Cruising Resources: Visas

While in some countries visa requirements are fairly clear, in others the situation concerning yachts is confusing. Foreign nationals arriving on a yacht can be treated basically in three different ways by the immigration authorities.

  • They are treated the same as ordinary tourists arriving by other means, in which case the usual visa requirements apply.
  • Special visa requirements are applied to those arriving by yacht, which means that in some countries foreign nationals arriving by yacht are treated differently to those visiting the country as ordinary tourists. This may mean that some countries which are happy to grant visas on arrival to tourists arriving by air, will insist that anyone arriving on a yacht must have obtained their visa in advance. This is often because tourists arriving by air must have an onward ticket to be given a visa while arriving on a yacht is not always regarded as a guarantee of one’s ability to depart by the same means.
  • Sailors are sometimes given special treatment by being allowed to enter a country without a visa, which is required from tourists arriving by other means. Sometimes visas are granted on arrival and occasionally are dispensed with altogether. However, in these cases, such special concessions are usually given only for a limited time and may be restricted to the duration of the yacht’s stay in port or while cruising certain areas. It may be necessary to obtain an ordinary visa to travel to other parts of the country or to leave the country by other means.

There are several suggestions concerning passports and visas which should be followed to avoid some of the problems that are known to have occurred in the past. Passports should have a validity well in excess of the intended period of travel. Many countries now insist that passports are valid for at least six months beyond the intended stay in their country.

For countries where a visa is required, this should be obtained well in advance, although one should make sure that the visa will still be valid when one arrives in the respective country as some countries stipulate that the entry must take place within three months of the visa being issued.

It is also a good idea to obtain visas for difficult countries, even if it is known that visas can be issued on arrival. A visa issued by their diplomatic mission abroad sometimes works wonders with local immigration officers. Wherever possible one should try to obtain a multiple entry visa, particularly for countries with overseas territories or dependencies, such as France (Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Réunion, St Pierre and Miquelon), Australia (Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling) or the USA (Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Guam).

Something that must be noted when cruising, is that visa regulations do change and often without warning. Always try to find out the latest situation before sailing to a certain country.

As most countries maintain diplomatic missions in neighboring countries, these are the best places to ask about changes and to apply for any necessary visas. Occasionally regulations change so quickly that even the diplomatic missions do not know about it.

Visa requirements, and the political climate generally, can often change quickly due to the improvement or deterioration of relations between countries.

Cruising in the EU – Noonsite Schengen Information

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