US Virgin Islands - Formalities
Yachts must clear in with Immigration when arriving from outside the Virgin Islands, with the exception of Puerto Rico. This includes the neighbouring British Virgin Islands.
You must go directly to a port of entry for clearance. Passengers and crew of arriving yachts are not allowed to go ashore until properly cleared. All passengers must present themselves and their documents to US Customs and Border Protection. For clearance it is necessary to present documentation of nationality for each person on board as well as the ship's papers and clearance from the last port of call.
If a yacht is going on to Puerto Rico it is advisable to obtain a cruising permit in St. Thomas, issued free (otherwise on arrival in Puerto Rico a fee is charged). All yachts must clear out with Customs before going to Puerto Rico, but not with Immigration.
There are serious penalties for not reporting arrival.
Last updated June 2015.
Immigration requirements are the same as for the US mainland. See Noonsite's USA/Immigration page for details.
All nationalities arriving by private yacht need a valid US visa, which must be obtained in advance of arrival. Crew members must accompany the captain when clearing in as each individual must be seen and sign the entry permit.
An alternative method of entry for crew without a prior visa is to make use of the Visa Waiver Program (if they are eligable) by first taking a ferry trip from the BVI's to the USVI's. This has been confirmed as perfectly legal and will then allow crew to enter the USVI again by yacht. It is, however, essential that they are in possession of a valid ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). Once granted, an ESTA is valid for 2 years. Entry under the VWP permits visits of up to 90 days from the date of the first entry into US territory.
Last updated June 2015.
Firearms must be declared and need a permit. For further information on firearms write to the Commissioner of Public Safety, St Thomas, USVI.
The US department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has implemented the Local Boater Option (LBO) program. This option is available to frequent small boat users in the Tampa, Miami, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands areas. The LBO will allow CBP to expedite the arrival reporting process to low risk boaters.
Enrollment to the LBO Program is voluntary, free of charge and will facilitate your clearance procedures. All US citizen are eligible to join. In order to participate in the LBO you must contact CBP at the nearest registration location designated by the port of entry. The registrant will be provided an appointment to present all required documentation to CBP Officials.
The following locations in the VI is available for registrants in the LBO.
Port of St. Thomas
CBP - Edward W. Blyden Terminal
Veteran's Drive, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas 00801
Last updated June 2013.
There is a US Customs office next to St. Croix Marina.
Cruising permits are not required. Yachts remaining in the USVI for 6 months or more must be registered with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
Mooring permits are not required for any public moorings or National Park moorings and day use is free. Public moorings are not intended for overnight use and the National Park has a fee for night use.
Mooring permits are issued to an owner of a registered vessel. In order to obtain a permit for anchoring or mooring an applicant is required to apply in person, through a resident agent or through any representative duly authorized to complete application procedures in the owner's behalf. A first time applicant is required to submit with the application a current colored photograph of the vessel and an affidavit executed by the applicant fully setting forth the facts to support the applicants claim of ownership.
No fees are charged Monday to Saturday 0800-1700, after which overtime rates apply.
Foreign nationals arriving without a valid US visa will be fined and/or refused entry.
In their fight against drug traffic, the government of the US Virgin Islands has created a special strike force to patrol the waters of the US Virgins. Any yachts within territorial waters may be stopped, boarded and searched, and the presence of any illegal drugs on board can result in the yacht being confiscated.
A number of regulations have been established to protect the natural resources of the Virgin Islands National Park. The following are of direct interest to cruising sailors:
- Do not anchor on coral and avoid damaging the reef.
- Anchoring is prohibited in Salt Pond, Reef Bay, Great and Little Lameshur Bays. Use the white mooring buoys, with a blue band, in these locations.
- Do not take any live or dead marine features, such as coral, shells or fans.
- Do not tie boats to shoreline vegetation.
- Spearfishing is prohibited throughout the park. Line fishing is permitted, but there are certain restricted areas.
- A maximum of two male spiny lobsters (minimum size 9 in/23 cm) may be taken, and only by hand or handheld snare.
Mooring buoys have been installed for the use of cruising boats. Prohibited areas are marked by white cylinders with orange markings. For latest information it is recommended to contact the National Park administration, Tel. (340)776-6201 for St. John and (340)773-1460 for St. Croix. There are also public moorings (blue striped buoys) set up by the The Reef Ecology Foundation of St. Thomas and St. John. Use is free but restricted to boats less than 60'. Tel (340)775-0097 for more information.
Dogs and cats may enter with appropriate Health and Rabies Inoculation Certificate from a Veterinarian dated two weeks prior to arrival.