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Canadians Boating in USA

Canadians Boating in the USA (not updated since 2019)

We received a lot of conflicting information in regards to what is required to visit/travel the USA by boat. It can get very complicated. Here is what we have found, with links to the most recent rules and regulations. (at the time of publishing this page)

The best link to start researching:

Boat Decal

For all boats 30 feet long and more. This is issued by calendar year and is intended for short term visits (not a year long trip - ie: doing the Loop)

Decals are stickers that are placed on all private aircraft and private vessels (30 feet or more in length) as proof that the User Fee for entry into the U.S. has been paid for the calendar year. 

Any arriving vessel or aircraft that does not have an annual decal will be required to pay the non-refundable User Fee and complete an application, which will be forwarded to the processing center. The application will be processed, and a decal will be mailed from the processing center. A decal expires on December 31st of its issue year. A new decal is issued whenever the decal is renewed.

Link: Decal and Transponder Online Procurement System - The U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Boat cruising license

cruising license exempt pleasure boats of certain countries from having to undergo formal entry and clearance procedures and can be obtained from the CBP Port Director at the first port of arrival in the United States. U.S. pleasure craft and foreign-flag vessels without a cruising license, which are 30 feet or longer in length, must have the user fee decal. (link:

I did not find much information on how to obtain a cruising license online, AGLCA and other Canadian boaters gave us their point of contacts and helped guide us. Because we needed to meet an CBP agent in person, we were required to travel to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and cross the border there to Sault St. Marie, Michigan. (Not all reporting locations have agents on site now.)   

We started the process to obtain our cruising license by contacting Officer Ryan Kitzmiller, the CBP U.S. Customs Supervisor at the Sault St. Marie office by phone. He was very helpful and answered all our questions. He is also very familiar with the Great Loop and understands our challenges as Canadians Loopers.

Process to get a cruising license: (What we did)

1 - Call the Customs Reporting location you will be travelling to.  Example: Sault St. Marie Area  (906) 632-7221 or (906) 632-2631

2 - You will receive an email from the U.S. Customs Supervisor (Officer Ryan Kitzmiller in Sault St. Marie) requesting you provide the following:

  - Completed cruising license application (it will be included in email)
  - Snapshots of passport bio pages of all passengers
  - The vessel registration (To include the vessel length)
  - A brief itinerary of travels 
  - A good contact number 

3 - Once cruising license has been signed and is ready to be issued, you will be contacted (it took 3 business days for ours)

4 - Proceed to reporting location. Example: Kemp Marina, 485 E. Water St, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783 - 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

5 - Call U.S. Customs and let them know you are ready to Check-in and that there is a cruising license ready for your boat. Officers will come to your boat. They will give you the cruising license document and a log number. 

6 - Report-In as you travel.  We are required to report in every time we change locations. We've had different instructions when we call. Some have said we are good and we don't have to contact them again while we are in their AOR (area of responsibility) and others want to be informed every time we move either by phone or email. I am keeping a log of who I spoke with, the number I called, the date and resume of conversation.  It is not always easy to figure out who to call, but here is the link with reporting locations by State. (It's a good place to start.) 

Note:  A cruising permit allows the "boat" to be in USA waters for one year, after which time the boat must leave the Country.  "Passengers" are still required to follow the same rules as if you were traveling by car/plane, ie: 6 months stay unless you request an extension...

More programs

CBP Reporting Offsite Arrival - Mobile (ROAM)

Canadian Border Boat Landing (I-68) Program 

I am sharing this information to help others - but keep in mind, I am only sharing what we did and what resources we found. Please do your own research when the time comes. What is current today could be obsolete in a month... and things/programs change and get updated frequently. 


  1. Great to meet you yesterday. Could you do something like this for US boaters in Canada, please?

  2. Our family vacation was made complete with a boat rental from North Tahoe Boat Rentals. The online reservation process was convenient, and when we arrived, the boat was ready to go. The team took the time to explain the features of the boat, making us feel confident before setting sail. The quality of the boats and the professionalism of the staff exceeded our expectations. North Tahoe Boat Rentals is now our go-to for lake adventures! North Tahoe Boat Rentals


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