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Many countries bordering European water are united into groups with common regulations. Some of these regulations which affect boats are listed in our "Regs and Paperwork" pages. The European Union (EU) allows free circulation of goods within the union - including boats. The Schengen zone is a smaller group which allows free circulation of people - an immigration matter affecting crews, but not affecting boats. Countries outside any European Organisation - such as Turkey, Tunisia or Morocco - are useful for non-EU crews wishing to extend their stay in the Mediterranean.
1. The European Union (EU) are 28 countries whose goods and citizens move freely between the countries when using "approved means of transport" (airlines, ferries and roads). EU tax residents must have paid VAT (a form of consumption tax) on any vessels they cruise. Periods of grace are allowed for permanent export. Yachts which have not paid VAT may visit the EU up to 18 months under "temporary import relief" (TIR). After a provable period of absence from the EU (it only needs be a day) a new period of TIR may start. If a boat is to be imported, or used by EU citizens, it should pay VAT in its destination country. Non-EU crew crew will find immigration rules a far greater restriction on their stay.
2. The European Economic Area (EEA) adds Iceland and Norway to the EU free trade area
4. The Schengen Zone is a group of mostly EU countries (UK and Ireland opt out, while Cyprus and Croatia and others are in the queue to join), plus Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Leichtenstein. EU citizens move freely within the area. Schengen countries share common immigration control. Enter any one, and you have free movement within the zone - subject to "Schengen visa" restrictions on your period of stay.
For "friendly" other nations a passport stamp issued at entry will be valid for 90 days within any 180 day period. For "less friendly" countries, such a passport stamp permitting entry will not be given unless a visa has already been issued. Passport stamps limit the time non-EU citizens who are live-aboards may legally cruise within the zone. Some non-EU citizens (New Zealand, for instance), have automatic rights to stay for much longer periods in certain EU/Schengen countries. Otherwise, applications may be made from your home country through embassies for longer residence permits before entry.
5. Non-EU Countries. Depending on your citizenship, each non-EU country has its own rules about personal entry and exit, controlled by visas. Boat permits are separate, controlled by cruising permits. Visas may be just a passport stamp given on entry. However, some countries require permission in advance. Ask your appropriate embassy for details, which change from time to time. If you arrive without a visa when it is required (say, due to emergency) you will normally be confined to the port area, maybe told to leave within some time limit. In the Levant, you may be turned away at the 12nm territorial water limit. For UK nationals, the Foreign Office web site gives current travel and immigration advice.
EU citizens may freely visit other EU countries. Otherwise immigration is controlled by any visa or stamp noted in your passport at entry. All Schengen zone (see above) is treated as one coherent country; see above for usual conditions of entry. Longer term visas are available (residence permits). A few countries insist that visas must be obtained before arrival if you are not using "approved means of transport", USA for instance. Others countries (Russia, Levant and some African countries) insist on prior permission before arrival. Enquire of the appropriate embassy in your home country before your trip.
Attempts to exit a country or Schengen by "approved means of transport" (ferry, some trains, airlines) by anyone who has overstayed risk a fine, and a passport stamp "not permitted re-entry" for a period of time. Those who have no entry stamp will be treated as illegal immigrants, and may be detained. There's no such control if you exit by yacht, but if you intend to re-enter Schengen, make sure you record your exits with immigration - otherwise, you clock up an overstay. Slightly more detail on this subject.
Some "country regulations" pages are reached from the right hand menu. These are popular cruising destinations which are particularly organised (or disorganised for that matter) about their cruising regulations. The pages give best information available at the time of publication. Some also contain useful reference material for visitors - dialling codes, time zones, currency, ATM availability and any unusual cultural issues. For UK residents, the Foreign Office web site gives per country advice on visas, security, and civic regulations which may affect you, as well as listing current threats (if any) .
Acknowledgements: may helpful corrections to this page by Dave, "GoBoatingNow", from http://www.cruisersforum.com
Updated 24 March 2014, JimB