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Old 03-11-2010, 11:22   #1
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Exclamation Customs and Immigration - How Bad Can it Get ?

I am fortunate that in all my years of applying for visas and flying into countries I never had any problems.
Yet I hear absolute horror stories of people getting turned away at the airport and sent on the next flight home because of something frivolous.

Sure enough you see it for yourself on programmes like "Boarder Patrol" where you get some real chancers.
But there is the genuine few that have overlooked something or applied for the wrong visa and get a pat on the back on the way to the boarding gates with the officers saying "Sorry mate".

How dose that work out in a marine situation?
You've been at sea for 30 days, your water is fouled, your almost out of food, your low on fuel both your partner and your boat are the worst for the bad weather you've experienced on the crossing ,you're both looking forward to a few days R&R and you are just crossing from international into territorial waters. You both have valid up to date passports.
What happens next?
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Old 03-11-2010, 11:31   #2
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Each country has a list of foreign countries for which no visa is required, i.e. you're issued a "tourist" or "visitor's" visit on the spot, when your passport is stamped on entry.

If the country which issued your passport isn't on that list, you'll need to have a valid visa in hand before you depart. If you don't meet the entry requirements, and can convince them of hardship, you may be allowed to remain under a Q flag until you're able to safely move on. Customs and immigration officials generally tend to be very matter-of-fact, by-the-book sorts who take the view that it's not their problem if you don't meet the letter of the local laws.
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Old 03-11-2010, 11:45   #3
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Provided you've planned ahead, done your homework, and made sure your passport's current and you have your visa if needed, the biggest problems I've had with Customs and Immigration (and the Port Captain and the Police, and a few more) is having to travel over a wide distance in order to get things signed, getting the paperwork signed in the proper order, paying the fees, and waiting.

However, you can pull into a port of safe haven, fly the Q-flag, and generally be left alone for a few days - provided you do not go ashore (if you do, all consideration is removed). Your passport and/or visa may have additional requirements, but in every case I've been involved with, the officials understand and as long as you don't try to fool them, you'll find them accommodating.
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Old 03-11-2010, 12:07   #4
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However, you can pull into a port of safe haven, fly the Q-flag, and generally be left alone for a few days - provided you do not go ashore (if you do, all consideration is removed).
Okay say if I didn't have the appropriate visa for the country I'm now moored. I was sailing for the Yucatan and I had to pull in at Florida due to adverse weather conditions, I fly the Q-flag, how am I suppose to re-provision my boat and make whatever necessary repairs if I'm not allowed ashore?
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Old 03-11-2010, 14:13   #5
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We always have a plot for the next country in case something goes wrong. Always, always!

I never feel comfortable till the paperwork is done and always ready to up hook and off if they start getting weird (especially with bribes etc - I dont pay them).

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Old 03-11-2010, 17:17   #6
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I thought there was an international maritime law that permitted a vessel to enter port and stay for a period of time (48hrs) until repairs/nessecary provisioning /watering was completed before having to move on...
The only stipulation being that the authorities were made aware and only the skipper was permitted to land to arrange nessecary's...
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Old 03-11-2010, 18:00   #7
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I thought there was an international maritime law that permitted a vessel to enter port and stay for a period of time (48hrs) until repairs/nessecary provisioning /watering was completed before having to move on...
The only stipulation being that the authorities were made aware and only the skipper was permitted to land to arrange nessecary's...
Now that makes sense and I certainly hope it is the case!
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Old 03-11-2010, 18:18   #8
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the rules are whatever the guy in the uniform says they are. good luck citing "international law" to a customs or immigration official. Much better to try being respectful and polite.
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Old 03-11-2010, 18:21   #9
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Vessels have the right of "Innocent Passage" and must be allowed a port in a storm.
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The right of entry is codified under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”). A foreign vessel has the right to enter the territorial sea of a coastal state when such entry is necessary for the safety of the vessel or persons aboard. The distressed vessel must leave the territorial sea once the conditions that made the entry necessary have ceased to exist.
So you will be permitted the limited ability to make your vessel seaworthy, but you'll be subject to the immigration controls of each individual country (ie, they individually determine the policy for your temporary mooring and transit.) But you can't be forced back out to sea in an unseaworthy state. But each country gets to choose just how they grant your ability to affect repairs. Basically, if you're a normal chap who is reasonable, they'll react like any normal minded human would under such circumstances. But break any of the well spelled out rules of your temporary stay and it's likely to become quite unpleasant.
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Old 03-11-2010, 21:43   #10
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Historically, the "safe harbor provisions" of International Maritime Conventions have allowed vessels (usually freighters) up to 10 days under quarantine rules to seek refuge in a "safe harbor" for weather or mechanical reasons.
- - Unfortunately another of the casualties of 9/11 was this provision. First the USA voided the provision stating that only if the vessel is boarded, inspected and provides pre-notification with a long list of conditions can it use the "safe-harbor" provisions.
- - Last year or the year before the E.U. got into the fray as some 3rd World freighters/oil tankers, etc., occasionally need to stop and get repairs. Refusals and requirements for special insurance, etc. turned the whole thing on its ear and after much wrangling, the E.U. decided to make exceptions for authentic "refuge requests." But other countries are not so lenient and the "quarantine" requirements can be expensive as a customs ship or officer has to remain on/near the vessel to ensure compliance. Trips ashore would have to be "chaperoned" or you would have to have a local marine service bring the stuff to your vessel. Same with maintenance issues, it you cannot fix the problem with what you have onboard, then you most probably would have to hire a agency to bring the stuff to you and if necessary do the work.
- - The threat of terrorists using vessels to transport WMD weapons is real.
- - So some countries are reasonable and recognize your "special needs" for a safe harbor and others, especially countries who are "targets" for terrorists are downright ugly about folks sailing in without proper paperwork.
- - So as MarkJ stated you have better have plans for continuing on to a more friendly country. The hassles of not having the proper paperwork before you get into such a situation can really open a nightmare can of worms.
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Old 04-11-2010, 00:02   #11
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the rules are whatever the guy in the uniform says they are. good luck citing "international law" to a customs or immigration official. Much better to try being respectful and polite.
I can't imagine anyone would be stupid enough to do so, but it is nice to know there are laws out there that offer some protection to honest passage makers.
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Old 04-11-2010, 01:44   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Geminidawn View Post

I am fortunate that in all my years of applying for visas and flying into countries I never had any problems. Yet I hear absolute horror stories of people getting turned away at the airport and sent on the next flight home because of something frivolous.

Having taken for granted that my US passport has never presented a problem, I got bit by this one when I tried to take my Indoneisan wife to the boat in Mexico. We just wanted to change planes in LA and continue on. What an education I got that day!!

I don't wanna talk about it.
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Old 04-11-2010, 03:18   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sck5 View Post
the rules are whatever the guy in the uniform says they are. good luck citing "international law" to a customs or immigration official. Much better to try being respectful and polite.
Thats what is normally involved in 'Making the Authorities Aware'....
Unless your a total Moron..
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Old 04-11-2010, 04:30   #14
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BTW, probably the strictist country in these regards is the US.

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Old 04-11-2010, 06:00   #15
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I've been told by U.S. immigration authorities that as soon as your anchor hits the bottom (or you attach to a mooring ball), you obligated to report to C&I, without delay. On that particular occasion, I had taken the time to have a shower, shave and a bite to eat after a 24 hour passage. After a rather emphatic lecture, he then processed me in.

I take that to mean that anchoring under a Q flag overnight or such isn't an option.
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