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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 and residents move freely within the area. Otherwise, Schengen countries share common immigration control. Enter any one, and you have free movement within the zone.
updatedNon-EU citizens are subject to "Schengen visa" restrictions on their period of stay within the zone. Currently this permits a maximum of 90 days in any 180 days. The stay is monitored by issuing a passport stamp (for "friendly" country citizens), or a pre-applied for visa (if your country is on a "control " list). Some non-EU citizens (New Zealand, for instance), have automatic rights to stay for longer periods in individual EU/Schengen countries. Otherwise, applications may be made from your home country to stay in individual Schengen countries for longer visits. France, for instance, will give permission for US citizens to visit for up to a year.
An EU proposal to issue a "Tourist Visa" (subject to application and conditions) will extend this to one year (or exceptionally two) provided stay in any individual country does not exceed 90 days. This proposal will come into force some months after unanimous agreement is reached, expected some time in 2016 - or later!.
5. Non-EU Countries. Depending on your citizenship, each non-EU country has its own rules about personal entry and exit, controlled by visas and passport stamps. For nations "friendly" to your nationality, a passport stamp issued at entry will typically be valid for 90 days within any 180 day period. For "less friendly" countries, such a passport stamp permitting entry will only be given if a visa has already been issued. Ask your appropriate embassy for details, which change from time to time.
6. No Visa? For UK nationals, the Foreign Office web site gives current travel and immigration advice, listing countries where previously issued visas will be required. 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. Leisure boat crews arriving in USA without US passports or without previously issued visas will be turned away. Check before you visit!
EU citizens may freely visit other EU countries. Otherwise immigration is controlled by the visa or stamp noted in your passport at entry. All Schengen zone (see above) is treated as one coherent country. Longer term visas are available (residence, student, business) but must be applied for from the relevant embassy in your home country.
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: many helpful corrections to this page by Dave, "GoBoatingNow", from http://www.cruisersforum.com, and from YBW forum members.
Updated Jan 2016, JimB