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Old 14-02-2013, 10:53   #1
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ESTA VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR FOREIGNERS ENTERING THE USA

I thought I would clear up some issues which 'remained GREY' to me about sailing into the USA as a foreigner on a foreign vessel.

We had been told by many that you may not enter the USA on an ESTA visa.

After huge efforts we eventually sailed to Nassau for an interview with the US Embassy to get B1/B2 visas which are the correct visas to have when entering US waters.

I took the matter up with the authorities in the USA and was advised that it would have been perfectly fine to sail into the USA on our ESTA visas as long as we had already made ONE entry by commercial transportation source.

So ... if one has an ESTA visa, enters the USA once on that visa by commercial transportation, then thereafter one is free on that ESAT visa to enter and re-enter on a PRIVATE VESSEL as many times as one wants to.

On another note ... I am totally gob smacked at how cheap the cruising permits are for the USA, at how friendly and efficient the authorities have been and how easy it is to 'arrive here'.

One sails into US waters and arrives at ANY dock of choice (Marina or private), has to call 1-800-432-1216 or 1-800-451-0393 to report arrival and then after receiving a pin number has 24 hours to report to customs and immigration. The process is EASY and extremely WELCOMING!

So much for all the sailors who told us the US is unfriendly and one has HUGE difficulty with bureaucratic officials ... this place is EASY to enter and is FANTASTIC as are its people!
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Old 14-02-2013, 11:28   #2
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Re: ESTA VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR FOREIGNERS ENTERING THE USA

Impi,
Be a bit wary of the advice you get from different US officials. Many don't fully understand the rules themselves and we've had very contradictory advice, to our detriment.

As an example, the scenario you cite is correct to a point. If you fly in commercially, and fly out again, you will be able to re-enter with your ESTA on your boat, provided it is within the 90 days allowed from your last commercial entry, and provided it is from an 'adjoining island/country'. We sailed in from the Caymans and it was deemed an adjoining country so we were alright. It appears that the Caymans and Jamaica are 'adjoining' so I assume it is US foreign policy that Cuba doesn't exist!
Also we were within 90 days of when we'd last entered commercially... we had 2 weeks left which was pure coincidence, or they would not have let us in.
All this assumes one of our officials had it right and yours has it wrong, or vice versa... who knows. They sure don't

Vic
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Old 14-02-2013, 14:54   #3
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Re: ESTA VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR FOREIGNERS ENTERING THE USA

Friends have had difficulties in the US from being told differing *facts* by different Immigration Officials. Policies change, people make mistakes. It's all part of the cruising life. I'm glad you found the States welcoming and easy to deal with; enjoy your stay.

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Old 14-02-2013, 19:02   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by impi
I thought I would clear up some issues which 'remained GREY' to me about sailing into the USA as a foreigner on a foreign vessel.

We had been told by many that you may not enter the USA on an ESTA visa.

After huge efforts we eventually sailed to Nassau for an interview with the US Embassy to get B1/B2 visas which are the correct visas to have when entering US waters.

I took the matter up with the authorities in the USA and was advised that it would have been perfectly fine to sail into the USA on our ESTA visas as long as we had already made ONE entry by commercial transportation source.

So ... if one has an ESTA visa, enters the USA once on that visa by commercial transportation, then thereafter one is free on that ESAT visa to enter and re-enter on a PRIVATE VESSEL as many times as one wants to.

On another note ... I am totally gob smacked at how cheap the cruising permits are for the USA, at how friendly and efficient the authorities have been and how easy it is to 'arrive here'.

One sails into US waters and arrives at ANY dock of choice (Marina or private), has to call 1-800-432-1216 or 1-800-451-0393 to report arrival and then after receiving a pin number has 24 hours to report to customs and immigration. The process is EASY and extremely WELCOMING!

So much for all the sailors who told us the US is unfriendly and one has HUGE difficulty with bureaucratic officials ... this place is EASY to enter and is FANTASTIC as are its people!
This is directly the opposite to what I was told. I was repeatedly told you must have a B1/B2 to arrive by foreign yacht. By the way its Visa waiver program not ESTA ,

Furthermore even after checking in you still have to report in after every boat movement.

As to cheap, well try the Med , virtually zero regulation . No fees and no reporting. Of course the marinas fleece you !!!

I've found the policing and oversight quite uncomfortable. I was boarded more time in US waters in one year then my whole lifetime elsewhere. Officials are always courteous but extremely business like. Rules are quite rigorously applied , which is somewhat of a shock to us lassiez faire Europeans. Failing foul of mundane visa issues etc has serious consequences ( and they all have guns !!!) ( not to mention pump outs etc )

ashore etc people are very friendly, even if somewhat superficial. Its takes a little time to make real friends. It's a nice place to cruise , though not cheap in my experience. I have great memories of the Chesapeake , and even sailing on little Lake Lanier down south.


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