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Old 08-01-2008
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Registration Question for US residents (not citizen)

Hi guys,

I have a question about registration - my situation is pretty special and I apologize if this is not the right place to ask and if nobody has an answer.
I'm a German citizen living in Chicago. I have permanent residency here and my current boat is registered in Illinois. No problems.
I'm considering buying a boat from a broker in Guatemala, and I wonder how and where to register it. I'm not planning to return to Chicago with it, I'll be cruising the Caribbean and maybe further until funds dry up. I assume I cannot register it in a US state unless it's there, at least at time of registration, right? I cannot federally document it in the US because I'm not a citizen.
So, what can I do? I'm not going to Germany, either, and in any case don't have a license to operate a boat there (they are incredibly stuck up over there). Do you have any suggestions? Could and should I register the boat in any other country, like Panama or Guatemala itself, not being a citizen there either?

Thanks a lot for any advice, Stephan
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Old 08-01-2008
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It would seem to me that any State in the United States of America would register a boat to anyone willing to fill out a registration form, identify a bill of sale or manufactures origin, supply a mailing address, and home port, oh and pay the fee.

I would think Caribbean countries would require property holdings or business transactions in the documenting county and I think they’re even prohibitive of that if you don’t employ or support the local economy.

I’d contact any marine insurer and seek their guidance or requirements on vessel registations.
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I guess I'm too German, should never have asked that. I'll just register it in Illinois too like my other boat. You are right, noone ever asked whether the boat was actually in Illinois at all!

Greetings, Stephan
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Old 08-01-2008
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You most certainly could register the boat in almost any state of the United States. They don't really care that the boat isn't in the state, just that you have some legal presence there—even if it is only a legal mailing address.

You would be required to pay the annual state registration fees and excise taxes.

However, you may run into some problems if you were to take the boat abroad, since many countries don't recognize state registrations. It can also complicate matters like customs check-ins.

Registering the boat in a foreign country will generally require that you form a holding corporation for the boat. It does have the advantage that your boat will be nationally flagged, as opposed to state registered.
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Oh no, I didn't know that just a state registration only could be trouble in some countries. Maybe I need to get US citizenship after all. Have been in the US for 12 years anyway, might as well do that if it helps.
Any Germans reading this? How difficult and expensive would it be to register my boat in Germany? Do I have to have a German license? Knowing our bureaucracy back there I'd guess it's better to register it in Kazakhstan...
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Old 08-01-2008
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Yes...for sure you need a documented vessel...not a state registration for visiting foreign ports. A lot of boats use Cayman Island documentation as tax avoidance here so that may be one place you could check into. See here for a start!
Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce: Investing in Cayman: Vessel Registration
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Camaraderie, that's a fascinating idea. I'm glad for the information that State registration will not do. I thought I remember a thread when the advantages of Documentation where discussed, but I didn't notice that entering foreign ports without it would be impossible.
Cayman Islands - that would be just amazing! Anybody on this forum registered there? The boat I'm interested in is British registered at the moment, so it comes with the right flag already!
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LachBus-

Entering foreign ports isn't impossible with state registration, but it is often far more complicated. Also, in many cases, you have to check in multiple times, where a USCG documented boat might have to check in just once.
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