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Old 11-09-2015, 08:29   #1
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Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

Sailed the BVIs a couple times, want to take some friends to St. John's and St. Thomas next April. Need help on how/where to navigate customs both ways. I've heard check out of BVIs at Soper's Hole, check into St. John's....where? And how do I go back? Thanks for the help....
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Old 11-09-2015, 08:40   #2
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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Originally Posted by mjgriffin007 View Post
Sailed the BVIs a couple times, want to take some friends to St. John's and St. Thomas next April. Need help on how/where to navigate customs both ways. I've heard check out of BVIs at Soper's Hole, check into St. John's....where? And how do I go back? Thanks for the help....
Check in US customs at Cruz bay.
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Old 11-09-2015, 08:41   #3
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

Gee, I did this in 1986, before the internet.

You find out where the customs "shops" are, you take your boat there, anchor out, dinghy in and do it. You might actually have to walk a block or two.

I used (gasp!) the cruising guide available in a (gasp!) book back then, since Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet.

Really, you can do it. You already know what towns the customs are in.

Good luck, have a great cruise.

Sorry to be so harsh, but this is so simple...
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Old 11-09-2015, 08:56   #4
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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Check in US customs at Cruz bay.
Cruz Bay is the best place to check into the USVI. St. thomas (Charlotte Amalie) is available, but not as convenient as Cruz. Enter Cruz in the channel that leads to the National Park office and anchor in the short term anchorage just outside of the greens. 2 hour max. which is enforced by the Park folks, but this is plenty long. Dinghy in to the National Park dinghy dock (usually crowded) and walk around the head of the harbor to the Customs/Immigration office. Easy peasy. While in Cruz Bay, the Dolphin Market just up the hill is a very good place to get groceries, beer, rum. MUCH cheaper and better quality than anything in BVI.

First, you can check out of the BVI at any of the locations: Soper's Hole, Road Town, Gun Creek, Spanish Town - it doesn't matter and depends on where you're departing from, just pick the most convenient.

Upon departing USVI - generally - you do not need to check out if you're returning to BVI. Ask when checking in if your party has any issues to make this different.

An option to taking the boat to Cruz Bay: If you don't want to take the boat all the way to Cruz, then back up wind to the E end of St. John, you can get a mooring ball in Salt Pond Bay ($15/night) and take the $1 public bus to Cruz Bay. Make sure everyone goes so that you'll have everything you need to check in. This is the best $1 roller coaster on the planet.

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Old 11-09-2015, 09:10   #5
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

If your friends are Americans, no problem. If they are not, have them take the ferry and meet you in Cruz Bay.
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Old 11-09-2015, 13:53   #6
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

We checked out of Jost Van Dyke and in at Cruz bay nothing to it.
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Old 12-09-2015, 01:57   #7
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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We checked out of Jost Van Dyke and in at Cruz bay nothing to it.
That's the best way. I lived in the BVI for a couple of years and that was definitely the civilised way to do it.
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Old 12-09-2015, 05:36   #8
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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Upon departing USVI - generally - you do not need to check out if you're returning to BVI. Ask when checking in if your party has any issues to make this different.
Until a few years ago any "aliens" onboard had to turn in their I-94 forms on the way out. That has now changed with the introduction of electronic forms so there is no need to "check out" in person for Immigration reasons.

That said, foreign flag boats still need to the phone call when they move from one "area" to another (I think USVI counts as one, but PR and SVI have several), hence if you do not checkout at an office they should make a call at least in theory. This is a Customs thing.

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Old 12-09-2015, 05:47   #9
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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Originally Posted by 2Hulls View Post

An option to taking the boat to Cruz Bay: If you don't want to take the boat all the way to Cruz, then back up wind to the E end of St. John, you can get a mooring ball in Salt Pond Bay ($15/night) and take the $1 public bus to Cruz Bay. Make sure everyone goes so that you'll have everything you need to check in. This is the best $1 roller coaster on the planet.
That is not acceptable for boats with foreign flag or crew. I have been heard the riot act on this and the published rules are consistent with that. Every boat with foreign flag or crew has to go directly to a designated inpection "site" of which there is only one in St John. The unusual thing in USVI is that in St John and St Thomas they do not want you to call the toll free number upon anchoring at the "site". You just go to the office.

St Croix is more like other parts of the US when clear in. You have to call upon anchoring at Gallows Bay and they tell you what to do.
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Old 12-09-2015, 05:49   #10
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
If your friends are Americans, no problem. If they are not, have them take the ferry and meet you in Cruz Bay.
My posts in this thread may be proof that your two-sentence post is good advice!

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Old 12-09-2015, 09:17   #11
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
If your friends are Americans, no problem. If they are not, have them take the ferry and meet you in Cruz Bay.
A little addition to that:
If they are not Americans but have B1/B2 visas, no problem, otherwise have them take the ferry and meet up in Cruz Bay.
Did it last year with no problems at all.
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Old 12-09-2015, 09:54   #12
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

I'd just like to be absolutely certain of the procedure.
I'm an Irish registered yacht and this year will be heading from the BVI to the USVI and finishing the season's cruising in Puerto Rico.
So I don't want any issues with Homeland Security or any other authorities when in US controlled waters.
I have cruised all the other islands from Grenada up, 2 or 3 months each year, without any real problems with the powers that be.
We have both obtained the B1/B2 Visa, at considerable expense.
To fully comply with regulations where do we check in?
Do we have to inform the authorities each time we move to a different anchorage?
We intend leaving the boat in Puerto Rico at the end of the season.
Where should we check in there.
Are there any regulations regarding leaving a boat for the off season- about 9 months?
Can anyone recommend where it can be slipped and stored?
Is there anything a non US national has to be careful about so as not to upset the US authorities?
My few meetings with HS personnel made me feel that they were not friendly or interested in helping a visitor/tourist. So I don't want to get on their wrong side.
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Old 12-09-2015, 11:50   #13
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

Quote:
Originally Posted by TTranscendence View Post
I'd just like to be absolutely certain of the procedure.
I'm an Irish registered yacht and this year will be heading from the BVI to the USVI and finishing the season's cruising in Puerto Rico.
So I don't want any issues with Homeland Security or any other authorities when in US controlled waters.
I have cruised all the other islands from Grenada up, 2 or 3 months each year, without any real problems with the powers that be.
We have both obtained the B1/B2 Visa, at considerable expense.
To fully comply with regulations where do we check in?
Do we have to inform the authorities each time we move to a different anchorage?
We intend leaving the boat in Puerto Rico at the end of the season.
Where should we check in there.
Are there any regulations regarding leaving a boat for the off season- about 9 months?
Can anyone recommend where it can be slipped and stored?
Is there anything a non US national has to be careful about so as not to upset the US authorities?
My few meetings with HS personnel made me feel that they were not friendly or interested in helping a visitor/tourist. So I don't want to get on their wrong side.

Enter at Cruz Bay. Easy and quickly done. Make sure everyone goes with you (not Captain alone).
The only thing that matters is that EVERYONE on board has a B1/B2 visa or has entered the US (prior to entering with your boat) on a commercial carrier (i.e. airplane/ferry). Once in you don't have to report anything apart from when you enter Puerto Rico from the VI's. You have to report again to customs as you are entering from a "offshore" territory. You can do that in Fajardo (I strongly recommend) and stay at the Sun Bay Marina (a cute family owned marina with great hospitality and reasonable prices).
I have had only good experience with HS in both VI's and Fajardo. Polite, helpful and friendly.
To haul out you will probably have to turn to Puerto Del Ray. Expensive, rude (almost) and usually full. Better reserve a place way ahead or try a different location. Ask in Sun Bay Marina. They might be able to help you or find something suitable in their facility.
Good luck and happy sailing!
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Old 12-09-2015, 12:17   #14
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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Originally Posted by Stu Jackson View Post
Gee, I did this in 1986, before the internet.

You find out where the customs "shops" are, you take your boat there, anchor out, dinghy in and do it. You might actually have to walk a block or two.

I used (gasp!) the cruising guide available in a (gasp!) book back then, since Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet.

Really, you can do it. You already know what towns the customs are in.

Good luck, have a great cruise.

Sorry to be so harsh, but this is so simple...
Why even post this? you are not helping anyone with your I'm so cool did that in '86 ego stuff. Just save it and let the people who are going to help reply.
Sheesh...
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Old 12-09-2015, 12:54   #15
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Re: Need the Details: Customs from BVIs to USVIs and back

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Originally Posted by TTranscendence View Post
I'm an Irish registered yacht and this year will be heading from the BVI to the USVI and finishing the season's cruising in Puerto Rico.
(snip)
To fully comply with regulations where do we check in?
This is for "first arrival" of a foreign-flagged boat, which is not called "alien", only the crew are called "alien"

See this link for general info. Note that foreign boats are not eligible for LBO/SVRS.

If you are coming to the BVI and plan to stop anywhere US land (as opposed to exercising right to "innocent passage" to the Dominican Republic) then upon entering US waters you have to go to the first port of entry (loosely using the word; rules are messy but effect is same), which will be Cruz Bay, USVI. You cannot stop in Coral Bay or the North coast of St John.

Do what you have to do to be able to answer no to the question "Do you have any trash onboard?". If you answer "yes" you will be told that you need to dispose at an authorized facility in Puerto Rico (yes!). Also be aware that in paper ALL TRASH generated during your stay has to be disposed at an authorized facility. I always make sure I get rid of all packaging before carrying things to the boat, which reduces the need to break this silly rule.

They will make you fill some, but not all, fields in this CBP 1300 form. They will also make you fill their forms for crew list and expected itinerary.

Sometimes they will ask the usual questions about having fruits and vegetables on board, be prepared. I never had an issue but I made sure all fruit and veg had a label saying it came from the US.

They have never inspected my boat though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TTranscendence View Post
Do we have to inform the authorities each time we move to a different anchorage?
Now letīs move to the issue of what to do when you move from "port" to "port":

In the VI (which is a special Customs zone within the US, separate from the 50 states plus PR) they will not care about movements, beyond asking you to tell them what they will be be your itinerary.

In the rest of the US and PR they will take this "port" thing more seriously, but with the caveat that each Customs office gets to choose how they play.

It is difficult to know what are the boundaries between "ports" but if you call 1-800-X-SECTOR (1-800-973-2867) you will be put through to the relevant "port" Customs office.

The most important thing is that if you want to avoid reporting in person at each "port" you will need to get a "Cruising License", with which you will only need to make a phone call when crossing port boundaries.

Now that we are at this, you will not regret buying an AT&T Cingular prepaid SIM card, which will let you make unlimited calls to US and PR numbers for $2 a day. Just make sure you get a mainland US number, which is cheaper for other people to call.

The logical place to get the Crusing License is in Culebra or Vieques. Be prepared to go to the airport. You will get a wallet-sized card giving you the different "ports" areas in PR and a phone for each. Therefore you will not be as clueless as you would be in the continental US, where no one seems to know where the boundaries are.

Also note that after you leave the VI the first PR port will count as a new entry in the US Customs territory, because of the special status of the USVI.

Therefore in Vieques or Culebra you should anchor at one of the designated "Designated Sites for Inspection" (see this page), call the toll-free number and expect them to give you instructions, which usually means going to the airport. There you should ask for a Cruising License.

Of course, it will help if you get your phone SIM card in St John.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TTranscendence View Post
Are there any regulations regarding leaving a boat for the off season- about 9 months?
Assuming you have a (1 year?) Cruising License that covers the duration of the boatīs stay you should be fine with Customs. A Cruising License will also keep you free of state taxes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by TTranscendence View Post
Is there anything a non US national has to be careful about so as not to upset the US authorities?
My few meetings with HS personnel made me feel that they were not friendly or interested in helping a visitor/tourist. So I don't want to get on their wrong side.
The HS/CBP staff in the USVI can be as rude and ignorant of their own rules as their brothers/sisters in Miami. The difference, for good, is that they will not send you to "secondary" for 3 hours just because one of your crew has common first and last Spanish names. Therefore their rude behavior will only last for a few minutes. They are rude but not stupid. If one of the crew (eg my daughter) has a US passport they will behave as decent people because complaints from US citizens are treated seriously.

The HS/CBP staff in PR are completely different. They are perfectly bilingual, polite and competent.

One good thing of the USVI and PR is that you will not pay anything for your customs stuff unless you show up at a weekend or national holiday.

Another good thing is that you can get shop mail order from the US (at domestic shipping rates if you use US Postal Service) at cheap US prices without paying any duty. You can use GEneral Delivery Service to have any post office hold your mail until you arrive (max 14 days usually). Next time I do a few weeks of work on a boat I will base myself in Culebra for this reason.

Enjoy!
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