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Old 02-04-2011, 19:48   #1
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Entry Procedure for Puerto Rico and USVI

If anyone can help with sourced information or direct experience, it would really be appreciated.

We are currently in the Dominican Republic and are about to head east and then down to Trinidad via Puerto Rico, USVI, BVI, Leewards and Windwards. Our sailboat is owned by us and has British registry. Onboard there are 5 people with a mixture of Australian and Chilean passports. The Aussies already have visa waivers approved but I understand these are useless for a private boat entering US waters. The Chilean passport holders have no visa and no approved visa waiver.

After trawling through the info contained in these pages, it seems that we could take a passenger ferry from Santo Domingo to Puerto Rico, get our slip of paper from immigration, return to Dom Rep and then sail back over on our own sailboat. Not sure about the cost, but seems like a pain.

The other alternative is to apply for B1/B2 visas in Santo Domingo at the US embassy but we have no decent documentation onboard to satisfy their requirements, so I doubt this will be successful. (In the late 90s, when we last did this, we successfully showed proof of address and strong commitments to our country of residence, but that visa has since expired. Now we are just boat bums with no roots anywhere.)

So what can we do? Just head straight for Tortola bashing to windward without a break? Or throw ourselves at their mercy when arriving in Puerto Rico or USVI, spend 24 hours anchored off and then depart immediately without going ashore? Anything else?
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Old 03-04-2011, 00:50   #2
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Re: Entry Procedure for Puerto Rico and USVI

Go to Noonsite: The global site for cruising sailors there in the country section you will find all the info you need..
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Old 03-04-2011, 06:30   #3
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Re: Entry Procedure for Puerto Rico and USVI

Basically, cruising sailors who are not US Citizens or US Legal resident aliens must have a B1/B2 visa to enter any USA island, etc. If you don't have one you can sail on to the British Virgin Islands from the D.R. and then use a commonly used "work-around" technique providing each person who is taking advantage of the "work-around" is from a "Visa-Waiver" approved country with the approved format passport.
- - The "work around" has to do with taking a regular scheduled commercial ferry from Tortola to US Virgins and checking in under the Visa Waiver Program. Then returning to the BVI and rejoining the boat while retaining your I-90.
- - This might work from Santo Domingo to Puerto Rico but the ferries do not operate daily, are rather expensive and take a couple of days to make the trip.
- - Stopping illegally or attempting to bypass the system by just showing up without visa's can get nasty and result in you and your crew being entered onto the "watch list" which could end up prohibiting any future attempts to get legal visa's to the USA under any system/procedure. US Customs/Immigration in Puerto Rico is not an outfit to try to "game." They have enough problems with illegals trying to gain entrance from the D.R. and elsewhere.
- - And I suggest you check the Visa requirements for the British Virgin Islands - there are countries that the BVI's require the citizens to have pre-approved visas before you can enter the BVI. The eastern Caribbean can get dicey if you do not do your homework and find out what each island/country requires. The generally "pre-visa" free countries are Trinidad, Grenada, SVG, Dominica and Antigua. You can generally slide through the system in the French Islands where they have D-I-Y check-in/out computers. But officially they also require "pre-visas" from a lot of countries.
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Old 03-04-2011, 06:42   #4
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Re: Entry Procedure for Puerto Rico and USVI

best bet would be to go enmass,as a crew to the us embassy in sdomingo and plead your case,take proof of funds etc would not reccomend entering us territory with out a b1/b2 as $10,000 fine is applicable.
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Old 03-04-2011, 06:58   #5
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Re: Entry Procedure for Puerto Rico and USVI

Quote:
Originally Posted by atoll View Post
best bet would be to go enmass,as a crew to the us embassy in sdomingo and plead your case,take proof of funds etc would not reccomend entering us territory with out a b1/b2 as $10,000 fine is applicable.
Yes and No. The USA along with the U.K. and other major European countries now use the Internet to access and fill out their Visa Request Forms. There are NO paper forms you can get and fill out. Then you have to make an appointment via the internet and show up at the anointed hour and pay significant money in the form of an application fee for the privilege of talking to an official. You CANNOT get access to talk to a Consulate Official without an appointment - which you cannot get without a filed internet application.
- - There is no "plead your case" anymore, it is cut and dry and without all the required documents and requirements outlined in the procedures pages of the respective country's visa website you will be rejected. And no refunds on the application fees. Appointment times can vary from weeks to months and are published in the appropriate Visa webpages.
- - You can go to each country's visa webpages and get the requirements and list of documents needed. If you cannot or do not have those documents, you are wasting your time and significant money. Been there, done it and got the rejection "tee-shirt" - actually paper.
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Old 04-04-2011, 10:42   #6
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Re: Entry Procedure for Puerto Rico and USVI

I had to wait 4 weeks or so for my B1/B2 visa face-to-face time (which was still better than my 2 month wait for my H1-B work visa scheduling!) and as Osirissail mentioned you don't want to get rejected, as that will cause you problems whenever entering in the US in the future (one of the questions is "Have you ever been denied entry or denied a visa to the USA in the past?"). I think there might be a lengthy waiting period before you can re-apply after a rejection, too.
My recommendation would be to sail to the BVI, don't expect to use the international "right of innocent passage" for an anchoring in US sand, take the ferry over to the USVI in order enter the USA on a commercial carrier and then return to the BVI in order to sail the boat into Cruz Bay. This is not a trick or loophole, but is because of the commercial carrier bonds. You can contact the US department of homeland security to have them confirm this method - I did when I first heard of it and it was explained to me by an immigration officer (I went into the immigration office at the ferry dock in Charlotte Amalie).
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Old 05-04-2011, 20:50   #7
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Re: Entry Procedure for Puerto Rico and USVI

I missed that part of the OP where some of the guys were Chilean with Chile Passports. Since they are not eligible at this time for the VWP they will have to stay in the BVI's if the other guys want to visit the USVI's.
- - If you check the B.V.I.'s Visa website - folks from Chile do not need a Pre-Visa. So everybody is good for the B.V.I.'s
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Old 05-04-2011, 22:30   #8
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Re: Entry Procedure for Puerto Rico and USVI

a great site for checking on visa requirements for air travel is on delta.com
and enter "visa" in the search box
yes not directly on point as is deals with air travel but will get you a good idea
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Old 08-04-2011, 15:18   #9
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Thanks very much all the comments and advice. We are still in the DR, drinking rum on the beach at Sosua actually!
We will go straight thru to the BVIs.
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