SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reminded vessel captains and operators of the appropriate entry and reporting requirements when transporting passengers from foreign Caribbean islands and the US Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico
As part of the immediate response required by Hurricane Irma, many vessels are voluntarily assisting stranded people to transit through or to get to their destination in the United States. CBP is committed to make the arrival inspection process quick and efficient while also fully executing its national security mission to protect America’s border and public from harm.
“CBP continues to be vigilant against any effort by criminals to exploit the situation caused by the hurricane,” stated Keith McFarquhar, assistant director of field operations for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Operators of small pleasure vessels, arriving in the United States from a foreign port or place, to include any vessel which has visited a hovering vessel or received merchandise outside the territorial sea, are required to report their arrival to CBP immediately.
The US Virgin Islands of St Thomas, St John and St Croix are considered foreign ports under US customs law even though they are US territories and reporting requirements still apply.
All travelers must have a valid travel document such as a passport, lawful permanent resident card, or US visa.
Authorization should be obtained from CBP prior to boarding when passenger is not in possession of proper entry documents. Boaters that bring undocumented passengers without authorization from CBP are liable and could be exposed to civil fines and prosecution.
In the case of a passenger who needs medical assistance, evidence of medical services to be rendered would be required.
In the case of passengers only transiting through the US and headed to their home countries, passenger should show evidence of scheduled travel itinerary departing the US.
Failure to report can result in civil penalties to include a penalty of $5,000 for the first violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation with the conveyance subject to seizure and forfeiture. In addition, to being liable for a civil penalty, any master who intentionally commits a violation, upon conviction is liable for a fine of not more than $2,000 or imprisonment for one year or both.