Non-US-Citizen, Greencard, buying a US boat and want to take it abroad - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 37 Old 02-11-2007 Thread Starter
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Non-US-Citizen, Greencard, buying a US boat and want to take it abroad

What to do?

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post #2 of 37 Old 02-11-2007
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If you want it registered in the Europe Union (e.g Malta), there will be import duty and value added tax to pay. Watch out for the recreational craft directive too, it has to have the appropriate certificate.
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post #3 of 37 Old 02-11-2007
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"From other threads I learned I can't get a US-Vessel-Registration"
No, more precisely there is no US-vessel-Registration. We have federal Documentation for pleasure craft. The term registration is reserved for state registration of boats and motor vehicles.

As a non-citizen, that's right, there is no way you can be given the protection of a US flag for a boat. You must seek that status from your own sovereign, i.e. Germany.

If you will be keeping the boat in Michigan, you can and probably must register the boat as a Michigan motor vehicle. If you plan to cross over to Canadian waters, you'll have to ask the Canadians about that, and the US about re-entry. It sounds like you are a guest not a resident alien, that will make re-entry harder.

If you need more than a state registration, you will have to document the vessel with another flag--and then it will be subject to terms limiting the length of time it can stay in the US, so you may very well have to get it out of the US (and Canada) by the end of the first year. It will be governed by the terms for any visiting pleasure craft, you can find them on where the terms and regulations for aliens with vessels are all referenced.

For now, your best bet is simply to stay within US waters and register the boat in Michigan. Then flag it in Germany before you take it out of the US for good.
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post #4 of 37 Old 02-11-2007
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I'm almost in the same position as you - German citizen, permanent resident status pending. I opted to go for a BVI registration for my boat, but at present it isn't in US waters; but as noted elsewhere if you have a foreign flagged vessel you do have limitations on how long it can remain in the USA as well as later on in the EU should you take it there.
The Red Ensign flags document ownership, so you will be able to get a bank loan on the boat if you need it, which you will not be able to do if the boat is not CG-registered as a US vessel. I don't know if that makes a difference to your plans.
As to the length of time the yacht can remain in US waters I think it best to consult a professional, since there are both federal as well as state laws to consider.

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post #5 of 37 Old 02-14-2007
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Generally, state-registered boats can have problems being officially recognized in foreign countries, as states are not sovereign nations. Most of the countries right off of the coast of the US have fewer issues with state-registered boats, but YMMV. I've also been told that in some countries, state-registered boats have to check-in at each port and pay the fees at each port, where USCG documented boats can check in once, and check out when they're leaving the country. might have more information on specific countries/ports of entry.


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post #6 of 37 Old 02-14-2007
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Generally you have to be registered. I don't know if the Bahamas make an exception because of proximity.
If you register elsewhere you need to check in to the States and if from an approved country can get a cruising permit for one year. The customs site has conflicting information on the scope of this. In one place it says you are exempt from clearance every port, however it also says you must clear, but this may involve less paperwork.
Another site says this was amended last year and the permit itself says you must report at every port.
In other words a hassle.
It also talks of a citizen resident in the US as being the owner to define a non foreign boat. Whether intended or not I would take that as meaning a US citizen, and that if you are not then the boat is foreign, and therefore needs foreign registration and a cruising permit.
Sounds messy, but these days if you get caught on a technical point it could mean trouble.
Equally I gather that just because you have a green card but don't have permanent residency if you leave you may not be able to get back in.
Sounds to me like you may want to look at registering the boat to a company.
Guess Australian Customs may not sound so bad.
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post #7 of 37 Old 02-17-2007
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I´m (we) planning a circumnavigation around the world. I´m from Sweden (where I also live).

The plan is to buy a sailboat in US and start sailing from Florida. What I understand from above, is that I cannot have a vessel registrated on me, right?

So the easiet is to reg. it in the Cayman Islands? Is it then also possible to withdraw the sales tax if I buy the boat in Florida etc?

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post #8 of 37 Old 02-18-2007
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Your best bet is to correspond in writing and get your replies in writing. That does not mean they are legally binding but means they may be correct and any penalties (but not fees) will probably be waived if they are wrong, but you affected in reliance on them.
"Additional reporting and entry requirements may be obtained from the U.S. Customs Service, Office of Field Operations (Attn: Passenger Operations Team), Washington, DC 20229. For additional information on legal requirements, contact the U.S. Customs Service, Office of Regulations and Rulings (Attn: Entry Procedures and Carriers Branch), Washington, DC 20229."

I would suspect that you would have to physically remove the boat from the state where it was purchased (typically withint 30-90 days) in order to avoid paying state sales tax on it and to avoid mandatory state vehicle registration.

If the BVI will issue documentation/registration to an alien, that's between you and them, but you would want to contact the US federal offices above to find out if you are eligible for a cruising permit if you are originating from within the US--a opposed to entering it from sea. Everything on their web site is predicted upon entry from outside the US.
Or, you may wish to employ that firm in the BVI as your agents and ask their experience on this. The situation is unusual.

You will find the Florida motor vehicles offices and sales tax offices have web sites. They explain that a non-resident, who purchases a boat in Florida and then takes it out of the state within 90 days, does not have to pay sales tax on it at the time of sale. A broker would normally collect sales tax, an individual seller would not collect it, relying on the fact that you would pay it during state registration. We use the termn "registration" for state registration only, and the term "documentation" for USCG titling for US citizens only. There is no federal registration per se in the US.
Again, you would need to check with the Caymans to find out about registration for an alien, whether you might need to form a corporation, and how you would renew your status from outside the Caymans. If you purchase the boat in Florida and promptly leave, I do not believe you need the cruising permit but again, as an alien originating your purchase and trip from within the US, rather than entering from the seas, you would want to check with the US offices cited above.

You could get caught in limbo, if you were stopped trying to leave the US without proof that you had legally entered it with your boat. The USCG or US Customs should both be able to answer that, and if their answers are at all different--try again.
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post #9 of 37 Old 02-18-2007
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Buy the boat, put in on the hard for any work needed. A boat on the hard doesn't need registration in most States.

I don't know about most states but tha does not work in Florida. 90 days and you pay regardless.
How do you register a boat in RI if the boat is not there and you do not have an address there?
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post #10 of 37 Old 02-18-2007
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You're confusing taxation with registration. In many states, sales tax is due on the sale within xx days unless the boat is removed from the state. Howeve, registration is a separate issue and often is only required if the boat is in the "navigable waters" of the state, i.e. not required if the boat is on the hard.
In the case of a private sale, the state authorities have no notification of anything, so nothing triggers the demand for sales tax, until someone goes to register the boat. (Brokers may be filing paperwork.) Of course there are marina visits by taxmen, so there's some risk in just trying to evade sales tax when it is due.

You're doing something similar to what the lawyers call "venue shopping". You might get away with it bu it isn't legal. If you are not a RI resident, and the boat is not contracted for a mooring in RI, they're probably going to stop you and ask "How come your address is in Kansas, Sir? We can't accept this." and wave you goodbye. Note that they say "If the principal mooring area (more than ninety days per year) of your boat is in Rhode Island," so you might have to buy the boat and immediately BRING it to RI in order to do this legally.
Then, of course, you may not be able to bring the boat into the BVI and if you can bring it in, you may not be able to "register" it there, since you have no federal chain of title and lien status, just a state registration document. Check carefully to see if the BVI would allow the entry--and accept your casual title.

Tax avoidance is perfectly legal, but if the taxmen think you are in tax evasion--they'll seize the boat, physically arrest it and put a lien on it, and no yard will splash it until you've cleared that up in the courts. In the worst case, if they convict you with tax evasion, that might be reason to cancel your green card and deport you--while the boat was still here. A real mess, a good reason to be very very careful about how creative you try to get.

Last edited by hellosailor; 02-18-2007 at 11:50 AM.
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