I sailed by the gorgeous island of St John many times before I decided to deal with the hassle of clearing customs and immigration in a sailboat. It turned out not be much of a hassle at all.
Here’s how to do it.
From the USVI to the BVI
You don’t need to clear out of the USVI.
No matter where you are going in the BVI, you need to check into customs and immigrations (C&I) in one of these places first:
- Road Harbour, Tortola
- West End Harbour, Tortola
- Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke
- Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda
If your trip is short (a week counts as short), you can check in and out of the BVI at the same time. When you check in, you tell them when you are going to leave.
When you arrive, grab one of the moorings near the C&I office.Â Only the captain should go in. The rest of your group should stay on the boat.
- passports for each person
- ship papers (ours was a piece of paper that said who owned the boat)
- a customs control document
- immigration card for each person
- green customs declaration form for each person
- cash for the cruising permit and the National Parks mooring permit.
You will have to pay for a National Parks mooring permit ($1 per person for each day that you use the parkâ€™s moorings) and a cruising permit fee.Â The cruising permit fee is seasonal.Â December 1- April 30 it’s $2.00 per person per day.Â May 1 – November 30 it’s $0.75 per person per day.
We checked in at Soper’s Hole (West End). We grabbed a mooring near C&I and we were the only ones there. CYOA had given us all the paperwork to fill out, so I put our passports, all our prefilled out paperwork and cash into a double ziplocked bag and dinghed over to C&I. The process was pretty quick but felt a bit formal. Afterwards, we moved mooring balls and dinghed over to the other side. Stocked up on ice and bought the kids and ice cream and then we continued on our way to Norman.
From the BVI to the USVI
If you didn’t check out when you checked in, or if you chartered from a BVI company, you will need to check out of the BVI at one of the BVI C&I spots listed above.
Arriving into the USVI, you can check in at Cruz Bay on St John or Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas.
For Cruz Bay, the easiest way is to moor in Caneel Bay and dingy around to Cruz Bay. It’s a long dinghy ride (maybe 15 minutes) but not too bad. Tie your dingy up at the dingy dock by the National Park building, not at customs & immigration and then walk around.
When entering customs and immigration you will need to have ever member of your party with you with their passports. You’ll also have to fill out a C&I form. The same ones you usually fill out on the ferry or the airplane.
We checked in at Cruz Bay and then had an enjoyable afternoon on St John. Stocked up on another giant avocado for our dinner.
In neither case did they search the boat or ask about any food we were carrying.
What is your experience sailing through customs in the Virgin Islands? Any advice?