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French Polynesia Tightens Immigration and Customs Rules for All Visitors

By webmaster last modified Feb 20, 2003 01:05 PM

Published: 2003-02-20 13:05:57
Topics: Cruising Information
Countries: French Polynesia

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia July 26, 2002 (updated February 2003)

Special report concerning cruisers wanting to spend some time in French Polynesia.

Many Non-European cruisers got a very nasty surprise this season when they applied to renew their 3-month visa. Those extensions were all denied except for those who had a medical, family or technical emergency!

Many did apply and received a 3-month tourist visa from French Consulates abroad but were told (wrongly!) by those same consulates that they could get a 3-month extension on arrival in Tahiti. Some were even told (no idea where this incorrect info came from at the consulates) that any police office anywhere in French Polynesia could give them an extension! So those same cruisers, thinking they got the correct information from the French consulates, visited leisurely the Marquesas and cruised slowly through the beautiful Tuamotu atolls. At least they enjoyed that part ... because when they contacted the High Commissioner's office in Papeete (Direction de la Reglementation et du Controle de la Legalite - DRCL, BP115, Papeete, Tahiti, Tel. (+689) 54 27 13), they got the nasty surprise to learn that they had only a few more weeks (whatever was left on their 3-month visa) to exit beautiful French Polynesia and go to other islands further west!

The A.V.P (Association de Voiliers de Polynesie) did contact the DRCL to request an amnesty for this season because of the wrong information given by those consulates abroad but ... no mercy, the law is the law! Nor did we get any reply from the consulates, both after being contacted and confronted with their lack of complete information!

I have spoken with officials here in Papeete and here is what you have to do next season if you want to avoid these nasty surprises. The good news first: YES, you can easily get permission to spend 6 months, or more, cruising here IF YOU DO FOLLOW THE CORRECT PROCEDURE! Here it goes:


You have 3 choices:

  1. You arrive here without any visa and you receive a 1-3 month stay (depending on your nationality). If the initial visa was valid less than 3 months, you can apply for an extension to get a total of 3 months. This extension can be given by the PAF (Police de l’Air et des Frontieres) or the Gendarmes. Note: the High Commissioner's Office (DRCL) has nothing to do with stays of less than 3 months.
  2. You apply to a French consulate outside of Polynesia for a 3-month tourist visa (remember, no extensions after, either!)
  3. You contact a French consulate and follow the procedure to obtain a "Carte de Sejour" (temporary resident card) to stay more than 3 months in French Polynesia. You can ask for 6 months or more, for example. You will certainly have to explain why you want to stay that long, give an idea of what you plan to do, submit proofs of financial independence, they may check on your "good character and reputation", and more. The consulate is going to transmit your demand to the High Commissioner here in Papeete who will accept or deny your demand. Allow some time for that procedure but don't be discouraged ... according to local sources, request justified and done in due form are often granted!


You can enter French Polynesia without visa for a period of 3 months. If you wish to stay longer, you have to write to the DRCL, at least 1 month before the end of the 3 months, and apply for a resident card (up to 10 years!). Unless you are a danger to the public order, your request cannot be denied! Only a special committee can deny your application and has to notify the applicant of the reason his demand was denied.

Everyone should be aware of Customs issues relevant to cruisers. ANY boat entering French Polynesia (and that includes French registered boats too) is subyect to customs entry dues (about 15% to 25% of the surveyed value) IF that boat stays in French Polynesia MORE THAN 1 YEAR in ANY 2 YEAR PERIOD (or if you take a job locally, or sell your boat in F.P.). Time on the hard or in a marina, while owners are outside of the country, can be excluded by prior arrangements with Customs. Failure to comply with customs regulations can lead to confiscation of your boat until taxes and heavy fines are paid!

Reported by Luc Callebaut & Jackie Lee cruising on their 46ft trimaran "Sloepmouche" in French Polynesia since 1999. Luc is the regional representative of Noonsite , the website for cruising sailors, and also the representative of the French Polynesian Sailing Association AVP