Covid-19: Advice for Non-EU Sailors Stuck in the EU

Whether you left your yacht in Europe while returning home for the winter, or you are still on board and stuck in lockdown in an EU country, it’s a worrying time if your visa expiration date, or visa-free period is running out, and/or you have a non-VAT paid boat getting close to its maximum 18 month temporary import time limit. A quick run out of the EU to reset the VAT clock is much more difficult due to border closures. The good news is exceptional circumstances have been declared with Covid-19, meaning that anyone can apply for an extension to this time limit. Here the Europe Direct Contact Centre explain how.

Published 4 years ago

Visa Extensions for Non-EU citizens

Non-EU citizens for whom the short stay visa requirement is waived are entitled to stay up to 90 days per 180-days period. If the stay is to be prolonged beyond that period, a national visa or a temporary residence permit should be granted. You will have to contact the national authorities directly to request the extension. The embassy/consulate of your country of nationality may also be able to help you.

If you are from a country that citizens need a visa and you are already in Europe and are unable to leave before the expiration of your visa, you can simply apply for an extension at the competent authorities of the Member State where you are located. This is stated in Article 33 of the EU Visa Code:

“In case a visa holder who is already present on the territory of the Member States is unable to leave before the expiry of his visa for reasons of force majeure, humanitarian reasons or serious personal reasons, he should address the request for extension of the visa to the competent authorities of the Member State where he is present even if that is not the Member State whose consulate issued the visa.”

In the case of the coronavirus, the situation falls under force majeure, which is defined as a “last-minute change of flight schedule by the airline (e.g. due to weather conditions, strike, etc.)” You will not be charged to extend your visa due to force majeure.

So, even if you are currently not in the Schengen country that originally issued your visa, you can apply for a visa extension in the country you are currently in. You will receive a visa extension for up to a maximum stay of 90 days in any 180-day period free of charge. This should give you enough time to arrange a flight or other means of commercial transport.

Member States are encouraged to waive administrative sanctions or penalties on third-countries nationals unable to leave their territory due to the travel restrictions. Overstays due to the temporary travel restrictions should not be taken into account during the processing of future visa applications.

The embassy/consulate of your country of nationality may also be able to help you.

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Temporary Import of Non-EU Private Vessels

As a standard, the Article 217 (e) of Regulation (EU) 2015_2446 (UCC-DA) provides for a time limit of 18 months to discharge the temporary admission procedure of means of sea and inland waterway transport, used for private purposes.

However, the Article 251 (3) of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 (UCC) allows customs authorities to prolong the time limit for re-export of goods declared for temporary admission under exceptional circumstances (such as, for instance, COVID-19 pandemic), upon request of the holder of the procedure.

The recently issued TAXUD document ‘NOTE TO MEMBER STATES’ DELEGATES OF THE CUSTOMS EXPERT GROUP GENERAL LEGISLATION SECTION AND CUSTOMS DEBT AND GUARANTEES SECTION’ on the subject of Customs issues related to the COVID-19 emergency situation in the EU, has confirmed such aforementioned possibility, due to the exceptional situation faced by many economic operators. Please note that, this applies regardless of the type of declaration used for the placing of goods under the temporary admission procedure.

Therefore, a non-EU yacht in one of the member states under a Temporary Admission shall be allowed to extend the 18 months’ time limit until it is safe to sail the boat outside the EU waters, upon request of the holder of the procedure submitted to the competent Customs Authorities. Be sure to request an extension before the 18 months’ time limit is up.

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