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Returning to the U.S.:Within twenty-four hours of your call to Customs upon your return to the U.S., a visit to an Immigration Office is still (as of latest update) necessary for all persons on board, even for U.S. Citizens. Your call to Customs is to be made immediately on your arrival; the visit to Immigration is to be made within 24 hours of that. More on this — and the Local Boater Option Program — (preregistration to save time later) on the Customs & Immigration Page.

It is not necessary for pleasure vessels to stop at a specified marina and call Customs on returning to the U.S. from foreign ports. You can simply call them toll-free at 1-800-432-1216 after first mooring, which can be any marina or even your home pier. But you must have actually arrived and tied up, not merely have land in sight! U.S. Customs requires that you purchase a $27.50 user-fee decal before you leave the States; they'll ask for its number when you check in on return, at which time they'll also want the vessel name and documentation or registration number plus the name, date of birth, social security number, address and phone number of the master as well as the number of persons on board and their nationalities. The Customers & Border Patrol web site is The Customs Officer will ask for information regarding ports visited and the value of any purchases made while in the Bahamas. And, you should be prepared to add birth dates for all aboard, in case you are asked. Remember — as it was when you arrived in the Bahamas, it is when you return to the States — only the master may disembark until clearance is granted. This will be with a “clearance number,” which you should record in your log book.

Our Department of Homeland Security's demand for the appearance at an Immigration caused quite a stir when it went into effect several years ago and while there have been a few attempts in Congress to make your return home easier, things have not progressed very far. But there is one fairly new method of pre-registering for your return before your travel ... available only in southeast Florida. More information on that is available HERE. Basically, by making an appointment to appear at a Customs Office in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Riviera Beach for pre-registration; you are assigned a number and may use that to check in by telephone on your return.

The DHS has arranged for government personnel to be on hand at a few Florida east coast marinas on holiday weekends from time to time, but the requirement remains in effect unless otherwise announced — holiday weekend or not! We encourage you to pay attention to news reports, especially in the boating press. We’ll also include up to date info in our monthly update “NEWS” page.


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