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By No owner — last modified Sep 30, 2016 01:12 PM

 USA - Formalities

Clearance

US Customs is now part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is called Customs & Border Protection (CBP). Security has increased at entry points to the US for both USA and foreign-flagged vessels.

Arrival

For foreign yachts, a face-to-face inspection is usually required and an official Port of Entry must be used. If a member of a LBO (Local Boater Option) or SVRS (Small Boat Reporting System) scheme, call +1 (800) 432-1216 or +1 (800) 451-0393. Both of these numbers are toll-free automated systems and may not connect properly with foreign SIM cards. Wait times may be lengthy.

Most arrivals – including first-time arrivals – should call the local field office of the Port of Entry at which they are arriving. Those ports and numbers are located here. The local CBP field office will give an Arrival Reference Number during the first call to check in, which you must have when you go for your in-person check-in.

Procedures vary slightly depending on where entry is made. Some reporting offices are not located within walking distance of the seafront and may require a taxi.

Current regulations regarding entry clearance and cruising licence are on the US government site. Cruisers recommend not arriving in the US on Fri/Sat/Sun as the phone line is constantly engaged.

Note: Noonsite has been advised by CBP officials that they are unable to call back to international phone numbers, so take this into account when making contact with a CBP office. The skipper may go ashore to make a phone call from a land line in a marina, but no other member of the boat's crew is permitted off the dock until clearance procedures are conducted.

New Requirement Jan 2016: CBP now requires ALL foreign-flagged yachts (including any registered under SVRS and LBO schemes) to obtain a Cruising License. Once issued, it is valid for up to one year (365 days from issue date). See Documents for more details.

Non-US flagged private yachts and non-commercial pleasure vessels under 300 gross tons do not have to report their arrival in advance. Yachts larger than 300 gross tons should contact US CBP prior to departing for the USA.

As part of enhanced security precautions, most yachts (including US and Canadian vessels traveling far offshore or to the Caribbean) are required to submit a float plan under the Small Vessel Registration Scheme (SVRS). (See the official SVRS US website for details.) This also applies to those boaters registered under the LBO and NEXUS schemes. This online system allows you to "pre-establish" yourself with the CBP and in many cases avoid having to physically report to a Customs office when you enter the US from a foreign country on a small vessel. (This is typical for frequent visitors, but may be impractical for first-time arrivals.) For those regularly returning to the US from the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, USVI's, Mexico, or Canada, this free scheme offers a much quicker and easier option for clearing back into the USA. Certain schemes may only be available for US citizens and/or USA flagged yachts.

The skipper, and every other person on board, regardless of nationality, are required to report to the nearest CBP Office after arriving from abroad in an official Port of Entry. US nationals must take with them a valid US passport. All non-US nationals must take passports with valid visas or a Green Card (long-term resident) if held.

If arriving after working hours, contact the CBP immediately, but face-to-face inspection may not be possible until the following morning. During this time, you must remain on board, and clear immediately the next morning. You must report your arrival immediately upon arrival no matter what time of day, and you must conduct your customs/immigration clearance procedures within 24-hours of arrival. You can download the Entry Clearance statement from this CBP web page.

The nearest CBP office might be some distance away from your chosen port of entry, requiring a taxi. No taxi in the USA will accept foreign currency. You may not be allowed to rent a car until you have an entry stamp in your passport. It would be worthwhile to select an entry port where an CBP office is within a short distance. Again, here is the current list of Ports of Entry.

Jurisdictions and Enforcement

The US Coast Guard has the authority to board any vessel within US territorial waters and they frequently do this, particularly off the coast of Florida. The US Navy or Coast Guard can also board any US flag vessel anywhere in the world. All vessels entering the 12 mile territorial waters must fly the Q flag until clearance procedures have been conducted. NOTE: A US Coast Guard boarding or customs inspection offshore does NOT constitute a customs clearance procedure.

Failure to follow the correct procedures on arrival (particularly in reference to reporting arrival in a timely manner, or disembarking your vessel without permission) can lead to a substantial fine and seizure of the offending vessel.

Foreign Yachts

The captain must report the arrival of the yacht to the CBP immediately and make formal entry within 24 hours. On arrival everyone must remain on board, except for the captain going ashore to report the arrival of the yacht. Documents needed include registration papers, a declaration of both ship's stores and crew's general possessions, last port clearance, and a crew list. Clearance must be completed with Customs, Immigration, Health and Agriculture. Usually the Customs officer performs some or all of these other duties.

Foreign-flagged yachts (including Canadian ones, not in possession of a cruising license), are normally required to notify Customs (Homeland Security) when moving from one customs region to another, (i.e., from Ft Lauderdale to Miami). There are fines for vessels who do not comply. Often, vessels who report a few times will be deemed "secure" and will be instructed by the CBP official that further reporting is unnecessary until departure from the USA. See the Noonsite/USA reporting article for more information.

Note: There appears to be some confusion over whether this rule applies if the vessel has a cruising license. It is advisable to obtain a written copy of the procedure to be followed when initially clearing in or being issued with a cruising license. See Noonsite/USA/Documents for the list of countries whose boats are eligible for a cruising permit.

One thing to be aware of, is that the various states often interpret these federal regulations differently, or apply local rules to suit a local situation. If possible, contact the officials at your chosen Port of Entry in advance to check requirements. CBP officers are normally very helpful and will notify you of any updated laws or procedures.

If you are notified of a customs/immigration regulation that we have not updated on Noonsite, please email us and we will update our database.

It is recommended to keep records of your checking-in activities, such as name and badge number of any officials you check in with – especially if receiving instructions contrary to expected procedures – email receipts of notification, as well ensuring that the yacht's details and movement have in fact been entered onto the automated system. It is okay to ask for verification from the officer you are speaking to.

See Noonsite's Documents page for more requirements for foreign yachts.

US Registered Yachts

On arrival in the USA from a foreign port all US yachts must report their arrival to the CBP within 24 hours, and also report any merchandise acquired abroad that is subject to duty. If an inspection is required, the Customs officer will direct the yacht to an inspection area. New security regulations compel US nationals to now report arrivals in a similar manner to foreign nationals: report arrival immediately and complete immigration/customs clearance within 24 hours of arrival.

Cuba

US yachts are NOT forbidden by law from cruising in Cuba, but  they do have to complete various forms.

UPDATE for July 2017: President Trump made an announcement rolling back some of the Obama Era policies that eased restrictions on travel. The US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control has released this document to explain how the new announcement will effect travelers to Cuba from the USA.

All crew must to comply with one of the 12 'exceptions' (which categorise the reason for the visit) and then obtain USCG form 3300. This then permits the boat to visit Cuba for a maximum of 2 weeks. For more information on this procedure, see this Report from Facebook.

All yachts returning to the United States from Cuba can expect to be boarded. The amount of difficulties reported by US yachts varies and seems to depend on individual officials. Cuban officials will co-operate and not stamp US passports.

On leaving Florida for Cuba, it is mandatory to notify the US Coast Guard and obtain clearance for crossing the security zone into Cuban waters. There will be enhanced US Coast Guard patrols in this area.

Foreign flagged vessels not should have a problem traveling between Cuba and the US, however, reports indicate that Key West should be avoided for clearing-in as several foreign yachts coming from Cuba have experienced problems here and were either denied a cruising permit or had an existing one cancelled and had to leave the country. It has also been reported that the same situation arose when a froeign yacht cleared in at Miami. Noonsite has been advised that Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale is a better choice, but you must stay offshore and may not use the (Intracoastal Waterway) ICW until clearance has been obtained.

Another option for both US and foreign boats is to leave Cuba for another country (such as the Bahamas) and make entry into the United States from there. Those who have done both strongly advise this option.

NOTE: Any US citizens, on either a US or foreign flagged boat, still have to fulfill one of the 12 'exceptions' categorizing the reason for their visit. ('People-to-people' or 'education' are the easiest ones to officially comply with).

Cruising Between Canada and USA

For Canadian and US citizens there is a scheme which simplifies border formalities. NEXUS is a joint US/Canadian customs and immigration program for frequent travelers between the two countries. It replaces the I-68. NEXUS is designed to simplify procedures for pre-approved, low-risk boaters who regularly cross the boarder. It allows such boaters to clear Customs and Immigration of either Canada or the U.S.A. by contacting the Telephone Reporting Centre (TRC) within 30 minutes and up to 4 hours prior to arrival.

US Citizens who frequently travel internationally may also benefit from the Global Entry program.

See the Nexus Program website for details.

Other Frequent Passage Schemes

The Local Boater Option (LBO) is a similar scheme operating in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, which allows pleasure boat reporting by telephone. See this Noonsite/report.

The Small Vessel Reporting System is specifically for boaters who are enrolled in the LBO program. It is a web-based automated on-line reporting system created for LBO participants to expeditiously report their intended arrivals from foreign countries. Open to only US and Canadian citizens, you must apply on line at https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/main/goes/ and you must still call in by phone upon arrival in the US. The program requires you to file a float plan on line as well, which offers a tremendous safety benefit.

Note: this system is only available in certain areas (details on the website) and does still appear to have "teething" problems both with the usability of the website and lack of knowledge among customs agents.

Departures

Customs do not have to be notified when US boats leave for a foreign port, although most countries require the last port clearance for their own entry procedure. It is necessary to obtain this outbound "zarpe" before leaving the USA.

The US CBP is not generally set up to issue outward clearance to pleasure vessels, but the US Dept of Homeland Security use CBP Form 1300 for a Zarpe for commercial vessels. The form can be obtained here to fill out in advance and expedite the process. Get this stamped by Customs at a port or airport, and if this is not possible, get it notarized by a lawyer. Remember, this is for the foreign port and not an official procedure for the United States immigration/customs rules.

Some cruisers have encountered confusion from the Customs officers when getting a stamp on this form by pleasure yachts as it is typically for commercial vessels (they do not have a dedicated form for non-commercial vessels) so it may be easier to use a notary. (Noonsite has received a report that this works very well.)

This CBP Form 1300 procedure is common (and important to follow) especially when departing Puerto Rico or the USVI when the next port of call is the Dominican Republic, the BVI, or any of the Windward Islands.

Last updated August 2017.

Immigration

MIDDLE EAST TRAVEL BAN UPDATE (28 January 2017): A temporary travel ban from certain Middle Eastern countries has been enacted by the new administration. Citizens of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen have been barred from entering the USA for the next 90 days (starting: Jan 28). The refugee program is suspended, and Syrian nationals identifying as refugees have been banned permanently. Also, nationals of ANY country who have recently traveled to any of these countries will likely be subject to enhanced screening upon arrival. As this situation is developing, there has been no official update to the US State Department websites, but the full text of the ban can be found here.

Important Notice:-
All nationalities, whether entering and/or leaving the US by private yacht MUST obtain a visa in advance. Such visitors CANNOT enter the USA for the first time under the Visa Waiver Programme.

It is essential to plan ahead, as obtaining a visa for the United States is not a quick process. A personal interview at a US embassy (or some consulates) is required, together with the recording (in a US database) of the applicant's biometric data (i.e., fingerprints, photograph, etc).

There are 185 different types of USA Visas; however, this website contains all the relevant information and procedure: US State Department Directory of Visa Categories.

Note: Private yacht crew qualify for a Type D or Type C1/D visa, but only if remaining in the USA for less than 29 days. Most cruisers opt for the Type B1/B2 visa that allows foreigners access to the USA for 6 months at a time and allows re-entry for up to 10 years. The Type B1/B2 visa has special restrictions for receiving pay as a foreign national. See this Cruiser's report on their experience in obtaining such a visa.

If flying into the States with a B1/B2 visa on a one-way ticket in order to join a yacht on passage out of the country, be sure to arrive with a letter in hand from the yacht's skipper to show to Immigration you are leaving the country. Use yacht stationery with a boat stamp and signature, including all your personal details, name of yacht, where it is berthed, approximate date of departure and destination.

The only exceptions to visa requirements are Canadian citizens who are permanent residents in Canada, and Bermudan citizens who are permanent residents in Bermuda.

Look at US Website on entry information for yachts for the latest detailed information.

Every person entering the United States must be seen in person by an Immigration officer, except those participating in the Canadian Border Small Boat Program (NEXUS) or Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) available for US citizens and permanent residents.

US citizens should carry proof of citizenship such as a passport (or birth certificate) while on board a coastal vessel. All foreign nationals must carry a passport at all times. US citizens entering the United States from countries outside North America are required to possess a valid US passport.

See this Noonsite report for possible complications if entering from Canada.

Foreign yachtsmen entering the USA from the Caribbean

See articles: 
Noonsite report on making use of the US Visa Waiver for entry into the USVIs, and 
Noonsite/Accurate Information for Yachtsmen Entering the USA.

If you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country and planning to make use of this method of entering the USVIs or Puerto Rico, it is necessary to have completed an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). This can be completed online and costs $14.

An ESTA is valid to 2 years but it does not guarantee entry to the United States. Entry under the Visa Waiver program is valid for a visit of up to 90 days from the first entry into the USA or its Caribbean territories. Such an entry permit will then allow onward travel to mainland USA by yacht.

Note: Individuals travelling on valid US visas are not required to apply for an ESTA travel authorization.

See US website for more details and an up-to-date list of countries whose citizens are eligible for entry to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. See also this US Department of Homeland Security website. Such citizens must (from April 2016) have a biometric chip in their passport (not just a machine readable one as previously).

It is worth repeating: a visa waiver does not apply if entering the USA for the first time by yacht.

Last updated November 2016.

Customs

Firearms

From the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) website:

An foreign citizen admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa is prohibited from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing a firearm or ammunition unless the they fall within one of the exceptions provided in 18 U.S.C. 922(y)(2), such as: a valid hunting license or permit, admitted for lawful hunting or sporting purposes, certain official representatives of a foreign government, or a foreign law enforcement officer of a friendly foreign government entering the United States on official law enforcement business.

Non-residents arriving in U.S. waters with a firearm for hunting/sport purposes must apply for a permit in advance of arrival from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) of the US Treasury Department. It can take up to 2-3 months for ATF to approve the temporary importation, so one is advised to submit the application well in advance. Failure to have an approved ATF Form 6 will result in firearms being detained or seized. The application form can be downloaded from the ATF website.

Returning US citizens do not require an import permit for firearms they have taken out of the country; however, this previous export must be proven by registering the firearms before departure with either customs or the ATF and may be subject to enhanced security checks.

Yacht Importing

A foreign visitor may temporarily import a pleasure boat into the USA free of duty if it is for his or her personal use. Import tarrifs must be paid within one year of the date of importation if the boat is sold or offered for sale or charter in the USA. Boats entered for alterations or repairs, as samples for taking orders or as professional equipment and tools of the trade, may be entered without payment of duty as temporary importation under bond. The length of stay is normally one year and cannot be extended beyond three years.

All forms can be downloaded from the website, US Customs and Border Protection.

Updated November 2016.

Customs telephone numbers for various states

All contact information can be found on the Customs and Border Protection website where all ports are listed. (Keep in mind the country code in the United States is 001 or +1.)

South Florida (Miami Customs District): All yachts arriving in Southern Florida in ports and marinas from Fort Pierce south and around the coast up to and including Ft Myers may call (800) 432-1216. This includes the Fort Pierce Area, Fort Lauderdale Area, West Palm Beach Area, Miami Area, Marco Island and Key West Area.

Alabama: Mobile (334) 441-5111, (504) 441-5895.

Alaska: Anchorage (907) 271-6309, (907) 271-6313, Juneau (907) 586-7211, Ketchikan (907) 225-2254, Sitka (907) 747-3374, Skagway (907) 983-2325, Valdez (907) 835-2355, Wrangell (907) 874-3415.

California: Los Angeles (310) 514-6013, (310) 514-6083, (310) 980-3300, San Diego (619) 557-5370, (619) 662-7209, San Francisco (415) 782-7423, (415) 782-9424/5, San Luis Obispo (805) 595-2381.

Connecticut: Bridgeport (203) 367-9487 & 9489, (800) 973-2867.

Delaware: (800) 743-7416 both places, also Dover (215) 596-1972, Wilmington (302) 573- 6191.

Florida: Fernandina Beach (904) 261-6154, Ft Myers (941) 225-0041, Jacksonville (St Augustine) (904) 360-5020, Panama City (850) 785-4688, Pensacola (904) 432-6811, Pt Canaveral (407) 783-2066, Pt Manatee (941) 729-9301, St Petersburg (727) 536-7311, Tampa (813) 228-2358.

Georgia: Brunswick (912) 262-6692, Savannah (912) 232-7507, (912) 652-4400, (912) 966- 0557.

Illinois: Chicago (312) 894-2900.

Louisiana: (504) 589-3771 all places, also New Orleans (504) 589-6804, Baton Rouge (504) 0261, Gramercy (504) 869-3765, Lake Charles (318) 439-5512, Morgan City (504) 384-6658.

Maine: Portland (207) 780-3228.

Maryland: Baltimore (410) 962-7986, (800) 973-2867.

Massachusetts: Boston (617) 737-2380, (800) 937-2867.

Michigan: Detroit (313) 226-3140,Grand Rapids (616) 456-2515, Port Huron (810) 985-9512, Sault Ste Marie (906) 632-2631 & 7221.

Minnesota: Baudette (218) 634-2803, Crane Lake (218) 933-2321, Duluth (218) 720-5203, Ely (218) 365-3262, Grand Marais (218) 387-1148 (May-October), Grand Portage (218) 475-2244, International Falls (218) 283-2541, Warroad (218) 386-2796.

Mississippi: (800) 973-2867 both places, also Gulfport (601) 864-6794, Pascagoula (601) 762- 7311.

New Jersey: Newark (201) 645-6561/ 2257/ 3762 & 2552, Perth Amboy (908) 442-0414 & 0416. (If one arrives in New Jersey south of the Manasquan Inlet contact Customs, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania office.)

New York: New York City: (6 World Trade Center) (212) 466-2901 (Pier 92 North River 0800-1600 only) (212) 399-2901, (Rosebank Staten Island) (718) 816-0469, Albany (518) 431-0200, (800) 827-2851, Buffalo (800) 927-5015, (716) 551-4311, Ogdensburg (800) 827-2851.

North Carolina: Morehead City (919) 726-5845/3561/2034, Wilmington (910) 343-4616.

North Dakota: Pembina (701) 825-6551.

Ohio: Cleveland (440) 267-3600, Toledo-Sandusky (888) 523-2628 (419) 259-6424, (419) 625-0022.

Oregon: Astoria (800) 562-5943, (503) 325-5541, Coos Bay (541) 267-6312, Newport (541) 265-6456, Portland no service, call Astoria.

Pennsylvania: Philadelphia (215) 597-4648, (215) 596-1971 (800) 973-2867.

Rhode Island: Newport (401) 847-2744, Providence (401) 941-6326.

South Carolina: Charleston (843) 723-1272.

Texas: (800) 973-2867 for most Texan ports, also Brownsville (956) 831-4121, (956) 548-2744, Freeport, Galvestan & Houston (713) 671-1100, (407) 975-2062, Port Arthur (409) 727-0285, Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, Port Lavaca, Port O'Connor & Rockport (512) 888-3352.

Virginia: Alexandria (703) 557-1950, Newport News (757) 245-6470, Norfolk (757) 441-6741, Richmond (804) 226-9675.

Washington: (800) 562-5943 for all Washington ports, also Aberdeen (360) 532-2030, Bellingham (360) 734-5463, Blaine (360) 332-6318, Everett (425) 259-0246, Friday/Roche Harbors (360) 378-2080, Longview (360) 425 3710, Neah Bay (206) 645-2311, Olympia (253) 593-6338, Point Roberts (360) 945-2314, Port Angeles (360) 457-4311, Port Townsend (360) 385-3777, Seattle (206) 593-6338, Tacoma (253) 593-6338, Vancouver (Canada) (604) 278-1825 & 7422.

Wisconsin: Green Bay (920) 496-0606, Milwaukee (414) 571-2875, Racine (414) 633-0286.

Health

ZIKA VIRUS ALERT (September 2016): There have been recent travel alerts regarding travel to parts of south Florida including the Miami area. Elsewhere in the United States, there have been confirmed cases of the ZIKA Virus. Mosquito-borne transmission is the most common source, but sexual contact with an infected person can also spread the disease.

There is growing concern about the rapid spread of the ZIKA Virus and the impact of the virus on pregnant women and babies. ZIKA is transmitted by mosquitos in tropical and sub-tropical climates, and there is currently no cure or vaccine. This situation is evolving rapidly, so please refer to the CDC’s dedicated website if you are intending to cruise in one of the effected areas.

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/intheus/florida-update.html

Cost of healthcare:
Healthcare in the United States can be significantly more expensive than elsewhere in the world. Without adequate health insurance, a simple procedure or emergency room visit can cost many thousands of dollars. For minor injuries or illnesses, seek assistance at local "emergency care clinics", which operate separate from hospitals and usually cost less money. These clinics have a range of names, but "Rapid Care" or "Urgent Care" or "Critical Care" are typical.

Medicine restrictions: Some medicines are more strictly controlled by the USA Food & Drug Administration (FDA) than elsewhere in the world. This means that some medications that are typical in Europe or Asia will be unavailable over-the-counter or on-the-shelf without a prescription. Alternatively, medicines that are available on-the-shelf will be less effective than those in Europe, South America, or Asia. (An example of this is European cold/cough medicine with codine: codine is a controlled substance in the United States.)

Some names of medications are different in the United States. For instance, asking for "Paracetamol" even to a licensed pharmacist will not yield any results. Pre-research the American name of any medication you need from a drug store.

Documents

Cruising Licence:

Certain countries are eligible for a cruising licence (see below), which exempts them from having to clear in and out at any subsequent US port once official entry has been made. This exemption however may not apply everywhere and it would be wise to obtain additional written proof of the current requirements at the point of entry.

Note: Update Jan 2016: The requirement for a Cruising Licence now applies to Canadian boaters as well as any others registered under the SVRS and LBO schemes. See this CBP web page for more details.

The licence is obtained from the US CBP office on arrival (or from Puerto Rico) and is valid for up to one year. After expiry, another licence may only be issued after the vessel has left for a foreign port and returned from a foreign port at least 15 days since the previous license expired. If wishing to leave the US and return within less than one year plus 15 days, be sure to request your cruising licence be issued for only the period you plan to be in the US. Cruising outside of U.S. waters while your cruising licence is still in effect does NOT fulfill the 15-day requirement. See this Noonsite report for possible difficulties.

The countries to which this applies are Argentina, Anguilla, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belgium, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. This list is subject to change and it includes countries with which the USA has reciprocal arrangements.

It appears that officials interpret the rules differently in different states and it may be possible in some states to renew the cruising licence without leaving the country. It is reported that in Florida officials will require a yacht to leave the country for the 15 days minimum period before being able to renew.

According to the official CBP website, sequential cruising licences can be issued to US residents sailing a foreign-flagged boat if it was made in the U.S. or if duty has been paid on its importation.

Foreign yachts without a cruising licence must clear in and out of each subsequent US port visited.

Note that if arriving in the US directly from Cuba, you may well be denied a cruising licence. This happened to several foreign cruising boats in 2012 when arriving from Cuba and clearing into Key West.

If denied a cruising permit, it is recommended to try another Immigration office. Worth the effort as it's likely officials will give you the option of leaving the USA or getting "Permission to move" at each port ($36 per move).

It seems that although the rules are there, the application is haphazard.

CBP Decals:

All U.S. boats 30 feet in length or over must have a current decal. Once purchased, they are valid for 12 months.

Decals can now be bought online, follow the links from the Customs website. For more information go to https://dtops.cbp.dhs.gov

NOTE: Foreign-flagged yachts issued with a Cruising License do not require a Decal. This is a requirement for US vessels only.

Fishing Licenses

Licenses are required for fishing in nearly every state and are subject to local State jurisdiction. See this website for individual licensing requirements in each state. There are daily, seasonal, and annual catch limits described in the regulations for each area. There are also restrictions in some national parks and protected wildlife areas.

Licenses are available through most marine service outlets, fuel docks, sporting goods and hardware stores. A special Alaska Fish and Game License is required for fishing in National Parks such as Misty Fiords and Glacier Bay.

EPIRB Requirement

The US authorities require that all vessels intending to make offshore passages to have 406 MHz EPIRBs on board, and must have these registered and be able to show proof of such registration. Those who do not comply must register their EPIRB on arrival.

Boat Registration Documents

All yachts must carry their original registration documents. This is international maritime law.

For US yachts, the USCG offers emailed certified copies of your documentation certificates for a fee, if you cannot get your original forwarded to you before the old one expires.

A useful link is the USCG Vessel Documentation Center

A recent update now extends the USCG registration renewal period to 5 years instead of the annual renewal previously necessary. Also, an electronic form of the registration is acceptable (in US waters).

Another useful link is A Boater's Guide to Federal Regulations for Recreational Vessels

Last updated November 2016.

US Coast Guard
Tel:800-799-8362
Contact for queries regarding documents.

Fees

There are no charges for overtime inspections performed by US customs at most ports, but there are occasionally fees for weekend arrivals in the USVI.

Cruising Licenses

Cruising licenses are obtainable from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Port Director at the first port of arrival in the United States.

There is no cost for a cruising license.

When a foreign-flagged vessel first arrives in the U.S. it will have to file a CBP-1300 (Vessel Entrance or Clearance Statement). There will be a $19 filing fee for a CBP-1300 form. At that time, the master of the vessel may apply for a cruising license.

Vessels are not required to obtain a cruising license, but foreign-flagged yachts without cruising licenses must file an additional CBP-1300 for each time the vessel changes ports and must clear in and out of each port. There is an additional $19 filing fee for each CBP-1300. This includes each arrival into the USA, departing from the USA to a foreign port, and ANY movement within the USA.

Cruising licenses may be granted for the following conditions: The yacht must be owned by an individual or a corporation who is a resident outside the United States, USVI, or Puerto Rico, and the yacht must possess a foreign flag, and there must be reciprocal arrangements for U.S. yachts operating in that country’s waters. The current list of qualifying countries is as follows: Argentina, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Australia, Finland, Italy, St. Kitts & Nevis, Austria, France, Jamaica, St. Vincent & Grenadines, Bahamas, Germany, Liberia, Sweden, Belgium, Great Britain (and most British territories), Marshall Islands, Switzerland, Bermuda, Greece, Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Honduras, New Zealand.

US pleasure craft and foreign yachts without a cruising license and longer than 30 ft (9 m) LOA must pay an annual fee of US$27.50 for a "CBP DTOPS User Fee Decal." The decal may be purchased online through the DTOPS website. Foreign-flagged vessels are no longer required to obtain a DTOPS decal if they obtain a cruising license. A DTOPS User Fee Decal expires on December 31st of its issue year, not one year from issuance date

Required Pilot Programs

A law passed by the Washington State Legislature calls for a pilot aboard ALL non-US or Canadian yachts when in their waters. If there is no pilot aboard, then an exemption from the Washington State Pilots Commission has to be purchased. The fee for the exemption is $300 for 90 days, or $500 for a year.

For US-owned Yachts

If a boat is purchased in a state which does not charge sales tax, and then moved to another which does, within the first year, then a use fee may be charged if the boat remains in use in that state for more that a certain period. This requirement varies depending on the state. The amount charged is usually the sales tax percentage applicable in the new state.

If a US citizen who resides in the USA purchases a yacht overseas, it will be subject to import tariff upon arrival in the first US port. The yacht may not be permitted to clear customs until the import tax is collected. The import tariff is calculated as a percentage of the original purchase price in US$. This tax is not levied in USVI (duty free port), but the tax is required to be paid in Puerto Rico.

A fee can also also apply if a boat remains for a period of time somewhere other than its home state.

Not all states pursue the collection of this fee. See Noonsite Report for the situation in Maryland.

Last updated November 2016.

Restrictions

It is prohibited to import many food and plant products and yachts are subject to an agricultural inspection on arrival, including those arriving in the US mainland from Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Meat and meat products, fresh produce and plants are among the items normally confiscated. Bakery products, cured cheeses and canned meat are generally admissible.

Also restricted is the import of any wildlife and fish which are considered an endangered species by the USA, or any of their products. This includes tortoise shell jewellery, leather, whalebone and ivory, coral, skins and furs.

Foreign yachts may not charter coastwise in the United States and this includes fishing trips. Foreign vessels may carry charter guests when leaving for a foreign destination or when arriving from a foreign port.

Washington State Pilotage Requirements

The Washington State Pilot Board has a regulation requiring all foreign flagged vessels carry a pilot or get an exemption. The exemption requires a fee of $50 for all foreign cruising yachts of 50 ft or less (except for Canadian yachts that regularly sail West Coast waters) and covers a period up to a year.

Application forms for the exemption can be submitted online and submitted via email. The form is available at http://www.pilotage.wa.gov/
Contact
Washington State Pilotage Commission
Tel: 206.515.3647
Fax: 206.515.3906
Email: PilotageInfo@wsdot.wa.gov

Alaskan Pilotage Requirements

Foreign pleasure vessels vessels under 65 feet in length, US-flagged vessels, and Canadian-flagged vessels that regularly sail Alaskan waters are all exempt.

Non-US pleasure vessels of 65ft to 174ft require an exemption to transit without a pilot. However, they must use a pilot for navigation of Wrangell Narrows and Peril Strait.

Pleasure craft of 175ft and larger, and of foreign registry, must have a pilot at all times. All foreign-flagged vessels for commercial use must employ a pilot, regardless of length and tonnage.

The exemptions are valid for one year from the date on which the exemption is issued. The application for an exemption must be submitted to the board at least 30 days before the vessel enters the state. Exemption fees are $250 plus $50 for every foot over 65 feet (20m). Pilotage fees through Wrangell Narrows and Peril Straights will be several thousand additional dollars.

Failure to meet these requirements can result in a fine of up to $20,000.
Contact
Renda Heimbigner, Marine Pilot Coordinator
Alaska Board of Marine Pilots
Phone (907)465-2548, Fax (907)465-2974
PO Box 110806, Juneau, AK 99811-0806

Further information on the Statute:
http://touchngo.com/lglcntr/akstats/Statutes/Title08/Chapter62/Section180.htm

Anchoring in Florida
The anchoring restrictions, previously enforced in some areas of Florida, have now been recinded. The concept of liveaboard now excludes any boat which is "navigated", even if it does so only occasionally. See report Anchoring in Florida for more details.

Also, previous city ordinances prohibited anchoring in many municipalities around Florida. The Florida legislature passed HB 7043, which eliminates those restrictions and prohibits cities from creating any restrictions. The law maintains a few restrictions, but they are in line with previous laws (such as anchoring distances and the removal of derelict vessels).

EPA Compliance for Imported Vessels

Due to new electronic filing systems and improved interagency communications, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun enforcing compliance on exhaust emissions on imported vessels. Both diesel and gasoline engines mounted in yachts imported into the United States must prove EPA compliance as a condition of their import. This only applies to vessels fully imported into the United States and does not apply to vessels visiting the USA for a limited stay. See this report for further information.

Restricted Items Typically Confiscated by US Customs

US Citizens and permanent residents of the United States are required to declare any merchandise acquired overseas. Cruisers report having problems with the following items: merchandise from embargoed countries (for example, Cuban cigars); cultural artifacts or antiques; foreign fruits and vegetables; live plants or seeds; or large amounts of alcohol. Many of these restrictions do not apply to short-term visitors, but it may be prudent to check compliance. See this report for more specific information.

Last updated August 2017.

Wider Caribbean's Marine Protected Areas (CaMPAM)
A useful database of MPAs in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region. All Marine Parks are MPAs, and therefore if wanting to find out about any marine parks in the islands you are visiting, details and location can be sourced via this website.

Local Customs

State Laws

Laws vary from state to state. When you are physically present in a state, even temporarily, you are subject to the laws of both federal AND state laws. You must carry a passport with you at all times showing that you have leave to enter or remain. If traveling state-to-state, it is not necessary to check in and out of each state as though they are separate countries unless required by CBP instructions.

LGBT Travel

The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ widely across the country. Transgender travelers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi and which is also being considered in 22 other states.

The UK Foreign Office has issued a travel alert regarding this controversial law.

Last updated November 2016.

Pets

The necessary notification and forms required to take pets to the US can be complicated. A very useful report on one cruiser's experience can be read on the Noonsite report.

Pre-notification of the intention to bring pets into the country is required.

Cats and dogs must be free of diseases communicable to man. Vaccination against rabies is not required for cats and dogs arriving from rabies-free countries. Otherwise, dogs must have a valid rabies vaccination certificate.

Most pets will be subject to an additional period of quarantine if all documentation is not in order.

If crossing the Pacific, Hilo, Hawaii is reported to be the best place to clear in with pets.

The Hawaii Animal Quarantine page is a useful website.

Pet birds may be brought in, but will be subject to at least 30 days quarantine on arrival at the owner's expense in a Department of Agriculture facility. These facilities are only available in New York, Miami, San Ysidro, Honolulu, Hidalgo and Los Angeles, and bird owners must enter at one of these six ports of entry. The quarantine must be arranged in advance and the quarantine fee should be paid not later than on arrival.

Further details can be obtained from the US Department of Treasury, US Customs Service, Washington DC 20229, who publish special leaflets: Importing a Pet Bird, Pets, Wildlife.

Updated November 2016.

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Cargo Ship Rescues Australian Sailor in the Pacific Ocean

Cargo Ship Rescues Australian Sailor in the Pacific Ocean  (16 May 2013)

ARC Europe & Atlantic Cup Get Underway from Nanny Cay, Tortola

ARC Europe & Atlantic Cup Get Underway from Nanny Cay, Tortola  (08 May 2013)

USA, New Jersey & New York: Superstorm Sandy debris clean-up update

USA, New Jersey & New York: Superstorm Sandy debris clean-up update  (04 May 2013)

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USA: BoatUS joins Waterway Guide in Superstorm Sandy update effort  (16 Mar 2013)

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Hawaii, Oahu, Honolulu: Magic Island Petroleum Closing Business  (04 Mar 2013)

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USA and Canada Divvy Up Electronic Chart Duties for Border Waters  (22 Feb 2013)

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USA, San Juan Islands: New Free Cruising Guide by Salish Sea Pilot  (21 Feb 2013)

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Lessons learned in the wake of Hurricane Sandy: Boat US Webinars this March  (14 Feb 2013)

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Cruising Club of America Annual Awards Announced  (13 Feb 2013)

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Mid-Atlantic: Sailors Rescued 900 Miles Offshore  (31 Jan 2013)

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World Cruising Club Announces New Home Port for USA Events  (25 Jan 2013)

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USA: NOAA and U.S. Power Squadrons Renew Cooperative Charting Program  (25 Jan 2013)

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The 2012 Caribbean 1500 Finishes on a High Note  (18 Dec 2012)

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USA: The count begins - 65,000 boats damaged by Hurricane ‘Sandy’  (22 Nov 2012)

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Hurricane Sandy Claims Tall Ship HMS Bounty  (31 Oct 2012)

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Hurricane Sandy's death toll across the Caribbean rises to 65  (28 Oct 2012)

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2012 Caribbean 1500 Preview  (24 Oct 2012)

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Gulf of Mexico: Tropical Storm Isaac poses serious threat  (26 Aug 2012)

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USA: Weather Underground Launches New Sailing & Boating Weather Service  (23 Aug 2012)

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Hawaii: Global Positioning System (GPS) Testing  (16 Aug 2012)

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SSCA Clean Wake Project: Monitoring Radiation in the Pacific  (20 Jun 2012)

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USA, Oregon: Huge Dock from Japan's Tsunmai Washed Ashore  (15 Jun 2012)

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Caution when Entering the USA from Cuba - with Updates  (22 May 2012)

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USA, Southern New England: Coastguard Implements New Warning Device  (10 May 2012)

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USA, East Coast: Opsail 2012 – Possible Delays for Boaters  (04 May 2012)

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USA, Rhode Island: Newport's New Maritime Centre  (12 Apr 2012)

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Caribbean Free Cruising Guides - New Editions  (04 Apr 2012)

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Some Good News Regarding the International Certificate of Competence  (07 Mar 2012)

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NARC Rally Participants Abandon Ship in Rough Seas  (10 Nov 2011)

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USA, Hampton: Start of the Caribbean 1500 Postponed due to Tropical Storm Sean  (09 Nov 2011)

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Hazard warning for yachts in the Pacific - debris from Japan's tsunami   (19 Oct 2011)

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More Hurricane Activity in the Atlantic  (09 Sep 2011)

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Hurricane Irene Hits the US East Coast  (27 Aug 2011)

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Hurricane Irene - The First Hurricane of the Season due to hit the US this Weekend  (23 Aug 2011)

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Tropical Storm Emily Tracking Towards Eastern Seaboard  (03 Aug 2011)

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USA: Anchoring Restrictions Proposed from Maryland to Florida  (28 Jun 2011)

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USA: Rogue Wave Swamps Cruising Yacht off East Coast  (19 May 2011)

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ARC Europe transatlantic cruising rally starts  (09 May 2011)

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Somali charged in hijacking that killed 4 Americans  (15 Apr 2011)

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Massive floating rubbish islands from Japan tsunami spotted on Pacific  (08 Apr 2011)

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Warning About GPS Unreliability in US Waters  (23 Jan 2011)

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Update Regarding the Issuing of US Recreational Vessel Documents  (19 Dec 2010)

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Sailor drowned, two lost for 12 days, no EPIRB   (02 Dec 2010)

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World Cruising Club Announces New U.S. Departure Port for ARC Europe Rally  (14 Oct 2010)

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Alex - First Named Storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season  (29 Jun 2010)

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New Online Gulf Oil Spill Resource  (14 May 2010)

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USA: North Carolina Coast - Update to No Discharge Regulation  (08 May 2010)

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Transatlantic Rally sets sail from Nanny Cay, Tortola, BVIs  (08 May 2010)

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BP hires locals boats to assist in Gulf clean up  (04 May 2010)

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New Anchoring Restrictions for Florida  (08 Mar 2010)

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OceansWatch Aid to Haiti  (24 Jan 2010)

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New Florida Boating Education Law Started January 1st  (07 Jan 2010)

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Record Load Bound for Freeport and St. Thomas  (30 Oct 2009)

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Yacht dismasted by one ship, saved by another  (29 Oct 2009)

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Anchoring in Florida, USA  (07 Oct 2009)

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Super Ship Yacht Express Visits Northeast US for First Time  (21 Jul 2009)

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American Visa Application  (15 Jan 2009)

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FBI Maritime Liaison Agents assisting US Sailors Internationally  (18 Dec 2008)

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Marina Seca Resumes Trucking Boats to the US  (05 Dec 2008)

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New Weather Website Launched by NOAA  (06 Nov 2008)

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USA Customs & Border Control – Issue of Cruising Permit Decals  (30 Oct 2008)

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Solo Sailor Rescued by AMVER  (16 Oct 2008)

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Yacht Express Makes Debut Down Under  (18 Jul 2008)

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FLORIDA – Skipper arrested for Anchoring for more than 10 days  (26 Jun 2008)

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Switlik Liferafts - Safety Alert and Recall  (19 Jun 2008)

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US Visa Waiver Program NOT for cruisers  (14 Jun 2008)

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US Coast Guard Announces Decision to Continue HF Weather Broadcasts  (29 Feb 2008)

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DYT Announces New Routes and Voyages  (12 Dec 2007)

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US Regulations For Yachts Vary From State To State  (23 May 2007)

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Fate Of North American LORAN-C Radionavigation System To be Decided  (16 Jan 2007)

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New US Immigration Requirements  (02 Aug 2006)

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US President Declares Largest Marine Sanctuary On Earth  (26 Jun 2006)

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New powers to seize vessels in US territorial waters  (29 Apr 2004)

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French Yacht Completes First Polar Circumnavigation  (01 Oct 2003)