Clearing into the US Virgin Islands

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Vessels entering the US Virgin Islands need to proceed directly to a port of entry for clearance pursuant to 19 CFR 4.2 see 19 U.S.C. 1433). An application to lawfully enter the United States must be made in person to a CBP officer at a U.S. port-of-entry when the port is open for inspection pursuant to 8 CFR 235.1.

Passengers and crew are not allowed to go ashore until properly cleared. All passengers must present themselves and their documents to US CBP including the following:

  1. Documentation of nationality for each passenger / crew member
  2. Ship's documents
  3. Vessel Entrance or Clearance Statement (CBP Form 1300)
  4. Passenger and Crew List (CBP Form I-418)
  5. Clearance from the last port of call

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are now requiring for all Commercial Vessels arriving from a foreign port to the US and departing from the US to a foreign port (US includes the USVI and foreign port includes the BVI) that:

 

1.

Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) manifests are submitted to CBP through the Electronic Notice of Arrival/Departure web portal (https://enoad.nvmc.uscg.gov/). This is based on CBP regulations established in 2005 but only now being fully implemented. This now applies to all vessels engaged in international commercial trade*, including vessels whose weight is less than 300 Gross Tons and vessels who are not otherwise required by USCG to provide a notice of arrival.

It is possible to submit electronic APIS manifests for the departure from the USVI to a foreign port at the same time as submitting the arrival APIS manifest information for the return back into the USVI, as long as the APIS submission for the departure is submitted ahead of the arrival. APIS manifests must be submitted at most 60 days and, in some cases, at least 60 minutes prior to departure from the last foreign port or place.

Details on the timing of submissions can be found in the CBP Vessel APIS Guide, the most recent version of which can be found at and downloaded from http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/vessel_guide_3.pdf.

Commercial Vessels arriving into the United States or U.S. Virgin Islands are still required to present all crew and passengers with their passports at a Customs & Immigrations Office along with completed CBP forms 1300 and I-418.

 

2.

Additionally, Customs and Board Protection (CBP) now also require all commercial vessels to obtain an International Carrier Bond as insurance against CBP penalties that could be incurred were the vessel not to follow APIS reporting procedures correctly. The bond ensures that charter yachts comply with customs laws and regulations, pay for overtime services, and properly manifest their passengers with regard to clearance of the vessel. All commercial vessels are advised to submit a copy of their bond to either the Seaport Supervisors for the ports record. To obtain an International Carrier Bond, you must contact an approved surety selected from the list of approved sureties on the Bureau of the Fiscal Services websiteThe surety will complete an CBP Form 301 for a continuous or single entry international carrier bond. Only one bond is required and will cover operations at all ports of entry

For more assistance, visit the Small Business Administration website at https://www.sba.gov/Additional questions may be forwarded to the following email address: bondquestions@cbp.dhs.govFor all inquiries concerning bond centralization, the Surety Bonds & Accounts Team (SBAT) has established a voice mailbox at (317) 614-4880.

 

Clearance Ports in the Virgin Islands:

 

  • Edward Wilmoth Blyden Marine Terminal, St. Thomas 877.305.8774 8am - 5pm Seven Days a Week

 

  • Cruz Bay CBP Terminal, St. John 877.305.8775 10 - 5pm Seven Days a Week

 

  • Red Hook Ferry Terminal, St. Thomas 8 - 5pm by foot only (excluding lunch 12 - 1pm) berth at American Yacht Harbour or anchor in Vessup Bay and utilise the AYH dingy dock

 

  • Gallows Bay, St. Croix 340.773.1011 8 - 5pm Mon - Fri, after hours 340.773.1490

VISAs for foreign flagged/foreign crew:

Info for C-1/D visas: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/other-visa-categories/crewmember-visa.html

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:

  1. Private yachts, not for commercial or charter use
  2. 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

NOTE:

  • 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.

 

Footnotes/Further Reading:

  1. 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).
  2. Third party advice for the do’s and don’ts for foreign crew applying for a B1 visa: here

Please understand the above/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.

Tourist Visas

See the list of nationals who do and do not require visas prior to arrival to enter the USVI and BVI. The fee is $160.00 for the online non-immigrant visa form, DS-160, with a 2-3 day processing time.

 

 

 

Any persons requiring a visa to enter the US must arrive in the US on a recognized carrier, i.e. Ferry or Commercial Airline. Charter boats are not recognized carriers. If you picked guests up in non-US waters and they require a visa to enter the US but have not travelled through the US prior to arrival on your yacht, the guests must enter the US by ferry or plane.