CUSTOMS & IMMIGRATION FOR BAHAMAS AND US
ENTERING THE BAHAMAS
The policy for vessels clearing into the Bahamas is as follows: A pleasure vessel arriving in the Bahamas shall be subject to a fee of $150 for boats under 30’ and $300 for boats over 30’. This covers the cost of an initial-entry cruising permit, plus a return visit within ninety (90) days; a vessel would be exempted from additional fees within that 90-day period, except for transportation fees if officers have to come to your boat a second time in 90 days. This also covers a three-month fishing permit and any attendant fees payable to a Customs Officer, as well as any overtime and travel costs required for the attendance of an Immigration Officer (no transportation charges when clearing at a government dock), plus the $20 departure tax should you need to fly home. (Bring a copy of your cruising permit to the airport.) Each additional person over three persons will be charged $20. No charge for children under 6 years old. There should be no overtime, holiday, or transportation charges above this initial clearing-in fee, though charges might be made for the second entry within 90 days. Ask for a receipt, get the name of the officer, and call Customs (302-3509) or Immigration at Prince George’s Dock (323-3330) in Nassau if you have any problems. You may want to call Customs before you cross the Gulf Stream into the Bahamas to verify fees. Crew members arriving by air and departing by boat should purchase roundtrip tickets. FEES SUBJECT TO CHANGE.
BAHAMIAN PORTS OF ENTRY
• THE ABACOS: Green Turtle Cay, Marsh Harbour, Spanish Cay, Treasure Cay, or Walker’s Cay
• ACKLINS: Spring Point (Commissioner only)
• ANDROS: Congo Town, Fresh Creek, Mangrove Cay, or Morgan’s Bluff
• THE BERRYS: Chub or Great Harbour Cays
• BIMINI: Alice Town or South Bimini
• CAT CAY: Club Marina
• CAT ISLAND: Arthurs Town, Smith Bay, New Bight,
or Hawks Nest
• CROOKED ISLAND: Colonel Hill
• ELEUTHERA: North Eleuthera Airport, Governor’s Harbour, Harbour Island, Rock Sound, or Spanish Wells
• THE EXUMAS: George Town and Emerald Bay Marina
• GRAND BAHAMA: Freeport Harbour, Grand Bahama Yacht Club, and Port Lucaya; Old Bahama Bay at West End
• INAGUA: Matthew Town
• LONG ISLAND: Stella Maris, Deadmans Cay Airport, or Clarence Town
• MAYAGUANA: Abraham’s Bay (Commissioner only)
• NASSAU, NEW PROVIDENCE: Any marina
• SAN SALVADOR: Cockburn Town
WHAT TO DO
• Hoist the yellow quarantine flag near a port of entry.
• Report to a Customs and Immigration facility as soon as possible upon entering Bahamian waters.
• Only the captain may go ashore to clear Customs. No others are allowed off the boat until the vessel is cleared.
• The captain should have the following information ready for officials: ship’s documentation/registration, passports for all persons aboard, pet import permit, and firearms information (make, model, serial number, and number of rounds or ammunition—don’t take weapon).
• Treat officials with respect; follow their instructions.
• After receiving your cruising permit, take down your “Q” flag and hoist your Bahamian courtesy flag (cruising pennant).
There is no evenly applied policy for Bahamas Immigration in terms of length of stay granted to persons on cruising boats. A wide diversity exists at various Ports of Entry. The statutory regulations allow all persons a stay of 3 months with a maximum of 8 months, as deemed appropriate by the clearing officer; however, that is a courtesy, not a guarantee, and it does not apply to all nationalities. Sometimes, less time is granted. You may be asked to present a Visa in order to stay longer than 3 months, but not necessarily. The Visa would have to be secured from your Embassy at home or in Nassau or from the Bahamas Embassy in Miami. See our Bahamas Chatter for updates at http://chatter.explorercharts.com.
Yachtsmen who are given less time than they desire can apply for an extension if they come in to an office a couple of days before their permit expires, or on the expiration date. Arrangements can be made for extenuating circumsances, such as weather preventing arrival at a Port of Entry on the due date. If you have any problems, 1) Ask to speak to the Immigration Officer’s supervisor (if there is one), 2) Call Immigration Nassau 323-3330 or Exuma 225-1349. Renew and extend your immigration card at an Immigration office where you are near the time of expiration.
The best places to clear in, as far as getting a longer stay, are locations with both a Customs Officer and an Immigration Officer, such as Nassau, Bimini, West End, Port Lucaya, and Marsh Harbour. Judgments are made by individual case and are still “at the whim of the officer.”
Bahamian law permits firearms on your vessel as part of your ship’s equipment. They must remain aboard in a secure compartment. In the event of your being boarded by Customs or the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the information on your cruising permit will be checked carefully against your actual supply. Ammunition must match the number on the cruising permit. In case of an emergency departure by air, you must leave your firearm(s) with local Bahamian Police or Customs. It will be returned when you present your receipt.
If you wish to bring a pet aboard when cruising the Bahamas, secure a permit before you leave home. An application will be sent to you if you write to: Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box N-3704, Nassau, N.P., Bahamas. You may expedite the process by calling 325-7413/7509 or faxing 325-3960 or go in person to the office on East and Bay Streets, Nassau, opposite the Shell station. Expect to pay a $10 fee. Send Postal Money Order made payable to the Public Treasury. Do not send a US dollars check or cash with your application. To receive your certificate by fax, include an extra $5 and your fax number. In addition, you will need a health certificate for your pet from your veterinarian to present to the Customs officials when you clear in.
At the time of clearing Customs, you will have an opportunity to obtain a fishing license as part of the fee. If you intend to troll or spearfish (fishing with SCUBA equipment or speargun is illegal), ask for a fishing endorsement. Details of fishing regulations are on the permit.
When leaving home, make sure you have three flags for cruising in the Bahamas—your country’s flag, a yellow quarantine flag, and the Bahamian courtesy flag.
Your vessel’s temporary cruising permit is for one year from date of entry. It may be renewed for up to two additional years by written application to Bahamas Customs, Nassau, prior to expiration and with payment of $500 per year. To leave your boat in the Bahamas permanently, you must pay an import duty of 10% for vessels of any size.
At your first opportunity, make copies of your cruising permit. If you need to fly home, you will need a copy of your permit, as well as your passport, to present to your airline and Bahamas Immigration when you reenter the Bahamas. Leave the original on the boat.
As of December 2013, cruising visitors with a valid Bahamas Temporary Cruising Permit are still allowed to import boat repair/replacements parts for engines DUTY FREE. In addition, there is a 10% duty on printed matter and original artwork. This policy is subject to change. Call Bahamas Entry Checking in Nassau Harbour Office at 322-8791 to get the up-to-date policy.
EXITING BAHAMAS/ENTERING U.S.
It is not necessary to clear out of the Bahamas when going farther south or entering the U.S. When entering the States, you must clear in with U.S. Customs. You can make an appointment for an interview with one of the Ports of Entry below to appear in person and pre-register under the “Local Boater Option” before you go to the Bahamas. You will need passports, vessel information, names and dates of birth, last port of call, purchases. After an interview, a free pleasure boat registration number will be assigned. The most convenient ICW location is Riviera Beach, Florida M–F, 8–4, One East 11th Street, (561) 848-6922.
When you return to the U.S., call the appropriate number. You may be asked to appear personally at the nearest Immigration Office. Be prepared to leave your boat and get a ride there if necessary. However, by choosing the Local Boater Option, your chances are greater that you will not have to report in person to clear in when you return from the Bahamas. You may be able to clear in over the phone.
Non-U.S. recreational vessels must submit a Notice of Arrival. See https://enoad.mvmc.uscg.gov or call 800-708-9823/304-264-2502.
If you are clearing back in to the U.S. anywhere from the Sebastian Inlet south down the east coast of Florida, including Ft. Pierce, Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami and on through the Keys to Key West and as far north on the west coast as Ft. Myers, the correct phone numbers are 800-432-1216 or 800-451-0393. If the number keeps ringing and is not answered or if you are put on hold for longer than 20 minutes, call back the next day. The least busy times to call are during business hours on weekdays. Weekends and evenings are busier times for U.S. Customs so you may have to wait longer. Once you clear Customs, you will likely be asked to call Immigration as well.
Fernandina Beach 904-261-6154
Ft. Myers 239-561-6205
Jacksonville (St. Augustine) 904-360-5020
Naples City Dock, 880 12 Ave. S
Panama City 850-785-4688
Pt. Canaveral 321-783-2066 x2 (24 hrs)
West Palm Beach 561-844-1703 x249
Pt. Manatee 941-729-9301
St. Petersburg 727-536-7311 (24 hrs)
Tampa 813-228-2385 x119 (24 hrs)
Pt. Everglades 954-761-2000
Key West 305-296-5411
This change in travel document requirements is the result of recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission, which Congress subsequently passed into law in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. These new travel document requirements make up the Departments' Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). In order to obtain national security benefits as quickly as possible, and to expedite the processing of arriving passengers, the plan will be implemented in two phases.
Regulations are published can be viewed at www.regulations.gov. That rule is also available on the Department's consular web site, travel.state.gov and on the Department of Homeland Security's web site, www.dhs.gov.
Bahamas Customs Form (click here to print out forms before you go)