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Old 10-09-2021, 20:38   #1
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When do you have to leave the US

So, asking more for my information for a guy I know (and my knowledge).

He has to leave the US due to visa/paperwork/etc in next few weeks. He is planning on checking out in his boat and cruising South towards carrib. He is not a US citizen. He wants to check out at one northern location and costal cruise (anchoring at night) down South.

As long as he doesn't step foot on US soil is that acceptable?

Heading South in Oct is a whole 'nother conversation, but, part of the equation.
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Old 11-09-2021, 05:04   #2
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

If you anchor in U.S. waters, you have entered the USA.
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Old 11-09-2021, 05:32   #3
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

Pretty sure that isn't going to fly. Check out means leave. And the months between checkout and check in somewhere else will likely be noticed.

And a word of advice to your friend. Having dealt with US immigration a lot I will say this: do not break the rules!

All my dealings with them were awesome, considering what (and who) they have to deal with, and of course the shear volume, I have found they do an excellent job and the system itself works.

Unless you break the rules, then it all goes sideways. A 10 year no entry is easily applied. Overstay his visa at his own peril.

Not arguing or dealing with the trolls.
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Old 11-09-2021, 05:38   #4
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

I would also add that the rules are applied unevenly, differently in different districts.

So just because it worked “here” does not mean it will work “there.” Maddening.

I assume this means leaving on the trip south sooner than later. Sorry about that.

Best of luck.
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Old 11-09-2021, 05:50   #5
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

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I would also add that the rules are applied unevenly, differently in different districts.

So just because it worked “here” does not mean it will work “there.” Maddening.

I assume this means leaving on the trip south sooner than later. Sorry about that.

Best of luck.
But realize that the exit by date is the same everywhere. It is not treated differently anywhere in any district. The same goes everywhere else in fact.

Ever overstay your visa in mexico? Out comes the cash. But that will not work in the US.
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Old 11-09-2021, 06:22   #6
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

You can only drop the hook as part of "innocent passage" and the planned trip certainly doesn't fall into that category. He would need to get a cruising permit, calling in each day after anchoring with his new location. The cruising permit is easy to get. I have traveled the east coast in my foreign-flagged boat and have been checked out numerous times by the coast guard (although they never boarded, it was either visual or a VHF conversation) so it is unlikely that anyone can "sneak" by.

Usually when clearing out of the USA you don't get any paperwork at all - you just leave. I always go into an office and get stamped paperwork as most countries give you a hard time when clearing in without a corresponding clear-out from the last port/country
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Old 11-09-2021, 06:29   #7
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

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All my dealings with them were awesome, considering what (and who) they have to deal with, and of course the shear volume, I have found they do an excellent job and the system itself works.

.
Been to more than 30 countries by boat and found the US authorities to be all over the place in competency. In many cases they do not even know and understand their own rules.

To give one example, my wife was offered a job in NYC and we had visas to live in the US. We decided to live on a boat near her work. Bought a US boat and transferred the flag so it became a Canadian boat in mid-January. Was told to go to the nearest customs office (happened to be a container port) to get a cruising permit. After much head scratching and asking supervisors, they decided to give us a permit until Dec 31 at which point we would have to take the boat out of the US for two weeks before we could reenter and we could get a new permit. I pointed out that this was impossible in New York in December and asked if I could go to Bermuda in June and return after two weeks and get a CP dated in June. They said 'no' I could not get a new CP since I already had one. The only way I could see to get around this was to register the boat in Rhode Island which seems to be the Liberia of the US. We did go to Bermuda that June and reentered the US
at Plymouth, MA. The day after got a phone call from a local official who asked if we were a Canadian boat with RI registration. Said we were and he said that is not legal but he would come down to the boat and sort it out. I explained our story and he made some comment that included the word 'morons' and said we should have been given an open-ended CP since we were legal residents of the US. I was out the $300 that RI (Liberia) had charged.

For the OP's friend, don't try to sneak down the coast. The Plymouth police have a huge marine unit (federal funding every year) and they report every foreign boat they see to the feds. The other foreign boat in town was German. The owners cruise for one month a year and get hauled wherever they are and spend lots of money on their baby. That summer's cruise was to go from Plymouth to the Hinckley yard in Maine where they would get hauled and spend more money. Their CP had run out when they were on the hard and they were given 48 hours to leave the country (Nova Scotia). If the officials had known their own rules they would have realized that the clock on the CP stops when a boat is hauled to have work done. The boat owner was royally pissed, in a proper German way, at how he was treated. Interestingly he was the owner of a company that a subsidiary in Michigan that employed 100 Americans. He was going to contact the local congress critter. Would love to know what happened after that.

Third example, there is a sometimes enforced rule that foreign boats have to phone in to customs any time they move. I had a 1-800 number (I asked, it was somewhere in Alabama) and they would link you to the correct local office. Now, the fact that the number only worked with US cell phones and it was for foreigners is well silly. When you got the local office, usually at some airport, they would invariably ask why you were calling and you would have to explain their rules to them. I said the rule was sometimes enforced. If you come into Long Island Sound from the east and are on the north shore (Boston? office) you are supposed to call every time you move. If you are on the south shore (New York office) you only have to call in when you enter the district which extends to Cape May, NJ. Also, it takes quite some time to learn all this stuff.

I will leave the rudeness I have sometimes encountered for another day other than to say when you fly into China you are asked to react, on one of those smiley face/frown face pads, how you were treated by the official who did your entry.
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Old 11-09-2021, 07:47   #8
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

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Been to more than 30 countries by boat and found the US authorities to be all over the place in competency. In many cases they do not even know and understand their own rules.
With well over 100 US entries from Canada I completely agree.

I have dozens of stories of stupefying calls to US Customs.

example :
Called customs as required after moving the boat.
Customs - "where are you".
Me - "Chesapeake Beach, Maryland".
Customs - "No you are not, there is no such place".
Me - "sigh"

This call went on for 2hrs and finally the officer said ...
"Oh never mind I'll just put you down for Albany"
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Old 11-09-2021, 08:07   #9
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

As already mentioned the US is a hit or a miss, depending on who you deal with. I have had some that were at the point of being rude and others who could not be more helpful. If your friend decides to take a chance on it, all could go well, but if something goes wrong he will be in big trouble.
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Old 11-09-2021, 08:21   #10
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

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Been to more than 30 countries by boat and found the US authorities to be all over the place in competency. In many cases they do not even know and understand their own rules.
I would give them a little leeway.

When you are dealing with small island country or a country with just a short section of coast, there may only be one district covering the entire country and almost every boat coming in needs to clear customs. It becomes very routine and being small it's easier to maintain consistency.

When you have a coast thousands of miles long covered by multiple districts and often the nearest foreign port is hundreds of miles away. Some of those districts rarely deal with foreign pleasure boats, so it's not unexpected that personnel may be unfamiliar with the rules.

Back to the original question: Claiming innocent passage for an extended coastal cruise is questionable. Maybe it's legal, maybe it's not but if they decide you are abusing the situation, you won't know until the lawyers get involved at great expense to sort it out...or you are permanently barred from the USA i you don't want to pay for lawyers...and they may impound the boat and ship you out by plane.
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Old 11-09-2021, 08:36   #11
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

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I would give them a little leeway.


When you have a coast thousands of miles long covered by multiple districts and often the nearest foreign port is hundreds of miles away. Some of those districts rarely deal with foreign pleasure boats, so it's not unexpected that personnel may be unfamiliar with the rules.
Three sectors between Lake Ontario and Florida all with the same rule book, all of whom deal with Canadian boats daily. Any six people in any one office will give different answers and frequently contradict their own rules and each other.
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Old 11-09-2021, 08:46   #12
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

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With well over 100 US entries from Canada I completely agree.

I have dozens of stories of stupefying calls to US Customs.

example :
Called customs as required after moving the boat.
Customs - "where are you".
Me - "Chesapeake Beach, Maryland".
Customs - "No you are not, there is no such place".
Me - "sigh"

This call went on for 2hrs and finally the officer said ...
"Oh never mind I'll just put you down for Albany"
Not boat related, entering and leaving by private aircraft had the same issues. Ex. the customer official who swore up and down that it was not legal for a non-US citizen to own an N registered aircraft. Despite the fact I'd owned 2 or three by that time for a total of around 10 years. Finally gave up and said my wife owned it.

Same guy missed the 4 black plastic wrapped 2' cubes in the back of the plane. They were gas cans but looked like square grouper.

Or the time I had to essentially abandon an aircraft clearing in at Port Clinton because I was a non-US citizen on a US pilots license flying a Canadian aircraft owned by a US company who had just purchased it so all the paperwork was temporary. They just couldn't figure it out lol
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Old 11-09-2021, 10:13   #13
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

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Three sectors between Lake Ontario and Florida all with the same rule book, all of whom deal with Canadian boats daily. Any six people in any one office will give different answers and frequently contradict their own rules and each other.
So as I said, multiple sectors (and multiple local units within each sector) and most Canadian boats we know didn't check in...

Should it be better? Maybe but probably not high on their priorities.
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Old 11-09-2021, 10:32   #14
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

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So as I said, multiple sectors (and multiple local units within each sector) and most Canadian boats we know didn't check in...

Should it be better? Maybe but probably not high on their priorities.
Three sectors, three phone numbers, not multiple local offices.

No definitley not high on their list but you'd think they could understand their own rules.
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Old 11-09-2021, 17:08   #15
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Re: When do you have to leave the US

I don't know how it would be received in the US, but I would apply for an extension for self and boat, to leave Dec. 30 or so. If granted, then one could travel to FL. for final checkout, and avoid the tail end of hurricane season (as long as the season cooperates).

Many countries insist you depart when you check out, others will let you hang around a little. It depends on too many variables to really predict.

Do be aware, all the Customs and Border Patrols of all the nations share their information via computer. Therefore, if you don't "dot the 'i's' and cross the 't's'," they will know you're not a rule follower at your very next destination, and there will be consequences. Your boat will be looked at harder. We saw this with a boat that was involved in drug running, then sold at a Customs auction, had difficulties at every check in in the South Pacific. As far as we knew, innocent owner, it was only the boat's history and name.

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