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Customs and Immigration

Customs and Immigration procedures

All vessels arriving into Bahamian waters must enter immediately with both customs and immigration officials at the nearest port of entry. An exception to this is if conditions preclude safe approach to a port of entry. Under these circumstances, you must plan to enter as soon as feasible. If conditions are such that you are forced to anchor out or tie up, and your entry is delayed, make every effort to inform customs/immigration or the dockmaster at your port of entry of your situation. If, for any reason, you fail to report for clearance within 24 hours of arrival into Bahamian waters, you will be subject to penalties and the vessel is liable to seizure and forfeiture. When nearing the selected port of entry a quarantine (yellow) flag must be flown. No goods may be unloaded, and no contact may be made with the shore other than tying up, until the vessel has been granted practique by custom and immigration officials.  

The captain of the vessel must complete customs and immigration forms, and passengers and crew must fill out immigration cards and provide proof of citizenship, generally with a valid passport. However, U.S. citizens may, as an alternative, produce a valid original birth certificate or voter registration card, which must be accompanied by a valid driver’s license with photo. A driver’s license alone will not suffice. These are the requirements according to The Bahamas Immigration Department at this writing, but keep in mind that these rules are subject to change, so it might be a good idea to have a passport or birth certificate with you as well as one of the other forms of identification. An International Maritime Declaration of Health (in duplicate), in lieu of a Bill of Health, is accepted from yachts arriving in The Bahamas. Smallpox vaccination certificates and cholera inoculation certificates are required only if the yacht is arriving directly from an infected area.

As of July 1999, the various fees paid as part of customs entry have been combined into one overall fee of $100, which covers the cruising permit, fishing permit, and any travel or overtime fees for customs and immigration officers. If the vessel carries more than four passengers, each additional passenger of six years old or above is subject to an additional tax of $15. The cruising permit is valid for up to 12 months. Two additional 12-month extensions to the initial 12-month cruising permit can be applied for and may be granted at a cost of $500 for each request. When these have expired, the vessel must leave The Bahamas or pay duty.

Rules regarding importation of boats and parts

As of autumn 1997, the rate of duty on pleasure vessels of less than 150 gross tons but not less than 30 feet in length, is 5% (with additional stamp duty of 1%). Pleasure vessels of less than 150 gross tons but more than 100 feet in length likewise now are subject to a 5% duty rate (with additional stamp duty of 1%). Boats of 150 gross tons or more are duty-free. (For boats of less than 30 feet, the duty is 22.5% (with the additional 7% stamp duty). Owners of foreign-registered vessels (including U.S.) may keep them in The Bahamas for one year without paying duty and may extend this one-year stay for up to three years by paying a fee of $500 per year after the first. Spare parts imported for installation on vessels under a temporary cruising permit are duty-free. You must show your cruising permit to qualify for this. If spare parts are imported as cargo, a 7% stamp duty is applicable.

Arriving by Aircraft

Private aircraft departing the United States does not have to clear with U.S. customs when leaving the country. You must enter the Bahamas at an airport of entry. You should have proof of citizenship. A passport is perfect although a birth certificate and a photo identification will also suffice. A drivers license or a voter’s registration card are no longer adequate. It is important that your private flight be for personal pleasure. There are substantial fines for unauthorized or unlicensed charters into the Bahamas. In general, upon entry, you will need to fill out either a general declaration or a cruising permit. The advantage of this document is that you can travel from airport to airport. Immigration is remarkably consistent, the same form is used throughout the country and only one form is ever required.  

Upon returning to the United States you’ll need your proof of citizenship as well as your pilot and aircraft documents. U.S. Customs will ask to see your aircraft registration, airworthiness certificate, pilot’s certificate, and recent medical.  A “pink slip” or temporary registration will not suffice to re-enter the United States.

These rules and regulations are always subject to change. For updates or additional information, write the Port Director of Customs, U.S. Customs Service, Miami International Airport, P.O. Box 59-2061 AMF, Miami, FL 33159 or call (305) 536-5786.