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Old 25-08-2010, 09:57   #1
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Clearing Customs

I'm planning another jaunt through the BVI's, and a couple going with us would really like to make a stop in the USVI.

I've never gone through clearing customs outside of an airport, train station, or ferry dock, and was curious if someone has a quick guide on how it is done, what the rules and regs are, etc.

Thank you very much in advance,

Mike
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Old 25-08-2010, 09:59   #2
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Originally Posted by mikeygstl View Post
I'm planning another jaunt through the BVI's, and a couple going with us would really like to make a stop in the USVI.

I've never gone through clearing customs outside of an airport, train station, or ferry dock, and was curious if someone has a quick guide on how it is done, what the rules and regs are, etc.

Thank you very much in advance,

Mike
Noonsite: US Virgin Islands
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Old 25-08-2010, 10:15   #3
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Assuming that you will have gone through customs coming into BVI, be sure to clear out of BVI (Sopers Hole) as well before heading to USVI. For one reason or another they are very picky about that.
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Old 25-08-2010, 12:22   #4
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Originally Posted by Intoxicat View Post
Assuming that you will have gone through customs coming into BVI, be sure to clear out of BVI (Sopers Hole) as well before heading to USVI. For one reason or another they are very picky about that.
Indeed they are! the reason being that they are a revenue collection agency for the BVI government as well as being "The Customs".

You can clear out in Road Harbour, Great Hbr Jost Van Dyke or Soper's Hole (West End Tortola and the closest to USVI). Then you have to clear into USVI - make sure you all have your passports. Normally very simple and done either at Cruz Bay, St John (Leave the yacht on a mooring ball at Caneel Bay and dinghy round the short hop to customs). If you were going to St Thomas you could clear in at Charlotte Amalie.

dont forget to clear back into the BVI's when you come back! Tony
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Old 25-08-2010, 12:27   #5
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How does one 'clear out'

Sorry in advance for being so dense.

I just remember seeing someone come in to the BVI's on Norman near the bight - Customs came by to clear them in I assumed.

Any procedure required by radio beforehand?

I guess I need a 'customs for dummies' book.

Thanks again.
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Old 25-08-2010, 20:26   #6
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To clear out go to customs - just take your paper work, that's the Passports and everything they gave you when you cleared in. They give you paperwork that you will need to clear into the next island. I would head to St John like bvimatelot said. If you want to go to St Thomas take the ferry. It is easiest. St John is much nicer than St Thomas unless you want to hit gold and jewelry shops.
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Old 25-08-2010, 21:33   #7
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Reading the post above, I see little mention of the Immigration Office. Both the Immigration Office and the Customs Ofice must be visited everytime you enter a country. To leave a country you must return to the Immigration Office and the Custom Office to obtain a "clearance" to present to the next country you enter, this is proof that you had permission to leave a country. Sometimes both are in the same room or at the same desk/ Otherwise, which office you must visit first varies from country to country, but officials are only to happy to let you know if you're wrong.
You can be denied entry to a country if you don't have a clearance from the last country.
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Old 26-08-2010, 06:39   #8
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Okay, so if I am getting this right:

We'll plan on clearing out at Soper's Hole. All traveler's will go ashore to the customs and immigrations office at Soper's hole and check out.

Then, when arriving at St. John, grab a ball at Caneel bay and make the short jaunt to Cruz bay to clear in.

I know that we change the host country flag after clearing customs, but should we fly the quarantine flag when entering US waters from the BVI, and the reverse?
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Old 26-08-2010, 06:55   #9
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Only the captain needs to go to the office (BVI both customs and immigration are in one office) but they do not mind if all go *(from my experience). All go to the office in Cruz Bay (again one office for both). I have never seen a Q flag in the virgins, but some countries are picky about it.
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Old 26-08-2010, 06:55   #10
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When clearing out of the BVI just the skipper needs to bring the ship paperwork (which includes the clearing-in papers if the boat is not based in the BVI) and passports to the office. This is at the west end of the ferry terminal in Soper's hole. There you will get a form to fill out where you enter the boat information and crew information. They will then do a bit of magic with stamping things, then ask you to pay the fees (which is one door away) and they take you nominal fee and stamp some more of your paperwork which you then bring back to the original office where, after some stamping, you get your processed clearing out form. That is it, you now have up to 24 hours to depart BVI waters. I usually remove the BVI courtesy flag and fly my "Q" flag at this time, but it is sufficient to put up the yellow flag upon entering US waters.
Clearing in at St. John you can anchor in the area specifically for clearing-in/out (but my boat has too much draft, so I have to anchor waaay out) then all people on board must present themselves personally to customs/immigration with their passports. Note that the visa-waiver program does not apply to entry via boats, so if you have any non-American, non-permanent-residents aboard they will need a visa to enter the U.S. via the boat (they could take the ferry and meet up with you once you've cleared in). You will fill in a U.S. form (which is geared towards commercial vessels, so has some hard-to-answer questions on it) and once that gets stamped you've cleared into the U.S.
The U.S. does not normally issue clearing-out paperwork and the BVI will accept your return without having cleared out of the US. If you go from the USVI to another country you have to return to immigration and fill out the entry form again - then they put an "Exit" stamp on that form which you can then use to clear into another country.
The procedure is usually relatively quick and painless, the BVI takes longer than the U.S. does. I've cleared out of the BVI in 10 minutes and it has taken over an hour another time. The US is always fast, efficient and invariably friendly.
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Old 26-08-2010, 07:23   #11
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If you are other than US citizen, certainly EU, a useful loophole allows you to visit USVI, Puerto Rico & mainland USA in your own boat without a visa (in your passport at least).

From the BVI's take an official day return ferry trip to Charlotte Amalie, St John's. Checking in you will be issued with 90 day visa waiver. On return ensure you keep the visa waiver. You can then use it to visit USVI with your own boat. A cruising permit (not needed in USVI) will be issued in Puerto Rico & still be valid by the time you reach mainland USA providing you are still within the 90 days.
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Old 26-08-2010, 09:58   #12
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When checking in at the ferry building in Road Town BVI's the Customs Office is upstairs and the Immigration Office is on the ground floor.

If you Have a US oassport and are 62 or older, when checking in at St John's go to the State Park building, close to the Customs office, and purchase a Seniors Parks pass($10). All moorings that are suported by the Parks Service are half priced, with this card. Back in the US all National Parks entry will be free for you and your group.
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Old 26-08-2010, 11:03   #13
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When you clear into St Johns - everyone on the boat must appear at the Customs and Immigration office - could be a real pain in the but if your 85yo grandmother is on the boat. There is no good anchorage so pickup a mooring in Caneel Bay while you check in.
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