Coming Home ... Entering the U.S. by Boat

Entering the U.S. from a foreign port has become more and more onerous for the U.S. boater. While this task may seem burdensome to some and a joke to others, especially when considering what is happening along our southern border, but the world has changed since 9/11 and like it or not, we must change with it.

General Requirements

Pursuant to 19 CFR 4.2, operators of small pleasure vessels, arriving in the United States from a foreign port or place to include any vessel which has visited a hovering vessel or received merchandise outside the territorial sea, are required to report their arrival to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immediately.

The master of the vessel reports their arrival at the nearest Customs facility or such other place as the Secretary may prescribe by regulations. These reports are tracked in the Pleasure Boat Reporting System. Pursuant to 8 CFR 235.1, an application to lawfully enter the United States must be made in person to a CBP officer at a U.S. port-of-entry when the port is open for inspection.

Reporting Requirements

CBP has designated specific reporting locations within the Field Offices that are staffed during boating season for pleasure boats to report their arrival and be inspected by CBP. The master of the boat must report to CBP telephonically and be directed to the nearest Port of Entry to satisfy the face-to-face requirement, or report to the nearest designated reporting location along with the boat's passengers for inspection.

(Exceptions) Alternative Reporting Requirements

Exceptions to Face-to-Face reporting to CBP - "Alternative Inspection Systems (AIS)":

  1. Canadian Border Boat Landing Permit (I-68) - Canadian Border Boat Landing Permit (I-68) applicants for admission into the United States by small pleasure boats are inspected and issued an I-68 permit for the entire boating season. The I-68 permit allows boaters to enter the United States from Canada for recreational purposes with only the need to report by telephone to notify CBP of their arrival in the U.S.
  2. Outlying Area Reporting System (OARS) - The OARS program uses videophones, typically located at public marinas, which boaters may use to report to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. The system is comprised of an AutoDial telephone, a video transceiver, a monitor, a facial camera and a document camera. To operate the system, the traveler either picks up the handset or pushes the call button. This system allows both the traveler and the officer to view one another as the inspection is taking place. Typically, OARS reporting satisfies the in-person inspection requirement, but a CBP Officer may direct a boater to report to a port-of-entry or designated location for an in-person inspection.
  3. Local Boater Option (LBO) - Local Boater Option (Miami, Tampa, and San Juan) is a voluntary effort that will allow eligible, frequent pleasure boat operators and passengers, who are U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) of the United States, to register themselves and their vessel with CBP. The Local Boater Option offers facilitated customs and immigration clearance for recreational low-risk boaters at time of arrival. Enrollment to the LBO Program is voluntary and will allow CBP to expedite the arrival reporting process to boaters who have enrolled into the program. This program will satisfy the boat operator’s legal requirement to report to a port-of-entry for face-to-face inspection. Boaters must still phone in their arrival to satisfy 19 USC 1433.
  4. Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS) - SVRS is a voluntary effort that will allow eligible, frequent pleasure boat operators and passengers, who are U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) of the United States, to register with CBP. SVRS offers facilitated customs and immigration clearance for recreational low-risk boaters at time of arrival. Enrollment in SVRS is voluntary and will allow CBP to expedite the arrival reporting process to boaters who have enrolled into the program. This program will satisfy the boat operator's legal requirement to report to a port-of-entry for face-to-face inspection in accordance with 8 CFR 235.1, but boaters must still phone in their arrival to satisfy 19 USC 1433.

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