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By No owner — last modified Jan 02, 2018 12:58 PM

 US Virgin Islands - Formalities


The USVI is a part of the United States of America and clearance formalities are similar to those in the USA; however, the USVI has a special status within the USA overseas territories that makes much of the clearance processes easier, faster, and much more simple. If you have never been to the USA – but intend to – the USVI is an excellent first landing to get all the paperwork sorted.  For example, it is possible to get the US Cruising Permit here and some cruisers have reported that the cost of the permit is less expensive here. (See also the Customs section below for more information on the special customs status of the USVI.)


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.

It is possible to proceed directly to a major marina and call the CBP to report your arrival. Follow the directions given to you by the CBP officer: typically they require all aboard to proceed by taxi to the CBP office.

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.

There are serious penalties for not reporting your arrival – significant fines and/or imprisonment followed by deportation for offenders.

There is a fee charged for overtime, weekend, or holiday clearances. The fee is $35.

See this US charter company website for additional information.

Clearing Out

If a yacht is going on to Puerto Rico, it is advisable to obtain a USA cruising permit in St. Thomas. It is reported that there is no charge in the USVI, but 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.

It is not required to clear out of the USVI before proceeding to the BVI; however, other ports in the Caribbean often require a dispatch or zarpe proving which port you departed from. It is possible to acquire this from Customs.

Last update March 2018.


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, or be already in possession of a visa waiver entry in their passport (see paragraph below for a way to do this).

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

Crew members must accompany the captain when clearing in as each individual must be seen and sign the entry permit. The USVI website (noted above) might give the impression that certain nationalities do not require a visa but NOTE, this only applies if arriving on a 'registered carrier'. A private yacht is not a registered carrier.

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.

See articles Making use of the US Visa Waiver for entry into the USVIs and Accurate Information for Yachtsmen Entering the USA

Last updated March 2018.


Special Customs Status

The USVI has a special customs status including duty free exemptions. This becomes important when dealing with importing high-value items (i.e., when a US citizen buys a yacht overseas and intends to import it: you will have to pay taxes in Puerto Rico but not in St. Thomas).

As per US regulations from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms (ATF): the U.S. Virgin Islands does not issue firearms permit/licenses to non-residents or foreign nationals to carry concealed firearms. See the USA Customs page for complete information. Firearms must be declared in all cases – even if US citizen – and need a permit/license. For further information on firearms see this guide from the ATF.

Local Boater Option (LBO)
The US Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has implemented the Local Boater Option (LBO) scheme. This option is available to frequent-traveling small craft 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, pre-approved boaters.

Enrollment to the LBO Program is voluntary, free of charge and will facilitate your clearance procedures. All US citizen and legal residents 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 USVI is available for registrants in the LBO.

Last updated March 2018.


See this website for complete information regarding vaccines and travel alerts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Health Information for Travelers to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Hospitals and medical facilities are of a high quality in the USVI, particularly at St. Thomas. The US government oversees their operations and are held to the same standard of service and staff training as elsewhere in the United States.

ZIKA Virus: There have been recent safety alerts from the US State Department, UK Foreign Office, and Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding travel to parts of Central and South America, Africa, southern Asia, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific islands. The USVI including St.Thomas, St.Croix, and St.John are areas of interest for the CDC. 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.

Last updated March 2018.


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.

Overtime is also charged on public holidays (such as Presidents Day on February 15th). Overtime fee is $35.

Foreign nationals arriving without a valid US visa will be fined and/or refused entry.

National Park Mooring Fees increased January 1, 2016 to $26 per night. US citizens age 62 or older can apply for the Senior Pass which allows a 50% discount on National Park fees.


In their fight against drug traffic, the government of the US Virgin Islands has created a special 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:

  1. Do not anchor on coral and avoid damaging the reef.
  2. 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.
  3. Do not take any live or dead marine features, such as coral, shells or fans.
  4. Do not tie boats to shoreline vegetation.
  5. Spearfishing is prohibited throughout the park. Line fishing is permitted, but there are certain restricted areas.
  6. 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 view the National Park Service (NPS) website.

NPS has produced a Mooring Guideline brochure downloadable at which has Park regulations, mooring restrictions and island map.

NPS has created an interactive map for mariners that answers most common anchoring/mooring questions. Go to:

National Park Service, 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.

Last updated March 2018.

Department of Planning and Natural Resources
Tel:(340)774-3320 or (340)775-6762 St. Thomas/St.John, (340)772-1955 St. Croix
Information on anchorage and mooring sites, mooring permits, registration and other regulations.

Local Customs

Cars in the USVI drive on the left side of the road – similar to British territories – but nearly all cars are left-hand drive.


Dogs and cats may enter with appropriate Health and Rabies Inoculation Certificate from a Veterinarian dated two weeks prior to arrival.

Georgier says:
Dec 21, 2017 07:25 PM

Update on clearing in at Christiansted. We had to go out to the airport to get both our passports stamped and have the boat cleared in. You cannot clear in at the wharf as the computer systems are not up and running there yet. The best is to call the airport st (340) 778 0216 to get the current clearing in procedure. It seems to be changing day to day as things come back on line. When I called I told them I needed to clear in a private vessel. Try to get there before 4pm. Immigration and clearing in the boat took about an hour but mostly due to the computer system being very slow.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Dec 11, 2017 10:44 AM

Update from Joan Conover (SSCA) - SY Growl Tiger - just arrived in the VIs.

St. Thomas is open for just dont want to DRIVE anywhere..recommend taking a tour bus or taxi.

Crown Bay Marina is up and running since the storm, we have a slip with water..electric still being connected. Restaurant is open, laundry is open, free wifi thanks to VIYA and good grocery store here for provisioning (Publix). Good fuel as well.

Charlotte Amalie, all tourist shops (Gucci) are open, there is a museum display on hurricane damages(20.00 bucks entry!!) and three cruise ships in port, two in Charlotte Amalie, and one at Crown Bay.

USCG has cleared the channels but the main harbor has lots of white moorings/buoys which we can't tell what they are for (sunken boats or a new mooring field?). Damaged vessels line the western side of the harbor..and on the Water Island side near Crown Bay, boats are grounded - two or three on the eastern side and several on the northern Water Island side.

There is a great unsung hero on Water Island..a lady (Marion?) who flew back to the USA on at her own cost and came back with 20K worth of supplies and gensets for the island. Will try and find her.

Boat Taxis actively running from Crown Bay. Airport is open. American flying as well as a puddle jumper to San Juan then onto the USA from there. People are needing dock worker is washing cars to put food on the table.

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Sep 30, 2017 08:35 AM

An update from Island Global Yachting (IGY):

In the wake of Hurricane Irma and Maria, the IGY Marina at Yacht Haven Grande – Charlotte Amalie and American Yacht Harbor Marina at Red Hook, are currently under repair.
As of September 19th, 2017, the airport at St. Thomas was not open to commercial carriers, however, was accepting private aircraft and humanitarian relief flights. At present, it is expected that the St. Thomas airport will be operational to commercial flights sooner than St. Maarten.
St. Thomas hotels have been affected by the hurricane, several hotels are closed and preparing for renovation. Many of the others are open, but are focused on accommodating relief agencies such as FEMA, the FBI, and other law enforcement personnel.
Several banks are open and welcoming customers with some having cash withdrawal limits in place.
All IGY Caribbean marinas will be partially operational for the the upcoming 2017/18 Winter Season and are expected to include crew amenities such as; the gymnasium, swimming pool, and food and beverage outlets within our facilities gated locations.

Val Ellis
Val Ellis says:
Apr 26, 2017 08:45 AM

Please ensure you read Noonsite page
This explains that Canadian and Bermudan citzens DO NOT require a visa to visit USVI.

bobmackie says:
Mar 21, 2017 11:25 AM

Arrived in St. Thomas a few days ago. Prior to arrival I called Customs to confirm the Visa requirements as all of the guides and this site said it was required and yet when I went to the Government site and it appeared we were ok. I wanted clarification. As a Canadian (not landed immigrant in Canada) we did NOT require a visa, even though arriving on our boat. As explained to me, "as long there is no reason for you to be turned away at the boarder coming in from Canada, you are fine to come in here". That meaning, no DUI's, criminal record, dual citizen etc. When we arrived customs was a breeze.

Max Terragni
Max Terragni says:
Nov 21, 2016 03:37 PM

If you leave USVI for BVI it's not necessary going to the custom to clear out in USVI.

Solcina79 says:
Mar 18, 2016 02:00 PM

One of the most peacefull anchorage place in St Thomas Is in its north side, in magens bay, Is a very good sheltter And the Beach Is lovely

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Feb 22, 2016 04:32 PM

Posted on behalf of Lisa Torkelson:
St Thomas USVI.
Didn't realize Monday (15th Feb) was Presidents Day (been a few years since we've been in US waters) so just wanted to pass along that the Sundays/holidays overtime fee is $35. Normally free. Ouch.

As a US Citizen, we are free to leave without another visit to Customs, unless we're going to a foreign nation. In this case, we can go in to get a departure paper for the next country visited.

We were asked today if we had any trash on board. Knowing the US rules are stringent, we had already disposed of it before leaving for the USVIs. Peter was asked the same in 2012 when checking into Cruz Bay St John. Had to sign a paper that stated the waste would be disposed in a proper facility (i.e. pay to have it burned or something crazy thing like that). On the other hand, trash was not mentioned when we cleared in St. Thomas on Monday.

Easiest (and cheapest) solution - Best to deal with trash before entering any US waters.

pasdedeux says:
Nov 12, 2015 04:20 PM

National Park Mooring Fees will increase January 1, 2016 to $26 per night. US citizens age 62 or older can apply for the Senior Pass which allows a 50% discount on National Park fees.

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