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Travel to and Re-entry from Canada by Boat

Traveling to Canada by Boat

PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS: As of June 1, 2009, all boaters 16 or older who cross the U.S. border into Canada and touch Canadian soil must carry a U.S. passport or NEXUS card. Children under 16 boating with their parents can travel with an original or copy of their birth certificate. Visit www.cbp.gov for more details.

BOATER EDUCATION REQUIREMENT: As of September 15, 2009, some boaters visiting Canada must have "proof of competency" (boater education). It's only for motorized boats. If you bring your own boat and stay for fewer than 45 days, you are exempt. If you rent or operate a motorized boat from Canada, you must comply. Visit Canada's Office of Boating Safety for more information.

U.S. Citizens traveling to Canada by boat...

... must contact Canadian Border Services Agency at 1-888-226-7277 for instructions on where to report for a customs inspection. A U.S. passport or NEXUS/CANPASS is required for each passenger onboard the boat. Birth certificates are sufficient for children under 16.

All private boats entering the U.S. that have passengers who were on Canadian soil...

...must report to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This legal obligation may be met by telephone at 1-888-523- BOAT. You can call en route with a cellular phone or immediately upon arrival to the U.S. You may also report at one of the OARS videophone stations. A NEXUS card or I-68 may expedite your reporting; you may need to wait for an inspection.

Have the following information ready when calling to avoid delays:

  • Boat registration number and length (and Customs decal if over 30 feet; see below)
  • Captain's name and date of birth
  • Total number of persons on board and value of all purchases in Canada
  • The name of the marina where you first arrived on the U.S. side

Boats 30 feet or more in length must purchase an annual decal ($25) from U.S. Customs and Border Protection prior to voyage to Canada. This decal is only available online:

  • www.cbp.gov > Travel > Pleasure Boats > User Fee Decals > Apply online for User Fee...).

More Links


Re-Entry from Canada by Boat

Boaters who have touched Canadian soil must report to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon re-entry to the United States. Recreational boaters have two options to report: (1) Outlying Areas Reporting Service [OARS] Videophone or (2) via telephone under the I-68 program.

All persons arriving from foreign soil are presumed to be aliens until they prove otherwise. A passport or NEXUS card is required for every person onboard. Children under 16 are permitted to show citizenship with a birth certificate.


The Outlying Areas Reporting Service (OARS) uses videophones to request admittance to the U.S. Eight videophones are located along Lake Erie from Ashtabula to Port Clinton (see list below). Docking is free for the reporting-in process.

To use an OARS Videophone, simply open the doors and the phone will ring at the appropriate office. An officer will be able to see you, your passengers and your documents. If instructed to do so, you must then wait for an inspector to come down to the dock. You and your passengers cannot go anywhere until meeting with the inspector. If you are reporting outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. or on a weekend or holiday, you may be liable for overtime charges associated with the inspection.

You will have to undergo this process each time you enter the U.S. after having stepped on Canadian soil.

When planning on using the OARS Videophone system, be sure to calculate how far you will be going out of your way to use the videophone and the mileage to get back on a course to your final destination. The average 30-foot powerboat consumes $40 of fuel in a one-hour run at 20 MPH and a sailboat (with no fuel cost) travels to a given destination at the rate of about 5 MPH. As the videophones are spaced today, the annual cost of the Form I-68 turns out to be a bargain.

To report an inoperable videophone or ask a question, call the Cleveland Port of Entry, (216) 522-2265.

OARS Videophone Ohio Locations on Lake Erie

Ashtabula Ashtabula City Public Dock 24
Fairport Harbor Grand River Marina 4
Mentor Mentor Lagoons Marina 5
Eastlake Chagrin Lagoons Yacht Club/public gas dock 15
Cleveland East 55th Street Marina 58
Sandusky Cedar Point Marina 26
Port Clinton Brands Dry Dock -
South Bass Island Put-in-Bay Dock Master's Office -

Four OARS videophones are also located in Erie, PA.


I-68 is similar to a vehicle registration; it is not an identity document. When you have an I-68 form approved, YOU MUST STILL CONTACT CUSTOMS VIA TELEPHONE and you must still have a NEXUS or passport. If anyone onboard your vessel does not have an I-68, you must report directly to a videophone to authorize their admittance to the U.S. The form carries your fingerprints and photograph. You must apply for and renew your application in person; the form is reauthorized annually.

How to apply for an I-68: You must apply for the I-68 in person. I-68 costs $16 per person or $32 for a family (husband and wife, their parents and their unmarried children younger than 21). People applying for a permit must bring proof of citizenship and photo identification, plus three identical photographs. Children younger than 14 do not need to be present, but their birth certificates must be presented.

Where to apply: You can apply at a Port of Entry. You will need to call an office to make an appointment.