I am watching your post with bated breath! I still haven't found a boat yet but I am interested how you get on with all the paperwork, me and the misses are off to france next month to do a reci of the maritime area for a house and yacht berth.
Hi. I also would be interested to know how you get on as I am in the same situation (in fact will be in St Pete about April 26th. However, I can offer the following:
1. Green visa waiver bit that is stapled to your passport on arrival by plane seems to have nothing to do with cruising permit. Helped sail a boat back from Great Lakes last year (British Guy bought it there). Raised the question re what to do with slip stapled in passport, immigration said simply hand it in to immigration official at the final port of exit from the USA when eventually leaving( or failing that post it back to them with covering letter), but hang on to it if leaving USA for short duration, eg the Canadian bits of the lakes, and on the Eastern Seaboard, a short detour to Bahamas. He advised simply to inform the Immigration official that you were intending to re enter the USA in a short time. This we did and there was no problem. In 8months was never asked for cruising permit and immigration authorities told us it was not any thing to do with them. This included two US Coast Guard inspections. The only paperwork requested was British Certificate of Registry, Passports (with little green VW Slip) and Title deed for the boat.
2. Since buying my own boat in Florida have asked National US Coastguard headquarters re what permits I needed to get for the sailing I intended to do over the coming months in the USA, including a year in the Chesapeake, before sailing boat to the UK in 2006. They didn't know and referred me to the National Vessel Movement Centre, who three months later have not responded. I get the impression from their website that they are only really interested in large commercial vessels. I was inspected by local US Coast Guard in November off Appalachicola, and again all they wanted to see were passports, certificate of british registry and Title Deed. Not interested in seeing any qualifications.
3. the only time I have had the question of a permit raised was with regard to a Florida State permit for cruising their waters, but was advised it was about how long you were using the boat on the water, not keeping (eg storage ashore) it in Florida, but that was in relation to a temporary Florida permit cover the time between purchase and initial removal from the State, to be exempt Florida sales tax. I was not advised that I would need to purchase another upon re entering Florida State waters. As you're in St Pete, I would recommend you call Al Pollak at Massey Yacht Services at Harborage Marina on 3rd Street South. They are very up to speed with all this as they seem to do a lot of overseas business
if you arrive by boat they give you parole papers and tell you to bugger off....well we hit the wrong island and didn't have visas. The only island in the whole Caribbean that wanted us to leave as soon as we'd arrived (St Croix)
Leaving should be easy they like it when you leave. (by deduction from above experience)
To qualify under the visa waiver scheme you have to hold a return ticket. If you enter on a one-way ticket, you need a tourist visa. I think you may find this hard to get round. To get a visa just cost me £125 in total plus a wasted day at the London Embassy, at that rate it would be simpler to buy an unused return air ticket! Alternatively you could enter via Canada, when the requirement to hold a return ticket from the US is relaxed.
My experience with immigration is that they are ferocious in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgins, more easygoing further north. I have twice checked out of the US simply by calling them on the phone - but not in those areas. I guess you could follow Lizzie_B's suggestion of just leaving and writing an apologetic letter from Bermuda, enclosing the docket, but possibly they might hold it against you in future.
While the yacht remained state registered then in theory you would not have needed a cruising permit, and I don't think they'll be very worried about your not having got one before. One can be purchased from customs, most readily from any port of entry. They don't cost much, $20 or so from memory. I'd just tell them you've recently bought the yacht, as it has now been transferred to UK registry you need a cruising permit. My impression is that although your cruising permit does require a crew list, the authorities probably won't immediately tie together the arrival of your crew and your cruising permit.
I would agree with your comments about trying to come in with a single ticket. However, as most of the online fare providers actually charge less for a return than a single, this is not a problem.Just buy a return and then call to cancel your return leg flight. As long as you don't remain in the USA for more than 90days the visa waiver is fine. For my next trip out A single would have cost just shy of £600, the return for same outbound flight with same airline was £328 (don't know the reasoning behind this, but I have only once in 3years found a single transatlantic flight cheaper than the equivalent return and that was with Aer Lingus involving two stops).
You have misunderstood my advice re leaving. I wholeheartedly concur with you that it is best to hand in little green visa waiver slip to US Immigration officials by clearing from your last port in the US. However, this is not always possible. The comment about sending it back with a covering letter was the advice given by US immigration when we explained to them what we were wanting to do. The one thing they said we must under no circumstances do was discard it or fail to return it. We have always found that as long as you are up front and ask their advice the are helpful and understanding that even ordinary tourists travel plans can change. That's why they only ask for the initial address in the US. (by the way, they will not accept a boat as an address, they insist upon a slip/house number, street and city of Marina). If the visit is going to be for less than 90days, then British citizens are fine with visa waiver form. They don't mind how you leave as long as you leave within in the 90 days, and can demonstrate that you have the 'means' to leave (eg return ticket) upon entry. I agree that the Florida State Authorities can be very aggressive if they think you are trying to deny them revenue, my predominantly American owners assosciation are always complaining about the FL State 'water nazis', and that is particularly why I am keen to get hold of national cruising permit to go with my British Registry. Do you know the location of anywhere in Florida where I can get one?
This all reminds me of a visit to Fort Lauderdale in 1973. We sailed a 25footrt in there from the Bahamas wherewe all worked - purpose of the visit was to leave the boat there to sell it. None of us had visas as was necessary in those days, and I committed the cardinal sin of assuming they had a sense of humour - I asked 'why do we need a visa to visit the colonies?' We were arrested and deported to Miami airport and placed on the first aircraft out to the Bahamas! Luckily this was in the pre computer days, so I can safely answer NO to the waiver form question - have you ever be deported from the USA before!
When are you setting off - Good luck for the voyage.
Reminds me of a friend who wanted to emigrate to Australia. At his interview at the Ausie embassy he was asked if he had a criminal record. "No" he said. "I didn't think we still needed to have one!"
The official did not smile.
We went out to St Thomas last year to pick up a boat and bring it back. Flew out with an over-night stay in New York. The immigration people there were happy with a letter on headed paper, from the owner of the boat that we were crew in transit and had a leaving date from US waters.
The US embassy in Malta charges £50 for a visa and it is quicker than UK
This has got me worried.
I wrote to the American Embassy in London about flying in & sailing out & they informed me that it's ok to travel with a one-way ticket under the visa waiver scheme. I quote:-
"In order to travel without a visa, you must enter the U.S. aboard a participating air or sea carrier. The return or onward trip need not be aboard a participating carrier."
This is point 10 of the About Visa Free Travel-Further information on www.usembassy.org.uk
So from that I would say that provided you have an address you are going to i.e. boat name & marina & that you return the green visa ticket to the CBP when you leave your last US port you're ok.
The formal rules regarding the visa waiver scheme are provided on the US Embassy website. Evidence of an onward or return ticket is an essential condition unless entering via Canada or Mexico, though as you say it does not have to be with a 'participating' carrier. It seems most unlikely that simply the name and address of a yacht in the US would be acceptable, and unless you advised to the contrary personally I would not risk it.
Incidentally, I have found junior officials at the London US Embassy to be not always accurate in giving advice regarding the visa waiver scheme, as it affects yachtsmen. If what you are told does not entirely match documentary advice, then it would be advisable to request it in writing.
We got our visas in Trinidad and arrived by boat at New York on a July 4th weekend. It took us three days to find customs. Customs rang through to immigration for us and we had to take the bus the next day out to JFK airport to report to immigration!!!
On leaving, it was even more slap dash. We were in Charleston and realised we were going to be weather bound making us stay past the 90 days permitted. So dutifully we cleared out with customs, who had at the begining allowed us a 6 month stay and as far as they were concerned it didn't mean anything to them if we over stayed our immigration visa, but the boat was still allowed in the country.
Customs were as perplexed as we were and agreed that the left hand didn't know what the right was doing. So off to immigration... told them we were leaving the next day, "That's great, have a nice journey". We shoved the green visa waiver slips towards her, "oh, that's not necessary, you can just go!" So a week or so later we were on our way!!
Guess it depends on who you get in the office!
Fox 5 wanted to stick us on the telly, especially because of the enterance saga when the country was supposed to be on "orange" alert!
No clearance from previous port required in Bermuda or Bahamas (as of 2003) same for Mexico. From the St Petes/Tampa area may I suggest you follow our well trodden and trouble free route? Don't bother with Customs/Coastguard but make sure your waiver slips are handed in/posted with covering letter. Take a side trip to Isla Mujares, Mexico,direct or maybe via the Dry Tortugas? The Mexicans will issue you with lovely straightforward departure docs. which you will present in Key West where you will obtain your nice new cruising permit. Now, as a green card holder I am not sure of the reception you will get from the I.N.S. but my guess would be that even post 9/11 they are not so dumb that they will expect you leave US waters every 90 days as the cruisiing permit is valid for a year. Even if that was the case I supose you could clear out prior to the expiration of your 90 day visas and reappear after leaving US waters in another US port? Play it by ear, smile and display a "Support Our Troops" sticker on the boat somewhere. I am pushing my luck, I have a Kerry/Edwards sticker on the stern!
see my post of 15/2/2005 on bbilly's thread 'Caribean Cruising- some preliminary questions'. That info is both in writing on their website and confirmed by telephone conversation - To use visa waiver you have to arrive by signatory approved carrier, there is no requirement to leave with one. This is because should you not leave within the 90 days, the US government can oblige a signatory carrier to repatriate you at the carrier's expense. You do, however, have to be able to demonstrate the MEANS and INTENTION to leave within the 90 day period. For most people, this will automatically be a return portion of a ticket, which as return tickets are usually considerably cheaper than single tickets on the trans atlantic routes is no financial hardship. However, a deed of title to a vessel bought in the States would be considered demonstrating MEANS and retaining a home address and job in the UK would be considered demonstrating intention, however, would it really be worthwhile going through the hassle of getting your employer and landlord/mortgage lender to write you letters of confirmation when you can just get a cheap return ticket anyway. By the way, the rule re entry from Canada and Mexico also applies to the majority of the Caribean Islands as the phrase used in the actual law is Canada, Mexico and 'Nearby Islands' of which there is a list which includes pretty much the whole of the Caribean, which I find remarkable considering some of the 9/11 terrorists entered the States through Canada, and that the USA's largest illegal immigrant problem is from Mexico!!! If you are delayed from leaving within the 90 days through circumstances beyond your control you can apply to the local authority for an extension, which is no hassle as long as you make the application before the 90 days expires. Have done this in Virginia and was no problem.
Don't know, but the chatter on the american owners website is that recently Bahamas have massively increased the cost a Bahama's cruising permit and they are outraged!!!! 'Outraged of Oklahoma instead of Orpington I guess!!!