How to save time when traveling back from the Bahamas

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US Citizens – Have you signed up for the SVRS (Local Boater Option) program?

So, you just returned from a nice cruise in the Bahamas, you dock your boat, unload, wash the boat, and now you're looking forward to going home showering and taking a well-deserved nap, right?.......WRONG! You must first report in person to your local Customs Border Patrol Office.

However, there is a way to avoid having to go to the CBP office if you are a U.S Citizen. It's called the Small Vessel Reporting System card (or "SVRS"). Once you are registered all you have to do is call in to CBP, give them your SVRS number, answer a few questions (or no questions if you filed a Float Plan), the CBP Officer will assign you a Clearance Number which you record and that's it- you are done.


For those who aren’t familiar with SVRS, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website outlines the entire process. You apply online, then you visit an SVRS processing site for an interview with a CBP agent. They will run your fingerprints and inspect your passport for accuracy. Once complete, you are assigned your SVRS number.

It's important to understand that everyone on board needs their own SVRS number; anyone without a number has 24 hours to report personally to a CBP office. Keep in mind that if you checked in at a foreign port then CBP is aware that you have left the United States and they expect you to clear in. If you don't clear in, you can expect issues at some point.

SVRS works in conjunction with a CBP border-crossing decal (See more here: DTOPS) for you to be able to phone in your arrival from a foreign port. You are supposed to have this decal even if you are not a SVRS participant but only if your boat is of thirty feet in length or more. Keep in mind that your SVRS card is connected to your Passport, so if your Passport expires you must obtain a new SVRS number.

To obtain a new SVRS number, you have two options:

1. Go to an SVRS enrollment site with your new passport BEFORE leaving the United States and have your passport number updated in their system. This must be done in person and can be anytime prior to leaving the United States. You may want to call ahead and ask if your local SVRS Processing Center requires an appointment. Or,

2. When you return to the U.S, check in at a CBP office in person. A CBP Officer can then update your passport number on the SVRS system.

Remember, you must call Customs Border Patrol Office as soon as you anchor or dock in the United States. The CBP Fort Lauderdale office phone number is 800-432-1216 and the address is 1800 Eller Drive in Fort Lauderdale. Have your Decal Number at hand as well as the names, addresses, DOB, Passport numbers of all your guests. Again, you can avoid some, if not all, of the questions if you filed a Float Plan- just give the agent the Float Plan Number.

As with just about everything else in life, a little planning can help save you great amounts of time- and headaches- later!