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Time Abroad

This page has two parts. The first part applies to crews with right of residence in the EU. This includes non-EU citizens with residential permits. Your boat must be VAT/TVA paid.

The second part applies to non-EU visitors to Europe from "friendly" nations. Your boat may visit the EU for 18 months, and renewing that stay is easy. However, the Schengen zone counts as one country, and you and your crew may only spend 90 days out of any 180 in any EU country, unless you have an extended visitor visa.


Regulations, and their application, sometimes conflict. And some officials apply rules variably. Expect surprises. If you're puzzled about which are EU countries or EEA countries, what the Euro zone is, or what Schengen countries are, refer to our 'EU, Schengen & Countries' page.

As for who deals with what:

  • People/Crew. Permissions for people to stay is an immigration matter (visas etc);
  • Boats/VAT. permission for boats to stay is a customs matter (duty, VAT etc)
  • Tax Residence (and residence) has more to do with where money is earned - and how much time you spend within a country.
  • Admin residence applies to those who register to stay 90 days or more, and opens access to mutual social benefits.
  • These permissions do not match each other! 

UK citizens likely to stay more than 90 days continuously in another country, or more than 182 days out of 365 in another country, should read UK government advice on living abroad.

EU Residents

Personal Tax Residency

Any person who spends more than 182 days a year in one EU country can be regarded as tax resident in that country. In some countries (Spain) "a year" is a tax year, or a calendar year. In yet others, it's 183 days in any 365 (FAQ:  183 is more than 182 . . ! ). These are matters of fact. Tax residency can also arise if you have a business establishment in a country, or work there, or earn income there, irrespective of the time you spend there. If you can't prove otherwise, and seem to spend a lot of time in a country, the authorities are entitled to assume you are a tax resident. The onus of proof then shifts to you to show if you are not a tax resident. For UK citizens, HMRC publishes guidance on the circumstances in which UK tax residence may/may not apply.

If you become tax resident of another EU country, your means of transport (cars, caravans, motorcycles, aeroplanes, and boats) spending more than 6 months a year in that country need to be "imported" - ie, meet local regulations, including paying local circulation taxes (more). To arrange this, customs authorities in the new country should be notified. Otherwise, penalties may apply. Obtain local tax advice on your situation.

Your Boat's Residency

As above, EU directives allow that EU "means of transport" spending more than 6 months a year in another EU country should be "imported", even if you are not a tax resident. The purpose is to make longer term visitors pay taxes and dues that locals pay. Import may be temporary, keeping the same country of registration, or permanent, changing registration to the new country. A consequence of "import" is that equipment fitted must meet local standards, and this may include obtaining local certificates of competence/licences.

This EU customs directive has been implemented for cars.  Conveniently, many countries have chosen not to apply this directive to boats - as long as you are not locally tax resident. On arrival in a new country, if you plan to base your boat there for more than 6 months a year, check if the boat has to be imported.

There may be additional country specific payments if you keep a vessel in a country, become a tax resident and don't notify the authorities.  For instance, in Spain, if you're late reporting such a situation, you'll have to pay a one-time 'pollution tax', about 12% of the vessel's value. 

People - EU Administrative Residency

90 days somewhere else . . . EU passport holders may travel freely throughout the EU, affected by two issues; tax residence and 'administrative residence'. In UK, this was the common law concept of "ordinary residence", replaced by statutory provisions in 2013. Administrative residence nominally changes after 90 days continuous absence from - or presence in - another EU country (more). Since travel within the EU is not tracked, reporting a change of administrative residence is a matter of personal convenience - only important if you are considering migrating for a longer term.

People -  Medical Residency

Entitlements for visitors and residents within UK are clarified in National ' Health UK Entitlements. UK residents of any nationality registered with a GP (family doctor) travelling in other EEA  countries are entitled to local services. This is proved by carrying an EHIC. . Levels of cover depend on the country you are visiting.

Non-EU? Visas? Passport Stamps?

Track your Permissions to stay!

Any non-EU visitor, or an EU visitor to a non-EU country, must note dates stamped in their passports or given in visas. Leisure or tourist permission to visit friendly countries will typically allow 90 days, or any 90 days within 180 days. Such personal limits apply independently of the boat's permission to stay. Exceeding a permission will usually elicit a fine, and a ban on re-entry for a period.

Schengen Countries

Schengen counts as one country as far as visa timing is concerned.  The typical 90-day visitor's visa or passport stamp allows you to spend not more than 90 days per period of 180 days within the Schengen zone. If you collect an entry stamp, collect an exit stamp when you leave to prove you haven't overstayed your welcome (as well as keeping proof of time outside the zone). 180 days after your first entry, you may apply for a new visa. There is a proposal to introduce a one-year "touring visa" . . .

Extended Tourist/Visitor Visas

Longer permissions to stay in a particular country for leisure or tourism can be applied for beforehand through that country's embassy. For mutually "friendly" countries, one-year visitor permits are possible. For example, US citizens can apply for one-year French tourist visas (not residence permits, see below), while New Zealand residents have similar concessions for many European countries. It is also possible for "friendly" nationalities (already visiting with a Schengen passport stamp) to obtain an extension for the country they are visiting. Extended permissions apply only to the one country; visits to other individual Schengen countries revert to the maximum of 90 days per 180. However, open borders within Schengen means there is no mechanism to track this limitation.

Residence Permits

It is possible to obtain longer visas - for work, study or residence. Conditions vary depending on your nationality and the host nation. You'll need to establish the purpose of your stay, and prove you have the money to support your visit period. Applications should be made from your own country, through the embassy of your intended host. Turkey accepts applications made within Turkey.

Boat Import? However, people with permission to reside within an EU country may not use "Means of Transport" (includes your boat) which have not been imported (ie, are not VAT paid and CE certified) An exception applies if you are moving your normal home from a non-EU country to an EU country. You may then import your vessel free of customs duty and VAT subject to certain time limitations (see para 3,15 of this document).

No Passport Stamp?

A non-EU visitor entering Schengen by leisure boat may sometimes not get a passport stamp. If so, you don't have free circulation within the Schengen zone. The assumption is that you are accommodated on the boat, and will leave the country by boat. If you expect to leave Schengen by air, ferry or train, or to spend a night ashore, insist on having an entry stamp. Without it, on exit, you could be fined for illegal entry and not permitted to re-enter for a period (makes it difficult to pick up your boat!)

Advice Summary:

For the sake of simplicity, our advice is generalised and conservative. For exceptions, look at individual country pages.

EU residents:

  • Don't personally spend more than 183 days in any 365 in another EU country unless you're prepared to take local tax advice, go native and obey their rules. Be prepared to prove your absence!
  • If your boat is going to spend more than 180 days per year in another country, ask if any conditions apply (such conditions are rare unless you, personally, are also tax resident in that country).
  • Anyone within another EU country for more than 90 days continuously should check with local authorities if they should register. Many EU countries do not bother to apply this regulation to those living on boats. 

All Nationalities:

  • Don't overstay your visa/entry stamp limitations unless you're prepared to pay a fine, and you also accept that your passport may be stamped with a ban on re-entering that country for a period of time.
  • If you entered a country or the Schengen area without a stamp (ie, on entry you were only permitted to stay on the boat) obtain an entry stamp before leaving the boat (ie, to fly home)
  • If you have a residence permit within the EU, your boat should either be VAT paid or have been imported VAT-free as part of the process of changing your normal home.



Reviewed Dec 2018



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