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zerubb 04-23-2007 08:30 AM

I am planning to buy a boat in the good old USofA and sail her back to Oz. Can anyone advise how long I would be allowed to stay in US. I need time for purchase, surveys, outfitting, shakedown cruise etc etc. I have e-mailed US embassy in Oz but have as yet received no reply. I hold joint citizenship British/Australian.

Harbor_Pilot 04-23-2007 04:51 PM

Welcome Zerubb,

As a US Citizen, I apologize if you encounter bureaucratic obstacles. Currently the official position here is “Secure Borders, with Open Doors”.

I did some on-line research attempting to find a specific period in days, months, or years. I found variable answers, depending on several factors. I am reluctant to provide misinformation and bad advice, (albeit with good intensions) which could have a severe impact on you. My advice, wrong advice, or opinions, documented by copy of this post, will be of no use to you in front of a US Immigrations Officer. I concluded that it would be best for you to deal directly with The US Department of State or through its’ embassies. The following links are in reverse order of hierarchy, or from the bottom up, and should be of assistance.


Embassies of the United States in Australia:

Canberra –

Melbourne –

Perth –

Sydney –

At the top of all of those pages is a link, “Visa’s to the US”. If you are certain that you will complete your business in 90 days you maybe interested in the Visa Wavier Program. This appears as a good option, but has limitations and pitfalls.


A part of the US State Department is Consular Affairs. That web site is:

US State Department - Services - Consular Affairs

Information for US Citizens Travelling abroad. Information for foreign Citizens trying to obtain a Visa to enter the U.S.


The U.S. Department of State is the agency regulating foreign immigration and visitors. Their web site is:

US Department of State - Home Page

The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department - Apr 21, 2007

Passports (US Citizens) -

Travel and Business -

About State Department -

Issues and Press -

I hope that helps. I hope all goes well for you, and you enjoy your time and experience here.>/smile.gif


Harbor_Pilot 04-23-2007 05:14 PM


Originally Posted by zerubb (Post 6479)
I am planning to buy a boat in the good old USofA and sail her back to Oz. Can anyone advise how long I would be allowed to stay in US. I need time for purchase, surveys, outfitting, shakedown cruise etc etc. I have e-mailed US embassy in Oz but have as yet received no reply. I hold joint citizenship British/Australian.

I did not reasearch the issue of joint British/Australian citizenship. That could complicate matters, which I doubt. Likely if anything, it will provide more options available for you.

If you want the U.S. Embassies in the U.K. or other Websites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions, they are listed here:

JeanneP 04-23-2007 07:56 PM

9/11 has changed everything, and so the US consulate or embassy in your area is the best place to enquire.

I think that you should forget the Visa Waiver program, it's much more rigid than it used to be. You can't just pop out of the US into Mexico or Canada and return to the US and start the 90-day clock again. Regulations say that you will be stamped back in for the remainder of your original 90 days. I realize that some Immigration officers will not pay enough attention and you might get away with getting the clock started again for another 90 days. However, Murphy's Law dictates that if you REALLY, REALLY need more than 90 days to get the boat ready to leave, you will get the ONLY Immigration officer who won't let you back in because you've already used up your 90 days.

With a visa obtained in advance, you will most likely receive a one- or two-year multiple entry visa, which will make it a bit easier. Forget even emailing the consulate or embassy, just get everything together and go there - you're going to have to do it anyway, may as well just get the visa, which should be good for two years. Since Australia has always charged applicants for a visa to Australia, the US for a while was charging Australians for a visa to the US. I don't know what, if any, fees are now charged, but UK citizens are usually treated very well by the US.

In my experience, the quality of service provided by overseas US consulates and embassies is very spotty - some are quite good, a few have some pretty awful people working for them. Not much different than any other service organization you might patronize, but sometimes a bit off-putting.

Where are you going to be working on the boat? West coast/California?

Give yourself enough time that you might take some time to see a little of the US. You'd enjoy it.

maxingout 04-23-2007 07:57 PM


Originally Posted by zerubb (Post 6479)
I am planning to buy a boat in the good old USofA and sail her back to Oz. Can anyone advise how long I would be allowed to stay in US. I need time for purchase, surveys, outfitting, shakedown cruise etc etc. I have e-mailed US embassy in Oz but have as yet received no reply. I hold joint citizenship British/Australian.

There are other considerations besides the visa for yourself. There are tax issues that you need to consider as well.

Part of the answer to your question depends on the flag of the vessel you are purchasing. If you are buying a foreign flag vessel offshore, you can bring it to the USA for twelve months on a cruising permit. No worries. You could techinically be in the USA for one year before having to go offshore for two weeks, and then you could return to the USA to get a new crusing permit valid for another year in the USA.

If you purchase a US flagged vessel, there are tax complications that happen. For example, if you purchase a US flagged vessel in Florida, you have six weeks to get the boat out of Florida before you have to pay a 6% sales tax or 6% use tax. The sales and use tax are essentially the same thing, and if you don't get your boat out of Florida, someone will slap you with a tax bill. It makes a great deal of difference where you purchase the boat. For example, if there was a boat that was in Florida that you wanted to buy, you could have them sail the boat fifty miles over to the Bahamas and do the deal offshore, and at the same time, do Ozzie registration on the boat since that is your eventual destination. After the title transfers to you in the Bahamas, you bring the "Ozzie" boat to Florida and you get a USA cruising permit for about $25 valid for one year in the USA. As an offshore registered boat, you won't be liable for "use tax" or sales tax. But you have to do it right - get your paperwork right - or you will run into trouble.

Each state has different rules regarding sales and "use tax". If you use a yacht broker, he should be able to tell you how to make the purchase so that you don't have tax problems. Once you know where you are going to buy the boat, it's a matter of research into the state laws regarding sales and use tax.

zerubb 04-24-2007 04:17 AM

Thanks guys for all the information. Really pleased you pointed out potential sales tax issues Dave. This could save me a lot of frustration down the track.

Getting a three month visa is not a problem, unfortunately I have no idea if three months would be long enough, I suspect not.

zerubb 04-24-2007 04:41 AM

Logic says buy a boat in California, cruise down to Mexico do any outfitting in Mexico and then across the big pond, but I would like to leave my options open. As you point out Jeanne I would also like to take the opportunity of seeing something of the US, my last visit was way too short. I may be nuts, but the ICW holds some appeal for me!

markje4 04-24-2007 08:14 AM


Originally Posted by zerubb (Post 6479)
I am planning to buy a boat in the good old USofA and sail her back to Oz. Can anyone advise how long I would be allowed to stay in US. I need time for purchase, surveys, outfitting, shakedown cruise etc etc. I have e-mailed US embassy in Oz but have as yet received no reply. I hold joint citizenship British/Australian.

I'm another Ausie who has long considered the option of buying a second-hand boat in the U.S.

I have always admired the style of the clippered-bowed designs of boats such as Cabo Rico, Bayfield, Gozzard, et al. and am constantly on brokerage sites following prices asked. To that, of course, you would have to add the relevant tax once the boat was brought into Australia so further research on cost-effectiveness would have to be carried out.

That said, it is the old-age problem of the heart ruling the head: get the boat design I want or settle for a more standard design (Bavaria, Benetteau, etc) available in Australia.

Good luck in your plans.


JeanneP 04-24-2007 03:00 PM

A few suggestions regarding where to buy a boat in the US.

When we were looking for a boat, we had to compete with the Californians who shopped for their boat in our backyard, New England. The Northeast coast has a very short sailing season, from around May 1 to October 15 or so. The boats are then hauled out, winterized, and stored for the winter.

West coast boats are in the water all year long. West coast boaters therefore considered a 10-year-old Northeast coast boat to be half the age of a 10-year-old West coast boat.

Once you have decided on a boat, check with that state's tax department - when we bought our last boat, in Maryland, we did not have to pay sales tax because the boat was to be registered and domiciled in another state. Until you get the registration and tax situation straightened out while in the US, I would not recommend you go to Mexico, which has difficult customs and immigration procedures when the vessel has all its papers in order.

I assume you have checked out your duty obligations once you bring the boat into Oz - what little I remember about it, duty in Oz is extremely high.

I'm surprised you can't find a boat you like in either Australia or New Zealand. It always seemed as if there were a fair number of cruisers who were interested in selling their boat once they reached there.

Another place to look is Canada.

zerubb 04-25-2007 04:15 AM

I am with you Mark. Cabo Rico and Bayfield are on my short list along with Baba, Hans Christian, Tayana etc. Perhaps we should consider a partnership!

Having read a number of other posts on this site I have also come to the conclusion that boats in the colder states can offer a potentially better option than boats permanently kept in water in the warmer California, Florida etc. Any boat kept in the water for 3/4 months per year and the remainder spent in humidity controlled sheds or shrink wrapped.

Yes Jeanne there are a number of good boats available in Oz. These boats however, are quite a bit more expensive than their US counterparts even allowing for import costs. Not sure when you last checked the Oz tax situation but things have changed quite a bit since the introduction of GST. Basic rules at the moment is cost of boat+delivery costs attract 5% import duty plus 10% GST on this total amount. For example if you were to spend A$100,000 on a boat and it cost lets say A10,000 to get her to Oz the total import costs would be 100,000+10,000=110,000x5%=115,500x10%=total A$127,050. Incidentally this boat would be probably worth around A$175,000 in Oz. One other point in all this is that if the boat were manufactured in the US then the 5% duty does not apply because of our free trade agreement.

Obviously there are costs (probably substantial) in preparing the boat but these attract US sales tax not Australian and costs for outfitting in the US are much lower than Oz.

Now having said all of that the main reasons for my buying a boat in the US are; more boats available, wider choice of suitable boats and most importantly America is in the right direction for a Pacific crossing, which is really the whole point of this exercise. I want to go cruising and sailing west-about is a much better option.

markje4 04-26-2007 07:48 AM


Originally Posted by zerubb (Post 6541)
I am with you Mark. Cabo Rico and Bayfield are on my short list along with Baba, Hans Christian, Tayana etc. Perhaps we should consider a partnership!

I am looking at ways of consolidating assets - without selling the house - as I want to retire end of 2009.

I am torn between the choices of either living aboard in the Med for a few years or basing myself in North Queensland as a liveaboard - moving south to escape the hurricane season and the heat of the summer months. (currently living in the Blue Mountains and sailing when I can on Pittwater.

Gallivanters 04-27-2007 01:35 AM

Last October, an Australian Farmer / Motor Mechanic came to St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands from S.A. with money in hand to seal the deal on a used Morgan / Catalina 50 which he'd found on the web... maybe because there is no sales tax in St Thomas and registrations are cheap and easy to carry out.

The asking price was $150,000 USD. The boat turned out to be severely abused & neglected after a long career in the charter business. She faired poorly under survey and the farmer was ready to walk away.

The seller asked how much he would be willing to pay "as is where is." The farmer offered $25K and suddenly became the proud new owner of a 50 ft boat needing a lot of attention.

He got the engine running, batteries charging & water flowing within a week and then had the vessel hauled with instructions to have the yard mechanics replace the shaft, bearings & propeller and took a taxi to the airport.

He returned a month or two later with three daughters (18 months to eight years of age) and his wife (who was again pregnant) and moved aboard their boat out in the boatyard.

He busted *** three weeks, launched, tied up at the work dock and continued to bust ***... and pump a small fortune into the local chandlery.

They were all granted a US visa for only 60 days and, somehow, limped out of our marina on the 59th day... bound for Tortola - 15 miles east. There, in the British Virgin Islands, he continued busting his butt bringing his dream up to a higher degree of sea-worthyness & comfort for the 30 days the Britts granted them. Next, they sailed on to St Martin - 100 miles further east. There, in the Dutch West Indies he continued to invest his bucks, blood, sweat and tears into his bilge. Last I heard they were heading for Antigua.

Their fourth child is due in August and God only knows where they (or the boat) will be when that big day comes... but I have a feeling they'll all be smiling...

Anyway - I think that it's important to know that (to the best of my understanding) because of a recent new free trade agreement between the US and Australia, duty and certain taxes are longer applied to products built in the USA when imported into Australia. Therefore - you might be able to save a BUNDLE of money by purchasing a production boat built in America such as Pacific Seacraft, Island Packet, Pearson, Catalina, Morgan, Islander, Westsail... among many others.

I'm certainly no expert... but I believe it's certainly worth concideration when planning to purchase a yacht in America with the intention of sailing it back to Australia.

Happy hunting!


Lighthouse 05-23-2007 01:24 PM

US Regulations For Yachts Vary From State To State

Important information HERE

KaptainKen 05-23-2007 03:47 PM


If I may, I suggest looking in Rhode Island for your boat. As Jeanne points out boats there are only used for about half a year so "age" only half as much. Additionally, there is no sales, "use" or property tax on boats purchased in Rhode Island. There are many boating and boat building related businesses there. Newport bills itself as "The Sailing Capitol of America". In spite of the state's small size (only about 25 miles wide by 50 miles tall), Narragansett Bay has an extensive, convoluted coastline and is lined with boat yards of all types ranging from full service (big dollar) outfits to inexpensive "do-it-yourself" yards.

(I'm surprised a lawyer of other service hasn't picked up on this lack of sales tax feature of the state and opened a service to "complete" the sale of a yacht in the state regardless of where the yacht is actually located.)

As for the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway ... I'm with you! I like it. Personally, I find the most interesting part of cruising is when I'm in sight of land. Like entering and leaving harbors. Someone once said. "All oceans look the same from the middle." On the ICW you are (obviously) never out of sight of land and can stop at different and interesting ports every night. Don't let the purest, "Bluewater" cruisers put you off. An ICW voyage can be charming. But ... to each his own.

Rhode Island is at the North-eastern end of Long Island Sound. A good place to start an east coast tour of the U.S. along the ICW.

Good luck with your plans!

Harbor_Pilot 05-23-2007 07:38 PM


Originally Posted by Lighthouse (Post 7419)
US Regulations For Yachts Vary From State To State

Important information HERE

Note that the Noonsite article title is misstated. Be careful what you read, or how it is interrupted.

US Regulations in general do not vary from state to state. Federal Regulations usually apply to all states equally. Although there may be exceptions, only one comes to mind, having to do with the flying of the Texas state flag.

In addition to Federal Regulations, individual states can and do enact, and enforce their own laws. State laws can not diminish, relax, or be less stringent than Federal Laws but can add to, and be more stringent than the Federal laws, additionally create laws where there is no federal reguatlion.

In the article, Canadian Citizen Warren Chafe had different experiences in the states of North Carolina and Florida with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), {Federal Officials} and how they enforced the Federal Regulations. The article includes a different situation involving Steve Dashew visiting the state of Washington, and his experiences with Washington State Laws.

Analyzing this, Warren Chafe was accustom to “more accommodating CBP officers” in North Carolina, than those he encountered in Florida. Those in North Carolina were aware of and applied US Customs Directives and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), to his situation. I am curious, and there is no mention in the article, if he pointed out these laws to the officials in Florida. And if he did, what their response was.

This is an issue of unequal enforcement of equal laws; fundamentally and technically different than the article title implies. None the less, it still is a problem. Why it happened, I do not know. It should not have.

This is probably not much different than the behavior of other officials else where. For example, one officer ticketing a speeding motorist going 1 KPH / MPH over the limit, while another turns a blind eye to speeding at 10 KPH /MPH over the limit. Or in a recent board discussion, which port of entry cost less to enter the Philippines.


Noonsite has recently been informed of two incidents which indicate that foreign yachts visiting the US must be aware of how different officials in different states may interpret the rules as well as state-specific regulations that can impact on your stay!
It is not up to Law Enforcement Officials to interpret the law. It is their duty to be knowledgeable of and enforce the laws of their jurisdiction. Ideally they would know the complete code “law library” as it applies. Ethically it would be enforced equally. It is up to the judicial branch, the court system, to “Interpret” the law.

On the practical side, if the law was incorrectly enforced in Florida, I am not sure how exactly that would have helped Warren Chafe, given his situation, given a Permit to Proceed, by CBP, from Point A to Point B. If he wanted to dispute the federal law, he would have to appear in federal court. Meanwhile his permit did not include an intermediate stop at Point A and 1/2. If he made an issue of it, potentially the likely stop would have been jail, until his day in court.

In the other and un-similar case of Steve Dashew, he encountered the Laws of Washington State.

It appears he is upset, because:

1. This ruling has been enforced haphazardly in the past. We got picked up because we chatted with Vessel Traffic Control who asked us if we had a pilot aboard.”

2. It cost him $300. for a brief visit.

The laws are what they are. People must be aware of them. He is perhaps fortunate in that he was not in compliance with either having a pilot on board or having an exemption in his possession, and being allowed to obtain one after the fact, without incurring a fine.

Thinking about this, his situation, and the Washington State requirement for a pilot aboard ALL non US or Canadian yachts. I think people would accept this, if there is good nautical reason to have a pilot aboard. It gets really fishy, when they add the "OR" part; OR pay a fee for an exemption.

.....So what became of the justifible reason, (maybe safety) of having a pilot?

.....Collecting revenue removed the hazards that the experinced pilot was there to prevent collision with?

....Is this law in place to employ pilots needlessly, OR collect revenue if one chooses not to hire a pilot?

With my current level of awareness, (and I may not know the details), I do not blame him at all for being upset, and taking his business to Canada.

The whole issue of visiting the US, and complying with its’ Federal Regulations, 50 different State Laws, one Federal District (Washington D.C.), and several Territories, may seem overwhelming and un-daunting. How is a visitor to know the laws and the requirements? The system is complicated. Having some understanding of our system, it becomes much less of a problem.

Visitors will encounter Customs (property import/export) and Immigration (people, visitors).

US Government Web Sites:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

Department of Homeland Security

US State Department

Cruisers need to be aware of US Coast Guard regulations, and the boat laws of the states they visit.

US Coast Guard (USCG) Home Page

US Coast Guard (USCG) Office of Boating Safety

Federal requirements and safety tips for recreational boaters

The states boating laws can be found here:

USCG Reference to State Boating Regulations

Clicking < Down Load > redirects to

Another Source {Boatsafe} with Reference to State Boating Regulations

Arriving by boat, this may also be helpful:



Fair Winds,


Lighthouse 05-23-2007 07:51 PM


Thanks for all the info.

JeanneP 05-23-2007 11:55 PM

It's tough for a foreign vessel to encounter some of the problems noted above. It also happens to US citizens on US boats in the US.

While sailing down the East coast when we first started cruising, we were boarded by the US Coast Guard, and cited for not having the standard warning about discharge of oil, and also for not having suitable life jackets (PFDs) on board. We had lots of PFDs, but they were all French, certified by France. Because Watermelon is a French-made vessel that was sold to our friend in the US after being sailed her by the French.

When we arrived in Beaufort, NC, we immediately went out to buy two USCG-approved life jackets, and the plaque regarding oil discharge.

We were boarded a second time a few weeks later as we sailed to Florida, and this time we showed the boarding officers the previous boarding receipt, and showed them that we had corrected the noted problems. The officer commented to his fellow-officer about the life jackets, "I wouldn't have cited them for that."

Florida has passed a law prohibiting local municipalities from restricting the rights of transient boats from anchoring, with specific exceptions. Nevertheless, at least one municipality, Marco Island, Florida, has been in court against a man who tested their regulation that a boat cannot be anchored in Marco Island for longer than 12 hours, contrary to state law. Nuts.

The framers of the US constitution made sure that states' rights were written into the constitution. It does tend to make things interesting in this country.

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