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My wife and I recently bought a USCG documented vessel in CA. She is not a US citizen, so we can't document it. However, we can document it in New Zealand (I'm a dual-citizen, and she's resident there). Our other option is to register it in California.

Are there any limits to how long we can remain in California as a foreign vessel? If not, are there any other disadvantages (like getting hassled by the Coast Guard on a regular basis)?
 

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I think the situation is you can register it under your name as a US vessel being a citizen (not just a resident). If it is foreign registered you require a cruising permit valid for a year. It is not clear if an extension is possible - I have not checked. There are hassles associated in that this requires your reporting at each port, which some officials interpret as each time the boat is moved even within a marina. State registration is not as onerous but I think if you want joint ownership you will be classed as foreign owned not being a majority, thus require registration as a foreign boat unless it is solely in your name as above. However the rules are not simple and at least you may want to check yourself.
 

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Ah, didn't know about that cruising permit. As we'll likely be liveaboard here for a few years before taking off to foreign waters, it sounds like that won't work too well. State registration it is...
 

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Slug,there may be a few awkward beaurocrats but basically you only need the cruising permit if you sail from one customs district to another,with a foreign boat.You can get NZ registration for $500NZ and does not need a survey.Who mainly checks up on yachts?The coast guard ,right?If you have NZ registration on the back of your boat they will not bother you unless you do something silly.Your main fear might be your local property tax collector.Alameda county,for example,can be SOB's.But your marina harbor master should count you as a foreign boat and you should be left alone.
 

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"She is not a US citizen, so we can't document it."
You're a US citizen? Can't she qualify for dual-citizenship then, having married a US citizen?

There's also the business route, with a business or partnership owning the boat. That can add extra complications but as long as you own 51% of the partnership, she can own 49% and the vessel can still be US-flagged.

For now, state registration certainly sounds like it will work for you though.
 

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State registration sounds less complicated, for sure. I guess I really liked the idea of flying that NZ flag. Still, probably not worth the hassle in the end. Maybe once we're bluewater cruising...

(as for citizenship, yes, she can become a US citizen, but she would have to give up her other 2 citizenships, and that's not happening)
 

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California may want to charge you a huge amount of sales tax if you register it in CA. In Washington state, they charge around 8.7% of the purchase price, not sure what the tax rate is in CA. I think that if you are a NZ registered boat you can stay in CA for some number of months but then may have to pay the sales or use tax if you don't clear out of the state before your time is up. If you are going to go international it is much better to be a documented vessel. Even if you do get US documentation, CA will probably want you to register the boat and pay their sales tax, especially if you are a resident. Your CA boat broker should know the rules. Or google the questions about CA sales tax on boats. Your time to decide and act before you owe the sales tax may be very short, so check quickly. You may already owe the tax if you have taken possession of the boat in CA. Maybe you have already paid the tax and this isn't an issue....
 
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