Originally Posted by Seymore
If the boat is to be federally registered, it must be registered and flagged in the country where the owner is a citizen. You have US passports, so it must be flagged US.
If you and the boat were in the US, it could be licenced in any state. Perhaps that's what you're thinking. But that wouldn't work out for international cruising (except maybe in, for example, the Bahamas
, where they're used to lightweight cruisers
Most countries, including the UK and Germany
, register boats according to residence, not citizenship.
And all countries register absolutely anyone's boat, if you set up a company in that country through which to own it.
An EU flag, probably German if you are a legal
resident there, is logical and will make cruising around Europe easier. However tax status is not connected to the flag, so it is also possible to have a non-EU flag.
Here's some information on registering a boat in Germany
Registrierung Int. Bootsschein
Internationaler Bootsschein IBS - Bootsregistrierung - ADAC
That's for the "Internationaler Bootsschein". Over 15 meters LOA
there is a different registry; Google
is your friend. The Deutscher Seglerverein is the German equivalent to the RYA; they even have some delegated authority (I think) to deal with these things. In any case, it looks like you need a tonnage survey
-- "Messbrief" -- which is a slight PITA if it's anything like the UK one and will be hard to do if the boat is not physically in German waters.
As a foreign citizen, you do need proof of German residency ("Wohnsitz") to register a boat in Germany:
"Ausländische Staatsbürger, die in Deutschland wohnhaft sind, müssen eine Kopie ihres Reisepasses sowie eine aktuelle Meldebescheinigung über Ihren festen Wohnsitz in Deutschland vorlegen."
That means you need to submit your passport and Meldebescheinigung -- police registration certificate -- that's all the proof of residency you need.
Before deciding to go for German registration, however, you should consider the requirements there for licensing of the skipper
, etc. -- they are fairly burdensome -- typisch deutsch. And taxes
You might find it simpler to register in the U.S. or in the U.K. U.K. is a really good flag -- almost no bureaucracy and zero taxes
. But you will need a UK company.
A U.S. flag in Europe is theoretically ok, but you will be subject to customs
control at every border crossing and will have to answer questions about tax status -- as EU residents you have no right to the 18 month exemption. Since your boat is tax paid, that's legally ok, but you will have to constantly prove it, and there are risks that some official somewhere (probably in Spain or Greece) won't accept your documents and you will have some real problems. This bothers me somewhat because there is no really clear definition of what "proof" of VAT status is -- original invoices, but how about the chain of title to you? What if you lose just one document out of your file? There is a presumption that a non-EU flag boat is NOT VAT paid which you will have to overcome every time; an EU flag boat is subject to the opposite presumption.
That leaves UK, which is a fine flag to have. I am a US citizen with a UK flag boat, but I am not a UK nor European resident, so I had to do it through a UK company. This is simple and inexpensive -- you can set up a UK company online in about 15 minutes. I cruised through the waters of 10 European countries last year, and it was very nice to have a respectable EU flag -- no customs
inspections, no questions other than about passports of crew. My boat is on the Part 1 registry, so registered like a ship (UK boats under 24 meters and owned by natural persons don't actually have to be registered whatsoever, or can go on the Micky-Mouse SSR, which is like our VHF license
-- lucky Brits). You need a tonnage survey
if the boat has never been on that registry before, but otherwise it is painless and is valid for 5 years at a time (vs 2 years for the German IBS). You get a very pretty certificate which impresses foreign officials.