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· Bombay Explorer 44
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Get your B1/B2 visa while you still have STRONG and verifiable links to your home country. Property is best, ongoing employment is good, relatives are not so good.

Have a good reason for your visit. If travelling around expect to be quizzed on itinerary and places of interest.

They are likely to ask where you intend to stay. Staying with vague 'friends' is not good for your visa chances.

Have evidence of sufficient funds, copies of bank statements/pensions/stocks etc. Be ready for deceptive questions about taking small jobs if offered.

REMEMBER having a B1/B2 DOES NOT GUARANTEE ENTRY TO THE USA. It merely gets you an interview with immigration who can turn you away if they are dissatisfied. This often means that your hard won B1/B2 gets stamped CANCELLED! [ I have met two people who had this happen, one had made a day trip to Mexico on foot for dental work and was returning to his RV in the USA. The other was returning to his boat in Florida. ]

Increased security means that although yachts may continue to obtain Customs clearance on entry into the US by telephone, that clearance is not valid until Immigration clearance has been obtained in person at the nearest INS office. (the immigration offices of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection).

The captain, and every other person on board, regardless of nationality, are required to report to the nearest INS Office after arriving in a port of entry. US nationals must take with them a valid passport. All non-US nationals must take passports with valid visas, and a Green Card if held. If you arrive after working hours, you must remain on board, and clear in the next morning. You must clear in within 24 hours of your arrival.

The nearest INS office might be some distance away from your chosen port of entry, requiring an expensive taxi or rental car journey to reach.
Noonsite.

Do not expect all Customs officials to know about the procedure. Make absolutely sure that they have recorded your arrival BEFORE you all go ashore to visit immigration. Record the office you called the officers name or number and the time you reported.

OK you made it in to the USA. Everybody got their I94 entry document and you have a cruising permit for your boat. [ NB not every body will get one of these ! ] You are off to explore the USA by boat. Well be aware of the following.

The situation described below will be a real burden for all foreign flagged vessels cruising in USA waters. Our thanks to Captain Brenda Matzner for researching this developing situation, and allowing me to paraphrase our telephone conversastion!

The long and short of this is, that if you are from any foreign country, including Canada, and your vessel is flagged in that country,
YOU MUST NOTIFY US CUSTOMS - HOMELAND SECURITY EVEN IF YOU SIMPLY MOVE YOUR VESSEL FROM ONE MARINA TO ANOTHER, IN THE SAME PORT OF CALL! Otherwise, you might just be slapped with a $5,000.00 fine!

Note that this requirement does NOT apply to US flagged vessels!

Today, I called "Maria" (954-761-2034) at the office of US Customes and Homeland Security in Port Everglades [Fort Lauderdale], and got a clarification of the requirements for foreign flagged vessels to announce their movement from one port or call, or one berth, to another. Recently, I had a buddie who was recently hit with this rule, and suffered a $5,000.00 fine in Jacksonville.

Even if a foreign flagged vessel, including those from Canada, have entered the USA legally, and cleared customs properly, THEY MUST NOTIFY US CUSTOMS - HOMELAND SECURITY if they move their vessel from one place to another. Officer Maria said that even if the vessel is moved just from Port Everglades to Miami, for example, or even from the city of Fort Lauderdale berths on New River to Bahia Mar, the boat owners MUST notify US Customs - Homeland Security IMMEDIATELY, OR BE SUBJECT TO A $5,000.00 FINE!

While it would appear, at least so far, that the enforcement of this provision is lax is some ports, a crackdown could result in some very expensive cruising, very fast for Canadians, or boat owners from other countries. It is my impression that this Department of Homeland Security Requirement is NOT well known among foreign cruisers, and that's why I phoned you today, to help get this word out ASAP!
I have had some bizarre and truly surreal conversations with officials while trying to do this when off the beaten track. Many will never have heard of the regulation. Most will not know the procedure. At least that is what I found. It may be better in 2015 who knows.

Finally if you do not have a cruising permit the captain may have to visit in person even though the closest office is 50 miles inland.
 

· Bombay Explorer 44
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Unfortunately the rules have changed and every non-American and non-LPR holder must have a valid visa when arriving in the USA via boat. This also applies to citizens of those nations who can fly into the USA using ESTA and the visa waiver scheme.

Since the US Virgin Islands are only a $30 ferry trip from the BVI, one workaround is to sail to the BVI and then enter the USA via ferry. Once the person has been allowed into the USA (usually for a 3-month period of stay), they can then leave and return via boat.

Last time I was clearing into St. John in the USVI I was talking with the immigration officer who told the story of people still sailing to the USVI without a visa and that usually they will let them return without problems, but if they are cantankerous then they follow the official procedure and force them to leave BUT also put a mark in their immigration records that will prevent them from entering the USA for 5 years. So while I know how difficult it can be for a Filipino to get a tourist visa I would recommend having them go through the procedure; perhaps paperwork regarding the method of travel (sailboat to the USA) would make it go smoother.
Yup the ferry trick works and gets the non visa holder into the USVI on a visa waiver.

But the USVI is not the USA.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are an organized, unincorporated United States territory. No I don't know what that means.

But I do know that when you enter Purto Rico [ also an unincorporated territory of the United States] or the USA proper on a private sailboat; entry without a B1/B2 will be refused and it is likely to get expensive for the captain who will be responsible for the one way airfare back to the country of origin of the non visa holder. Don't mess with the US Border guys or United States Department of Homeland Security as they are also known.

No American official has ever been fired for refusing someone entry. :rolleyes::rolleyes:
 
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