Fort Lauderdale - Arrival Info

SV Meshugga
Nicholas & Deidre Mace
Tue 1 Aug 2017 11:26
Foreign Yachts MUST telephone Customs to report arrival. +1 800 432 1216
Arriving from overseas without a local Simm card poses a huge problem as Customs line usually has a holding time of well over an hour to speak to an operator - which reeks havoc if using Skype on a Sat connection e.g. TracPhone KvH or an Irridium phone. The Customs line does allow for ‘call backs’ but only to USA numbers. Further, international Simm cards on Roaming will not call 800 …. numbers. Coupled with the obvious protocol of not going ashore before calling in, leaves you in a Catch 22 situation.

After depleting our Tracphone KvH monthly contract allowance on hold for Customs we decided to taxi to Customs to Report-In in person and was promptly told by Immigration and Customs to ‘Go Away’ and telephone in, and then come back armed with our Arrival Reference Number.

So our advice is;
If you are a foreign yacht, arriving in the USA, Fort Lauderdale for the first time, and without any local comms, go to the nearest local T-Mobile or similar and purchase a Simm Card. Make the call to Customs and then go directly to Immigration and Customs by Road. They are not near the water and cannot be reached by Yacht or Tender.

If anchoring in Lake Sylvia, dingy to The Raw Bar which is at the head (west) of 16th Channel. They have dingy parking for $10, which can be offset against food and beverages on the same day as parking.
Walk directly west to the Main Road called Federal Highway (2 blocks directly opposite and parallel to The Raw Bar) you will find a T-Mobile store in the strip Mall.
Once armed with a short term Prepaid card you can call Customs and report your arrival.
Uber to Customs will cost around $8, Taxi around $17 or you can bicycle there - a flat ride of about 20-30 mins.
To use Uber you will need to update your Uber Profile to your new local USA mobile number before being able to hail a cab.
You can cycle on pavements and road without helmets.
Yellow Taxi ph; 954 7777
Customs and Immigration is at: 1800 Eller Street, Fort Lauderdale.

Note that Customs require you to present your ORIGINAL Yacht Registration Certificate. Duplicates, whether certified or not, is not acceptable. (They will send you away to go fetch the Original).
Visiting Customs in person MUST be done within 48 hours of arrival into USA waters.
Immigration must be visited first, and all crew must be present. There are no Immigration fees.
Then Customs - however only the Captain is seen by Customs. Sign the clipboard which is at one of the Customs windows. The Captain will be called and taken to an interview room - the procedure takes about 30 minutes.
Customs and Immigration are in the same building.

Cruising Permit. Customs can grant a permit of up to 1 annual year. If not staying in USA for a full year, ask for the number of months you need. Once your annual permit expires you MUST leave the states, enter another country and have at least 15 days from the arrival stamp in the other country, before re-entering USA. You cannot extend the 1 year permit without extenuating circumstances. With a permit of a few months, on arrival back into the States, they merely re-instate the same permit, a much quicker procedure, and the 15 day period does not apply. The permit can be extended up to 1 year if your plans change. Customs accept credit cards for payment of the $19 arrival form fee.
Ask Customs to specify your Yacht AND Tender on the cruising permit. Water Police want ANY tender which is in Florida waters more than 90 days to be registered in Florida - which poses a huge logistical problem for Cruisers. The only way around this issue is to have your cruising permit endorsed for your tender as well.

All other laws are normal as for any foreign country visited.
Remember to ensure your dingy is equipped with all safety gear, as the transit to shore at The Raw Bar is a reasonable distance away, and you dingy directly past the Water Police who love to stop and check dingys for compliance. Also watch your dingy speed - they are very happy to fine you $90 for ‘speeding’ as the waterways are mostly No Wake zones.