Three Steps to Renew Your Cruising License

A cruising license is a permit issued to foreign-flagged pleasure boats from certain countries that have a reciprocal agreement with the U.S. It is issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the vessel’s port of U.S. arrival and is normally valid for up to one year.

Once issued, cruising licenses exempt recreational vessels from the following formalities:

  • Filing manifests, obtaining permits to continue on, and other entry and clearance procedures
  • Paying entry and clearance fees or tonnage tax at every subsequent U.S. port it enters

It is important to note that these permits are issued to private vessels only: commercially operated yachts are not eligible.

The License Renewal Process

Resident aliens may apply for a succession of cruising permits if their foreign-flagged boat was:

  • Manufactured in the U.S. OR
  • The requisite duty was paid when it was imported, provided that the boat was documented under the laws of an approved country

Foreign nationals who are not residents in the U.S. may only renew their cruising license if:

  • A minimum of 15 days have passed since the original license expired or was surrendered.
  • The boat re-enters the U.S. from a foreign location. Customs and Border Protection will want to see clearance paperwork that confirms a foreign departure.

To get your cruising permit reissued after it expires, you must:


  • Leave U.S. waters before the permit expires or surrender your cruising permit and document to the local Customs office. If the date of expiration is listed as November 15th, for example, and you do not leave by or surrender your paperwork by that date(details below), you could be subjected to severe penalties.
  • Stay out of U.S. waters for at least 15 days after the permit expiration date or if you surrendered your document, stay within the local port and make the trip foreign closer to the end or after the 15 days(details below). Many yacht owners or captains go to a country such as the Bahamas to accomplish this.
  • Return on the 16th day or later after notifying your agent, who can clear you at the Marine Office where you enter and assist you in applying for a new cruising license.


If you are still in American waters when your license expires and fail to leave, you are required to surrender your original registry at your closest Marine Office. (Failure to do so could result in a minimum $5,000 fine and/or seizure of the vessel.) Your agent will receive a receipt, which you will need to keep on board and return in order to retrieve the registry when you are ready to depart.

Although a cruising license is not a legal requirement, it does save time and money for foreign yacht enthusiasts who frequently cross the border. If you are planning to travel to the U.S. in your foreign-flagged vessel, contact the marine experts at Howard S. Reeder Inc today. We can arrange for your entry, get your cruising license issued and, when the time comes, help you depart.

Howard S Reeder Inc