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Making use of the US Visa Waiver for entry into the USVI’s

By Sue Richards last modified Jun 19, 2008 04:32 PM

Published: 2008-06-19 16:32:54
Countries: British Virgin Islands , US Virgin Islands

I spoke with Officer Wells today at US Homeland Security (which is, of course, what Customs and Immigration is now called). He is, I believe, the head of the St. John office. If not, then he has been there for years and has a position of authority there.

I asked specifically if a person on a yacht who qualifies for a Visa Waiver, could take the ferry over from the BVIs to the USVIs, get the Visa Waiver, then return to the BVIs and bring his boat in. He said “yes, that was perfectly acceptable”. You would have to clear on re-entry, of course, but you would have the Visa Waiver.

The situation in the USVIs is fairly unique due to the proximity of St. John (USVIs) and Tortola (BVIs) and the regular passenger ferry traffic between them.

Of course, should some crew already have a Visa, another option would be for the crew needing Visa Waivers to take the ferry, whilst the crew with Visas (or US Citizens) take the yacht. If those taking the yacht are not the owner, they would need proper authorisation and appropriate crew changes made in the BVIs.

With a Visa Waiver you have 90 days to enjoy the US Virgins and Puerto Rico before sailing on. Note: if sailing from US Virgins to Puerto Rico, one must clear customs again (but not immigration) due to the US Virgin's duty-free status.

Of course, everything I mention is in full compliance with US law. I am pretty familiar with it, being a captain conducting commercial trips between the US Virgins and the BVI every day, clearing customs on both sides. What I suggest is a means of complying with the law without needing to procure a visa in advance for those that qualify for a Visa Waiver. I imagine there are many circumstances where a couple are travelling together and one has a visa from their previous business activities and the other does not. This provides a way for them to visit the US Virgins and Puerto Rico perfectly legally at the cost of a short ferry ride (significantly cheaper and easier than returning to ones home country to apply for a Visa).

Douglas Schuch