operators wishing to transmit (including email) in The Bahamas need to apply for a Bahamas reciprocal licence from the Public Utilities Commission, P O Box N.4860, Nassau, Bahamas. Send a copy of your licence (US General or higher), a copy of identification which should be birth certificate or passport page, a $25 money order and a letter of request to the Executive Director and Secretary, attention Radio Licensing Department. Allow at least 2 months for processing. The licence runs for a year from the date of its being granted (no longer on a calendar basis as was previously the case).
You and your radios currently licensed in your home country are sufficient to transmit in The Bahamas.
Some cellular phones will work in The Bahamas under roaming agreements, but, if not, you will have to register your phone with BATELCO and make a substantial deposit.
There is a flat fee to clear Customs and Immigration, which is $150.00 for boats up to 30 feet and $300.00 for boats over 30ft. This covers a vessel with up to three people. Additional persons are charged $25 each.
Note: The official Bahamas Customs site (www.bahamas.gov.bs/customs) has not been updated since 2011 and still says 35ft!
This fee includes a cruising permit, a fishing permit (request this endorsement), Customs and Immigration charges and the departure fee and covers a 2nd entry within a 90 day period.
Payment in cash only. Ensure a receipt is obtained from the clearing officer.
Extensions to the fishing permit cost an additional $150 for 12 months.
The cruising permit may be extended for an additional 2 years on application to Customs and payment of a fee of $500 per year's extension (further details above in the Customs section).
There are no overtime or other charges.
For more information on the Cruising Permit see the Noonsite/Customs section.
Last updated February 2016.
Fishing & Diving Regulations
Fishing regulations are strict. A fishing permit, issued at the time of inbound clearance, is included in the cruising permit fee, and valid for 3 months. Confirm at the time of issue, the details of the regulations as those printed on the form are often out of date.
A Sports Fishing Permit must be aboard the boat you are fishing from but individual permits are not required. A fishing permit costs $150 per annum from the Fisheries Department if bought separately. On arrival a fishing permit should be requested from the Customs officer. This is required by any foreign vessel fishing by any method in Bahamian waters. The Permit is valid for hook and line fishing only (see regulations on its reverse) and no more than 6 rods at a time.
Bag limits apply as follows:
- Lobster or crawfish: 10 tails per VESSEL at any time (closed season 1st April to 31st July). Egg bearing females are protected. Minimum size limits for Lobster and crawfish, 3 3/8 inch carapace length or 6 inch tail.
- Conch: more than 6 at any one time.
- Demersal fish (grouper, snapper): 20 pounds per vessel.
- Migratory species such as Wahoo, Kingfish, Tuna or Dolphin shall NOT exceed 18 fish aboard the vessel at any one time.
- Billfish species (marlin, sailfish or swordfish) caught shall be released unharmed except where landed under the terms of an approved sportsfishing event or tournament.
- Stone Crabs: minimum harvestable claw is 4 inches. Female harvesting is prohibited (1st June to 15th October Closed Season).
- Turtle, coral or sea mammals are not to be taken. It is illegal to import Turtles, but legal to eat them in The Bahamas.
Spearfishing is restricted to Hawaiian sling only. Spears, fish traps, nets (excluding landing nets) and spearguns prohibited. You should request that the vessel's Fishing Permit be so endorsed, in writing, on issue. Spearfishing is not allowed within 1 mile of the coast of New Providence, off south coast of Freeport, Grand Bahamas and within 200 yards off the coast of all Outer Islands. Spearing or taking marine animals by any means is prohibited within national sea parks.
Use of Scuba gear or air compressor to harvest fish, conch or crawfish and other marine animals is prohibited.
No marine life at all may be captured in the national marine parks or reserve areas, see below.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force regularly patrols sensitive areas and has the power to inspect any boat they suspect of flouting either these regulations or the drug laws. They monitor VHF Channel 16.
To protect the fragile environment, nature reserves and underwater parks have been established at some islands. Visiting sailors are expected to do their best to cause as little damage as possible, both ashore and afloat. In particular, avoid anchoring in coral, which is easily destroyed by the anchor and rode. Mooring buoys have been installed at some locations and these should be used in preference to anchors.
National Parks, marine and terrestrial, are administered by The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), P O Box N.4105, Nassau, Bahamas, from whom further details may be obtained. The BNT is a non-governmental charitable organization. There are presently 12 protected areas in The Bahamas.
The national marine reserve areas in The Bahamas are:
1. The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
A 23 mile long area of the Exuma chain, from Wax Cay Cut in the north to Conch Cut in the south and approximately 8 miles wide, is headquartered at Waderick Wells with a full time park warden and Royal Bahamas Defence Force presence. Be sure to know the boundaries and observe the no-take restrictions of anything dead or alive. Careful and non-destructive anchoring is permitted within the Park except at Waderick Wells where moorings are available. A minimum subscription of $50 to the Support Fleet will entitle the boat to two nights of free mooring while funding management of the Park. Call one day ahead on Channel 16 to reserve a mooring and visit the headquarters (moorings are limited).
2. Pelican Cays Land and Sea Park
Inside North Bar Channel, Great Abaco.
3. Peterson Cay National Park
A 1 ½ acre cay off the south shore of Grand Bahama.
Last updated April 2015
Bahamas Import Requirements
An import permit is required from the Ministry of Agriculture for all animals being brought into the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
A request for such a permit must be made to:-
Director of Agriculture
Department of Agriculture
Levy Building, East Bay Street
P.O. Box N-3704
Nassau, The Bahamas.
Phone: 242-325-7502/9 or 242-325-7438.
Fax: 242-325-3960 (send extra $5 if applying by fax)
On Line at: www.bahamas.com
The application must be accompanied by a $10.00 processing fee for each animal and a $5.00 fax fee in cases where persons wish to have the permit faxed to them (money order or cash only. No personal cheques will be accepted)
Allow enough time to receive the permit before leaving your home port. See comment at bottom of page on how to speed this process up.
For the U.S. and Canada, the following are the main provisions of the import permit as it applies to dogs and cats:
(a) The animal must be 6 months of age or older.
(b) The animal must be accompanied by a valid certificate which substantiates that it has been vaccinated against rabies within not less than one (1) month and not more than ten (10) months prior to importation for the one (1) year vaccine. For the three (3) year vaccine it must be within no less than one (1) month and not more than thirty-four (34) months prior to importation into The Bahamas.
(c) The animal must be accompanied by a Veterinary Health Certificate presented within 48 hours of arrival in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to a licensed veterinarian for an examination.
The Permit is valid for one (year and must be used within that time.
Regulations for all other types of animals and relating to countries not mentioned above may be obtained from the Director of Agriculture.
Customs Duty for permanent entry of all animals from outside the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (dogs, cats, cattle and horses) are $10 plus 1/2% of the value of the animal. Yearly fees for dog licenses in New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands are: male or spayed female, $2; unspayed female $6.
Animals not meeting these requirements will not be allowed to enter the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Last updated March 2016.
Important Update May 2016
Exiting the Bahamas with Pets:
Because of a recent outbreak of dog distemper in the Bahamas, new rules have been put into place regarding the exit of pets from the Bahamas. It now takes 5 or more days for a health certificate for your dog/pet to exit the Bahamas, as all paperwork must be sent to Nassau, and approved by the Bahamian Department of Agriculture.
If you are in the Bahamas, make sure your pets are current with all shots, and have your distemper records/certificates in hand. Both USA and Bahamas officials are concerned, making the paperwork a more lengthy process for ALL pets.