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U.S. Recreational Vessel and Fisherman Clearance Procedures

Release Date: 
July 2, 2015

WELLESLEY ISLAND, N.Y. — U.S. Customs and Border Protection is announcing clearance procedures for pleasure boats arriving in the U.S. from Canada. The pleasure boat clearance procedures are part of CBP’s comprehensive efforts to improve security at our nation's borders while facilitating legitimate travel.

U.S. recreational vessels and fishermen returning to the U.S. from foreign waters are required to immediately report their arrival to CBP if they have:

  • Made contact with foreign soil
  • Made contact with a foreign vessel
  • Received merchandise outside U.S. territorial waters. 

Small pleasure vessels leaving a U.S. port and entering foreign waters do not meet the definition of “departed the U.S.”and are not required to report their arrival to CBP upon return unless one or more of the above criteria have been met.

Border Patrol agent scans water border for illegal activity

Border Patrol agent scans water border for illegal activity

Telephonic contact with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to comply with Canadian reporting requirements to enter Canadian waters has no impact on U.S. reporting requirements or application of U.S. law.  In the event that CBSA requires a physical inspection of the vessel and/or occupants at a Canadian port, the vessel and occupants would be considered to have made a U.S. departure requiring inspection by CBP upon return to a U.S. port. 

Canadian pleasure vessels are to immediately report their arrival when they touch U.S. soil.

As required by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), U.S. and Canadian citizens must present a WHTI-compliant travel document for entry into the U.S. by land and sea.

CBP clearance may be obtained by following one of these procedures:

  • Report for inspection at the nearest open marina port of entry (presently Cape Vincent, Heart Island and Lake Champlain areas only).
  • Use a CBP videophone station located at: Dunkirk, Erie Basin Marina (Buffalo), North Tonawanda, Youngstown, Wilson, Olcott, Point Breeze, Rochester, Sodus Point, Oswego, Sackets Harbor, Clayton, Alexandria Bay, Morristown, Ogdensburg and Waddington.
  • To help facilitate your videophone inspection, pleasure boaters should have the following information available at the time of inspection:
  • Name, date of birth and citizenship of all persons on board
  • Name of the boat and/or boat registration number
  • U.S. decal number (if 30 feet or longer)
  • Home port and current location
  • Be in possession of a pre-approved Form I-68 or NEXUS member proximity card and call 1-800-827-2851 to report your arrival.

Form I-68 is not considered an identity document or a WHTI-compliant travel document.   Boaters who have an I-68 form will also need a WHTI-compliant document (U.S. Passport Card, Enhanced Driver's License/Enhanced Identification Card, I-551 card or passport) to utilize telephonic clearance procedures currently in place for I-68 holders.  Form I-68 is available at U.S. ports of entry.

Pleasure boaters and frequent cross-border travelers are encouraged to participate in the NEXUS alternative inspection program. NEXUS members will enjoy a simplified entry process while traveling across the U.S.-Canada border by motor vehicle or pleasure boat. Application forms are available on the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) website.  For NEXUS toll-free information in the U.S. and Canada, call 1-866-NEXUS26 (1-866-639-8726).

Failure to report can result in civil penalties and fines up to $10,000 as defined in Title 19, U.S. Code, Section 1436.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection welcomes assistance from the community. Citizens can report suspicious activity to the Border Patrol and remain anonymous by calling 1-800-331-0353 toll free.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017