BAHAMIAN PORTS OF ENTRY
WHAT TO DO
At the time of clearing Customs, you will have an opportunity also 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), you will need a fishing license. Details of fishing regulations are on the permit.
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. Ammo must match cruising permit.
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 242-325-7413 or faxing 242-325-3960. Expect to pay a $10 fee (send International Money Order or Postal Order made payable to the Public Treasury) 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.
You can now download an application to import domestic animals at the following link: Pet Import Form. The new phone number is: 242-325-7502 or 325-7509. Please update your Explorer Chartbooks!
There is no set policy for Bahamas Immigration in terms of length of stay granted to persons on cruising boats. You will find a wide diversity at various Ports of Entry. To quote a senior Immigration Officer in Nassau, "It is at the whim of the officer. There is no policy." The maximum time permitted is eight months though six months, and often less, is usually given. This may be extended to the full eight months by personal application to the Immigration Department before expiration.
In the event that you are given less time on your visa than you would like, you have three choices: 1) Ask to speak to the Immigration Officer’s supervisor (if there is one), 2) Call Immigration Nassau 242-325-2668 or 326-1211 to report it, or 3) Renew and extend your visa where you are near the time of expiration. We are advised that there is usually no problem clearing in Nassau.
Every major island in the Bahamas has both Customs and Immigration. Exceptions are at Green Turtle Cay, Chub Cay and Stella Maris. At those sites, there is only a Customs Officer, who is authorized to act for Immigration. Depending on the guidelines of the District Immigration Office, the Customs Officer can grant varied periods of length of stay.
If you clear in at one of the ports with only a Customs Officer, you may receive only a short stay and have to appear later at a Customs and/or Immigration Office on the day your visa expires to get an extension.
When leaving home, make sure you have the three essential flags for cruising in the Bahamas—your country’s flag, a yellow quarantine flag and the Bahamian courtesy flag.
The boat’s Temporary Cruising Permit is for one year from date of entry and may be renewed for up to two further years if desired by written application to Bahamas Customs, Nassau, prior to expiration and payment of $500 per year. To leave your boat in the Bahamas permanently, you must pay an import duty of 27 percent for vessels under 30 ft. or six percent for vessels 30-100 ft.
At your first opportunity, make copies of your cruising permit. If you need to fly home, you will need a copy, as well as your passport, to present to your airline and Bahamas Immigration when you reenter the Bahamas. Leave the original on the boat.
Since there is no income tax in the Bahamas, there is usually a 35% duty, plus shipping costs, added to most consumer goods. Expect to pay duty on everything you have shipped in, other than printed matter, original art work or replacement boat parts. The 7% stamp tax is payable on replacement parts, which may be imported duty free as long as a copy of the boat’s cruising permit accompanies the imported items when cleared. If you experience anything contrary to this, call Comptroller of Customs in Nassau at 242-302-3302.
EXITING THE BAHAMAS
It is not necessary to clear out of the Bahamas when returning to the States or going farther south. However, you must clear in with U.S. Customs by calling one of the numbers below. 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 and you may have to wait longer.
Once you clear Customs, you will likely be asked to call Immigration as well. Our recent information concerning clearing back in to the U.S. is that things have tightened up again. Clearing U.S. Customs is usually no problem. Clearance is given over the phone easily when one has a decal #. However, we were told that now all persons must report personally to clear U.S. Immigration. That generally means going in to an airport immigration office or to the Dodge Island facility in Miami. It still seems, though, that the policy is not consistently enforced, even though Immigration says it is. We'll keep you posted when we get more information.
Numbers for clearing in at other locations in Florida:
Tuck these numbers in your Explorer Chartbook under Customs and you'll have them when you're ready to come back in to the U.S.
U.S. vessels of 30+ feet must display a Customs User Fee Decal and be prepared to give the decal number when clearing back in to the States. For $25, a decal can be obtained from your nearest U.S. Customs or Immigration Office before you begin your cruise, or contact the following: District Director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Miami International Airport, P.O. Box 59-2061 AMF, Miami FL 33159. Phone 305-536-5786. Allow 3-6 weeks by U.S. Mail.
For the fastest service in procuring your U.S. customs User Fee Decal, you have the option of applying online. The Department of Homeland Security website is www.cbp.gov. Go to "Travel" then "User Fee Decal Program" then "Options for Applying for Decals." Instructions will be given for applying online for 4-6 day service. Another option is to print the application from the website and fax it back to Customs. You will need a credit card number. Check the website for updated information before you leave. You may also call Decal Inquiries at 317-298-1200 x1245.
BAHAMAS CUSTOMS DUTY FOR BOAT PARTS
There has been a rumor circulating that boaters now have to pay duty on replacement boat parts coming in to the Bahamas. Customs Superintendent Raphael Whyms said that boaters who have a valid cruising permit should have to pay only a 7% stamp tax on replacement boat parts. They should not have to pay any duty. If a boater is assessed a duty fee, he should call Mr. Whyms in Nassau at 242-302-3531 to report it and have the problem corrected.
Related topic: Bahamas Marinas
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