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Old 02-05-2010, 09:28 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 10

Hello there!!

I am a U.S. national currently cruising through the Caribbean on a British flagged boat, British Skipper and crew, in Barbados at the moment. We are looking to head up to Puerto Rico, and we are trying to figure out Visa requirements for the skipper and crew. It is correct that they will need a US visa to enter Puerto Rico yes?? Where in the Caribbean can we stop off to get Visas for them??

Also, we do not have a holding tank, and we are wondering about the requirements for holding tanks in the states. We have heard that you can put a zip tie around the valves and that is good enough, but we just don't know.

Any help would be very much welcomed and appreciated!!


"IF ONLY, those must be the two saddest words in the world." ~ Mercedes Lackey
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Old 02-05-2010, 09:48 PM   #2
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Yes, you will have to clear into the US in Puerto Rico if you stop in. There are several different ports, and dependent on your track, pick the closest. Most are nice and very accomodating...have not heard anything different since I was there a few years ago.

As for the holding tanks...the 3 mile limit still applies...but your best bet is to close the valve(s) and use bailing wire....dependent on the body of water, and the region, zip (wire ties) will get you through the inspection, but your best bet is going to be using the bailing wire. Valves MUST be in closed position. Here on the Chespeake they are somewhat lax, but dependent upon where in Florida, it can be a really fun time, even for Nationals! Sarcasm intentional.....

Hope that helps....


S/V Boomerang!

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Old 02-05-2010, 09:51 PM   #3
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I'll offer some links for your friends to go through.

Visa Waiver Program. This can be completed on line. Brits have traditionally not needed to obtain a visa in advance, but you're right to research before arriving.

visa Waiver Program

US Embassy in Trinidad - Port of Spain. Also Bridgetown, Barbados. To find more, go to: US Embassies

Lacking a holding tank can be a problem, since once you are in port, you will not be able to use your head - what do you plan to do? I suggest you get a port-a-potty. You really don't want the US Coast Guard boarding you and finding you don't have a holding tank and no place to dump your sewage. What are the odds of the CG boarding you? I would think pretty good - anybody been boarded? West Marine Portable toilet search
In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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Old 02-05-2010, 10:00 PM   #4
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There are also some links for you to follow from the USA page on the Cruising Wiki - HERE

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Old 02-05-2010, 10:22 PM   #5
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Hello Willy,

I was in the Caribbean in my boat in 2007, and visited San Juan Puerto Rico. I had obtained my US visa at the American Embassy in London prior to sailing from England. I understand the visa waiver scheme which applies to British subjects is only relevant when you travel by "Recognised Carrier" which means I believe either an airline or commercial shipping company, and not by privately owned vessels, ie: yachts. Be aware..there is a much more detailed application form to complete by people travelling other than by commercial means.

When I arrived in the Caribbean in February 2007 I found out that I could have simply gone to the American Embassy in Barbados where the whole process is very much more straight forward than visiting Grosvenor Square, London. Saxon.
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Old 02-06-2010, 09:45 PM   #6
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Thanks so much for the help everybody. I will try all these out and see what works!

We really appreciate it.


S/Y Galene of Orwell
"IF ONLY, those must be the two saddest words in the world." ~ Mercedes Lackey
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Old 02-11-2010, 05:47 PM   #7
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The Visa Waiver program does NOT apply to people entering the USA via private vehicle or by water, unless it is a commercial ferry. All people aboard a boat must be either US citizens with passports or foreign nationals with at least a B1/B2 visa. If that is not the case, you can still kind-of cheat when going to the US via the USVI. Either you can have non-visa holders take the ferry from the BVI to the USVI (in which case their visa waivers are valid) and sail the boat to the USVI and clear in with only US nationals & visa holders and have the rest come aboard after clearing in; or if they are in the USA before they can depart the US and not give up their I-94 forms, in which case immigration will let them re-enter by boat. I was in the Customs & Immigration office in Charlotte Amalie a couple of months ago, where they explained the I-94 method to me (I am fortunate in that I have a visa, but guests of mine didn't).
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Old 02-11-2010, 07:11 PM   #8
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I see that I can't edit posts so I'll have to add what I neglected to do last time:

The US tourist visa is usually applied for in the country of residency, and it can take several weeks to get an 'interview'. While that might go quickly in a Caribbean consulate when a boat is passing through, the visa application process requies that the applicant show some material or other affinity to his or her home; this is the basic question that needs to be answered to the consular official's satisfaction - the fear is that the individual will enter, but not leave, the USA. Usually one needs to supply copies of bank information, or rental contracts and utility bills, or letters of recommendation, or deeds to houses, or employment contracts, or... the list goes on. Usually crew on a boat won't have any of these things to hand and if one attempts to get a visa and the officials decide that there is cause to fear that the applicant might remain in the USA then you are SOL - now you have to respond to the question "Have you ever been turned down for a visa" in the affirmative and suddenly the visa waiver is no longer open to you anymore, either!

I'm certain that this worst-case isn't likely to happen, but it is best to keep in mind. It took 3 weeks for my tourist visa interview to come through and then another couple of days before I got my passport with visa back. I still had to go through an interview process (even though I went to college in the USA and also worked there (legally, of course!) for many years) that was a bit nerve-wracking.

Of all the countries I've visited and worked/lived in, the USA has been the most rigourous in controlling entry of foreigners.

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