Learn more about local regulations and guidance for chartering in the U.S. Virgin Islands
CHARTERING REGULATION GUIDANCE
Speak to the experts!
Uninspected Passenger Vessels
Is your vessel a U.S. Flagged UPV legally operating with the correct number of passengers with the correct documentation?
The law surrounding chartering in the USVI is complicated by the fact that under the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act [“PVSA”] the USVI is deemed to be a FOREIGN port.
However, under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), the term “United States” includes the USVI and it is deemed a DOMESTIC territory.
Please understand the below general information is provided for informational purposes only. VIPCA is not able to offer legal advice to its members or others. You are encouraged to seek the assistance of counsel in order to receive answers to your particular issue or situation.
For U.S. flagged vessels operating ONLY in the U.S. Virgin Islands 6-12 passengers:
CPR & First Aid
Random Drug Testing Program
Yellow Code COI (MCA Power) or Blue Code COI (MCA Sail) if carrying more than 6 passengers *
For vessels operating between the USVI and BVIs with up to 12 passengers:
Masters License (not OUPV 6 Pack licence)
STCW Training (5 years) including II/3 endorsement for 12 passenger operation
US Citizenship or Green Card or C1/D
Yellow Code COI (MCA Power) or Blue Code COI (MCA Sail)
Radio Licence (see MCA COI)
Correct number of crew per Passenger License
Working On Vessels with 12+ passengers in BVI
-add: STCW Crowd Management
-add TWIC (from TSA)
If your vessel is Foreign flagged and your crew are not US citizens:
Foreign-flagged vessels with foreign crew may not charter in the USVI (or between the USVI and Puerto Rico). A foreign-flagged vessel with foreign crew may embark and disembark guests in the USVI so long as there are no interim stops in US waters along the way with guests onboard. The captain must hold a valid license equivalent to a USCG Master 100 ton issued from a source appropriate to his/her nationality.
If your vessel is US flagged and your crew are US citizens or Green Card Holders:
If your vessel is Foreign flagged and your crew are US citizens:
Note: Crew on a private non-charter megayacht are not eligible for a D-1 Visa if the yacht will be cruising in US waters for more than 29 days, so those crew often obtain a B1/B2 Visa.
Per confirmation in 2019 from the local CBP Director, foreign yacht crew may utilize a B1/B2 visa for both:
- Private yachts, not for commercial or charter use
- Yachts engaged on charter – SUBJECT TO the vessel embarking its guests in the USVI, and proceeding directly into foreign waters for the charter itself. Similarly, guests can be disembarked in the USVI, as long as the charter itinerary has been out of US territorial waters.
Crew are urged to obtain both a B1/B2 and a C-1/D out of an abundance of caution, however please note:
- Yachts should avoid having a mix of B1 and C1/D visas amongst their crew, as it will cause confusion as the yacht’s status with CBP (individual crew having both the B1/B2, and C1/D visas granted to them is fine; different crew having different visas is to be avoided).
- Third party advice for the do’s and don’ts for foreign crew applying for a B1 visa: here
C-1/D visas are valid for 29 days stay, upon which the vessel must depart to a foreign port. The BVI is accepted as a foreign port.
ROAM system continues to be for private US boats only.
- For US owned and flagged vessels with US persons crew: there are no restrictions to entry into the USVI waters and cruising those waters, whether without charge or on charter for a fee. Such vessels can be registered in the USVI for homeporting management purposes and be licensed for chartering by the USVI Govt. without issue.
- For foreign owned or flagged vessels with US persons crew: these vessels may enter the USVI and cruise USVI waters with no immigration restrictions on operations so long as the vessel makes the appropriate entry and the passengers on the vessel comply with applicable immigration documentation, if any. Such vessels can be registered in the USVI for homeporting management purposes and be licensed for chartering by the USVI Govt. without issue.
- For foreign owned or flagged vessels with non-US crew: these vessels may enter the USVI and cruise the USVI waters so long as crew have H-1/B-1 visas and no chartering fees are paid; or the vessel is used by the owner and guests at no charge.
- For foreign owned or flagged charter vessels with non-US crew: these vessels may only enter the USVI for purposes of picking up or dropping off passengers and provisioning or undergoing maintenance. Chartering or establishing registration for homeporting is strictly prohibited and contrary to Immigration law. There are presently no visas applicable to this scenario. And we cannot seek to attract such vessels to homeport in the USVI.
Renew your business license online: (yearly renewal) The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs will contact the Bureau of Internal Revenue on your behalf to obtain your tax clearance letter. DLCA will then contact you requesting payment. Be sure to have the applicable business license for the conduct of charter boat services.
Boatmaster’s and Radio license: The costs of the radio licenses are $10 for operator and $30 for station license. Make sure you have the serial number and make of the radio. You will need a physical for the boatmasters license. This can be easily obtained ($40) at the B & F Medical Complex near Sea Urchin. You will need four passport photos. Get them for Top Photo near the doctor’s office ($15).
Boat Registration Renewal: (DPNR yearly renewal by July 1) Send a check payable to DPNR with a copy of the prior years boat registration in a self-addressed stamped envelope. For first time applications complete the application form and submit with notarized proof of ownership to your local DPNR enforcement location.
Blue and Yellow MCA COI: In Road Town locate the pink Hodge building on the west side of the main drag next to the cab association stand. The Department of Licensing is on the third floor at the rear of the building. The signage is not visible from the road. Ask for an application for COI. Submit the application with the necessary documents (see below). They will give you back a copy with a stamp on it as proof of compliance. You will need a BVI phone number for contact for the inspector to call you with date of inspection. The inspection process will have two steps commencing with a pre-inpection, we recommend Nautical Trips and Consulting who will advise you what has to be fixed, added, etc. After completion you will then go to the chief inspector to obtain your COI. The idea is that they don’t want the chief inspector spending a lot of time per boat.
For the MCA coding application you will spend half a day, and approximately $100, plus Bill of Sale, Vessel Title documents, Certificate of Survey, Radio serial numbers and make, Birth Certificate or Passport (notarized copy), two recent passport photos (you can get these in Roadtown), Captain’s license and STCW certificate.
Drug Testing: All licensed mariners & crew operating uninspected passenger vessels must meet the drug & alcohol testing requirements in 46 CFR 16
Prior to leaving and re-entering the U.S. Virgin Islands an electronic notice of arrival and departure must be filed by the Captain or appointed designee.
- At www.nvmc.uscg.gov create an account and a template for filing submissions.
- Any changes in departure/arrival time (within a six hour window) or changes in crew or passengers must be reported prior to departure/arrival.
- Moorings in the BVI marine park can be purchased at the time of check in at Immigration and Customs. For BVI Clearance Procedures
- Edward Wilmoth Blyden Marine Terminal, St. Thomas 877.305.8774 | 8 am-5 pm Seven Days a Week
- Cruz Bay CBP Terminal, St. John 877.305.8775 | 7 am-6 pm Seven Days a Week
- Gallows Bay, St. Croix 340.773.1011 | 8 am-5 pm Monday-Friday | After Hours: 340.773.1490
- For information specific to the British Virgin Islands: https://www.nauticaltrips.com/charter-consulting/
- For information specific to the Spanish Virgin Islands: https://www.dreamyachtcharter.com/destination/puerto-rico/